Despite championship aspirations, the New York Yankees and their fans shouldn’t be discouraged by a Wild Card berth.
In 2016, the New York Yankees parted ways with established major league veterans Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira through trade, release and retirement. These moves were a passing of the torch and a way of signaling that the Yankees were allowing their own young, minor league prospects to shine in New York.
Many assumed this was the beginning of not a rebuild, but rather a retooling of the Bronx Bombers. Whatever it’s called, it would mean a period of transition involving no postseason trips for a few seasons.
But, of course, the Yankees don’t like playing by other people’s rules.
On August 1, 2016, the trade deadline that season, the Yankees stood at 53-52. Most anticipated a lackluster second half but with a chance to see some young players get a chance. Then Gary Sanchez happened, making the Yankees must see TV and putting them right in the middle of the playoff push.
While they didn’t make the postseason for the third time in four years, the Yankees established their presence as a perennial playoff team for the next few years. The twist is: they decided to skip that “few years” part and become a legit contender the very next season.
Thanks to stellar seasons from players such as Sanchez again, Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Luis Severino, the Yankees currently find themselves right in the middle of the pennant race. They currently sit four games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East and have a 3.5 game lead for the first Wild Card spot.
Past success has seemingly gotten too many fans and even members of the media thinking winning the American League East is the only acceptable way into October baseball. However, the Yankees and their fans should not be discouraged if the team makes the playoffs by way of the Wild Card and not the division.
This entire season has been gravy for the Yankees. Nobody could see this much success coming this soon. Yes, fans have raised expectations after a hot start and a couple huge moves in July, but fans should just be happy they’re this good this early.
Many will argue the trades for Sonny Gray, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle were done for “win now” purposes. However, each of those listed players are under club control beyond this year and will be key for future runs as well. Robertson is locked up until 2019, Gray until 2020 and Kahnle until 2021. These three high caliber pieces are going to be in New York beyond this season so there shouldn’t be any worry about not taking the division right away.
The last time the Yankees made the playoffs was 2015 when they won the first Wild Card spot. Despite having home field advantage, they ran into the brick wall that is Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros.
The Astros seem to be the team to beat in the AL and will probably face the Wild Card game winner. Thankfully, New York won’t have to go up against arguably the best pitcher in the American League in a do-or-die situation and could face him in a series and take advantage of the other matchups.
This takes us to the next point. The Yankees wouldn’t have to face a seemingly unbeatable foe in the game. 2015 was tough obviously because of Keuchel, but what pitcher in the AL Wild Card race is truly terrifying for the Yankees? Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins is having a decent season but doesn’t strike fear in a team’s heart. Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners has been a shadow of himself here in 2017.
On the flip side, Luis Severino will start the Wild Card game and has proven he could go toe to toe with any pitcher in baseball. Furthermore, he is unquestionably the best ace in the Wild Card race this season and could beat any of the other pitchers he’d face in the one game.
Unless they can pull off another great run of 10 of 15 or 12 of 17, it seems like the Wild Card is for them. That is not a loss for this team. It’s a win and the 2017 Yankees have the talent and potential to turn that Wild Card berth into a run at the American League pennant.