CC Sabathia, Aaron Boone
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

While the New York Yankees run away with the AL East, fans may need a few extra reasons to stay tuned down the stretch.

Aaron Case

Some New York Yankees fans may find their clicker fingers getting itchy during games in late September. There are plenty of ways to justify the deviant act of changing the channel, but such weakness is truly unacceptable.

Sure, the Bombers have all but guaranteed themselves a direct trip to the American League Division Series. (Finally, after two straight years and three of the last four in the Wild Card Game.)

But there are countless reasons to lose your mind on anyone who dares touch the remote during the New York Yankees’ final 11 games of the season.

Well, maybe the impetus is not infinite, but there are at least 14 excellent reasons to obsess over every remaining pitch of the regular season.

If you’re wondering why I chose the number 14, read on. All will be made crystal clear in the end.

1. To see if the Yankees snag home-field advantage for the AL playoffs

At the time of writing, the Yankees and the Houston Astros are in a dead tie for the best record in the AL. New York currently holds the tiebreaker.

The teams split their six games evenly in 2019, so the next determiner is the record within the division. The Bombers have a 52-19 division record (.732 winning percentage), and Houston is lagging just behind at  47-18 (.723 winning percentage).

The Astros play all of their last 11 games against division rivals; the Yankees only have five AL East matchups left. Therefore, it’s important that the Yankees take care of business so they can welcome the exhausted Wild Card Game winner to the Bronx for an easy-breezy ALDS.

2. To see a possible preview of the ALDS

If the season ended right now, the Wild Card Game would feature the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays. That means when the Yankees head to Tropicana Field for games on Sep. 24 and 25, they may be getting a look at their ALDS opponent.

The Rays have formidable starting pitchers who can certainly neutralize the Bombers’ bodacious bats.

Charlie Morton is having a career-best year in pretty much every statistical category that matters. Tyler Glasnow has a 2.03 ERA in 53.1 innings pitched. Blake Snell, who’s set to return from almost two months on the IL, isn’t quite what he was when he won the Cy Young in 2018; however, he’s only surrendered four earned runs in his last 22 innings.

Even casual New York Yankees fans should take the time to scout the Rays when the two teams clash for the last two times in the regular season.

3. To enjoy the last losses that won’t rip your heart out

Let’s be honest, the playoffs aren’t all fun and games for true fans.

The lead up to the games is exciting, full of optimism and braggadocios tweets. Blowouts in your team’s favor are so awesome they might even feel a bit boring.

However, the postseason is filled with nail biters and pitchers against whom even the powerful Yankees will look weak.

October games are why you watch all year, but there’s something to be said for the carefree feeling of watching the fall training games that come when the Yankees have clinched all they can.

When the outcome doesn’t matter, there’s no stress. You can even feel relieved when starters get pulled, injury-free.

Take advantage of these games while you can. Your blood pressure is about to go see if there really is an American flag on the moon when October comes.

4. To say see ya to CC

The great CC Sabathia is retiring after the 2019 season. Depending on the Yankees’ postseason rotation plans, his next couple of starts could be the last of his career.

All real Yankees fans understand what CC has meant to New York.

He’s 134-88 as a Bomber, good for a .604 winning percentage and 10th place on the team’s all-time win list. More importantly, he led New York to its most recent World Series championship in 2009.

He was especially instrumental in the ALCS that year, going 2-0 and only allowing two runs in 16 innings against the Los Angeles Angels. Now he’s looking to bookend his pinstriped career with titles.

5. To see if Aaron Boone can beat Joe McCarthy

No Yankees manager has won more games in his first two seasons at the helm than Joe McCarthy. The legendary skipper won 201 games between the 1931 and 1932 seasons, his first two in New York.

Aaron Boone is just now wrapping up his second season in charge of the Bombers, and he only needs four more wins to break McCarthy’s record.

Now, McCarthy only needed 311 games to accumulate his wins. Boone has already managed 313 contests.

Still, it’s a rather incredible feat, one that’s likely to happen, unless the Yankees fall apart to end the year. Also, if Boone can win at least two more games, he’ll be set up to try for three 100-win seasons in a row in 2020, something only Joe Torre accomplished in pinstripes.

That would be truly savage, Mr. Boone.

6. To see if the Yankees can one-up the 2018 Red Sox

I’ll be honest, I’m still sore over the success of the Boston Red Sox in 2018. They topped the AL with a 108-54 record, going on to win the World Series. (I shudder to even write those words.)

It’s a long shot, but Boone’s Boys could win 109 games. They’d have to win out to finish off the year, but it’s certainly possible.

Now, I’m not suggesting the Yankees pull out all the stops to show up their rivals. There’s no point putting players at risk of injury to settle a petty score.

It would simply feel great, as a fan, to put the Sox in their rightful place behind the Bombers.

