“There’s nothing like playing in the AL East” – but wouldn’t an easier path to the playoffs be nice?


NEW YORK – Aaron Boone let out a brief laugh.

life like Yankees Often the manager means answering difficult questions, questions without answers, questions with answers that will generate more questions, and questions with answers that he is unwilling or unable to publish. It’s funny, then, that he’d be asked – in a roundabout way – if he’d prefer his bottom-placed team to be in first place at the moment.

“I don’t think so,” he said on Friday. “There’s nothing quite like playing in the AL East, especially now.”

Granted, that wasn’t exactly how the question was phrased. The Yankees are last because their intended rotation begins You may perish due to injuriesbecause the vaunted lineup is Crimped with offensive voidsbecause Aaron Judge It can only come to the plate once every nine at batsbecause Gerrit Cole They can only play once every five days – and because they play in the American League East, baseball’s toughest team.

Wouldn’t the easiest way to the top be the best?

In the National League East, National League Central, National League West, or American League West, the Yankees’ winning percentage of . 550 would put them second. If they played in the significantly weaker American League, the Yankees would be in first place. Here, though, in a division that essentially invented rivalries built on mutual advantage, he puts them last, looking back at what could end up being the best division in MLB history.

“I mean, it’s been good every year,” Boone said, “but I definitely feel like this one has a chance of being the best, top to bottom.”

“I really like the East. I mean, look at the Orioles now, just two years ago,” said Yankees player Ryan Weber. “They’re in second place. We’re in last—I don’t feel like it.”

A seasoned veteran who jumps between Triple-A and Majors, Weber was called up for his second stint with New York just before this weekend’s series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“It also says something about you, too,” he said of the high degree of difficulty this division provides. “If the AL East teams were willing to take me and throw me into the AL East fire, I would accept that and be confident.”

ten days ago, . In that time, the five teams have a combined winning percentage of . 623; Now it’s . 620, still well above the current full-season record of . 566 set by the 2002 AL West, when there were only four teams in each division.

Langs explained how the new balanced schedule allowed AL East teams to thrive. With fewer games between them that one team has to lose, they are able to take on weaker divisions across the league. If anything, yet United nationsThe balanced schedule was masking how good these five times were.

“I mean, the Middle East is stacked,” said Cole Yankees. “It’s been stacked up throughout my career and more in the last five or six years.”

True, the season is still young. Conventional wisdom advises not to over-read any particular performance before Memorial Day, and recent years have shown just how much that can change after the trade deadline and beyond. But the success so far is not accidental. . The AL East is the only division in which each team has at least a 2% chance of winning the division. Even the team expected to finish last (Baltimore) has a greater than 30% chance of making the playoffs.

But at least one team is sure to end up disappointed. An expanded postseason field with three wild cards means that up to four teams from any one division can enter. But winning a division still secures a spot regardless of record, so if divisional disparity persists through the end of the regular season — with the worst team in the AL East better than the best team in the AL Central — someone from the East will be stuck at home watching a potential mid-division winner. Lowe launches into a crapshoot in October.

And so, you have to wonder, would Boone and the Yankees prefer to play in an easier division?

“It’s always fun for great athletes and great competitors to play against the best and you know you have to play really well if you’re going to be successful, not just on a particular day but sustainable all year long,” Boone said. . “Maybe there are days where you want to play it easy. But in the end, as a competitor, you want to play better.”

“We love competition,” said Oswaldo Cabrera. “We are the New York Yankees.”

“I think any player who wears that uniform and would love to play here accepts that kind of challenge,” said Cole. “It at least gives you a good measure of where you are because you’re always up against the best, always getting the best out of the other club.”

Yankees would say that, right?

This week, they’ve had ample opportunity to measure themselves against the best of the best, with seven games in 10 against the Rays, who are… The season started 13-0 And you still look all but unstoppable. Four of the first five matches were Decided by one run. In Tampa, to satisfy fan demand, the team opened the upper deck in the regular season for the first time since 2018. In the Bronx, a sold-out mid-May game had all the jitters of October.

After all, it could end up determining who gets to be there, and in that division, no one ever feels comfortable.

Not even Rays manager Kevin Cash. His team spent the first quarter of the season atop every leaderboard. But faced with the prospect of another 4.5 months in the Middle East, he didn’t hesitate to say they’d prefer to be in an easier division.

Hell, yeah, he said. “Yeah, I would. But we’re not, so we have to keep making it work.”


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