The Yankees are blessed by the schedule Gods in April and May. A fast start can put the Red Sox following their tail lights for good…
In less than three weeks, the Yankees will be one of 30 teams embarking on a new season with a wish, hope, and a prayer they will get off to a running start. The standings won’t matter, only W’s count for the first two months. Rack ’em up, because every win you get now is one less you’ll need come crunch time in September when the standings mean everything.
Early season injuries, ongoing inclement weather causing postponements, and games played in less than ideal conditions can – and will – affect how teams get off from the gate. But the wild card is always a team’s opening schedule during April and May.
The schedule Gods at MLB use an algorithm which is at least the equal of Google’s Search mechanism that determines how articles are ranked. The Yankees schedule for this season (look below) is if nothing else, an opportunity to put the Red Sox in their rear-view mirror, just as the Red Sox did last season when they got off to a jump on the season they never relinquished.
Right from the get-go, the Yankees play two teams openly in a rebuilding mode for the first six games. Then, there’s a brief interlude against the Astros, followed by seven of their next nine games against the White Sox and Royals (also rebuilding), with a couple of games at home against the Red Sox in-between. April closes out with a West Coast road trip against the Angels and Giants, two teams who are futilely expected to be chasing the Astros and Rockies in the NL West Division.
From there the Yankees schedule for May looks even better, with – get this – twenty games scheduled against the Orioles, Mariners, Twins, D-backs, and the Padres. The Yankees schedule for May leaves only the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox for a total of five games. See for yourself…
The reality is, of course, you only need to compile more wins than anyone else in your Division to win the right to avoid a Wild Card Game shootout, like the one the Yankees were forced to win over Oakland. Which, for a team like the Cleveland Indians who compete in the AL Central is barely a challenge, unless the Twins erupt with an Oakland A’s type season from last year.
But, for the Yankees, there is no ascension from first gear to fourth gear. A transition from third to fourth gear might do it, but this is a Red Sox team that is wildly unpredictable this season.
Are they the sleeping bears still in hibernation, having done nothing to improve their team, except to welcome Dustin Pedroia back into the fold until he gets injured again? And – quick – can you name Boston’s closer for this year? Forget it, just say it’s someone other than Craig Kimbrel. Or, are they merely content to give it another go with what they have until another team says that isn’t enough?
Enter the Yankees, the only team that matters regarding an answer to that question. Some numbers first…stay with me. Las Vegas says the Yankees have an over/under of 97 wins, which is the equivalent of a .598 win percentage for the season.
In April and May, the Yankees schedule calls for them to play 54 games against teams previously described. By Memorial Day, given the Yankees schedule, is it unreasonable that the Yankees should have a record of 38-16, reflecting a win percentage just over .700? And from there, the season moves on?
Everything at this point including the Yankees schedule is on paper, and execution of anything always trumps that. But we’re talking about an opportunity the Yankees have to separate themselves from the pack after completing only one-third of the season.
The Red Sox did that last year and coasted the rested of the way. Why shouldn’t the Yankees be able to do the same this season?
Opportunity is the keyword. And just as Luke Voit, Greg Bird, and Estevan Florial have the opportunity to make the Yankees club going North, the same applies to the Yankees, who only have the same window of opportunity to put the race for the AL East to bed before it barely begins.