Back in June, I gave up on the Yankees. I didn't give up on their playoff chances; I gave up on hoping they would ever act like a normal team. They always find miracle veterans and surprise rookies. They always get that one last good season from players who should probably be thinking about retirement. Every year. Every damned year.
Think about all of the things that have gone wrong for the Yankees this year:
- They traded their best trade asset for a pitcher who won't throw a pitch this year
- Russell Martin has been an offensive disaster
- Alex Rodriguez is injured
- Ivan Nova is injured
- Brett Gardner has missed most of the season with a serious injury
- Andy Pettitte is likely out for the season
- Mariano Rivera is out for the season
- Joba Chamberlain got hurt on a freaking trampoline
- They sat through eight games of Chad Qualls
They don't care. Still in first. Still chugging along, doing Yankees things. When I wrote that article about the Yankees always finding ways to be better than the other teams in the AL East, it was June 15. They were a half-game ahead of the Orioles and 2½ ahead of the Rays. Just over a month later, they were 10 games up in the East. Of course they were. They entered up up down down left right left right B A start before the season, like they do every season, and wonder again why more teams don't do the same.
But a funny thing happened. The Yankees have started to look … vulnerable.
They haven't been bad. The Yankees were 13-13 in July and they're 15-12 in August so far. But the Orioles and Rays have been hot and gaining ground. The Yankees come into the series against the Orioles just three games up. An Orioles sweep would mean a first-place tie.
It wouldn't take a monumental collapse like those of the 2011 Red Sox or Braves. All it would take is a garden-variety collapse, the kind that happens to a couple of teams every season. Some one-run losses here, some blown saves there ... and poof. It happens to every team at some point. A three-game lead is a delicate thing. Is this the year when the Yankees finally collapse into a heap during the regular season?
Still going with "nope."
It's like the old saying: "Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, and you have to be shitting me, Eric Chavez is healthy now?" And we aren't even talking about fool me twice -- the Yankees were supposed to collapse five years ago because of age. This is fool me nince. And I'm tired of it.
That isn't to say the Orioles don't have a chance this weekend. Of course they do. They might take two or three games and make things a lot more interesting. What they do this weekend has nothing to do with the inevitable Yankees division title. And it is inevitable. Not just because the odds are heavily stacked in their favor, with Baseball Prospectus figuring they have a 98-percent chance to make the playoffs.
Well, mostly because of that, really.
But also because they're the Yankees. And I have no idea what in the hell that means. I just know they don't squander big leads late in the season. Other teams are welcome to do so, and often do. The Yankees don't.
I don't dislike the Yankees. I just want to see it happen once from a sociological perspective. What would Yankees fans do? How would they react? What sort of inane Post headlines could we expect? But we'll never know. I've read so many Dan Shaughnessy the-Red-Sox-are-falling columns, I can close my eyes and imagine how the next one is going to read. The Yankees, though? All speculation.
And it isn't going to happen this year. The Yankees/Orioles is certainly the series of the weekend, and it's the most important series of the year for the Orioles. But it's not that important to the Yankees. Win or lose, they'll figure a way around it. They'll just keep doing whatever the hell it is they keep doing*, and we'll just have to take it.
*In which "whatever the hell it is they keep doing" is loosely defined as "accumulate a whole bunch of good hitters and pitchers when needed."