Musings about another division title

AL East Champs: Yanks top Rays to win division
Where do we go now?
Still the straw that stirs the drink. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I didn’t think the Yankees would win the AL East this year. I thought they could have won it, there’s always a chance, but back in March and April and even as late as August, I figured they were going to have to settle for the wildcard spot. There’s no shame in that, but like many others I figured the Red Sox were simply too good. I think I said this in a podcast or in a chat at some point before the season, Boston was better than New York, but not ten or 15 games better. Three or five games better over the course of the season, and that’s a pretty close race.

It’s better to be lucky than good, and obviously the Yankees had some luck during their run to the division title. Every division champ needs some luck, they need that unexpected breakout and surprise veteran addition, especially in a division with two other 90+ win teams. Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon so far exceeded expectations that I can’t even put it into words. There was a legit chance that neither guy would make it through May, but here they are in the final week of the season with ~3.80 ERA’s in ~150 IP each. Ivan Nova exceeded expectations as well. For all the doubt about New York’s pitching staff, it was the pitching that doomed the Red Sox down the stretch.

Are we a spoiled fan base? Of course we are. Eleven division titles in a 14-year span and 16 playoff appearances in the last 17 years will do that to you. We’ve seen a 600th homerun and a 3,000th hit and an all-time saves record fall within the last 18 months, so another division title hardly seems noteworthy. However, I feel like this division title is sweeter than any of the other recent ones, I guess because I didn’t expected them to win it for the first time in a long time. I’m not going to call a $200M team an underdog, but this year is about as close as they can get to being one.

The last seven games of the season are almost an afterthought at this point. The only thing left on the agenda is clinching homefield advantage, and  that should be wrapped up by the weekend. The focus can now officially shift to getting guys rest, lining up the rotation, sorting out the last two or three playoff roster spots, and simply preparing for baseball’s biggest crapshoot. A division title doesn’t guarantee anything, and once the playoffs start next Friday, the Yankees will have the same one-in-eight chance as every other club that made it. Enjoy the stress-free baseball for the next week, now’s the time to just sit back and enjoy baseball for nothing more than the love of the game.

AL East Champs: Yanks top Rays to win division
Where do we go now?
  • crawdaddie

    Which Yankee hit his 600th homerun this year?

    • JFH

      It says 18 months, not year.

      • crawdaddie

        Which makes it even moreso weird. Why go back to 2010?

        • Ted Nelson

          It is not weird in its context at all. The context is asking whether Yankees fans are spoiled and answering yes because we get to see so much greatness first hand year after year after year. The sentence is not about this season. It’s about Yankee fans consistently seeing greatness.

    • Short Porch

      Jesus Montero. Where were you this month?

      • ColoYank


  • Nuke Ladoosh

    And enjoy making Red Sox fans sweat!

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    This is amazing…I expected a dogfight until the end and thought a wild card spot was going to be tough to get.

    This is the way to do it…forget about the other teams and just win. This team has been enjoyable to watch all year. Great pitching, hitting and defense from top to bottom all year long.

    This is as complete and deep a team that I’ve seen in a long time in the Bronx.

    Great season and lets keep it going…

  • Bronx Byte
    • CU Tiger

      I couldn’t decide if my favorite line was
      “Every day should feel like Christmas for Curt Young, the new Red Sox pitching coach. The former A’s pitching coach didn’t have anything close to the horses he has now, and Oakland’s staff posted a 3.56 ERA last season, the best in the American League and fourth-best in the majors. Imagine what he can do with a Grade A collection of arms”
      “Every Red Sox starting pitcher has something to prove. While the Phillies might be the popular choice as the best rotation in baseball, don’t be surprised if people are singing a different tune come October.”

      • MannyGeee

        I am sticking with this one…

        “And whoever is the starting shortstop — Scutaro or Lowrie — gives the Red Sox one of the toughest No. 9 hitters in the game.”

        not even the best #9 hitters in the division.

        • MannyGeee

          oops… spoke too soon:

          “And Dice-K might be the best No. 5 starter ever”

    • Jesse

      If I were to get a nickle for every time someone posted this…

      • MeGustaMontero (JM)

        Ther article DOES deserve it, though, in all honesty.

        • Jesse

          Oh don’t get me wrong, it does. It’s just funny how it’s posted at least 10 times a day, that’s all, haha.

