At the close of business Sunday, the Yankees were 9 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East, and five games behind in the AL Wildcard.
As we approach September, Yankee fans all over the nation are wringing their knuckles and scratching their heads, wondering, "How the heck do we get back into this?" The first response would be "WIN GAMES". Brilliant! But there's much more to it than that.
Let's cut to the chase. A playoff birth will all come down to schedules, performance of the core team and acquisitions followed by decisions made by management. We must first take a look at where we've been, where we are and where we are going.
This is a far different team approaching fall than we saw take the field this spring. Injuries have clobbered this roster. Wang is gone, Joba is hurt, Posada is gone.
Jeter and A-Rod have had their issues. Run production has been downright horrible at times. Cashman continues to make moves that defy common sense.
That being said, let's give credit where it is due. Mike Mussina is having a MVP year. Andy Pettitte is on fire. Mariano Rivera continues to prove he is the greatest closer in the history of the sport.
There have been unexpected arrivals. Xavier Nady and Pudge Rodriguez have suddenly found themselves in pinstripes and are doing a fine job picking up the slack. Somehow, Carl Pavano, possibly the worst decision ever made by a major league team, is back in the Bronx. How will that turn out? Who knows, but thank YOU Mr. Cashman.
The big key to this finish is schedules. Not just the Yankees, but the Red Sox and Tampa Bay. You're not just watching the Yanks now Bomber Fans, you have to watch it all.
What Boston and the Rays are doing matters just as much as who's on the hill in New York. Let's look at the schedules, Yanks first.
The Yankee September. Tough. Starting Tuesday night, the Yanks face Boston six times, Tampa six times, three games at Anaheim, three at Seattle, Toronto, White Sox, etc.
The games with Tampa and Boston should be considered MUST wins, not just you win one, I win one. This is where you have to make up games.
Next, the Boston schedule. Equally as difficult, the six games with New York end with three at Fenway. Whoever made this schedule up is a sick individual. This was not done by chance.
They also have six games with the Rays and a bunch of games with Toronto and Texas. Boston has to lose some games, we have to pass them BEFORE we can think about taking first away from Tampa. Keep that in mind.
Finally, those pesky damn Rays. They've got injuries and everyone has been waiting for them to fold up. Don't count on it. They are playing their guts out but there is a big window of opportunity. Here is the most brutal schedule of all. Specifically, Sept. 2 through Sept. 21.
9/2, 3, 4 Yankees
9/5, 6, 7 at Blue Jays
9/ 8, 9, 10 at Red Sox
9/12, 13, 14 at Yankees
9/15, 16, 17 Red Sox
9/18, 19, 20, 21 Twins
During this time frame, many things could change. There's your chance.
Finally, a note on performance. We need bats. Leaving nine men on base per game is no longer an option. The core of the team is still there. Damon, Jeter, A-Rod, Giambi, Cano, Matsui and Abreu are fully capable of making things happen.
Nady is getting comfortable. It's time to step up. Bats must crack! The pitching staff has performed solidly in spots as mentioned. Moose, Andy and Mo need to continue being the foundation. Ponson needs some run support.
Don't make it hard. Pitch well, play defense, swing the bat, and hope you start winning quickly and the Sox and Rays start losing. This is still the same game we played as kids. We'll see.