OHMYGAWDITSALLOVERFORTHE SOX! FRANCONAISANIDIOTTHEYNEEDTOFIREHIMASAP! HERECOMETHEYANKEESGODKNOWSTHEHOTTEAMSALWAYSWININOCTOBER!
OK, just stop. The Red Sox have a 2.5 game lead still. They just ran into two very good pitchers for Toronto. The Yankees just got two games against Daniel Cabrera and Jon Leicester. Not fair, I know.
Worst case scenario? The Sox go in as the wild card. Gee, that worked out pretty well in 2004.
Terry Francona and Theo are getting the team ready for October, not for the last two weeks of September. The Sox are in the playoffs no matter what, pretty much. That is what counts. Joe Torre running out his regulars and burning his bullpen in September trying to win the division is what has doomed New York for the past six years. Come on, Regular Joe, we know you are safe if you win the division, keep burning out Joba and Mariano for us! PLEASE!!!
I think Will Carroll over at BaseballProspectus said it best:
It’s hard to close even a 2 ½-game gap on a good team with 12 days left in the season. Even if it was necessary to do so, it would be a difficult task. In this case, it’s not; whatever benefits—home-field advantage, schedule choice, comfort—are gained by winning the division versus being the Wild Card aren’t generous enough to warrant playing the last week and change as if it mattered.
Look at how Terry Francona has managed his squad all month, in the knowledge that his team is going to October. He’s been resting players all around the roster, diddling with his rotation, and trying experiments like "let’s see how many batters Eric Gagne can walk in one inning."
It would behoove Joe Torre to start doing this as well. The Yankees are up five games in the loss column on the Tigers, with a magic number of seven for the wild card. If form holds through the weekend and the Yankees’ magic number reaches three or so, Torre needs to worry less about seeding and more about making sure his aging team is ready to go on October 2. Alex Rodriguez has missed two games all year, and none since August 8. Robinson Cano hasn’t missed a game since May 6. Jorge Posada has played his usual 130-odd games behind the plate; a couple of extra days off next week couldn’t hurt. I can’t quantify the effects of rest on a player’s performance, but I can say that the cost of doing so—possibly ending up as the wild card versus winning the division—is essentially zero.