Why MLB's 82-Game Proposal Would Make Yankees Road to World Series Tougher
During times like these, it helps to be optimistic.
That's why the baseball world is collectively willing MLB's latest proposal into existence.
Should this blueprint for a season amid the COVID-19 pandemic come to fruition, the Yankees and its talented roster are poised to contend, benefiting from the addition of a universal designated hitter and an expanded roster. But this plan isn't all beneficial for those in pinstripes.
To completely set the scene, here's a light tug back to reality. Even with one of the best lineups and pitching staffs in the game, this proposal has the potential to make New York's path to the World Series a bit tougher in these unforeseen circumstances.
Shorter season means less margin for error (or injury)
No team can afford to go on a losing streak or fall into a slump during an 82-game season. The stakes would be twofold each time all 30 clubs take the field.
That means load management is a risk. Sure, DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres may need a day off, but can you afford to play against a contender with them out of the lineup?
Luckily for New York, the Bombers have a deep bench. With more spots available, courtesy of an expanded 30-man roster and taxi squad that would make approximately 50 players available, several bench players will be guaranteed a spot and can contribute at the big-league level.
The Yankees also tend to be injury prone. In a traditional season, injuries are certainly a blow – especially when they occur as frequently as they did last year in the Bronx – but with the campaign lasting six months, there's time to come back and get ready for the postseason.
If Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton get banged up, or a veteran needs time to recover from an injury, there's far less wiggle room to work players back or provide sufficient windows for rehab.
Just something to think about... This is certainly an aspect of the proposal that would make skipper Aaron Boone's job tougher on a daily basis while penciling in his starting lineups.
Divisional realignment presents new challenges
If you go back to where the Yankees stood in 2019 after 82 games, on paper it's a sign they would excel in this proposal's format.
After a win against the Red Sox in London on June 30, New York's record was 54-28. Not only would they have won the AL East at that point – sitting 6 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay in the standings – but the Bombers had the best record in the American League.
Great news, right? This team is equipped to start the season on a hot streak and sprint to the postseason, rather than a longterm 162-game marathon. Then again, look back at who the Yankees played through those 82 contests.
Over half of the series to that point last year were against teams that went on to finish with records below .500. They played the Royals and White Sox twice, in addition to the Padres, Giants, Mariners and Angels – teams that finished with fewer than 78 wins. Also, four series were played against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, padding New York's stats.
In this 82-game proposal, New York would be in a division with their traditional AL East foes in addition to the five clubs in the National League East.
In Sports Illustrated's annual MLB predictions ahead of this season, projecting records for a full campaign, the NL East was the only division in all of baseball to have four clubs finishing above .500 and the top two winning north of 90 games.
Yes, those are just projections – a piece that predicted the Yankees would be World Series champions – but it's a fact. From the Braves and Nationals to the Mets and Phillies, there are four teams capable of contention set to be implanted into New York's division. And remember, the Bombers' already had to deal with an experienced Red Sox club and Rays team that won 96 games a year ago.
And as for those Orioles, with nine teams in the division, New York won't be able to play them 19 times in 2020. That means less opportunities to take advantage of Baltimore.
That's not to say the Yankees aren't still going to win their division. Worst case scenario, they'll still make the postseason. In a shortened campaign where there's less margin for error, however, New York will be stacked up against several talented teams.
Could beating up on each other internally within the realigned east division open the door for other teams to secure a bye in the first round of the expanded postseason? It's possible.
Expanded postseason raises the stakes
Speaking of which, unless New York secures that No. 1 overall seed entering the eventual playoff circuit, the Yankees will need to win an additional series to win the World Series.
No matter how good a team is, adding an additional opportunity to be eliminated would make the road to a championship just a bit tougher.
Expanding the postseason from 10 to 14 teams is a conversation that's been thrown around for quite some time now. It's a great way to bring more revenue and excitement to the game – who doesn't love playoff baseball?
Nonetheless, an additional series changes the dynamic. Could a lower seed get hot at the right time, like Washington was able to do a year ago? Do injuries catch up to a club like the Yankees after a high-intensity truncated season?
Again, that's not to say New York wouldn't roll through the competition and win its 28th World Series title. Even if all 30 big-league teams made the playoffs, it would be tough not to pick one of the game's best teams to go all the way. Adding more teams, however, opens the door for more surprises.
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