Well, here we are with the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles tied for the division lead. If you predicted this before the season, then you deserve a tip of the cap. Granted there’s still a few weeks left in the regular season, but the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays have come back from a double-digit deficit to make this race much more compelling.
Many fans, writers, and blowhards are trying to point the blame. One example includes the Yankees starting lineup and rotation’s average age and how they are getting tired coming down the stretch, like an old winning horse being caught from behind from a young upstart. Injuries and ineffectiveness are more in line with the actual cause for the Yankees trouble, teams don’t just don’t get old overnight. That being said, theories and hypotheticals are fun to swoon over, but let the YGY staff help drop some knowledge on how they feel about the “new” race in the AL East:
In my preseason picks, I had the Yankees winning the division slightly, but still winning. I am going to stick with that. For all the pitching problems, injuries, and sluggish offense of late, it’s important to remember that this is the same team that rolled to a 10-game lead in May and June. They’ve had great showings against probable playoff-bound teams such as the Nationals, Braves, Tigers and Rangers. The key to the Yankees holding on is, of course, pitching, but the real struggles lately have been around hitting. The Yankees need to get that offense going. If that happens, with the more-than-serviceable pitching they’ve gotten most of the season, they can hit their way to the playoffs, especially with the weakest schedule- Minnesota, Boston and the Jays twice towards the end of the month.
As for the competition, I like the Orioles. They can hit homers, they’ve passed the baton in the rotation. But I’m not sure they’re luck will hold out that long (right, Bobby Valentine?). They’ve had a lot of call-ups, a lot of contributions from all over the farm system, and a great manager at the helm. That said, the difference between the Rays and the Orioles is that while the pitching of the O’s may be weaker, they can hit. The Rays’ Achilles heel will likely be their offensive woes. While Joe Maddon pushes all the right buttons, I’m just not sure it will be enough after the sluggish start and the loss of Evan Longoria for most of the season to put them in a bit of a hole. The pitching is superb, I don’t want any part of a five-game set with David Price and James Shields going back-to-back, but I’m not sure the hitting will be enough. I’m going out on a limb and have Baltimore in second place and making the playoffs, while the Rays rocky start will end their season early.
I know a lot of Yankees fans are pushing the panic button, but this collapse is better now than at the end of September. Why? If the Yankees had a lead, but then lost it all at the end, they’d never be able to catch-up. However, with the way things are now, the Yankees are playing pretty poorly, but that gives them time to get another lead over Baltimore and Tampa Bay. A-Rod is back, Tex will be back soon, so our offense may be back on track. As for our pitching, it just likes to implode at times and with the lack of offense we currently have, it spells a recipe for disaster. With our offense back, that may change, but it doesn’t bode well come October. When it’s all said and done, I think the Yankees retain first, but not by much. Tampa Bay will be right on our heels, and Baltimore, err, I mean Mark Reynolds, will be fairly close too, but I’m not sure how much longer they’ll last. Tampa Bay has the pitching to go a long way unlike the O’s. The Bombers play a lot of the AL East this month so it’s going to be a struggle.
My gut tells me the Yankees figure out a way to win the AL East. It will be close with the Orioles taking the wild card (wow, I just said that) and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Tampa reached the postseason as well. I see the Yankees as team which has been hindered by injuries and poor play of late, but they are getting their guys back a little at a time and thought the result was not there in a couple of recent losses to the Orioles they have shown plenty of heart and the desire to win. I think they are too talented and still have plenty of time for the breaks to go their way. They also have the better of the remaining schedules in my opinion. Hopefully they will go out and win against the teams they should and be on the right side of some one-run games down the road so we can see some postseason action in the Bronx.
The Yankees will win this division. I think the impact of having Mark Teixeira back for both the fifth spot in the lineup and his defense are going to pay huge dividends down the stretch. However, I do like the Orioles to win one of the wild card spot. Their grit in close games shows that they believe they can beat anyone and now they get Jason Hammel, their ace of the first half back in the rotation. I will say Tampa just misses out to either Detroit or Chicago for the 2nd wild card spot.
This is a tough one, it truly is. After seeing what happened in Boston last year, where they completely crashed at the end of the year, it’s difficult not to have that in the back of your mind. It’s a good time to be an O’s and Rays fan, as I always liked playing from behind in these situations. Call me the Debbie Downer of the group, but I think the O’s have just enough of everything to take the division away from the injured (physically and mentally) Yankees. However, I think the Yankees will still take a Wild Card spot and win the one-game playoff. Anyone see similarities between the Buck Showalter-led Yankees team of 1995 and this year’s Orioles?