          Believe me, I read it when it was released in January and I almost died laughing.

          • MeGustaMontero (JM)

            How come writers from New York make the Yankees look like absolute garbage, yet Boston writers make Boston look like, well, better than the 1927 Yankees?

            • Jesse

              I have no idea. But I see your exact point. ESPN New York treated the Yankees like garbage, and ESPN Boston crowned them Champs.

              But one thing I’m really glad is that the Yankees 4-11 record or whatever against Boston doesn’t mean shit. I’ve had to hear Boston’s record against the Yankees for too long now and I’m happy it doesn’t mean shit.

      • BK2ATL

        It’s still funny each time I look at it. They should post it daily.

    • Freddy Garcia’s 86 mph Heat
  • posada !

    posada will be on the playoff roster over montero bc girarfi favors veterans over rookies.

    • Mister Delaware

      Probably the same reason Garcia will be starting over Nov … oh wait … that doesn’t fit the narrative.

    • Tiny Tim

      Posada might be on the playoff roster, but he should take Cervelli’s spot and not Montero’s. Cervelli will be out so Joe will take a backup catcher who won’t play. That should be Montero as he can provide more pop off the bench.

      • Cris Pengiuci

        Posada has proven that he’s still a solid LH bat. He’ll be the DH against righties most of the time or act as a LH bat off the bench if Chavez is the DH. He’s not filling the same role as Montero. Montero still appears to need more seasoning against the quality of RH pitching he’d see in the playoffs. I suspect if Cervelli is available, he’ll be the backup catcher. If not, it may be Romine, who will see little, if any, playing time. I’d be surprised if they took Montero and if they do, it will probably be at the expense of Andruw Jones.

  • Tiny Tim

    I’d like to see us throw tonight ballgame to keep the Rays alive. 3 games behind with 6 to play just won’t do it. Keep them within 2 then try to sweep the Sox.

    • Andrew

      They won’t outright “throw” the game but it’s got to be pretty likely that tonight’s lineup consists heavily of Golson, Nunez, Laird, Pena, Romine, and Montero. And I doubt the bullpen’s A listers will be used except for maybe Robertson who only faced the one batter yesterday. So if Tampa were going to win a game against the Yanks, tonight would have to be their best chance.

    • gc

      This nonsense about “throwing games” is ridiculous. You can be sure that they’ll be fielding their weakest lineup, but only because that’s what every team does the day after they clinch. To actually suggest that they throw the game? Ludicrous. Those guys should play just as hard as any team they field. And if the Rays can’t beat them with their best lineup, that’s their own fault.

      • Monteroisdinero

        I like our lineup whether it is the B or C variation. We can still win the game. I would like us to do well but lose with Laffey and Proctor being the culprits-to keep the pressure on Boston.

        Lose today-sweep this weekend.

    • Ted Nelson

      There’s no reason to throw the game (other than marching a weak line-up out there to rest regulars). The Angels are tied with the Rays. If the Angels can beat the great Henderson Alvarez and the Blue Jays… just as much pressure is kept on the Red Sox as if the Rays win.

  • Yazman

    Hey, do you think Joe might let someone else start and pitch 4 innings this week, and then bring in CC for his work?

    Could give him a chance for the win…

    • D-Rob’s Great Escape

      I thought the same thing because I was watching DET last night as well and Leyland brout in Fister for his tuneup start when it was tie late and he ended up getting the W.

  • Mickey Scheister

    Yeah, the thought of not winning the division in the midst of an epic collapse from the BoSox had me heated but the Yanks have played some good, holistic baseball over the past series. After that road trip, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Now, secure home field advantage and forget about the wild card team, let the three teams chasing one spot exhaust their pitching staffs and crush whomever wins the WC or the West. Yes, we are all spoiled, sore losers and driven for success. Go Yankees!

  • Willy

    Oddly enough, the Yankees have actually been “unlucky” this season. ESPN has their Expected Wins and Losses at 100-55.

    • Jesse

      Yep. I don’t believe in luck, I think everything happens for a reason. But, baseball reference has them at 98 wins on the Pythagorean scale-

    • tom

      If there’s anything lucky, it’s that Boston is also performing about 5 wins below expectation, so the shortfall doesn’t (relatively) affect the standings. Except, of course, to the benefit of Detrot, which is performing 5 games OVER expectation, so should already be well out of the home-field race, but remains alive.

