To describe Wednesday’s walk-off loss to the White Sox, I’ll borrow from Luke Skywalker’s description of his home planet of Tatooine: “If there’s a bright center of the universe, you’re on the planet farthest from it.” Andy McCullough called the loss the nadir of the season, and it’s hard to disagree. That loss featured just about every confounding component of the Yankees’ season: early runs with no tacking on; stranded runners galore; a wasted quality start. Pick any of the following “D” adjectives to describe the Yankees’ situation and you’d be right: dismal; dire; desperate; distressed; daunting.
Going into their series with the Tigers, the Yankees find themselves looking a long way up and through a thicket of teams towards a playoff spot. As I write this on Thursday night, they’re seven games behind the Wild Card leading Rays and 11.5 games behind the division leading Red Sox. Despite the distance, I can’t help but look up.
If the Yankees have succeeded in one thing this year, it’s the deflation of expectations. Are the Yankees going to make the playoffs? Probably not. Will this rock bottom “starting” point make it all the sweeter when they do make the playoffs? Hell yes. For better, the Yankees of the last two decades or so defined predictability: win 90-100 games; compete for a World Series title; rinse, repeat. While I’d much prefer they occupy that familiar and comfortable situation than the one they do now, there’s some excitement in unpredictability; the idea of surprise comes with some appeal. A charge to the playoffs with this roster would be remarkably rewarding, but staying the course would be about right. I can’t stand this phrase most of the time, but the Yankees are playing with house money. Time isn’t completely on their side given the standings deficit they face, but they’ve got time enough to play spoiler and/or make in-roads towards the playoffs. If nothing else, we can take joy in Mariano Rivera’s final season; revel in Hiroki Kuroda’s Cy-Young caliber year; and hope that Robinson Cano draws 80 walks.