Man, I still can’t believe Raul Ibanez. That guy has been unbelievable this season, all after everyone wanted him released during Spring Training. Remember that? He was so bad during exhibition games that we were wondering how in the world the Yankees could open the season with him as the regular DH against righties. Ibanez has basically become the left-handed version of 2010 Marcus Thames, the platoon bat who unexpectedly became an important part of the offense because all he did was pile up big hits.
1. We all love our prospects and young players, but I think there’s definitely value in veteran experience. We joke all the time about veteran presents but I’m actually being serious right now — veteran presence has value, especially in big late-season games like the ones the Yankees have been playing. The whole “been there, done that” thing. Like Melky Mesa missing third base, that’s a mistake I have a hard time seeing a veteran guy like Ichiro Suzuki or even Brett Gardner making. I don’t know how much tangible value that veteran experience has, it’s probably small, but every little bit counts and it could win ballgames.
2. We’re all focused on the Yankees obviously, but do you realize that the Rangers blew a 13-game lead in the AL West? They were up a baker’s dozen on the then-third place Athletics on June 30th and were five up as late as September 24th. Now they’re tied. That’s kinda ridiculous, especially since Texas was considered the best team in baseball for most of the season. Their collapse out of first will get all of the attention, but the real story is the Cinderella A’s. That team sure is fun, and I have little interest in seeing the Yankees make a trip out west to Oakland at some point in the postseason. The Athletics aren’t the scariest team in the league, but they’re damn good.
3. I still very much dislike the whole winner-take-all wildcard play-in game, but the new playoff system is more fun than I expected. There were a lot of races that came down to the final week this season, and hell, we still have two division titles on the line in Game 162(s) today. It’s been a while since the Yankees were playing truly meaningful games this late in the season, usually they’re resting regulars and lining up the playoff rotation by now. That said, under the old playoff season we would have come into today with the Orioles, Rangers, and Athletics in what amounts to a three-way tie for the wildcard. Now that would have been really fun.
4. I absolutely want the Yankees to clinch the best record in the league today. Part of it is just a status “hey look at us we had the best record in the AL” thing, but I’d also rather see the Yankees play the winner of the wildcard game in the ALDS than the Tigers, who have already started resting their regulars. How in the world is that fair? Detroit has the seventh best record in the league yet was the first team to clinch a division before the other teams in the AL Central stink. The system is broken in that regard. Taking the best record in the AL, facing the wildcard play-in winner in the ALDS, and potentially having home field advantage in the ALCS is the way I want to go. A win today clinches all of that, and it’s worth way more to me than getting an extra day to game plan for the Tigers.
5. When was the last time the Yankees had such an up-and-down, roller coaster season? Between the RISPFAIL bonanza in April and May, the untouchable rotation in June and July, the collapse month of August, the race of September … I mean sheesh, they’ve gone from one extreme to the other on what feels like a weekly basis. All the injuries only made it even more of a roller coaster. It felt like every time someone got healthy, someone else went down. Big important players too, not just complementary guys. Regardless of what happens today or in the playoffs, it sure was a fun year. More than enough great moments to offset the heartbreak.