    • MannyGeee

      I was actually going to mention this. isn’t their actual record like 6 games under their Pythag? at least is was on Monday??

  • Yazman

    Any chance Joe will bring in CC in the 5th inning for his last “start”? It’s no big deal, but why not try to get him the win?

  • Sweet Dick Willie

    Enjoy the stress-free baseball for the next week, now’s the time to just sit back and enjoy baseball for nothing more than the love of the game.

    And yet, you just know tonight’s game thread will be full of comments about how the Yankees’ future is in doubt because the farmhands aren’t producing.

  • Monteroisdinero

    If anyone would/could have predicted our success with ARod’s #’s and our starters’ issues and pitching injuries back in ST…..

    • Mickey Scheister

      What happened to the “Jeter to the nine spot”, people? Or the “Gardner must lead off” and the “Grandy will regress to early 2010.” folks? It has been a pleasure to watch this team out perform the early season doubts. People that thought the Yanks would finish in first place were laughed at, look who’s laughing now.

      • Jesse

        Me! I’m laughing at the doubters!
        I had the Yankees winning the East with 95 wins, and Boston getting the WC at 93.

      • posada !

        where is “nunez fan” ???

        • Jesse

          I’m here.

      • Rich in NJ

        What happened to the “Jeter to the nine spot”, people??

        That was batting him somewhere from 7-9 v. RHP only, and given his L/R splits from the beginning of the 2010 until he went of on the DL this season, why shouldn’t he have been moved down? That was a pretty large sample size.

        As I always said, if he started hitting again, move him back up. Well, he has, so the issue is moot now.

        On the larger point, I think it’s ridiculous that players own lineup spots based on past reputation. Lineup construction can easily be more flexible and more fluid based on current facts.

        • Rich in NJ

          bold off

        • Mike HC

          Growing up playing baseball, where you hit in the order has an effect on you no matter how professional, or team first you try to be. And you definitely get in a routine if you are always hitting in the first inning, or later in the game, etc …

          I agree that there maybe should be a bit more flexibility, but at the same time, constantly shuffling the order can be a detriment and bad for team morale.

          • Rich in NJ

            I played baseball for years too. I didn’t mean to suggest a constant shuffle, but when a player is as ineffectual as Jeter was v. RHP for so long, it was reasonable to move him down, and again, move him back if/when he started to hit RHP again.

            • Mike HC

              Yea, I also wanted to move Jeter down against righties. Like you pointed out, that was a large enough sample trend, I thought as well.

              And I wasn’t throwing around the “I played baseball” thing. I was just pointing out my own experience. Which is obviously a lost smaller scale than getting paid million in MLB, ha.

    • Januz

      To be honest Boston has had its share of injuries as well (Losing Buchholz certainly has not helped their cause), so things even out. However, I think the biggest difference between the two teams has been their set-up men (Robertson vs Bard). Everyone knows how good Robertson has been, but Bard has been brutal. I know won/loss records and ERA’s can be deceiving with relievers, but 2-9 with a 3.21 ERA vs Robertson’s 4-0 with a 1.11 ERA, is a huge difference, that cannot be overlooked.

      • Jesse

        I think you can take more out of losses from relievers more than you can from starters because relievers especially of Bard’s type, throw only an inning at a time, so if they really get the loss it’s basically on the reliever.

      • CS Yankee

        Bard throws 100, is bigger, stronger, fastest & yet still gritier.



      • MannyGeee

        bullpens in general tell the tale for these two teams. Bard+Papelbon have looked HORRIBLE as of late.

  • JohnC

    Angels avoided a potential nightmare last night. Anyone see Haren take that line drive off his wrist. Luckily, it was his glove hand and its amazing that nothing was broken. If they somehow get in, that would have been a devastating blow

  • steve (different one)

    With the Angels sitting in the same spot as the Rays, we might want to be careful with what we wish for. The Sox could get eliminated with nothing to do with the Rays. Don’t think anyone would be crazy about seeing Weaver/Haren/Santana in a 5 game set.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want the Sox to choke, but the addition of the Angels into the mix makes me queasy. Still have nightmares from the early half of the 00’s I guess.

  • Sweet Dick Willie

    Does anyone know what happens if the Rays, Angels and Sux all tie for the WC?

