Yankees Thoughts: A Path to the Postseason

The Yankees have lost five straight. They haven’t won a series against a team other than the A’s or Royals in two months. Their postseason odds are down to 2.3 percent.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. After Tuesday’s loss to the Braves, Aaron Judge said what everyone outside of the Yankees knows. “We’re not showing up,” Judge said. “That’s what it comes down.”

It wasn’t a great look for Judge’s manager, who spent the previous two nights telling everyone how his team is “scuffling their asses off” and “playing hard” and “preparing the right way” and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Aaron Boone is part Pollyanna to accept his team is showing up, part delusional to think they are playing hard, and part liar to tell everyone he thinks they are doing both things. And yet, there was the star of the team, the franchise player and captain disagreeing with everything Boone has been saying for days.

2. Boone was asked about Judge’s comments and tried to spin, twist and mold them into something other than what they were, which is an indictment on the entire roster and organization. Boone said Judge didn’t mean what everyone thinks he meant, which is exactly what he meant: that the Yankees have given up.

A night later, after the Yankees were shut out for the second straight game, Judge had changed his tune. Changed it to a karaoke tune of his manager. Judge was no longer calling out his teammates, instead he did a perfect impression of his manager. “It’s right in front of us,” Judge told the media after the Yankees lost their fifth straight game and fell under .500.

3. There’s nothing in front of the Yankees. They no longer control their own destiny. The Blue Jays hold the third wild card. The Blue Jays are 6 1/2 games up on the Yankees. The Yankees have six games left with the Blue Jays. If the Yankees were to sweep the six games from the Blue Jays, they still wouldn’t overcome the deficit. The season is in front of the Blue Jays. It’s not in front of the Yankees. They need to help themselves and then they need outside help.

Twice this week Boone talked about how there is a quarter of the season left. He mentioned the history of baseball being “littered” with teams that went on “unlikely runs” to reach the postseason. He referenced the 2019 Nationals, the 2021 Braves and the 2022 Phillies. He said Suzyn Waldman told him about the 1995 Yankees. He didn’t reference the hundreds of teams that were just as disappointing and bad as the Yankees that never turned it around.

4. Let’s act as though Boone isn’t a crazy, desperate man who has a little more than six weeks left in his current job and is spewing nightly bullshit to the media worse than he ever has. Let’s take the Yankees’ current 2.3 percent odds of reaching the postseason and join Boone in thinking having a 2.3 percent chance of reaching the postseason is just some minor adversity that a team that has been under .500 for 213 games can overcome. Let’s try to map out a way for the Yankees to reach the postseason.

The Yankees trail the Blue Jays by 6 1/2 games, and in between them are the Mariners (6 games back of) and Red Sox (3 games back of). Let’s remove the Mariners from the equation and standings for now.

The Yankees have six games remaining with the Blue Jays and seven with the Red Sox. Realistically, the best you could hope for is the Yankees to go 4-2 against the Blue Jays and 5-2 against the Red Sox.

Yes, winning five of seven against the Red Sox will be difficult, but it seems like every season no matter how good or bad one of the teams in the rivalry is, they always end up one or two games apart in the season series. The Red Sox depressingly lead the season series 5-1. If the Yankees go 5-2, they will finish 6-7 against the Red Sox. They would lose the season series, and therefore would need to finish at least one game ahead of them in the standings to avoid the tiebreaker.

5. Here are the Yankees’ remaining other games: Nationals (3), Rays (3), Tigers (7), Astros (3), Brewers (3), Pirates (3), Diamondbacks (3) and Royals (3).

For the sake of this exercise, we are going to need to pretend the Yankees can win series against teams other than the A’s or Royals, something they haven’t done since June 25. We are also going to need to pretend the Yankees can beat bad teams, even though they themselves are a bad team.

The Nationals (3), Tigers (7), Pirates (3) and Royals (3) are all bad teams. That’s 16 games against bad teams. Simply winning each series isn’t going to cut it. The Yankees are going to need to win at least 12 of the 16 games against these teams. They are going to need to clean up here. It’s their only chance.

