By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
In the end, for all analysis and over analysis, here’s what might decide the American League East this year: the weather.
And New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone knows it.
First, let’s state the obvious: if the Red Sox – and not the Yankees – were asked to play a Sunday night game before a doubleheader the next day, the Sox and their followers today would be whining like a bunch of small children. And if it had happened to Patriots fans, there would be talk of Roger Goodell sticking it to Robert Kraft – and of an organized sit-in in the lobby of NFL headquarters.
But we digress.
In case you haven’t been paying attention this spring, the Yankees have been playing the first half of this 2018 season as if being followed by storm clouds. New York has been rained out or suspended on April 2, April 14, April 15 (a doubleheader), May 15, May 16, May 31 and June 3. In the most recent instance, the team subsequently learned that the game would be made up as part of a doubleheader on Monday, July 9 in Baltimore.
Then the Yankees learned that their Sunday, July 8th game was being picked up by ESPN and would be played at 8 p.m., meaning the Yanks would effectively play three times in a 24-hour span.
“Hopefully there is some pressure being applied because that is not good for the product on the field or the safety of our guys, having go from night game, flight and right into a doubleheader,” Boone recently told reporters. “Anybody who would argue with that is not being truthful.’’
Fine, so Boone is whining. But he has a point. And the greater issue might be that the Yankees must now choose between winning games or resting players and pitchers, which could make the difference in the heavyweight battle that is this year’s American League East.
Let’s use yesterday as an example. By all accounts, the Detroit Tigers are a bad team. In the opener of a doubleheader, the Yankees yesterday defeated the Tigers, 7-4. But in the nightcap, behind spot starter Domingo German, the Yankees suffered a 4-2 defeat to a Tigers club that was otherwise 9-17 against teams with winning records, let alone a team that entered the day with the best winning percentage in baseball.
After the loss, the Yankees now sit percentage points behind the Sox in the division and in the race for best record.
Get the point?
Remember: the Red Sox and Yankees play six times in the final 13 days of this season, including the last three days of the season at Fenway Park. At the moment, the Yankees do not have any makeup games scheduled for September, which is undoubtedly by design. Neither the Yankees nor Major League Baseball want doubleheaders piled up in September, when pitching staffs are worn down and rosters are rife with minor-league call-ups. That would only corrupt a pennant race that is corrupted already.
But in between now and then, the Yankees will be playing make-up games as if they are cramming for a series of final exams, which means their pitching staff and roster will be taxed. Inevitably, Boone will likely be forced to bite the bullet and put something less than his best team on the field, leading to some unavoidable losses.
If you’re the Red Sox, that is something to take advantage of now.
Thank you kindly, Mother Nature.