    • Jesse
      • MannyGeee

        potentially having to throw Beckett/Lester on short rest in 2 one game playoffs…

        to turn around and throw either Beckett/Lester on short rest AGAIN or Lackey/coming off injury Bucholtz in games 1 & 2 of the ALDS.

        This would be awesome. best case scenario.

        This could still in fact be the best case scenario for any of the three teams… Price/Shields? Weaver/Haren? big time abuse to your aces. I am a fan

        • Jesse

          I’d actually like it if the Sox had to play two play in games to get into the playoffs, but win the first and choke the second on a blown save and loss by Papelbitch.

  • tom

    I know everyone was technically correct last year — that, because the Red So were so far behind the Yanks and the wild card so assured, there was no particular downside to the team’s lackadaisical September play. But I have to say I prefer to see them performing as they have over the past few days (and as they did in ’09): going for the kill, getting to the goal with a spring in their step, even treating the division title as a hill to be climbed, not a luxury to be only half-sought. It just creates a better feeling going into post-season. Of course, we’ll see if that means anything in the coming weeks.

    Alot of people are saying yesterday was a devastating day for the Rays, that 2 1/2 games are too high a mountian to climb with a week to go, another day off the calendar, etc. I can see the validity in this, and understand the whole “missed oportunity” aspect. But, honestly, the way the Red Sox are playing, would you put any serious money against their losing every single game from here to the end? I say, till the Sox have mathematically clinched, they remain in active jeopardy.

  • Mike HC

    My only complaint this season is that we basically clinched up a playoff spot too soon, rendering like a month plus worth of games drama free and almost interest free. If not for Montero, I’m not even sure how much I would have watched these games at all.

    Can’t wait for the playoffs.

    • mt

      I hope you are being sarcastic here.

      Clinching a playoff spot “too soon” which robs you oif your entitlement to some “drama and interest” along with a playoff spot?

      This is one of reasons we are sometimes just as bad as the Red Sox fans we love to ridicule.

      • Mike HC

        haha, I was being brutally honest, but at the same time playing off the spoiled fan narrative. Like Axisa wrote, it is basically impossible not to be spoiled as a Yankees fan.

      • Mike HC

        Also, I don’t tie in Boston or Boston fans with everything I do as a fan, or what the Yankees do. It is just not my thing.

        I love the rivalry, but I really don’t look at things form the perspective of what Boston is doing or what Boston thinks about the Yanks.

    • Jesse

      Didn’t they clinch their division “too soon” in 2009? I wonder how that worked out….

    • Januz

      The Yankees did not clinch their spot too soon, in fact, they still have something else to accomplish (Best record in the American League). They are also aware that the path to another Championship will not be easy, even the First Round could involve extremely dangerous teams in LA or Detroit (Even Texas would be more difficult than Minnesota was).
      If they would win the Series this year, and since it probably involves beating Detroit, and either Philadelphia or Milwaukee(Not to mention having guys like Garcia & Colon in the rotation, compared to what those teams have (Particularly the Brewers who have a very good rotation, and a bullpen second only to the Yankees)), I never want to hear anymore hate towards Cashman Girardi again, they will have done an incredible job.

      • Mike HC

        Why can’t you guys see that saying “we clinched their spot too soon” is a fucking compliment. This team has been great! And if you can’t take people criticizing the team and management no matter how well the Yanks play, you are going to be in for a lot of disappointment.

  • Monteroisdinero

    I think Jeter’s bounce back has been the most surprising/pleasant aspect of the season for me. I used to dread his at bats for 4 months.

    Good for him and us and… no Minka is obviously good for him and us too.

    • CS Yankee

      Good to see that your anti-Jeter meter is reading low levels.

      I must now focus my attention in seeing Golson’s run-n-gun value and to see if Montero makes the adjustment to the outside junk diet they are feeding him. I see the tools and hopes he adjusts his plan to be successful for postseason.

      Most is well so no reason to dwell.
      The Red Sox smell but sit well.
      The Rays are almost done because they can’t score a run.
      AAA lineup for a week, then it’s time to make the Ranger’s sleep.

  • Rockdog

    I thought the same thing, and then saw this in the Boston Globe (I am a Yankees fan in Boston):

    If three teams are tied, MLB will conduct a drawing to determine Club A, Club B and Club C.

    Club B would play at Club A on Sept. 29. The winner would then play at Club C on Sept. 30 to determine the wild card.