That leaves games against the Rays (3), Astros (3), Brewers (3) and Diamondbacks (3). The Yankees are going to have to find a way to win two-thirds of these 12 games and go 8-4. This is the most unrealistic part of this exercise, even though the entire exercise is unrealistic. The Rays, Astros and Brewers are all in the postseason currently and trying to hold or better their position. The Diamondbacks are a game out of the last wild card in the NL. All four of these teams will be going all out in September to solidify their place in October.

The Yankees are 60-61. Add in the 9-4 record against the Red Sox and Blue Jays, and they are 69-65. Add in the 12-4 against their fellow bad teams, and they are 81-69. Add in the improbable 8-4 against the remaining schedule, and they are 89-73. Are 89 wins enough to get in?

6. The Blue Jays would be 69-59 if they went 2-4 against the Yankees. The Yankees could tie the Blue Jays with wins since they would hold the season series advantage. The Yankees would need the Blue Jays to go at best 20-14, as that would give the Blue Jays 89 wins but give the Yankees the tiebreaker.

The Red Sox would be 65-63 if they went 2-5 against the Yankees. The Yankees can’t tie the Red Sox since they would have lost the season series, so they need the Red Sox to finish with 88 wins. The Yankees would need the Red Sox to go at best 23-11, as that would give the Red Sox 88 wins, and they would finish one game behind the Yankees.

Then there’s the Mariners.

The Mariners are 66-55 and six up on the Yankees. The Yankees won the season series (4-2) against the Mariners, so they can finish with the same record. The Mariners have to go 23-18 to finish with 89 wins. The Mariners have won 11 of 14, and after they play three against the Astros this weekend, they play nine straight against the White Sox, Royals and A’s. They also have three games against the A’s in September.

7. To recap:
The Yankees need to go 4-2 against the Blue Jays.
The Yankees need to go 5-2 against the Red Sox.
The Yankees need to go 20-8 in all other games.
The Blue Jays need to win no more than 20 games against other teams.
The Red Sox need to win no more than 23 games against other teams.
The Mariners need to win no more than 23 games.

That’s a lot that needs to happen. The Yankees need to play .707 baseball for six weeks, they need to beat up on the Blue Jays and the Red Sox, and have those two teams cooperate when they aren’t playing the Yankees, and then they need to the Mariners to play no better than .561 baseball for the rest of their season. And now you know why the Yankees’ playoff odds are down to 2.3 percent.

8. But they’re not 0 percent, and that’s what Boone, Judge and the Yankees want you to remember. It’s why Tommy Kahnle wrote “BELIEVE” on a piece of paper and hung it above his locker. As ridiculous as it is for the Yankees to start winning like the 1998 team they are celebrating next month at Yankee Stadium, and as absurd as it is to think the Blue Jays, Mariners and Red Sox will all do just enough to not beat out the Yankees (and even the Angels who I left out, but are just one game behind the Yankees), there’s still a chance, no matter how small it is, and the Yankees as an organization are clinging to idea they can be the team a team in a future disappointing will reference when talking about trying to reach the playoffs.

9. It would be very on-brand for the Yankees to go on a historical run, have all the needed elements to reach the postseason fall their way and get into the playoffs only to get embarrassed at some point by the Astros and then run it back in 2024 with the same general manager, manager, coaching staff and roster. It’s my biggest fear, that the Yankees as currently constructed on the field, in the dugout and in the front office will be the Yankees eight months from now. And if the Yankees miraculously do reach the playoffs only to get run out of the tournament, the 2023 Yankees will be the 2024 Yankees because they will have accomplished their goal: make the playoffs.

10. That is the Yankees’ goal: make the playoffs. Whether it’s as the 1-seed with the best record in the league and holding home-field advantage throughout or as the third wild card that clinched in the final at-bat of the final day of the season. Be in the Top 40 percent of the league is what the Yankees strive for, not to be the Top 1 in the league. Again, it’s in every Yankees fan’s best interest that they don’t reach that goal, and that the degrading series in Atlanta carries into this weekend against the Red Sox. Bottoming out is the only way change can happen (even if bottoming out doesn’t promise doesn’t guarantee change).

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