In fact, in early August I proclaimed from the halls of the Wynn/Encore Sportsbook in Las Vegas the news to Yankees fans everywhere following a sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox that the road to the World Series will once again begin in the do-or-die Wild Card Game.
For a team that managed to win 100 games this season despite a good amount of adversity, the season comes down to one single night in the Bronx against the Oakland A’s.
Win and there’s a date with the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. Lose and the season will be viewed as a massive disappointment.
Those are the stakes, and make no mistake this is as pressure packed as it gets for this 2018 Yankees team.
Last season’s run to Game 7 of the ALCS was pretty much viewed as a “playing with house money” playoff run.
There were limited expectations, and even in defeat, the future felt oh-so-bright in the Bronx.
Those expectations changed in the offseason. The Yankees are back in the World Series-or-bust business.
With that sort of mandate, it puts the team and first-year manager Aaron Boone under intense pressure and scrutiny.
All in all, Boone has done a very solid job in his first season.
As expected, he has been very good with his players and very good when it comes to managing the media, but October is when you can put his job performance purely into focus.
Aaron Boone won 100 games in the regular season, but he replaced a manager in Joe Girardi who won a World Series and guided the Yankees to Game 7 of the ALCS last year.
A shaky October from this team and its manager will only raise questions as to why a change was made.
The Yankees have had a very weird season for a team that won 100 games.
Aaron Judge missed six weeks. Gary Sanchez hit under .200. Greg Bird was such a non-factor that he most likely will be left off the postseason roster. Sonny Gray was removed from rotation, and Luis Severino had a six-week stretch that resembled a pitcher who was anything but this team’s ace.
Despite all of those pitfalls, the team found a way to win 100 games.
However, those 100 wins will be rendered meaningless if the team fails to win on Wednesday night.
When you consider the hype, buzz and anticipation for a potential Yankees-Red Sox playoff showdown, which would be the first since the dreaded 2004 ALCS, it would be the ultimate letdown if we’re all watching A’s-Red Sox on Friday night.
It’s your move, Yankees. Will it be a date with the Red Sox in the ALDS, or a Wild Card loss that will make this 2018 season as disappointing as it gets?
The choice is yours.
You can listen to me Friday from 1 to 6 a.m. & 10 to 2 a.m., Sunday from 1 to 6 a.m. & Monday from 2 to 6 a.m. on WFAN Sports Radio 660/1019 FM. You can also watch me Friday on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.
JJ’S WEEK 5 UNLOCKS (12-8 ON THE YEAR, 2-3 IN WEEK 4)
• NEW ENGLAND -10
• NY JETS -2
• JACKSONVILLE +3
• DETROIT +1.5
• WASHINGTON +6.5