The Yankees magic number is now two to clinch home field for next Tuesday’s Wild Card playoff game, but that’s the only sure thing.
The Yankees are playing their best baseball of the 2021 season, clicking on offense, pitching, and defense when it counts the most.
Seattle is marching in step with the Yankees while the Red Sox dropped two to a team in Baltimore that has 107 losses this year, a sign that they have been playing over their heads all season, and those April predictions were correct.
Any combination of Yankee, Boston, and Seattle wins and losses equaling two now assures that next Tuesday’s Wild Card playoff will be at Yankee Stadium.
Yankees Firing On All Cylinders
Aaron Judge is making daily moves up the ladder as the American League’s Most Valuable Player, smashing two 450+ft. home runs last night, complementing the home run contributions of Gleyber Torres, Anthony Rizzo, and Brett Gardner.
The Yankees’ well-oiled offense is cemented by starting pitching that is just good enough to allow Aaron Boone to turn the game over to a bullpen that is the best in the league at this juncture of the season.
Everything Is Right Except The WC Format
Everything seems right, and everything is correct except for one thing, and it’s the only matter the Yankees do not have in their hands to control.
The one-game shootout between the two Wild Card teams is a shameful way for MLB to end a six-month season.
We know why MLB wants it, as TV ratings for the game, especially with the Yankees participating, will skyrocket, and advertisers will flock to grab airtime.
But the fact is that one of the teams will go home within three hours of the first pitch, having only one game to do justice to a season of hard work and 162 games played day and night in the rain, cold, and sweltering heat over 180 days on the calendar.
Major League Baseball can do better than that.
Put your money and your heart on the Yankees to win that game, as Gerrit Cole will come back from his less than impressive start the other night.
He will earn every bit of the $1+ million the Yankees are paying him next Tuesday, and from there, don’t be surprised if they make it to Number 28.
Because the Yankees have been fortunate to win three of the four one-game WC playoff games since the format was adopted in 2018, it might seem odd for a Yankees fan to propose a change, but what’s fair is fair and besides, it’s good for baseball.
MLB And The MLBPA Can Make A Change
Sometime in December, representatives from MLB and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA) will sit down to negotiate a new agreement.
Their agenda is chock full of items that can change the game as we know it today forever. One of those items has to be, and some say is, changing the format of the Wild Card playoff to a best-of-three series.
In February 2020, Joel Sherman reported in the New York Post that Major League Baseball is “seriously weighing” an overhaul of the league’s playoff structure, including some radical October changes. The proposal would expand the field from five to seven teams (three division winners, four wild card teams) in each league.
The reported proposal involves a bye for the top team in each league, a three-game wild card round series, and the chance for teams to pick their opponents”.
That proposal died early but only because it was probably too far-reaching. However, a singular move to lengthen the Wild Card playoff to a best of three is more attainable.
The apparent hurdle, though, is taking a long season to make it even longer, and where will those extra two or three games fit into an already crowded schedule?
The answer is, of course, as simple as the question because MLB and the MLBPA have moved mountains before, and they can do it again – if the will is there.
This Is Baseball, Not Football
The Yankees’ season should not tinge on luck, a fair or foul ball by inches, a misplaced pitch, or a bloop single to the opposite field. Nor should the fate of their opponent’s season draw from the same.
What’s good for the gander is good for the goose, though. The argument can be made that if the Yankees and Seattle had played better in April and May, they wouldn’t find themselves facing a one-game elimination, and instead, they’d be Tampa Bay and Houston watching from home as the two teams fight for survival.
Touche and the Yankees mainly can only blame themselves for not winning the AL East outright and for wading through most of the season, playing listlessly and without heart.
However, that is a matter for Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Seattle’s GM, Jerry DiPoto, to address over the winter, making personnel changes as required.
The Yankees Will Bring It All The Way Home
Having said that, though, the drama and excitement present at Yankee Stadium next Tuesday will be inescapable, and MLB will enjoy one of its finest hours, as well as the Dodgers and Cardinal’s shootout the following night.
But the fact is the same level of attraction would be present for the third and final game of a best of three series, and oh, by the way, the additional haul of advertising revenue from the “extra” games would be cause for celebration on Madison Avenue and the offices at MLB.
It doesn’t need to be about the money, though, because the Yankees and Dodgers, the Las Vegas oddsmakers’ best bet to win the WC game, would both know they made it through not as a fluke but having persevered during a genuine three-game series test of skill and will.
On Saturday, Cortes will be followed by Jordan Montgomery while the Yankees have yet to decide on a starter for Sunday’s season finale.
The best scenario for the Yankees is to wrap things up by Sunday, affording the team to pitch someone like Luis Gil or Albert Abreu while resting key position players, giving the team a welcome “pressure’s off” respite, together with the off-day on Monday.
Still, let’s not move the idea of a format change to the current WC playoff game too far from the front burner – because the game will be better for it.
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Mike Bloomfield Sr. We won’t beat rays 2 out of 3 they are too consistent. We are way too streaky
Susan Abbott Excellent article Steve. I’m totally on board with a 3 game WC series!
John Zavecz As a Yankees fan I can honestly say that I’m fine with the format…win the division and then you don’t have to worry about a one and done…if any team should complain it’s the Dodgers…and as for the beginning of the article, the Red Sox shattered all expectations this year..O/U win total for the year was 80.5 wins
Steven Kenworthy MLB wants to avoid the World Series being played in a cold-weather location in mid-November and would reject a 154 game regular season schedule, one that would allow a best of 3 Wild Card series, all because of the almighty dollar. Each team would lose 4 home games. Now one would think the TV revenue with a WC Series would more than makeup for those 4 games lost and the players might enjoy not having to play so many games in a row to get all post-season games in well before the first snowfall.