Okay, it doesn’t have the same ring as “the Yankees win the pennant,” but I’ll take what I can get. Everyone predicted that the Yankees would win around 80 games this year and maybe — maybe — if everything went right, they might squeak into the second wild card. Instead, they won 91 games and kept winning the division in play until the antepenultimate game of the season.
You can’t predict baseball, Suzyn, and the Yanks had so many things go better than expected: Luis Severino was the third best pitcher in the league (after Chris Sale and Corey Kluber), Aaron Judge set a record for homers by a rookie with 52 (and if he doesn’t win Rookie of the Year, then the award is meaningless and should be discontinued) and is in the conversation for MVP (really, it’s gonna be either Judge or Jose Altuve, and either one would deserve it), Gary Sanchez was amazing, Brett Gardner was solid, Didi Gregorious just keeps getting better, Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks, and Chase Headley were all better than expected, and the bullpen was beyond amazing.
So now the Yankees face the Minnesota Twins (also an unexpected contender) in the winner-take-all wild card game on Tuesday, then whoever wins will face the Cleveland Indians in one ALDS, while the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox face off in the other ALDS. In the senior circuit, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies fight for the right to play the Los Angeles Dodgers, while the other NLDS will feature the defending world champion Chicago Cubs (that’s still really weird to type!!!!) facing off against the Washington Nationals.
My rooting interests are as follows:
AL wild card: Yanks, duh.
NL wild card: Rockies
ALDS 1: Yankees if they win, Indians if the Twins win
ALDS 2: Astros
NLDS 1: Rockies if they win, Dodgers if the D’backs win
NLDS 2: Nationals, though I will be happy if the Cubs win, too
ALCS: Yankees if they win, anyone but the Red Sox if they don’t
NLCS: My preferences are in this order: Nationals, Rockies, Cubs, Dodgers, Diamondbacks
World Series: Yankees if they’re in, the Red Sox’s opponent if they’re in, indifferent otherwise
Meantime, let’s take a look at ESPN’s predictions, which I always enjoy looking back at, particularly in 2011 and 2012, both seasons in which the Red Sox were predicted to finish first and instead didn’t make the playoffs. (In 2012, they lost 93 games and finished last.)
AL East: 26 picked the Red Sox, who actually won; only one picked the Yankees, and I bet he’s feeling smug right now. The other six picked the last-place Blue Jays. Oops.
AL Central: They all picked the defending AL champion Indians. The Indians won. Nice job!
AL West: 21 picked the first-place Astros, so that’s another good one.
AL wild cards: Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners, both sub-.500 teams, and in Toronto’s case, a last-place team. Four picked the Yanks for the first WC and five more for the second; nobody picked the Twins for either.
NL East: 23 picked the Nats, which was wise, as they were the only winning team in the division. The 12 who picked the Mets should change their names and go into witness protection.
NL Central: They all picked the Cubbies, which was good.
NL West: Also 23 picked the Dodgers, who won. Other 12 also should hide in shame, as they picked the last-place Giants.
NL wild cards: Giants and Cardinals, who neither of them sniffed it. Two picked the Rockies for the first and three for the second; nobody picked the Diamondbacks.
Not nearly as embarrassing in years past — they got the division winners right, they just spit the bit on the wild card, which is actually pretty damn good, all things considered.