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The Yankees Can Give "Control Their Own Destiny" a New Meaning

With New York's loss to Tampa Bay and Boston's win over Baltimore, the American League wild card race will last at least one more day. The Yankees, who have nothing direct on the line in the final game of the season, will not see either team in the first round of the playoffs, as a team cannot play within their division in the first round--after all, by winning the division they already settled that question. Their interest lies in a couple of what-ifs, specifically "What if we survive the first round and what if the wild card team does as well? Who would we prefer to see then, the Red Sox or the Rays?" Asking these kinds of questions can lead to painful ironies, as the team you wanted to see can thrash you just as handily as the one you'd rather have avoided, but are inevitable nonetheless.

The Yankees can influence the outcome directly. If they would like to knock the Rays out of the playoff picture, Joe Girardi can play his A lineup and keep them in the game. Although he is concerned with having his staff rested for the first round, he could use some of his better relievers to follow the sacrificial starter, whoever that is. The Yankees could even call up a fresh arm, or start one of the ex-starters in the bullpen and hope to get some length out of him.

No doubt worrying about the match-ups a series down the line is an act of hubris, and Girardi need not toast his team to try to push the Rays to the brink. Really, trying to win this last game versus trying to survive is a matter of nuance. Further, you would think that the Yankees might prefer to see the Rays on their way to the golf course tomorrow night following a Red Sox win and a Rays loss; the former's pitching is in shambles and isn't likely to be a great deal better in a week or ten days, whereas the Rays could be a real threat in the second round.

As for myself, I'm rooting for a third outcome, the Thursday one-game playoff. In fact, I'm rooting for two, with the Cardinals and Braves tilting as well. The Tigers and Rangers are good teams, and there is no guarantee that either AL wild card claimant will get past them, so what the Yankees do could be moot. Naive as I am, I'd like to see them make their best effort to win, just out of fairness to the process. That aside, I say bring on the stalemate!