The early portion of the Yankees’ schedule is creating a bit of a dilemma.
25 of their first 30 games are against teams that finished under .500 last season, including six (home and home) against the lowly Orioles. Within that span is a three game series on the road against the Astros (5-2 vs. Houston last season) and a two game, home series vs. the World Champion Red Sox.
The remainder of the early season schedule breaks down as follows:
3 games vs the Tigers
3 games vs. the White Sox
4 games vs. the Royals
After the Kansas City series, the Yankees go on a 9-game west coast swing that will see them play 4 in Anaheim vs. the Angels, 3 vs. the Giants in San Francisco and they finish it off with a two game series in Arizona against the Diamondbacks.
Sounds like an easy slate so what’s the problem. Despite their injuries during spring training, the Yankees are being tabbed by many to get off to a fast start but there will be pressure to win the games against “inferior” teams that, if they don’t win, can really do damage to their chances this season.
Consider what happened last season. The Yankees finished 8 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East last season but in the head-to-head competition against Boston, they were 9-10. That means, the Yankees really lost the Division title in those other games, the seemingly easy games.
Do you realize the putrid Orioles won more than a quarter of their road games last season at Yankee Stadium. Baltimore won all of 19 games away from Camden Yards and five of those came in the Bronx. It began in early April, when the Orioles took three of four from the Yankees, including one in 14 innings and one in 12 innings. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but it turned into an early omen as far as winning the Division was concerned.
Of their first 43 games, the Yankees will have a total of nine vs. the Orioles. Last season, Boston whipped the Birds by winning 16 of 19. The Yankees ended up 12-7 against the 115 loss Orioles. This year, they’ll be under the gun to improve upon that mark and not let the Orioles have a good time in the Bronx.
The Yankees were 11-9 against the National League but only 2-2 vs. the lowly Miami Marlins. Boston was 16-4 in Interleague play, including 4-0 vs. Miami, 3-0 vs. Washington and 5-1 vs Atlanta. Get my drift. The games against the Orioles and the National League was probably where the Yankees ended up losing the East, not in the head-to-head match ups against the Red Sox.
You can’t expect the Yankees to win all those games, but they need to do better than last season in that regard.
If the Yankees hope to end Boston’s three year run as Division champs, it’s imperative that they do get off to a fast start.
The Mets are finally getting it right as far as honoring Tom Seaver is concerned. The Mets announced that 126th street will be renamed for “the Franchise” and they are planning to dedicate a statue to honor the greatest player to ever wear the Mets uniform.
According to Newsday’s Steve Marcus, 126th street will be renamed “Seaver Way,” while the address of the ballpark will appropriately be “41 Seaver Way.” Many fans have lamented that the Mets should’ve done this a lot sooner. They’re correct but they should also be pleased that it is getting done.
The Mets are planning on having Brandon Nimmo serve as their leadoff hitter. Nimmo has a high on base percentage and draws a lot of walks which is all well and good. I would like to see Amed Rosario eventually hit at the top of the lineup. With all due respect to Nimmo, Rosario projects to be more of a dynamic offensive talent who provides a much greater speed factor.
HK Prognostications for the upcoming season. We all know predictions are a “crapshoot” but because the AL and NL East is a two and four team race respectively, I’ll pick the 5 teams that will qualify for the playoffs from each league:
AL: Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Indians, Astros
NL: Mets, Phillies, Cardinals, Brewers, Rockies
World Series: Astros vs Mets
LAST LICKS: A by-product of the recent rule change concerning double plays has indirectly led to longer extra inning games. The rule has eliminated “taking out the pivot man” on a double-play and that has led to potential rallies being short circuited. You saw an example of that during the series in Japan. Without the ability to take out the “pivot man,” rallies are cut short and leaves the offensive team with less of a chance to score the go ahead or winning run in an extra inning game. Seattle took the lead in the 12th inning of their game against Oakland on Thursday because of a botched double play that had nothing to do with the runner coming into second base. If the A’s turn the DP there, who knows how long the game goes. Something to keep in mind when you’re lamenting that extra-inning games go too long…..Next year’s free agent market is literally drying up. Players that would’ve been very attractive as free agents in 2020 are signing contract extensions, partly because of what’s gone on during the past two off seasons. Some of those names include Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Chris Sale and Aaron Hicks. Now there is a report that the Astros are planning to extend Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who were both scheduled to become free agents after this season…..Look for the Brewers to push hard for a deal with closer Craig Kimbrel, as long as the price is right. Corey Knebel has an UCL issue and is seeking a second opinion. Most of those second opinions lead to Tommy John surgery. The Braves have been mentioned as a potential suitor. Hard throwing Josh Hader could close but Milwaukee wants to have depth in their bullpen to take some pressure off of their starters and enhance their chances of winning the NL Central