After Monday night‘s ninth-inning loss, I was devastated. After Tuesday night‘s blow out, I was done. The Yankees had lost three games in a row again, fallen back to two games under .500 again and finally destroyed nearly all of the remaining optimism I had that this team could still go on a run and save us from the third postseason-less October in four years.
I said “nearly all” and not “all” because I’m a sucker thanks to the second wild card and the hope it has given .500 teams in the now five years it has existed. When it was first implemented in 2012, I was heavily against it, thinking the Yankees would continue to win the AL East and that it could only screw them over. I was right to be against it, but for the wrong reasons.
In 2013, the second wild card gave the team and its fans false hope that they could sneak into the playoffs. In 2014, the same thing happened. In 2015, it forced them to play a one-game playoff against the one starting pitcher they had absolutely no chance of beating when they would have been automatically in the ALDS in the pre-2012 format. And in 2016, it once again has instilled false hope into the team and its fans and will most likely force the team to not rebuild at the trade deadline. The second wild card has been the worst thing to ever happen to the Yankees (aside from teams deciding to lock up their players to long-term deals before they hit free agency) and the cycle might never end.
But after back-to-back walk-off wins against the best team in the American League, the Yankees are once again at .500 with a 39-39 record. They were here at 30-30 and 31-31 and 34-34 and 36-36 and 37-37. Each time they failed to meet their season high of two games over .500, which they last experienced when they were 4-2.
The Yankees have given the front office and fans no reason to believe they can actually make the playoffs or contend this season. They’re a .500 team through 48 percent of the season, have scored the fourth fewest runs in the AL and are 18-26 against teams with a winning record (they are 2-4 against Boston, 2-4 against Baltimore and 2-7 against Toronto). They are eight games back in the division, and while they are only three games back in the wild card, the Astros, Blue Jays, Tigers, Mariners and even the White Sox are between them and the second wild card. Right now, they have a 3.8 percent chance of winning the division and a 6.9 percent chance of getting a wild card, thanks to their abysmal negative-31 run differential.
Everything about the Yankees’ first 78 games of the season suggests the front office should be selling off pieces of this team like it’s Anacott Steel, but like the option of placing a drunken order with Domino’s at 1:49 a.m., the second wild card keeps calling the Yankees’ name, tempting them to make a decision that won’t help them this season or next season or the season after that, and they will likely be in the same place over and over again: good enough to maybe make the playoffs, but never good enough to win a championship.
Unfortunately, I’m the person placing that Domino’s order. In fact, I still remember the Domino’s phone number on Staniford Street in Boston from my freshman year of college (617-248-0100). I believe this Yankees team can make the playoffs because there isn’t a dominant team in the division and the teams they need to jump in the wild card are just as bad, if not worse, and it will be shown over the course of an entire season. I know the right thing would be for them to sell, and to stop pretending like they are going anywhere, I just need them to make a 100-percent commitment to it.
It would have been easier to accept this season is going nowhere if the Yankees just went down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning on Wednesday night like they have in every other game they have trailed in the ninth this season. It would have been easier if Robinson Chirinos had blocked Tony Barnette splitter on Thursday afternoon and Jacoby Ellsbury had poppped up for the third out of the ninth like he has in every other big spot as a Yankee and the Rangers had won in extra innings. Instead, the Yankees mounted an improbable six-run ninth inning on Wednesday and won on a passed ball on Thursday, finished June 14-12, are back to .500 and play the last-place Padres this weekend.
I know the Yankees will probably string us along through San Diego, Chicago and Cleveland before the All-Star break and then tease us through July 31 only to have the trade deadline pass and then have them endure the kind of August and September collapse they had last season, leaving them sitting on their thumb with no postseason berth and no future pieces to show for it. I would like to think Wednesday night’s ninth inning was the turning point of the season and on the 2016 World Series championship DVD they will point to June 29 as the night when the season changed the way the trip to Atlanta in 2009 is remembered. In reality, June 29 will probably be remembered as the start of another tease to trick the Yankees, the front office and the fans into thinking this team is something more than a .500 team. I wish I knew one way or the other.