Friday, August 24, 2007

Armageddon

I'll begin today with something I wrote back on May 31st:

"The bottom line is that every day is not Armageddon. At some point this season might be a lost cause. But that day is not today and it's not tomorrow either."

Well, I'm here to tell you boys and girls that we've reached that point. The next week will determine whether the Yankees are driving for the playoffs or playing out the string in September. The Yankees currently find themselves 5 games behind the Red Sox and 3 games behind the Mariners in the wildcard (I know it's technically 2 games, but they trail by 3 in the loss column). They start a four game series in Detroit tonight followed by a three game series back at the stadium against the Red Sox. The Yankees have gone 5-5 over their last 10 games and have lost a game to the Sox and two to the Mariners over that stretch. They can ill afford another stretch of mediocrity. They really need to go 5-2 over the next seven games or they can basically forget about winning the division. Current playoff odds give the Yankees a 58% chance of making the playoffs but less than a 10% chance of winning the division. They really need to head into September with no more than a 3 game deficit to stand a chance of overtaking the Red Sox.

The Mariners have been winning games at an almost 70% rate of late. The Yankees cannot rely on a collapse from Seattle to make the playoffs. I had said earlier that the Yankees needed every break to go their way in order to make the playoffs and that still stands. Perhaps the fact that Gary Sheffield is not going to play in their next series is the first of those breaks, but then again perhaps it isn't. Sheffield was playing with an injured shoulder that had severely limited his production. The replacement player, while clearly not as good as a healthy Sheffield, might be more productive in his place. It remains to be seen whether the Yankees have caught a break or not.

The biggest concern for the Yankees right now is the performance of Mike Mussina. His last three outings have resulted in an ERA over 12. Even with the Yankees high powered offense, Mussina has not given the Yankees an opportunity to win. The whispers of Mussina being done have turned into a Greek chorus these days. I am willing to give Mussina some slack though. He has won more games than all but 45 pitchers in the history of the game. He deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. That being said, if he doesn't straighten himself out by his next start, the Yankees may be forced to turn to someone else. I'm not sure who that would be, but they cannot afford to give away games at this point of the season.

If you've been a regular reader, you know that I'm not one to hit the panic button very often, but the Yankees have reached that point of the season. It really is now or never. After this seven game stretch, the Yankees will have about 30 games remaining in the season and if they find themselves on the outside looking in, it may be time to start thinking about how they make themselves better for '08. I'm not going to give my recommendations at this point. That would make it seem as if I'm giving up on this season, which I am not. The Yankees can still make the playoffs, they can still catch the Red Sox, but it will require some heroic efforts on the part of the players. The next week will show us whether those heroes will indeed appear.

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