Regardless of how fervently and ardently one follows a team, it is important to remain realistic and objective. That certainly stands true for the 2018 Yankees season.
Listen, this is not 1949, when the Yankees defeated the Red Sox on the last day of the season to win the pennant. Nor is it 1978, when the Yankees were once 14 games behind Boston and staged an astonishing comeback that culminated in a one-game playoff which resulted in a 5-4 Yankees victory.
Yes, it is not 2000, either, when the Yankees finished a mere 2.5 games ahead in first place despite losing 15 of their final 18 games. 2003 passed by, too.
This is the year 2018. The Red Sox broke “The Curse of the Bambino” almost 14 years ago. Since 2004, the Yankees do have more division titles (six), but only one World Series title (2009). Boston has won three championships in that time (the aforementioned 2004 season, 2007 and 2013).
Currently, the Yankees are entrenched in second place, 7.5 games behind the Red Sox. The Yankees have lost five of their last nine games and two straight in Fenway, both losses coming in lopsided fashion.
Boston is currently on pace to finish with 112 wins, which would be the third-most ever in a 162-game season, behind only the 1998 Yankees (114) and 2001 Mariners (116). There is no reason to believe they will falter.
So what exactly has set the two teams apart? Ultimately, it is performances against weaker competition.
The Yankees are 36-19 against losing teams this year, which registers as just the ninth-best such record, and just fifth in the American League. While it may not sound terrible, the Yankees are just 1-2 against a last-place Rangers team, 6-6 against a Baltimore team now devoid of Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Jonathan Schoop and on pace to lose 113 games (which would tie for the fifth-most losses ever in the modern era), and also have the same record against a Rays team that, while not a losing team is 8.5 games out.
Boston is a Major League-best 48-14 against downtrodden opponents, and that includes marks of 10-2 and 9-4 against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, respectively.
Another factor that does not gain as much traction is the disparity between the performances of the designated hitters. Giancarlo Stanton, whose OPS has dropped 136 points since posting a .950 OPS in June, has lagged far behind J.D. Martinez, his Bostonian counterpart. Martinez is the proprietor of the third-highest wRC+ in baseball (173).
There are other factors that come into play, such as the number of delayed or postponed games that have afflicted the Yankees. But overall, this is a Red Six squad that (much to my dismay) is on pace for one of the greatest seasons in Major League history, and does not have anything to do with the Boston teams of the twentieth century that perennially faltered down the stretch.
Once again, the Yankees will almost certainly find themselves in the Wild Card game, against either Matt Chapman and the A’s or Mitch Haniger and the Mariners. While the prospects of a fourth postseason encounter between the Yankees and Red Sox are compelling, so too is the idea that the Yankees would have home field advantage in a playoff series between their century-long rivals.
For now, all we can hope for is a repeat of 1978, or that the Yankees survive the Wild Card game and venture deeper into the playoffs than they did last year in the event they do not win the division.