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The 2023 Yankees are left in the unfamiliar position of playing spoiler

The Yankees will have to content themselves with ruining other teams’ dreams.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Yankees Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees won’t win the World Series, they won’t even make the playoffs. That much has been established, but there is still a month-plus to be played, and willingly or not, the Yankees find themselves in the thick of things, as a potential pendulum swinger in this AL Wild Card race.

On the heels of Baltimore, and with six games up on the rest of the Wild Card contenders, Tampa would have to mess things up to miss the postseason. Thus, we’re left with two spots to go between four teams: the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.

Along with contending quite closely for these final two playoff spots, most of these teams have in common the fact that they’ll play against the Yankees between now and the end of the regular season. The only one of the bunch that’ll miss out on the Bombers is the Mariners, who already played both halves of their season series with New York back in May and June.

The Yankees have road series in both Fenway Park and Minute Maid Park in early September, the one against Boston being a four-game set. Aaron Boone’s men will also play the Blue Jays in two of the final four series of the season, one at home and the latter one being their penultimate series of the year in Toronto.

Alongside potentially defining who gets in and who doesn’t, the Yankees might even get to play spoiler to the Tampa Bay Rays' goals of winning this division. The Rays are currently three back in the loss column of Baltimore, and over this weekend they welcome the Yankees for a three-game set at the Trop. The Bombers have already taken the opener of this series, though they had their ace Gerrit Cole on the mound to get that result.

It’s small-minded to believe that anything the Yankees do here will make up for what has been, by all accounts, an incredibly disappointing season. Nevertheless, what’s done is done, and in this final month of the season, many players have things to prove. Whether its DJ LeMahieu showing he has enough gas left in the tank to justify a consistent role next season, Harrison Bader showing he can be a league-average bat to go along with his excellent defense, or the young prospects getting the chance late to put their foot in the door for 2024, the team isn’t just going to pack their bags a month early and call it quits.

All of that will either happen or not as the Yankees play a significant role in helping define who will and who won’t make the playoffs, since they squandered all the chances they had to be in this race.

The only two names without something to prove are the two ones who’ll lead the pack in production. Gerrit Cole as he continues his bid for his first Cy Young, and Aaron Judge, showing with three-homer nights why he smashed 62 last year. Those two have nothing to prove, yet there is zero doubt about what they’ll deliver in these next few weeks whenever they take the field.

I’m sure some fans would get a small sense of satisfaction out of spoiling the seasons of the Red Sox, or the Blue Jays, or both. Many more might just want this year to end as quickly as possible. However, for the players, and for the managers, it is business as usual — the attitude, effort level, and everything else, has got to stay the same. Many of these guys are now playing to show they belong in the plans for this Yankees team come 2024 and beyond.