New York Yankees

7. To cheer on DJ LeMahieu

DJ LeMahieu is trying to become just the second player ever to win a batting title in both leagues. Ed Delahanty took home an NL title in 1899 and an AL crown in 1902 – although the second batting championship is disputed by some sources.

LeMahieu won the NL title by hitting .348 with the Colorado Rockies in 2016. He’s now hitting at a .328 clip, just four percentage points behind the current AL leader, Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson.

The Yankees 2019 MVP is heating up for the challenge, with 10 base knocks in his last 22 at-bats. Anderson is also hot, delivering eight hits in his last 23 ups.

It could be a batting title race for the ages, and if it comes down to the final game of the season, it will be must-see TV.

8. To see if Domingo German can get 20 wins

Domingo German deserves some kind of award for holding down the fort for Yankees ace Luis Severino. When injuries caused Severino to disappear before the season even started, German dominated in his stead. In fact, some Yankees fans nearly forgot the team’s best starter was on the shelf.

Sevy is now prepping for his first action of the season, which is slated for Tuesday. Already, the 18-4 German is in the bullpen. In fact, he picked up his 18th victory in a four-inning relief outing on Sep. 12, tying Houston’s Justin Verlander for the MLB lead.

German could easily pick up at least two more victories out of the pen. He could even pull away from Verlander and finish the year as the MLB wins leader.

9. To evaluate the returning talent

Severino isn’t the only big name returning to the Bombers. Dellin Betances and Jordan Montgomery made their season debuts in a 6-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

Giancarlo Stanton could also make his long-awaited reappearance within the next few games. But getting back on the field doesn’t necessarily equate with being ready for the intensity of postseason play.

Can Stanton get his swing right in time to launch homers in October? Will Betances’s velocity take too long to emerge? Can Severino make an impact as a starter or reliever?

You’ll have to watch the “boring” final games of the season to formulate a valid opinion.

10. To see if Gleyber Torres can reach 40 dingers

The sophomore slump never came to claim Gleyber Torres. He’s flipped the script by putting together an incredible sophomore surge in 2019.

No one expected Torres to top his stellar rookie campaign by such leaps and bounds:

  • 2018 – .271/.340/.480, 24 HR, 77 RBI
  • 2019 – .284/.344/.544, 37 HR, 87 RBI

He’s only three blasts away from a nice round 40 for the year. That would be quite an accomplishment for a 22-year-old second-year player.

11. To watch the Baby Bombers’ baby brothers

When the playoffs come, youngsters like Clint Frazier, Mike Ford, Thairo Estrada, and Kyle Higashioka will be cut – unless the injury train keeps stopping in the Bronx to pick up more unlucky passengers.

Sink into the couch every time the New York Yankees take the field and don’t stop watching until the last pitch is tossed. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on the next generation of Baby Bombers taking their shaky first steps.

Plus, this is the final season of September 40-man roster expansions. That means it’s your last chance to get a look at prospects en mass in MLB games.

12. To get an idea of the Yankees postseason pitching plans

Aaron Boone told Sports Illustrated’s Jason Verducci that he plans “to be a little untraditional” when it comes to his usage of rotation weapons in the playoffs.

“The only one we might use as a traditional starter is [James] Paxton,” the manager told Verducci.

Boone has already played around with this concept. He successfully paired CC Sabathia with Domingo German for 7.1 innings of two-run, five-hit ball and a 6-4 win over Detroit on Sep. 12.

It will be extremely interesting to see what other combinations he devises.

13. To keep up with the antics

It’s been a season full of memes for the Bombers. From Boone’s viral “savages” rant to Cameron Maybin’s homer hugs, Yankees Twitter has had plenty to talk about.

One theme is the way MLB umpires seem to have it out for Brett Gardner. They made it painfully clear he’s no longer allowed to vent his anger via smashing a bat on the dugout ceiling:

However, Gardner’s banned bat banging lives on in a gesture of celebration. The uninitiated will see a Yankee smack a double and then move his hands as if he’s going to town on a Shake Weight. But you know what’s really happening, and it’s not embarrassing at all.

By next year, the Yankees will likely have moved on from this new rallying cry, much like they forgot about the infamous thumbs down celebration. So, watch the final contests of 2019 to soak it up while it still exists.

14. To see if the Yankees can reach 300 homers

Finally, we’ve reached the reason for my number choice. Heading into their game against the Angels on Sep. 17, the Yankees are only 14 bombs away from amassing a whopping 300 for the year.

If they continue their pace of 1.89 dingers per game, they’ll end up with around 306. However, there’s absolutely no guarantee they can do it. It’s also not a sure thing that they’ll lead the MLB, because the Minnesota Twins have 287 bombs of their own.

Whatever happens, an enthralling home run race is on. If none of the other reasons did it for you, this one should, you homer-crazed Bombers fanatics.

Here’s to a productive final couple weeks of the 2019 regular season. May the New York Yankees remember this time as a precursor to championship No. 28.

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