“This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy.” That’s what Clark Griswold said to himself as he tried to decide whether or not to skinny dip with The Girl in the Ferrari (as if there was anything to decide) and here I am saying the same thing to myself as the Yankees keep winning and keep inching closer to the postseason.
The Yankees weren’t supposed to be here. Not when they were 9-17 on May 5, or 24-28 on June 1, or 44-46 on July 16, or 52-52 at the trade deadline. They weren’t supposed to be here when they traded their closer to the Cubs, or when they traded the best reliever in baseball to the Indians or when they traded their best hitter to the Rangers. They weren’t supposed to be here with the kind of year A-Rod had and Mark Teixeira is having. They weren’t supposed to be here with the kind of year Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are putting together at the top of the order. They weren’t supposed to be here with Chase Headley and Starlin Castro’s struggles or Brian McCann’s decline in production or all of the wasted at-bats given to Aaron Hicks. They weren’t supposed to be here with the inconsistencies of Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi before his injury and Ivan Nova before he was traded. And they certainly weren’t supposed to be here when they called up three rookies in Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin to become everyday players when the three of them had four combined plate appearances (all Sanchez’s) and no hits before Aug. 3. But here they are.
The Yankees have gone 21-13 since they “gave up on the season” and traded their three best assets not named Masahiro Tanaka. They have closed the gap in the division to four games in the loss column and the gap in the wild card to two games in the loss column. They have kept Yankees fans interested and intrigued into the second week of September when Yankees fans were supposed to turn to their NFL teams and start to countdown the days until the NHL and NBA seasons start. In a season in which nearly every preseason concern and question mark didn’t work out the way they did a year ago, the Yankees should have been buried long ago. But despite being a .500 team through 104 games and a team that hasn’t seen a positive run differential since the eighth game of the season, they are still in it.
I have given up on this team countless times this season only to be pulled back in and devastated only to be in on a potential playoff race again and again and again. It’s a vicious cycle that coupled with last season’s one-game playoff loss, the two postseason-less seasons in 2013 and 2014, the way the 2012 season ended and the recent retirements of Number 2, Number 42 and A-Rod has certainly deteriorated my health. Two nights ago, I was ready to be out on this Yankees team once again when Joe Girardi tried to manage the team to a loss with his bullpen decisions, only to have them come back on a Tyler Austin oppositie-field bomb, only to have to Dellin Betances nearly rip my heart out, only to have Blake Parker and Brett Gardner save the season.
Save the season. That’s been my motto all year. Carlos Beltran was the leader of the “Save the Season” campaign along with the Big Three in the bullpen and Didi Gregorius for a while. But with Beltran and two-thirds of the Big Three gone and Didi coming back down to earth somewhat, “Save the Season” has become a team effort. It was all Gary Sanchez for a couple of weeks. It has included Masahiro Tanaka for his last six starts (the Yankees are undefeated over those six starts). Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell have contributed, as have Tyler Clippard and Luis Severino. Starlin Castro has been involved when he isn’t swinging at pitches in the other batter’s box and Brian McCann has showed up from time to time. Even Jacoby Ellsbury, The Thief himself, and Chase Headley, The Bum himself, have had their moments. This Yankees team has gone from the most hated in my lifetime to one worth rooting for in a little over a month.
If the Yankees fall short of the postseason now, it will suck, but it won’t be lock-myself-in-my-room-for-the-offseason depressing like it would have been last season if they had (and they almost did). I have grown somewhat immune to bad seasons thanks to 2013 and 2014 and the majority of this one. This was supposed to be a lost season before it started and many times it was nearly finally lost, but each time, the Yankees came storming back. They aren’t in win-now mode the way most of the division is, and making the postseason this year would be a shock, but it would also be a bonus. (That’s a sentence I never envisioned myself writing four years ago.) The Yankees are playing with house money and as long as Joe Girardi doesn’t hit stay on a 16 with the dealer showing a 10 the way he did the other night with his bullpen management, the Yankees can’t lose.