A Different Way To Clinch

Chad Jennings of LoHud, pointed out that the Yankees can clinch tonight with a win and losses by Anaheim, Texas, and Minnesota. Didn’t I just tell you that Three was the magic number?

It still is, but the scenario outlined above works because Texas plays Anaheim four times this weekend. So, if the Yankees win, they are at 87 wins. Anaheim could still get to 87, but doing that would require sweeping Texas. And Texas, with a loss tonight and that result, could only get to 86 wins. Meanwhile, Houston which is off tonight, can still get to 88 wins, but in the scenario above they would win the AL West while Texas stayed home. And in the scenario listed above, the Yankees would host the wild card game thanks to a 4-2 record over Anaheim. Confused now?

In other news, Masahiro Tanaka is pitching Wednesday which gives him five days off before a potential Wild Card game.

Three Is A Magic Number

It’s pretty simple for how the playoffs will work for the Yankees. Toronto’s magic number is three to clinch the AL East and the Yankees’s magic number to clinch a wild card appearance, and a home game, is three as well.

So we know what needs to be done, now comes the matter of doing it, and there is  one big decision the Yankees need to make shortly. When are they going to start Tanaka this week? The latest they can start him is Thursday if they want to have him on regular rest for the Wild Card Game. I suspect they will aim a bit earlier. Starting him Wednesday puts him in line to pitch on extra rest in the Wild Card Game while starting him Tuesday gives them the option of using him next Sunday if that game has turned into a must-win.

While the Yankees count down the days until a playoff clincher, I have one request. Can everyone ditch the ridiculous scuba googles that have become ubiquitous in MLB clubhouses? Champagne really doesn’t hurt that much!

And if you didn’t get the title, I clearly  miss Schoolhouse Rock. I wish they still had something like it for my kids.

We Can’t Beat Toronto- So What!

Give the Blue Jays all the credit in the world, they owned the Yankees this season. They went 13-6 against them, and they currently own a 3-1/2 game lead over them with 11 to play. Barring a miracle, the Yankees are not winning the AL East. That’s ok. Last year demonstrated that the current playoff format still allows a wild card team to advance to the World Series.  What the Yankees have to do now is think about how to get to the playoffs and how to win once they get there.

Step one is clinching the wild card. The magic number for that is 7. Any combination of Yankee wins and Minnesota losses that add up to 7 gets them into the wild card game. Since Houston has played two more games than the Yankees, that combination of wins and losses by New York and Houston, will clinch home field advantage in the wild card game.

Step two is putting Tanaka in line to pitch the wild card game. That won’t be hard, it is just a matter of determining how much rest they want him to have before that start, and how many starts they want him to make prior to it. Assuming regular rest, never a good bet with Tanaka, he would need to start Saturday to get on track to make two starts before the wild card game.

Step three is figuring out who is going to start game one of the ALDS since Tanaka won’t be on full rest until game 3.   I think it has to be Pineda. He is currently not on track for that as he is scheduled to pitch the last game of the season. But assuming that is meaningless, he could easily be skipped. That’s a decision the Yankees can hold off on for now.

11 games to go.

 

Here’s To Yogi-UPDATED

You could argue that the worst and best things George Steinbrenner ever did as owner of the Yankees involved Yogi Berra. There was the absurd firing of him as manager just sixteen games into the 1985 season. And there was the rarest of Steinbrenner actions, an apology, that brought Yogi back to the Yankee fold in 1999.

And thank goodness for that, because Yogi was a unique gem in the pantheon of Yankee stars. He was certainly a great player. Over 2,000 hits, basically catching every day, ten World Series rings, 15-straight All-Star games, and the Hall of Fame. It is a shame the Yankees didn’t think enough of Bill Dickey in 1947 to give Yogi a different number than 8. Because of that mistake, Yogi is the only Yankee who shares a retired number.

And then there were the Yogisms. Everyone has a personal favorite and while “It’s ain’t over ’till it’s over” may be the most famous, my favorite is “Nobody goes there anymore because it is too crowded”.

But unlike some other Yankee legends, Berra was as good off the field as he was on it. He served his country at D-Day. He was married almost 65 years and was genuinely loved by all he encountered.

In the next few days the Yankees will undoubtedly have a tribute to Yogi as they should, but I hope they make sure that they wait until some key people can make it to the Stadium. Ron Guidry, Yogi’s spring training chauffeur, has to be there. Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada have to be there too. And, it would be great to see Diana Munson as well.

And it should be a celebration of a life well lived. Because in the end, Yogi lived to be 90 and died universally loved. That’s as good as it gets.

UPDATE Very cool tweet by MLB’s Lindsay Berra, granddaughter of Yogi. Sorry so many people didn’t seem to get it.

The Price Will Be High

David Price has been everything the Blue Jays could have hoped for and more. In ten starts, he has gone 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA. Against the Yankees he has gone 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA. He isn’t the only reason the Blue Jays look like the AL East champs, but he is a big one and as an impending free agent, he is going to cash in big time.

Compare him to Johnny Cueto, another ace traded mid-season this year. Cueto has gone 2-6 with a 5.12 ERA since joining the Royals. There is a legitimate argument to keep him off the postseason roster.

