Last weekend didn’t go according to plan. The plan was for the Yankees to bury the Red Sox even more in the division standings and put their season in peril for any postseason berth. This would lead to the Red Sox possibly selling at the July 31 trade deadline and waving the white flag on the season. Instead, the Yankees lost three of four in Boston.
The Yankees’ series loss allowed the Red Sox to momentarily hold a wild-card spot in the standings. But since the Yankees’ season-salvaging win on Sunday Night Baseball, the Red Sox have lost four straight following a sweep by the Rays over the last three days, and now the Red Sox’ season is once again teetering on the brink of ending.
The Yankees hold in an insurmountable lead in the division with a nine-game loss-column lead over the Rays and a 12-game loss-column lead over the Red Sox. The Yankees don’t have to play much better than .500 for the rest of the season to easily clinch the division title, and the only thing they have to do between now and Game 162 is try to clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs, which they need to do now even more than before after what the Astros accomplished at the trade deadline.
The ideal situation for the Yankees and the postseason would be for to win the No. 1 overall seed and own home-field advantage in the AL playoffs and in a potential World Series. In this ideal situation, the Astros would get eliminated in the other ALDS and the Yankees would face an inferior Twins or Indians team in the ALCS. But to get to the ALCS, having the weakest ALDS opponent would greatly help the Yankees’ chances.
The Red Sox aren’t that weakest opponent. Over the course of the regular season, the Red Sox have proven to not be postseason-worthy, even in a five-team, two wild-card format. Their roster has performed the way it should have last season if not for the most miraculous, unexpected season in the history of baseball, the real “Impossible Dream” season. But in a short series? In a short series, the Red Sox are the last team the Yankees want to see. The deep Twins lineup, the Indians’ potential, the pesky Rays or the underrated A’s would all be more welcome first-round series than the Red Sox, who know the Yankees better than any other team and have had more than enough recent success against them. Even if the Red Sox burned Chris Sale in a wild-card win, I still don’t want to see them in a five-game series. I don’t want to see them in any postseason series.
I’m still not over what happened in the ALDS last season, and I’ll never get over the 2004 ALCS. I don’t want these traumatizing series to keep piling up, clouding my memory and tainting my baseball fandom. Yes, it would be exhilarating to end the Red Sox’ season in the postseason for the first time in 16 years and for the first time in the last three tries, but the risk isn’t worth the reward.
Instead of ending the Red Sox’ season in October, I would rather the Yankees end it in August, weakening the AL playoff field and taking them out of the picture completely. The Red Sox would then regret not selling off tradeable assets this past week and potentially be stuck empty-handed if their impending free agents leave this offseason or the opt-out clauses they handed out are exercised. If anything, it would work to the Yankees’ short- and long-term favor that they allowed the Red Sox to briefly think they were a playoff team with last weekend’s series win, only to have their season destroyed a week later. The Yankees can make this all happen this weekend.
The Red Sox’ division chances are over. Their general manger Dave Dombrowski even admitted the division standings being the reason he stood pat the deadline. If the Yankees play one-game-over-.500 baseball for the rest of the season and go 28-27, the Red Sox would have to go 37-15 to tie them. If the Yankees play at their current .636 winning percentage for the rest of the season and go 35-20, the Red Sox would have to go 44-8 to tie them. The Yankees continuing to play at their current winning percentage is certainly more than doable with 23 games remaining against the Orioles, Blue Jays, Mariners and Tigers. So yeah, the Red Sox have no chance at winning the division. (The Rays don’t either.)
The Red Sox’ only path to the postseason is by winning a wild-card berth and appearing in the one-game playoff. Right now, they are five games back for the first wild card and 3 1/2 games back for the second wild card. They are extremely close to having no chance at playing the wild-card game at home and are dangerously close to playing themselves out of contention for the second wild card as well. They are essentially one bad series from the rest of their season being nothing more than formality. One bad series against the Yankees.
It’s going to take a lot for the Yankees to regain the upper hand in the rivalry after the way the division played out in the regular season and the division series played out in the postseason last year. Simply eliminating the Red Sox from the postseason this season isn’t going to do it, but it’s a start.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is available!