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What could have been for the Yankees

Leslie Monteiro

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In a season of championship or bust expectations, the Yankees have been disappointing despite being on pace to win 100 games and participating in the postseason as a wild-card team. There hasn’t been that great Yankee moment for Yankees fans to celebrate.

Maybe the Yankees denying the Boston Red Sox a chance to celebrate their AL East championship at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night by taking a 3-2 victory over their hated rivals could be considered a 2018 Yankeeography moment.

But make no mistake. It’s a mere formality that the Red Sox will win the division. It may not be Wednesday night or Thursday night, but it’s going to happen. A sweep of the Red Sox this week will be nothing more than saving the Yankees from watching their hated rivals celebrate at their own ballpark.

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The Bronx Bombers had bigger plans than being a wild-card team. They wanted to be the team to celebrate the division championship en route to a World Series championship this season. Not being a wild-card team is technically not a bad thing, but it makes their chances of being a championship team this much harder. They are not going to have home-field advantage for the American League Division Series, American League Championship and World Series if they somehow advance each round after the wild-card game. Their season comes down to one game in the one-game wild-card game.

Winning the division would have meant something for the Yankees. It would mean they endured the rigors of a long season to win it, so it would be a satisfying feeling after staving off the Red Sox. It was a chance to spray champagne and pour beer towards each other. Sure they can do that if they clinch a playoff berth as a wild-card team, but it would not mean much since they were expected to do better than being a wild-card team.

By winning the AL East, it would have showed they were ready to take the next step of being a championship team. From watching them this season, it does not look like it. They have lost series to inferior teams that they have no business losing to. They have not played with a sense of urgency. Young players such as Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Greg Bird have taken a step back rather than doing better than last season. The bullpen does not scare any team anymore. This starting rotation will not have postseason teams worrying.

There’s something about winning the division than winning the wild-card.

No one thought the Red Sox would have the year they are having. Yes, they were good enough to make the playoffs, but to be 10 ½ games ahead of the Yankees in the division was something no one expected when the season started. This is a complete team. A team that wins by manufacturing runs, hitting home runs, striking out hitters and producing quality starts. They have been consistently good all season by not going on slumps and beating teams that they should be beating.

What stands out about the Red Sox is they don’t take games off, and they play with a sense of urgency. With the Yankees, that’s not the case. This is a team that shrugs off losses easily, and it starts with their rookie manager Aaron Boone, who has created too loose of an atmosphere.

It’s no wonder why Yankees fans have been hard on their team. This group of Yankees does not have the attitude of the Yankees that won championships during the Joe Torre era. This is a team that does not seem to be resilient or be mentally tough enough when the going gets tough.

Winning the division would have shown how much the Baby Bombers have grown up. Instead, they showed they have ways to go before they can be champions. They need to experience more failure before they can reach to the mountaintop. They need more humbling moments after overachieving all the way to Game 7 of the ALCS until they bowed out against the Houston Astros.

Maybe this season could be a blessing in disguise for the Yankees. The Yankees should learn some lessons from this year about what it takes to be a championship team. They can learn something from the Red Sox.

The Yankees have a chance to atone all this in the postseason. Everyone starts fresh, and this is a chance for them to change the narrative. Sports provide that moment for players and teams, so maybe that gets them going.

Maybe the Yankees can get the last laugh over the Red Sox by advancing far in the postseason.

Only difference is the Red Sox get four chances to avoid elimination by virtue of winning the division.

The Yankees get only one by playing in the wild-card game.

Leslie Monteiro is a syndicated sports columnist who writes about the Tri-State area teams for the Upstate Courier. He is based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and can be reached on Twitter @MongoGoesInSane.