While there is the usual hype and interest in the upcoming Yankees/Red Sox series in New York, this one will be extraordinary.
This is the final season for the venerated Yankee Stadium and, as such, it will be the Red Sox final visit there.
The Sox were the Yankees very first opponent at the Stadium, on April 18, 1923. The Yankees won that game 4-1, just as they went on to win the vast majority of games between the two clubs over the ensuing 86 years. The Yanks have a 482-282-4 record against the Sox at Yankee Stadium. It's hardly a surprise; through last season, the Yankees had the best all-time regular season winning percentage in baseball at .567, the result of a 9383-7162 record.
But none of that really matters now. The Yankees appear to be all but out of the playoff hunt, and the Red Sox are fighting for their own playoff lives. Trailing Tampa by 4.5 games with 32 games to play, the Sox face a tall order in trying to win the AL East again.
As I wrote the other day, even Theo Epstein assumes that the Red Sox need to win at least 95 games each season to qualify for the playoffs. And that's for good reason; since 1997, no AL East winner has won fewer than 95 games, with the exception of the 2000 Yankees, who won 87. In fact, during that span, the division champ has averaged 99 wins.
At this point, considering Tampa's red hot and consistent play (79-50), the Sox may be fighting for the Wild Card spot, and it will be a battle, indeed.
Entering the three games series in New York, the Red Sox (75-55) currently hold a 1.5-game lead over Minnesota (74-57). But the Twins are clearly in the hunt for the AL Central crown, trailing the White Sox (75-66) by just one game. That means the Twins are closer to their division rival for the Central lead than they are to the Red Sox for the Wild Card.
Again, it will be a battle. The Red Sox, White Sox, and Twins will be checking the standings daily, and one very good team will not be playing in October.
The Red Sox need to win 20 of their remaining 32 games to reach 95. If they don't, you can bet the White Sox or Twin will. That means that the Red Sox - a team with a .577 winning percentage this season - need to win 64% of their remaining schedule.
That's the real reason this upcoming series in New York is so important. It's not history, or anything else.
Good luck to the Sox. As I said, it's a tall order.
Copyright © 2008 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.