Introducing the Yankees Doom Watch

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I noted last week that people seem to be underselling the Yankees quite a bit. I’m seeing more and more of it. So much so that I’m getting the sense that one-dooms-manship of the Yankees will become a pretty prevalent meme between now and April. A contest of sorts between who can be most extreme in selling the Yankees short and predicting the ignominious end to the Jeter dynasty.

So let’s keep track of them, shall we? We’ll call it the “Yankees Doom Watch.”

Now, I’m not talking about merely being somewhat circumspect about the Yankees’ chances.  It’s totally rational and fair game to note that the team has some issues heading into the season. They don’t have a catcher. They’re relying on Kevin Youkilis to rebound way more than a contending team should be relying on a brittle and declining veteran to rebound. Everyone is getting older. There’s a decent chance that this team, like any other successful team, could crater. It’s a tough division. All have their strengths and all have their weaknesses and any of the five teams could reasonably win it or lose it.

No, I’m talking about examples of Yankees pessimism that go beyond the circumspect and tread into the dire. Conclusory predictions of futility that overstate the challenges they face. Failure to acknowledge that the team won 95 games last year.  Failure to acknowledge the weaknesses of the other teams in their division. Treatment of the 2012 ALCS as though it were the entire 2012 season. References to this team being like the 1965 Yankees are always a plus.

I’ll make an inaugural nomination: Bill Madden in this morning’s Daily News:

You have to go all the way back to 1992 for a spring training of lower expectations than this one for both the Yankees and the Mets, where in both cases, our locals have a better chance of finishing last than finishing first this season.

I’ll buy it for the Mets, but the Yankees? Really? Better chance of finishing in last place?  OK.

Last week Madden reported that A-Rod would never wear pinstripes again. This week he’s saying the Yankees have a better chance of finishing in last than first. What are the odds of a mea culpa on Madden’s part if A-Rod comes back midseason and leads them to a division title? You probably don’t want to bet your first born on that one.

Anyway, this one is definitely worthy of notice by the Yankee Doom Watch.  Please apprise us of any other examples you see between now and Opening Day.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”