Will This Be the Year for Championship #28?

top hatThe playoffs begin this week with the wild card (play-in) games. I am sure MLB would cringe at the play-in reference, but that’s what the one game wild card games are.  So by Wednesday night, there will be 8 teams left, and then the AL and NL Division Series will begin. The New York Yankees, by virtue of having the 2nd best record in the AL at 103-59, will play the Minnesota Twins in a best-of-5 series beginning this Friday October 4 at Yankees Stadium. Will I be there? Do you have to ask?

Let me give the obligatory qualification on any prediction. Every team playing in October is a good one. No playoff team has ever had a losing record. The Yankees ALDS opponent, the Minnesota Twins, performance was terrific this year. They unexpectedly won the AL Central with a record of 101-61, a damn fine season, any year. Every playoff team is World Championship worthy, but of the 10 remaining teams, only 1 will be champs.

Will it be the Yankees?

Yes, they be champs again…

1. This has been a “magical” season if magic is defined as overcoming adversity of injured players. Injuries have not deterred the Yankees. Injuries have provided opportunities to show the depth of the team

2. However, several key injured players have just returned—Severino, their ace, Stanton, the NL 2017 MVP, and Sanchez and Encarnacion are expected to play. Despite the production of their replacements, the Yankees are far stronger with these 4….if they can resume their production. A big if.

3. Virtually every position player and pitcher has made contributions. Some were totally unexpected—Gio Urshela, Tauchman, & Mabin. Tauchman alas is gone for the playoffs, but Stanton’s reappearance could make this a non-issue.

4. They are “due”. Huh? 27-time champions should not whine about it being “their turn” but in reality, the Yankees last won in 2009 with a largely veteran team. With 2 exceptions, CC and Gardner, this team is far different than the 2009 version.

5. The Yankees bullpen is phenomenal. Relievers are always important, and for 20 years the Yankees were blessed with the best reliever of all time, Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Mo is gone, but the totality and depth of this year’s pen is historic. Alas it needs to be, since starting pitching has been far less than historic, and that is their Achilles’ heel.

No, the Yankees will fall short…

1. Expecting returning injured players to perform in October is too much to ask

2. Minnesota is bound to eliminate the Yankees some time, and this might be the year.

3. Even if they advance to the ALCS, Houston is a really, really good team and would likely be their ALCS opponent (though Houston too could be upset).

4. The Yankees (starting) pitching has been weak and even with Severino’s return it now is lacking German, their biggest winner this year

5. Over reliance on home runs will be their downfall. Actually, I think this is bogus but I’ve heard this lame excuse used in the past.

So, what’s my prediction?

The Yankees will be World Champs again and will prevail in 6 games vs. the Washington Nationals, a NL wild card team which will catch fire behind great pitching. Feel free to remind me in late October what a lousy prediction this was. You will most likely be correct. But, maybe not.

Play ball.

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