Monday, August 30, 2010

One Of The Best Races Ever?

Too bad I'm posting. Would have been fun to see how many days in a row DV could have made the exact same joke about me not posting. It had the potential to rival Jacoby Ellsbury's injury situation and J.D. Drew generally in terms of incredible repetition on this site in 2010. Thanks to DV for holding it down.

It's not often that two teams, each 31 games over .500 and each on pace for exactly 100 wins on August 31st are tied in the division. I don't have the numbers, but you just don't see two teams this good this close in the standings this late in the year that often. What's more, the Yanks and Rays have been locked in a first place tie for eight consecutive days. That's the most consecutive days two teams have been tied for first place this late in the season in the history of the game. Think about that for a second.

Obviously some of that is coincidence. But some of it is also that these teams are flat out in a race, and have been for pretty much the entire season. Both keep pushing each other further and both refuse to give in. When you consider that a third team has been in the conversation the entire season in Boston, it's even more incredible. When you consider that a fourth team is over .500 in the Blue Jays you start to wonder if this is one of the best divisions ever. When you think about what any of these teams might to in any other division you start to wonder how a division could be much better.

The seven games the Yankees and Rays have with each other in the middle of the month have serious potential. Those games will have the biggest impact on the division, but they will not decide the division alone. The Yankees currently have a 10 game homestand against Oakland, Toronto, and Baltimore, which they started 1-0 tonight. The Rays end the season with 6 at home against Seattle and Baltimore followed by a 4 game series at Kansas City. The Yankees have 6 left with the Red Sox, 3 home 3 away, and the Rays have 3 left with the Red Sox, all in Fenway. Boston is not out of the playoff race, and these head to heads are the easiest way for them to get one of those spots. Expect all of those games to be played as hard as all three Boston/Tampa games were played last weekend. All of these things are going to impact this division and the Wild Card, making for a very exciting September in the AL East. Maybe one of the best ever in baseball, and playoff chase scenario.

As far as the Yankees go, they need to take care of business on this homestand. It's not a cupcake homestand by any stretch. Oakland and Toronto are both pretty good teams, and the Yankees are 5-7 against Toronto this year. It's just a softer stretch than the rest of the month, which is just brutal. Tonight was a good start. The reason the Yankees need to take care of business on this homestand, besides wanting to keep pace with Tampa now, is that 13 of their next 16 games are against Texas, Tampa Bay, and Boston, with one series in Baltimore mixed in (where you can bet Buck Showalter would love to play spoiler). Then the Yankees wash that down with 3 at Toronto (who has had their number this year) and 3 in Fenway to end the season. Awesome.

But this is baseball. You either win or you don't. We'll see if the Yankees are up to the challenge, and it continues tomorrow night with Phil Hughes on the mound. I mention this only because the Yankees need to get at least two of Hughes, Vazquez, and Burnett going in the right direction to help Sabathia out. Pettitte likely won't be back in time to make anything more than 3-4 starts, if that. While every little bit helps, the Yankees will need more from the other members of the rotation to make this thing happen and win the division. Hughes has been up and down, average on the whole for a while. Vazquez, after hitting a rut, has been back to what he looked like when he dominated the middle part of the season his last two times out. Burnett has been close to as bad as you can be for the better part of 3 months. The Yankees need these guys to get going, and Hughes has a chance to start that tomorrow. I'll be at the game tomorrow, and am excited to see him as he's the only Yankees starter I have not seen live this year.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

PF

The wild card is really the best thing that has happened to Red Sox fans. Therefore, I'm not going to go out and be critical of it. I love the damn thing and really Bud Selig, for all his faults, deserves major, major credit for expanding the playoffs as he has and making the regular season more exciting and the playoffs more lucrative.

That said, the wild card is sucking the drama right out of this division race. Neither team is in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs, like say, the 1993 Giants (who I think won 148 games and still missed the playoffs). Whoever 'loses' the division still makes the playoffs. They're the wild card, and because they'll only have the second best record in all of baseball, despite not having home field advantage, will be the favorite in their first round division series just like the 2004 Red Sox (who won 98 games) were against the Angels (and proved everyone right by annihilating the Angels).

If September were do or die for the Yankees and Rays, with a 102 win team missing the playoffs a real possibility, then yes, this would be right there with the all-time great races. It's not a matter of the talent of the teams. It's a matter of circumstance.

--the Gunn

the gm at work said...

Gunn,

I'm glad you cited the 1993 Giants/Braves race in the NL West. That one is probably the best of our lifetime and perhaps even the best of the divisional era. And the fact that the loser has the wild card to fall back on is kind of a bummer. If the Red Sox had not punted the 2010 season, it really could have been awesome.

PF,

As I wrote to you earlier, it was different angles of the same joke. I compared you to a starting pitcher, JD Drew, 46, and described the exasperation people probably felt when they saw that you showed up to write today. I'm glad you showed up to give analysis like "This is baseball. You either win or you don't."

At no point did I write about 46's "injury situation." I wrote about his not-playing situation.

And good for you for saying that Burnett has played poorly for three months. I appreciate how you're delivering truth through this channel today.