    Original link below, it also has details on 2-way ties involving the Red Sox.

    • Rockdog

      Sorry, reply fail, for Sweet Dick Willie

    • Jesse

      I really hope there’s a 3 way tie at the end of the season, with Boston having to play two games just to make the playoffs.

      • Sarah

        Me too.

        Also, I think it would be interesting and good for baseball.

        • Jesse

          Yep. Those one game playoffs draw HUGE ratings for the sport. Just imagine if there were two?!

          • MannyGeee

            CCs arm must hurt at the mere mention of tiebreaker games.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Thanks for the info and link, Rockdog.

      I too would love a three way tie, with the Angels being team A, the Sux B, and the Ray C.

      The Sux travel schedule would then be:

      9/28 – at Baltimore
      9/29 – at Anaheim
      9/30 – at Fenway (if they beat the Angels)
      10/1 – at Detroit or at Texas (if they beat the Rays)

      Of course, I don’t think the Sux would win, but that would also be the Yankees best case scenario if the Angels were team B.

      9/28 – home against Texas
      9/29 – at Tampa or Fenway, depending on who team A was
      9/30 – at Anaheim
      10/1 – at New York (or Detroit, if they win HFA)

      It would make the Angels much less formidable if they just completed 3 cross-country trips in three days/

  • Stuckey

    2 1/2 games is a LOT, but if the Yanks sweep the Sox and the Rays or Angels win 2 of three, it’s a very interesting last 3 days.

    Yanks beat Lester tomorrow, look out.

    As to the SEASON, I still don’t get how the addition of Crawford (who didn’t see this year coming after he signed THAT contract?) and Gonzalez not only closed but surpassed the gap of the previous 2 seasons (Sox finished a combined 14 games behind in 2009-2010.).

    It’s one thing when a team’s own fans consistently underestimate the historic talent level this team possesses. It’s another when bloggers, who should be above such emotional responses to off-seasons, do it.

    Red Sox had the flashier off-season, no doubt. Yankees did little to “improve” themselves. But the 2011 Red Sox don’t compete against the 2010 Red Sox and the 2011 Yankees don’t compete against the 2010 Yanks and this same mistake is made EVERY winter.

    • CS Yankee

      I thought that 2010 would make 2009 look like a tune-up. Javy as the 4th SP, Hughes as the 6th, add in some Nick-the-stick and it being Jeets walk year. Not the 105 win jugger that I envisioned.

      2011 i felt we would win the division or just miss and get the wild-card. However, I thought we would get a Lirano (min) or a JJohnson (max) and one of the Freddy/Bart/AJ would show up and Nova would be a low-4’s/12 game winner.

      Sox have had career type years from PEDroida, Els & Agon but Crawford has been a bust and the SP dinged a bit. We all thought that Lester would be CYA talk worthy but Buch & Beck were wildcards (either great or busted).

      I’m beyond surprised on how bad they have been, they are making the Marineers look like team and Baltimore look like a legit team. Although they likely don’t pull a 2007/8 Met thing, they really blow.

      • Rockdog

        I agree, and I was surprised as how badly things played out for us last year. I also thought that the MSM and bloggers were overestimating the Red Sox, as Gonzalez and Crawford were great pickups for them, but they also lost Beltre and Martinez. Also, their starting pitching was great, but thin (I really like our depth, although having a true #2 would make me feel a lot better).

        I love the idea of one or two one game playoffs, but even if that doesn’t happen, as long as the race stays close, the Red Sox will not be able to give players rest, which will make the first round tougher. If they can’t start Lester or Beckett until 3/4 in the first round, that would be quite un uphill road for them.

        • MannyGeee

          I also thought that the MSM and bloggers were overestimating the Red Sox, as Gonzalez and Crawford were great pickups for them, but they also lost Beltre and Martinez. Also, their starting pitching was great, but thin (I really like our depth, although

          A LOTTTTT of people forgot about who walked in 2010 from Boston. Martinez and Beltre were pretty good.

          And Crawford has been an abortion this season. That makes me happy

          • Rockdog

            Yea, Crawford’s poor play surprised me, to be honest. On the other hand, Ellsbury has surprised to the upside.

      • Jesse

        To be honest, I thought the Javy trade was a disaster the second it was made. I thought the Yankees were done with that bum after 2004…