Tomase: Yankees can ensure that wild card round is only a 50 percent disaster for MLB

John Tomase
October 03, 2018 - 11:32 am
Luis Severino

Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

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It has to be the Yankees.

For history. For ratings. For that Jeter (Expletives) t-shirt at the back of the drawer that's now three sizes too small (Hint: Mediums are not long-term investments).

Baseball's playoffs are off to a disastrous start from a marketing standpoint thanks to Two Really Bad Days in Chicago. Nothing against Milwaukee and Colorado -- a savvy marketer could probably woo Millennials with a pitch highlighting booze, brats, and bongs -- but losing the potential of a Cubs-Red Sox World Series before the playoffs even start is decidedly bad for business.

That's why it has to be the Yankees tonight in the AL wild card game. A Red Sox-Yankees division series turbocharges the playoffs like gazzoline spit straight into the air intake of Furiosa's war rig, and if there's one thing baseball has going for it even as games drag on to eternity and two true outcomes have rendered fielders superfluous, it's the playoffs.

With apologies to fandom's huffy little brothers always stamping their feet that NOTHING BEATS PLAYOFF HOCKEY! NOTHING! I'M TELLING MOM!!!!! no sport redeems itself in the postseason quite like baseball.

Playoff heroes and goats live forever. George Springer struck out four times in Game 1 and then tortured the Dodgers last year. Rajai Davis will forever be the guy who choked up and took Aroldis Chapman deep. Matt Harvey faced two too many batters in 2015. We watched Madison Bumgarner's heroic 2014 nearly be upended by Alex Gordon's inside-the-park homer that wasn't. Big Papi's 2013 demolition tour of the Cardinals remains breathtaking. I could do this all day.

Baseball needs this, and so do we. The Red Sox won a franchise-record 108 games by parrying every thrust of the 100-win Yankees. The most electric series of the season came during a four-game sweep at Fenway Park in August, when the drama, tension, and expectations were amped to 11.

Imagine that series in the playoffs -- Steve Pearce's three-homer game, Rick Porcello's one-hitter, Nathan Eovaldi dominating his former team, the wild comeback off Chapman -- and we're talking an all-timer.

That's why it has to be New York.

It's hard to believe, but not only have the Red Sox and Yankees not met in the playoffs since the curse-shattering 2004 postseason, they've barely overlapped as superpowers. Only in the last two years have they restored anything resembling the rivalry of the early 2000s, and realistically, we're really only talking this year, because the 2017 Yankees were upstarts who didn't reveal their true potential until the playoffs.

None of this will matter unless the Yankees can dispatch the A's on Wednesday night, however. Baseball has already seen two playoff games go disastrously wrong, with the Brewers defeating the reeling Cubs in the AL Central tie-breaker and the Rockies finishing the job on Tuesday in the wild card game.

An A's victory would be similarly devastating. Nothing against Billy Beane's plucky bunch, but no one wants to see someone labeled "The Opener" start five straight playoff games. While watching Oakland piece together its tattered pitching staff has on the one hand been a fascinating exercise in resourcefulness, it also makes A's games feel like scrimmages, and nobody pays to watch those in October.

I'm about to exhibit some major East Coast bias, but here goes: Nothing against old friend Jed Lowrie, Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman, or Mr. .247 himself, Khris Davis, because they're nice players. But Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are stars. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are future stars. CC Sabathia is pedigreed. Even a struggling Brett Gardner is pedigreed. Former MVP Andrew McCutchen is pedigreed.

They're the players who make for the most compelling storylines, not to mention the highest ratings. The Yankees represent by far the greater draw for casual fans. They spent a year trying and failing to catch the runaway Red Sox. Now's their chance.

As things stand now, the dream of watching the Red Sox run a Yankees-Astros-Cubs gauntlet to a fourth championship since 2004 is officially dead. Yankees-Astros-Dodgers could still do the trick.

But for that to happen, the Yankees must, must, must take care of business against the A's. Pound The Opener, keep Davis in the park, and pack your bags for Boston.

It has to be the Yankees. It just has to.

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