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Yankees clinch first division title since 2012

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The New York Yankees beat the Anaheim Angels 9-1 this evening and in so doing won their 100th game of the season and clinched their first American League East title in seven years.

The Yankees have been in the playoffs thee times since that 2012 season but all three of them were as a Wild Card winner. This year, however, their eventual division championship was never really in doubt. Sure, the Rays led the East for all of April and off and on for a time after that, but the Yankees have held it for all but five days since May 19. On June 25 they led by six games. It was up to ten games by July 20. Their lead hasn’t been fewer than eight games since August 2. It’s just been smooth sailing for most of the year.

In the standings at least. In the trainer’s room it has been anything but. As you all know well, the Yankees roster has been absolutely rotten with injuries this year, with the team losing star after star to the injured list, some for extended periods.

Giancarlo Stanton has played 11 games all year. Aaron Judge missed two months in the middle of the season. Luis Severino didn’t make his first appearance of the year until two days ago. Edwin Encarnación and Gary Sánchez have missed time. Miguel Andújar underwent season-ending surgery in May. Greg Bird was out for the season as of April. Dellin Betances pitched a third of an inning all year. Aaron Hicks has been out since August 4 and played only 59 games all year.

But it didn’t matter. Aaron Boone plugged in replacements like the coach of an SEC football power and his horses never broke stride. Michael Tauchman. Luke Voit. Gio Urshela. Mike Ford. It didn’t matter who they were or how anonymous they were to anyone but the most ardent Yankees fans, they just produced when called upon. The Yankees got big seasons from some veterans too, with D.J. LeMahieu putting in a campaign that will get him MVP votes, Brett Gardner reverting to vintage form and even Cameron Maybin having some big moments. All of this, by the way, as the starting rotation had fairly big issues at times and as Boone had to lean heavily on the pen. Despite all of this the Yankees just . . . found a way. They found a way by bashing tons of dingers no matter who was in the lineup.

Thee Yankees path through the postseason will not be an easy one. The Astros are formidable. The Twins have bashed almost as many home runs as the Yankees have. Two of the A’s, Rays and Indians will make it and they’re pesky. To get through October the Yankees are going to have to piggyback starters. And, it appears, they’ll have one less starter to piggyback than they assumed they would. Their work is cut out for them.

But that’s the challenge for October. For now the New York Yankees are division champs and they can enjoy that for a week and a half or so.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: