The playoff-bound Yankees, as of Friday, could be quarantined and separated from their families for the next six weeks. Are they up for this?
The Yankees have the deepest of challenges facing them if they are to capture their 28th World Championship that follows an eleven-year drought.
Ironically, those challenges go far beyond the logistics of having played a “regular” season amid a pandemic – and survived (intact for the most part) – only to be met with a series of hurdles for the postseason as agreed to by MLB and the player’s union (MLBPA),
You’ll better understand when you take a look at MLB’s recently announced playoffs schedule for the 2020 postseason, and the rules teams must abide by if they wish to compete in this year’s crapshoot.
Yankees: Processing MLB’s 2020 Playoff Rules And Schedule
What has been a roller coaster ride through the pandemic inspired regular season schedule for the Yankees and other teams is now a full-blown Olympics-sized hurdle.
Next Friday, the Yankees return from their away series against the Red Sox and Blue Jays to face the Miami Marlins at home for the final three games of the 2020 regular season.
Except for one thing – they will not be sleeping in the comfort of their beds at home with their wives and children.
Instead, per MLB mandates, the Yankees will be locked up and quarantined in (as yet) an undisclosed hotel in New York City, before embarking on the first leg of a trip to a destination yet to be determined by the final AL East Standings.
From there, the Yankees, assuming they can put the Tampa Bay Rays back where they belong, or possibly the Minnesota Twins, will proceed to Texas, where they will remain quarantined in a Dallas-Ft. Worth-based hotel for the remainder of the postseason, or until they are eliminated.
Yankees players are given their choice – leave your family at home, or have them join you for the unknown duration ensconced with you (but under the same quarantine standard) until it’s over – and you are “dismissed” via elimination or carrying the trophy.
Yankees: Suddenly, It All Becomes Very Personal
You might think we are getting ahead of ourselves here. But, in the real world of many Yankees ballplayers, it’s all happening in a split second, with individual decisions that need to be made now, regardless of the outcome of the 2020Yankees season.
For someone like J.A. Happ, the father of two young children, this is not an easy decision.
“I think all sides are trying to do the best it can,” Happ said Sunday, reacting to then-rumors. “I mean it in my particular situation, and it’s tough to transfer my family to then sit in a hotel for seven days. So that’s not going to be something I think we’re going to do. (New York Daily News)
Similarly, in his always present even-keeled the glass is still half-full manner, Yankees manager Aaron Boone told the New York Daily News:
“I mean it’s 2020,” Boone said. “It’s not ideal. I would love to be coming home from Buffalo next week and home to my home with my family for a few days before heading out.
But we understand we all have to make sacrifices and deal with different things that are going to make it viable for us to play this season and on into the postseason. So we know what we signed up for. And, you know, we’ll cooperate as best we can.”
Although the no-penalty option is there, it’s hard to imagine any of the Yankees opting out, saying it’s all a bit too much for myself and my family.
Choices And Maybe One Last Hurrah
Some players on the team know this could be their last gasp opportunity wearing the pinstripes to claim a ring.
Brett Gardner, the lone holdout from the Yankees last World Title in 2009, at 37, is finally seeing his baseball skills erode to the point where he might elect to retire, even if the Yankees offer him another one-year contract for 2021.
Happ is also on the bubble, facing a team decision on whether or not to pay him $17 million for his services in 2021.
Aging but still useful, Happ might easily find himself pitching for the hapless Kansas City Royals, or some other team going nowhere to finish his career next season.
Masahiro Tanaka and DJ LeMahieu are also due to enter free agency five days after the World Series ends. Both are players the Yankees will have an interest in resigning, but you never know, and they could also be seeing their last days as a Yankee.
Yankees Aaron Boone Throws Away The Script
Beyond the ways this year’s playoffs affect players individually, is the logistics of the scheduling of games that will throw managers a curveball that must be dealt with.
For instance, since games will be played on neutral grounds in one location, travel days are eliminated, meaning there is no day off while teams switch ballparks.
In turn, this means that Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole, in a best of five series, may only get the Game One start, unless he pitches on short rest for Game Five (if there is one).
Of course, that’ll be true for the aces of all teams, but for the Yankees who count so heavily on Cole, it’s an exceedingly colossal detriment to overcome. Don’t be surprised, though, if a need arises, Cole will demand the ball for that final game.
Winners of seven straight with memories of a .500 record only last week fading away, the Yankees appear to be peaking at the right time. The return of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to the lineup is huge, even if it proves to be mainly their presence on and off the field.
LeMahieu continues to challenge for the AL Batting title, and Luke Voit, if there is any fairness left on this planet, should be a top candidate for MVP votes in the league.
Guess What? It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over, Tampa Bay.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Yankees remaining eleven games is the ever-shrinking distance from the first-place Tampa Bay.
As games begin today, the Yankees are three games behind the Rays, who have found challenging going of late, and are 4-6 over their last ten games.
In a season where we’ve seen everything from games postponed due to COVID-19, protests supporting Black Lives Matter, and lo and behold a game postponed in Seattle due to smoke, copping the AL East at this late stage would, as they say, be the icing on the cake for this Yankees team.
Before we go, have you caught up with Clint Frazier these days?
That OPS+ of 177 is especially an eye-popper from this overlooked young man, finally getting his chance. The stat, by the way, means he is better than 77% of the players in the league.
Tonight, the Yankees entertain the Blue Jays at the Stadium with visions of sweeping the series before moving on to Fenway for a weekend series against the Red Sox.
Masahiro Tanaka (2-2, 3.16) gets the start against Chase Anderson (0-1, 5.81).