Brian Cashman: Yankees are ‘little engine that could’

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Last year virtually no one making predictions had the Yankees making the playoffs. None of the three writers of this website thought the Yankees would win the AL East or a Wild Card. ESPN had 35 “experts” make predictions back in March, and only one of them figured the Yankees would be playing in the postseason. Most people thought that the Yankees were going to rebuild in 2017 and, even if their rebuilt might not take as long as some other teams’ rebuilds, it could be a bit before they tasted the postseason again.

Of course the Yankees played wonderfully last year, getting a ton of contributions from young players, essentially ending the rebuild before it began. They defeated the defending AL champ Cleveland Indians in the ALDS and took the eventual World Series champion Astros to Game 7 of the ALCS before falling. In the process, the Yankees — maybe for the first time in their history — credibly played the “no one believed in us” card:

As I wrote at the time, it may have been crazy, at first blush, to hear anyone call the Yankees underdogs, but they were. It was a totally fair stance for them to take.

What a difference a few months make. The Yankees now look like an absolute power, both because of what we learned about them as they marched to Game 7 of the ALCS, but also because they picked up NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton in an offseason trade. Yes, the Red Sox are good, yes the Red Sox are the defending AL East champs, and yes the Red Sox just signed J.D. Martinez, but anyone thinking that the Yankees are not among the best 3-4 teams in the game is deluded.

Yet, there is still that need to cast oneself as the underdog:

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman thinks his team can compete for another division title this season, but until that potentially happens, he only sees them one way.

“We’re ‘The Little Engine That Could,'” he said Wednesday as a guest on ESPN New York’s “The Michael Kay Show.”

The statement was accompanied on air by laughter

Thank God for the laughter, because if he was 100% serious about playing the “no one believes in us” card in 2018, he’d need to have his head examined.

Still, he notes in the article that, until someone beats the Red Sox, they’re the defending division champs, so there is at least some element of seriousness to his stance, I think. I guess that’s technically true, but c’mon, man. Ain’t no one gonna jump on the Yankees-as-underdog train. At least I hope not.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.