As the New York Yankees head into the home stretch of the 2016 season, they need a special kind of push to reach the postseason for the second straight year.
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself back in May, what would your old self say about the New York Yankees‘ playoff chances?
He or she would probably look at you and pull a Jim Mora (PLAYOFFS?!). Yeah, the team was so bad that everyone wondered if they could win another game.
On May 5, New York saw their record at 9-17 which was not only the worst record in the American League but was also the cause of their mere 12% chance to make it to the playoffs just one month into the young season.
As a result, principal owner Hal Steinbrenner gave general manager Brian Cashman the green light to deal New York’s greatest assets in order to build for the future ahead of baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline.
Within a week, closer Aroldis Chapman, dominant reliever Andrew Miller, and the consistent Carlos Beltran were dealt in 2016’s fire sale which figuratively waved the white flag on what was then recognized as a lost season.
Then, Mark Teixeira announced he would retire at season’s end followed by the unconditional release/fiasco of Alex Rodriguez. The focus was officially towards the future as the organization broke down their old and feeble roster.
Who knew that would be the inauguration of something unique?
Following the elimination of “dead weight” and the trades that made New York’s farm the best in baseball, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin got the call from Triple-A igniting the Yankees to what could be one of the most improbable postseason runs in franchise history.
Since the youth movement started on August 3, the Bombers have produced the best record in the American League East while they have scored the third-most runs in the AL. Additionally, the Baby Bombers find themselves just 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot.
Sure, Sanchez’s back-to-back AL Player of the Week awards, overall .374/.441/.798 slash line and 11 home runs in 25 games have a lot to do with it, but somehow, the rebuilding Yankees led by youngsters are making it feasible.
Sound familiar? It should.
The last time New York found itself with a record of .500 or lower heading into the All-Satr break was in back in 1995, a season looked somber as the calendar shifted into September.
The team led by Buck Showalter, who is ironically at the helm with a team the Yankees are looking to tear apart this weekend, was 54-59 and five games out of the wild-card with only 32 games remaining in the season.
Their chances of reaching the playoffs seemed even less likely than the 4.8% chance MLB.com gives them today.
However, that team went on to miraculously win 25 games that month en route to becoming baseball’s first ever AL wild-card team. How? By operating like a team that was against all odds yet made the climb using an engine sparked by youth.
Twenty-four-year-old Andy Pettitte went 5-1 to the tune of a 3.38 earned run average and a .218 opponents batting average in order to shine some light on a rotation that had an overall ERA of 4.52 in the second half of ’95.
Can the retiring first baseman Mark Teixeira have a comparable September to that of the then-retiring first baseman Don Mattingly and own a .831 OPS down the stretch before going out with a bang?
Can 26-year old Didi Gregorius complete his first harmonious season in pinstripes in his fifth year in baseball just like 26-year old Bernie Williams did in his fifth year by slashing .364/.473/.570 down the stretch?
We have to wait and see before those scary parallels to the 1995 team matchup, however, three figures are for sure.
For starters, this year’s Yankees have already fascinated the baseball world by not only lingering around but trending upwards after marketing arguably their best players at the deadline. Everything beyond this point is just icing on the cake.
Secondly, FanGraphs projects the second Wild Card winner to finish with 88 wins which means the Bombers have to go 19-11 this month in order to complete the improbable run. Of course, that number is theoretical, but the ’95 Yankees proved that the impossible could be accomplished even during the most despairing times.
Last but certainly not least, there is one thing more important than winning this season and that’s to get these kids into meaningful games just like Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera did in the season before that core helped bring home New York’s first title since 1978.
Assuming the Yankees stay in the thick of things, youngsters like Sanchez, Judge, Austin, Cessa, Green, Ronald Torreyes, Ben Heller and many other September call-ups will partake in the climate of a pennant chase.
Just look at the core four. Being in it, in itself, is invaluable.