The Last Leg.

One of the many things I love about Major League Baseball is that the season truly is a marathon. While I enjoy (and sometimes am pained by) the many regular season games that I watch or attend, I do so with the understanding that the outcome of any individual  game is merely .6% of the total year’s results (1 out of 162) as compared to pro football where an individual game carries 10 times more weight.

Be that as it may, the post Labor Day stretch is where, for many teams, their playoff fate is determined.  It’s also where I’m torn each year on the value of the wild card. Yes I know it creates deeper interest among more teams on the cusp of contending but, on the other hand, it eliminates the value of winning a division.

Take my beloved Yankees for example. The Bronx Bombers and the Tampa Rays are running neck and neck for the AL East division lead. They have the two best records in baseball as well, so clearly they are both “playoff worthy”. As it stands now during Labor Day weekend,  the Yankees have a slight edge. These same two teams will also play head to head 7 times later this month, so the AL East division winner will most probably be decided by these head to head games. But since they have the best records in the AL as well as the majors, the “loser” is only marginally penalized since it appears very likely that both teams will be in the playoffs, making the value of winning the division merely one additional home game. Nice, but hardly a biggee. (By the way this is the 40th time the Yankees entered September in first place, and have never not finished in first in these instances.)

Regardless, as the summer ends and fall begins, I will dream of a 28th Championship in the Bronx. There are many reasons to be hopeful, and reasons to be concerned, as the regular season winds down. Will Andy come back and pitch well? Who will be the playoff starters, other than CC? Will A-Rod finish strong? Is Jeter showing his age or will he rebound?

Though the Yankees won a World Championship last season (and I will never forget my joy of witnessing it first hand at the Stadium with our daughter, Carolyn), the 2001-2008 Championship drought was a reminder of how difficult winning a Championship is, even with a strong regular season. There’s only one thing for certain—if the Yankees are playing in the Series, it sure would be swell if they could win it in 5 games and I could be there again (A repeat of the 1961 Series with the Reds perhaps?). If they won in 5 games, they would win in the Bronx, since the NL now has home advantage based on their All-Star game win–by the way, trying to make the all-star exhibition game meaningful is a joke.

So as the regular season winds down I can only hope that Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera and Posada can get some new hardware for the other hand. 5 rings are nice, but 6 would be better. But no sweat Yogi, your record of 10 rings is safe for now, and I suspect forever.

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