I couldn’t sleep last night. I just laid in bed thinking about tonight, trying to envision what might unfold at Yankee Stadium and whether or not I would go to and leave the Stadium for the last time in 2018.
When I left Rogers Centre on Opening Day after the Yankees’ 6-1 win, I didn’t care that it was pouring outside. I missed the feeling of a Yankees win. I hadn’t had that feeling since leaving the Stadium following Game 5 of the ALCS when the Yankees finally solved Dallas Keuchel en route to a 5-0 win. That was back on March 29, 188 days ago. Since then, it was quite the season.
We watched the Yankees stumble to 9-9 before going on a 41-13 run. We watched them actually beat up the Red Sox at Fenway Park and then beat up on the Astros and Indians early in the season. We watched them struggle through the summer, get embarrassed in Boston in August and rebound in late August and September.
We watched Luis Severino become the best pitcher in the AL and then one of the worst. We watched the emergence of Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres as not only Rookie of the Year candidates but staples of the Yankees infield for hopefully the next decade. We watch Aaron Judge continue to build on being the Yankees’ best player and face of the franchise. We watched Gary Sanchez struggle through one of the worst offensive and defensive seasons of all time, and Giancarlo Stanton hit monster home runs and also weakly wave at every slider away as he tried to find his way through the AL. We watched Brett Gardner go from leadoff hitter to fourth outfield to possibly playing his final game as Yankee tonight. We watched Dellin Betances bounce back from his forgetful September and October and David Robertson show why the Yankees would foolish not to re-sign him this offseason. We watched Aaron Hicks finally realize his first-round draft status potential and Didi Gregorius solidify himself as one of the best shortstops in baseball. We watched Sonny Gray pitch himself out of the rotation and likely out of the organization after this season and we watched Luke Voit steal Greg Bird’s job from him after the Yankees traded Tyler Austin away for not being able to. We watched CC Sabathia show the Yankees should keep giving him one-year, $10 million deals until he longer wants to pitch and then we watched him give away $500,000 to protect his teammates on what could, but won’t, be the final of his Yankees or entire career. We watched J.A. Happ become a Yankee and then basically guarantee himself a contract offer this offseason from the Yankees. We watched Aaron Boone prove that you can spend your entire life in baseball and have no idea how to make sound bullpen decisions. We watched the team hit more home runs than any team in history.
When the Yankees are faced with elimination, it’s not only worrisome, but depressing. So much time and money is spent watching the team and writing, talking and reading about the team that the idea of the season, which spans more than seven months before the postseason, ending so abruptly is terrifying. But that’s where we’re at. That’s what happens when you play yourself into the one-game playoff. And for the third time in four seasons, I will be experiencing the very game I was petrified of ever having to experience when the league announced the change to the postseason format six years ago.
For months, it seems like everyone has assumed the Yankees will win the wild-card game and then play the Red Sox in the postseason for the first time in 14 years. I have been cautiously optimistic about the Yankees’ chances in the game, but I too at times have already penciled in the Yankees for an ALDS appearance. Not only because I think they are better equipped than the A’s for the game, even if it’s one baseball game in which anything imaginable can happen, but because it’s too much to think about the alternative. The alternative being losing the game and having the season end.
A loss tonight would be absolutely devastating. And if that happens, there should be no “Well, they had a great season, they won 101 games!” and no “They were just unfortunate to be in the same division as the Red Sox!” There should only be anger and frustration that the season after they came within one game of the World Series, they couldn’t even reach the ALDS. The goal this season was to close the gap, not go backwards. It’s nice that the team won 100 regular-season games, but given the amount of losing in the AL this season, that’s not exactly some great accomplishment. And while I understand the postseason is a crapshoot and I will always be the first person to criticize the postseason format, it is what it is, and you have to win the division to avoid losing a one-game playoff, and the Yankees didn’t do everything possible to win the division.
But there’s no sense in being upset with what happened and didn’t happen since March 29. For now, there’s only tonight. One game, which will either extend the season and give us at least three more games of Yankees baseball (if there are only going to be three more games after this then I would rather have the Yankees lose tonight than get swept by the Red Sox) or end the season with a second team celebrating on the Stadium field in less than two weeks.
There’s no way to prepare for the one-game playoff. (Sure, I have my survival kit ready just in case things go south, but that’s about all I can do). Like the team’s supposed early bullpen plan for tonight, preparing for the wild-card game is worthless. The game doesn’t allow you to plan. It would be nice if the Yankees went out and batted around in the first inning, and I could spend the rest of the night counting down the outs and coasting to a win, but we all know that won’t happen.
At one point, this season had so much promise with the kind of October run we saw last year seemingly inevitable. It’s been an eventful season and one I didn’t envision the wild-card game being part of, though here the Yankees are again, back in the wild-card game.
But this can’t be it. There has to be more to this season. There has to be more Yankees baseball after tonight. It feels like this can’t possibly be the end for the 2018 Yankees. I’m not ready for it to end.
My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!
The book details my life as a Yankees fan, growing up watching Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams through my childhood and early adulthood and the shift to now watching Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and others become the latest generation of Yankees baseball. It’s a journey through the 2017 postseason with flashbacks to games and moments from the Brian Cashman era.
Click here to purchase the book through Amazon as an ebook. You can read it on any Apple device by downloading the free Kindle app.