The Yankees and Red Sox entered last night’s contest in a perfect tie. Winning percentage, wins, losses. On August 5th, this should have been one of the biggest (if not the biggest) series of the regular season. The nation should have been glued to their TV screen whether they loved or hated either team. The President himself should have been peaking in or getting game updates from Secret Service.
Instead, the series doesn’t matter. The Yankees won last night and took a one game lead entering Saturday. Barring a miraculous come-back from the Angels or the Rays, both the Yankees and the Red Sox are locks for the postseason. So what does this series actually mean, besides another chance for ESPN to flex its love of “The Rivarly?”
Let’s end the season right now and take a look at the match-ups:
The Yankees would win the East and would face off with Detroit in the Division Series.
Boston would take the Wild Card and would travel to Texas.
Now, let’s flip this and say the Red Sox win the next two games, then end the season there:
The Red Sox would win the East and would host the Tigers.
The Yankees would win the Wild Card and take on Texas in Arlington.
So, essentially what this series decides is who travels to Texas and who hosts Detroit. For many Yankees fans, that could be a big deal. Just look at what happened last season when New York took on Texas. However, in the overall play-off picture both New York and Boston will have the two best records at the close of the season. They both have better teams than Detroit, and probably have better teams than Texas.
The rivalry this year isn’t about making the postseason, it’s about play-off scenarios. For that reason, the play-off structure needs to change. Talks of adding another Wild Card team are great, but there needs to be a better reward for winning the division. This isn’t a new discussion by any means, but it seems to be magnified in this “larger than life” series between the two titans of the American League East.
Many people are arguing for a one-game play-off between the two Wild Card teams (assuming the League does add another Wild Card in each league). In this scenario teams would hopefully battle more for the division title rather than settling for the Wild Card. No one wants to play a one-game series. However, even a three-game series would lead teams down the right path of competition. Look at the College World Series. A three game series barely gauges the talent on the field and allows for flukes. No team entering the play-offs wants to be knocked out by a fluke.
Yankees and Red Sox fans can occupy themselves this weekend with their nationally-televised rivalry of little consequence. In the mean time, I will be paying attention to the race between the Diamondbacks and the Giants, the race between the Indians and the Tigers, and the race between the Angels and Rangers.