Fittingly, the Yankees/Indians game is ESPN’s marquee game set for tonight. It’s a crapshoot, and there’s no guarantee the best team wins.
The Yankees recall those games that got away from them this year in a split second – like the game against the Mets when Tyler Wade‘s overly aggressive baserunning mistake cost them a win.
Or the games when the entire team played as though it was sleepwalking – like the hard-to-look-at 14-1 loss to the Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo in which four errors and failing to hit in the clutch eliminated the team from the AL East Title.
Or maybe it’s Yankees ace Gerritt Cole’s turn to have a bad day, like the start he made against the lowly Kansas City Royals in late August.
Over five innings and an oversized 103 pitches, Cole surrendered two of his season fourteen home runs (tied for 2nd worse in the league), resulting in a Yankees loss that drove them 4 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
These freakish games are why tonight’s game will be played in Cleveland instead of Yankee Stadium.
Baseballs Biggest Crapshoot
All indications point to Major League Baseball continuing next year with the expanded postseason format they adopted as an accommodation to the COVID-induced short season.
Bows to player and team personnel safety include consecutive days of play, a quarantine restriction to hotels, and games played at neutral sites to eliminate the need for travel.
Like all teams, the Yankees may whine about the inconveniences, but they’re happy to be where they are instead of the fourteen teams who will watch on television.
The newest change in the playoff format, and the one that can have the most significant impact, is introducing a best-of-three Wild Card Series.
All teams, meaning Division winners too, will participate. Based on the NCAA March Madness seeding format, the finalists are matched like this:
No. 1 Rays vs. No. 8 Blue Jays
No. 2 A’s vs. No. 7 White Sox
No. 3 Twins vs. No. 6 Astros
No. 4 Indians vs. No. 5 Yankees
No. 1 Dodgers vs. No. 8 Brewers
No. 2 Braves vs. No. 7 Reds
No. 3 Cubs vs. No. 6 Marlins
No. 4 Padres vs. No. 5 Cardinals
The trouble is this, and although Meatloaf would say – “Two out of three ain’t bad” – in this case, it is (bad).
As alluded to before, the initial best-of-three is a crapshoot, and thought should be given to a best-of-five format beginning next year.
The Yankees (33-27) get pretty much what they deserve in facing the Indians (35-25), making for a competitive (though brief) matchup.
But what about the Tampa Bay Rays, who finished the season twenty games over .500 having to play the Blue Jays, who eked into the postseason with a record only four over?
Hyun Jin Ryu, the Blue Jays ace all season, is no pushover (5-2, 2.69 ERA over 12 starts), and neither is Taijuan Walker (4-3, 2.70 ERA in 11 starts), the Jays expected starter for Game 2.
Yankees vs. Indians – May The Best Team Win?
So, is it fair to consider there is a good chance we will not be seeing the two best teams in the World Series this year?
In a crapshoot like this, you betcha – and it’s just the same for the Yankees and Dodgers, the two teams heavily favored to meet in the World Series this year.
Imagine the Dodgers, with the best record in baseball this year, falling to the Milwaukee Brewers – a team that finished two games under .500.
It can happen, and if it does we’ll be cheated out of watching the best team in baseball for the remainder of the playoffs and World Series.
The Yankees Will Get What They Deserve
The Yankees cannot beat themselves, as alluded to earlier. They hope the Indians will fold like the Minnesota Twins have done many times when they see the pinstripes.
But the last image anyone wants to see when the Wild Card Series is over is an apologetic and stand-up post-game press conference like this one we saw from Tyler Wade following his baserunning error.
Of course, in a crapshoot scenario, the outcome of a game can turn in another split-second the other way, as it did when the same Tyler Wade jumpstarted the Yankees offense with a two-run blast that followed a four-game homerless drought.
In that case, the press conference, like the player who rolls a 7 or 11 on the come-out roll in Vegas, turns out like this:
Ya never know. Ya just never know.