I live in New Jersey, so in the aftermath of the Red Sox four-game sweep of the Yankees, I heard a lot of sports radio poppycock today. Basically, it broke down along these lines: It’s Aaron Boone’s fault. It’s the Yankees’ injuries. Don’t forget what happened in 1978. Let’s take them one at a time.
1. Boone: I watched every pitch of the series, and i’m not sure I saw the Yankees’ manager make any tactical errors. What I am sure of is that it’s not Boone’s fault that the Sox scored 15 runs on Thursday. It’s not his fault that Porcello threw a one-hit complete game shutout against the Yanks on Friday. It’s not his fault that Eovaldi gave up only one run on three hits in eight innings on Saturday. It’s not his fault that ace closer Aloldis Chapman couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead in the 9th inning Sunday. And it’s not his fault that Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are the two best players in baseball this year.
2. Injuries: Yes, the Yankees were without Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez (although the latter has played poorly and listlessly this year.) But consider who the Sox played without. Chris Sale, the best pitcher in the league this season, was out with a shoulder injury (expected back later this week.) The Sox’ second best starter, Eduardo Rodriguez, who was 11-3 when he went down with a bad ankle sprain before the All Star break, MIGHT be back by the end of this month. Rafael Devers, the slugging third baseman, is out with a hamstring injury and might be back later this week. Christian Vasquez, the number one catcher, is gone for the season. And Ian Kinsler, acquired at the trading deadline to solve a season-long defensive problem at second base, played only two games before going down with a hamstring strain. There have been other injuries on both teams throughout the season, of course, but you get the idea.
3. About 1978. First of all, it WAS 40 years ago, so I don’t see the relevance. But that year, the Sox led the Yanks by 8 1/2 games on August 5. The Yankees stormed from behind to tie them on the last game of the regular season, and the Sox lost the one-game playoff. That year, the Sox were coached by Don Zimmer, who played his starting 9 everyday players in nearly ever inning of every game through the summer. By mid-August they were thoroughly spent. Alex Cora, on the other hand, gives his starting everyday players a day or two of rest every week. This year’s Sox are as rested as a team can be in August.
So, are the Yankees dead?
The Red Sox have been so good that if they win ONLY 25 of their remaining 49 games, which seems very unlikely, they will STILL finish with 104 wins. Just to tie, the Yankees would need to go 36 and 16 the rest of the way.
Possible? Sure. It’s also POSSIBLE that the Knicks win an NBA title in this decade.
But are either of these things likely? Of course not.
Even so, the Yanks aren’t dead yet.
Assuming they win one of the wild card spots, which is not certain but is very likely, they will need to win a one-game playoff, probably against the red-hot As — or maybe the Mariners. Anything can happen in a one-game series, of course, but if the Yanks win, they’ll be a threat to make it to the World Series. So will the Sox, the defending champion Astros, and the Indians, who I think are more dangerous than their regular season record indicates. In my mind, the Astros are the favorites because they have the strongest pitching staff among the contenders — but if they were in the American League East right now, they’d be 8 games behind the Sox and ahead of the Yankees, who have fallen 9.5 games behind the division leader.