This is a guest post from friend of the blog Mike Sommer of the great, and underrated, Yankees blog The Sommer Frieze. We all knew that the AL East was going to be tough this year and Mike wonders if we might see a 100-win Wild Card team. I think he could be on to something. Enjoy.
It’s early. I know that. We don’t yet know about injuries yet to come that could devastate a team. We don’t yet know about age catching up to some players come midseason. We don’t yet know what deals at the trade deadline could impact the stretch run.
But after fifteen games, we do know something. The last two AL champs (one a World Series Champ) are good. Make that very good. Starts of 12-4 and 11-4 reflect that.
This isn’t to count Boston out. Gracious, it is far too early for that. The 6-10 Red Sox certainly have the talent to come back. What it will take is pitching, and Beckett (5.26), Lester (8.44), Lackey (5.63) and Wakefield (6.38) will be turning it around sometime. David Ortiz and J. D. Drew will get their averages up from below .150. How high? Who knows? Kevin Youkilis won’t be staying around .250.
Things will even out. For the Yankees, Mark Teixeira can’t wait for May, and slowly that average will rise from .125. Nick Johnson, also at .125 will start to hit eventually. How high each get, who knows? Johnson, at least, is a walking machine.
But Boston, hurting a bit right now (Cameron, Ellsbury, Matsuzaka) could be worrying soon. Early or not, if that six-game deficit becomes a ten-game deficit soon, they could be in trouble.
Yes, I know the Yanks came back from some bad starts to make the playoffs. In 2005, the Yanks were 31-32 in mid-June. They went 64-35 the rest of the way. 2007 saw a 40-41 team at the halfway mark. A 54-27 finish got them into the playoffs. Even last year, there was a 15-17 start before an 88-42 finish.
But in 2005, the Yankees and Red Sox were the only teams in the AL East to sport winning records. In 2007, Toronto was third with 83 wins. Last year, Tampa had 84.
I don’t see that happening this year. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is still great, but it’s not all there is in the A.L. East anymore. This is why Boston should beware should their ship not be straightened out soon.
In 2008, the Yanks won 89 but finished third. The way the Yanks and Rays are starting out, both teams could be battling it out for 100 wins. Boston—or any of the three— could win 90 to 95 and find themselves finishing third. They could be the best third-place team in baseball, and yet be watching the playoffs.
That leads me to this. Could this be a year in which a wild-card team has 100 wins?
Let’s go back a bit. In 1993, there was no wild card. It was the last year of divisional play. One book I have, written and published in the mid-1990’s, called that year’s N.L. West race the last great pennant race. That could be, now that you have the wild card. The Giants were caught by the Braves. They missed the playoffs despite a 103-59 record. The 104-win Braves lost in the NLCS to the Phillies.
- No wild card for the 1978 Red Sox, who won 99.
- None for the 1961 Tigers, who won 101 but finished eight games behind the Yankees.
- None for the 1954 Yankees, who were coming off a record-never-to-be-broken five consecutive World Series triumphs. They had 103 wins, but finished second, eight games behind Cleveland. Ironically, this was the only Casey Stengel-led Yankee team to win 100 games in a season.
- None for the 1962 Dodgers, who went 101-61 but were tied with the Giants. The Giants won the best of three playoff (yes, a 165 game season for the two that year) and the Dodgers went home with a 102-63 record.
- …and none for the 1942 Dodgers, who went 104-50 but who finished two games behind the Cardinals.
There are some more, but you get the point.
But come October, could we see the A.L. East have one team with 101 wins, another have 100, and a third with 92? Could we see a 100-win wild card team, and could we see a 90-95 win third-place team?
It’s possible. For how many remember that when the Yanks won 100 and Boston won 99 in that 1978 season, that the third place team—the Brewers—won 93 or that the fourth place team—Baltimore—won 90?
The Yanks finish the 2010 season in Fenway.
October could become very interesting. Every win counts, and the more you win now in April, the less pressure and wins needed there are in October. The Yanks and Rays are off to very good starts. The other, Boston, must realize that it is early. Boston had also best realize that with the Yanks and Rays being so good, that Yogi’s phrase “it gets late early out there” could be applied to the 2010 season—and faster than the Red Sox would like.