Here’s the amazing thing, there are probably five pitchers who are ace-caliber talents headed to the free agent market this fall. Besides the two above, Jordan Zimmerman, Zach Greinke, and Jeff Samardzija are free agents. Based on 2015, Greinke and Price will sign massive deals. Zimmerman should do very well, and Cueto and Samardzjia may have cost themselves millions.

And don’t forget all the bats. Heyward, Gordon, Cespedes, Upton, Davis…. We could easily see over 10 $100-million deals signed this winter and probably at least two $200-million ones. What a great time to be a baseball player.

Congrats, Now Go And Sweep The Blue Jays

The Yankees did a good job this weekend. They rebounded from a bad Friday and took two-of-three from one of the best teams in baseball. There are lots of things to feel good about, but the schedule simply doesn’t permit it. If the Yankees want to win the AL East, they have to sweep Toronto.

That wasn’t going to be easy, but it has gotten harder. With Tanaka hurt, the trio of Warren-Severino-Nova will start for the Yankees against the trio of Price-Estrada-Stroman- advantage Toronto. And, I think it would be hard to argue that the Yankees come close to the firepower that the Blue Jays’ lineup possesses.

Those are the facts, but it is also a fact that right now the Yankees have a chance to seize a huge opportunity. It won’t be easy, but winning never is.

Something’s Gotta Give

The news is that Masahiro Tanaka will skip his next start due to a hamstring strain suffered while RUNNING THE BASES on Friday night. It’s a huge blow, and the Yankees just have to hope that he can get back on the mound at some point in the next two weeks.

As you can tell, I am not at all happy about the way Tanaka got hurt, and I imagine that Yankee ownership is even less so. The idea of using guys you pay $20-plus million a year to do something you aren’t paying them for seems insane to me. Add in the fact that interleague is now almost a nightly occurrence and I think we will see the end of pitchers hitting in the next collective bargaining agreement.

I get it NL fans, that’s the way baseball is supposed to be played. Even if you are right, and I am not conceding you are, the risk of injury is too great. We saw Adam Wainwright, one of the best pitchers in baseball, tear his ACL while running the bases. The salaries have gotten to the point where it simply doesn’t make sense to keep doing this.

MLB has essentially gotten rid of all of the things that made the AL and NL distinct, from separate league offices to separate umpires. Only one thing remains, and I just don’t see it surviving.

Time To Take The 7 Train

When the 2015 schedule came out you knew that this upcoming series against the Mets would be a big deal, they always are. But, only the most optimistic New York baseball fan could expect the matchup to be this big.

For one thing, both teams are closing in on a playoff spot. The Mets have come out of nowhere to pass supplant the Nationals at the kings of the NL East. They have the hottest hitter on the planet right now- Yoenis Cespedes who has 17 homers in his 43 games with the team. They have the most vilified pitcher in the league right now, Matt Harvey. And they have a fan base that is hoping that the Mets  deal a huge blow to the Yankees’ playoff hopes.

And we have some great pitching matchups. Tonight we have Tanaka versus the latest rookie sensation in Queens- Steven Matz. Tomorrow we get Pineda versus their previous rookie sensation, Noah Syndergaard. And Sunday night we get CC Sabathia versus the anti-Sabathia, and former fan favorite, Matt Harvey.

It’s going to be an incredibly challenging weekend for the Yankees, and you just have to hope that Tanaka gets them off on the right foot.

 

Look West

A funny thing is happening in the AL West right now. Houston is collapsing and Texas is rising. Thanks to a win last night, the Rangers are now in first place by half a game. They play Houston twice more this week and then three more next week, so things could quickly change, but this has shaken up the wild card picture.

For one thing, Houston would now be the team coming to Yankee Stadium in a wild card game. The Yankees were 3-4 versus them this year, and 2-5 versus Texas. It’s worth noting that Houston is the worst road team in the AL this year at 29-44. So, this could be a good thing for the Yankees.

And, this creates the possibility of a tiebreaker game. If the AL West is tied, Houston and Texas would play a tiebreaker game before playing the wild card. That’s definitely a good thing.

18 games to go.

Quite A Win

Last night’s win contained so many unexpected events it is hard to remember all of them, but let’s try.

Start with Sabathia pitching like he used to. That was certainly unexpected. Then Ackley leading off the 9th with a hit, that wasn’t something you expected. Or Ellsbury following that up with a GIDP. Or Gardner getting a hit and stealing only his fourth base of the second half. Ok, you probably expected Alex to get that hit, but I guarantee you were not expecting Slade Heathcott to hit a three-run homer on the first pitch.

Baseball-Reference has an win probability matrix for each game as it goes along. At the start of the 9th inning, the Yankees had a 16% chance of winning. That jumped to 27% when Ackley got on base, but plunged to 3% when Ellsbury his into the DP. Gardner’s hit put it back up to 8%, but even A-Rod’s game-tying hit left them below 50% (47%)

Bu as Joe Torre used to say, “momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher”, and the Yankees are turning to their bullpen and Adam Warren to keep things going. Three weeks from today is the AL Wild Card game, 19 games to go.