Via Wally Matthews -
The New York Yankees, holders of probably more all-time records than any other team in the history of professional sports, are in position to make history once again.
If they succeed in blowing the rest of the 10-game lead they had accumulated over the American League East a month ago, they will have accomplished the biggest collapse in the history of this storied franchise.
Think about that for a moment.
The 1933 Yankees, with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey in the starting lineup and Joe McCarthy in the manager’s office, had a six-game lead June 6 — and finished second, seven games behind the Washington Senators.
The 1935 Yankees, minus Ruth but with Gehrig, Dickey, McCarthy and Lefty Gomez, had a 5 1/2-game lead June 20 — and finished three games behind the Detroit Tigers.
And the 1987 Yankees, with Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Willie Randolph and Rickey Henderson, managed by Lou Piniella, were five games out in front July 5 — and faded to fourth, nine games off the pace.
But no Yankees team in their illustrious history has ever run off by 10 games ahead of the division and come back to the field.
This one certainly gives every indication it is capable of it.
Of course, those 1930s-era teams had only one shot, World Series or bust, and this year, there is the added safety net of the second wild card, which can be a trap of its own.
But the reality is that the Yankees, who looked like a lock for the AL East title on July 18, are now fighting for their postseason lives on Aug. 23.
The only thing that remotely compares to this is the 2004 AL Championship Series, in which they took a 3-0 lead over the Boston Red Sox and proceeded to lose the next four games.
But at least those Yankees made it to the postseason and advanced to the second round.
The 2012 Yankees have been as difficult to get a handle on as a bucketful of eels.
They lost several key players early in the season — Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, Michael Pineda — and rebounded as if nothing had happened, with the outfield platoon of Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez, Freddy Garcia, and, especially, Rafael Soriano serving as more than adequate fill-ins.
And yet, their season can be divided into three sections — pre-June, post-June and, of course, June, the month that has kept them in the pennant race.
Through April and May, the Yankees were 27-23. In July and August so far, they are 25-22. Since the All-Star break, they are 20-19, virtually a quarter of their season, in which they have been only one tick better than mediocre.
In June, however, the Yankees looked like the best team in baseball, winning 20 of 27 games, including 10 in a row at one point.
They have not looked nearly that good since.
But aside from one month of the season, the Yankees have had a very rough time so far of maintaining any kind of consistent winning pattern, and after this weekend, the road only gets rougher and more difficult to navigate.
Overcoming their injuries, regaining their midseason form and ultimately winning their 28th World Series championship is the kind of history the organization and its fans have come to expect and the kind other teams can only envy.
But right now, with 38 games left to play, it seems every bit as likely, if not more so, that the Yankees will create another kind of history this season, the kind no team would want to make.
Of course, if the Yankees win five of their next six and the Rays lose three of their next five – which both could happen, easily – then the New York would have a little more breathing room in the standings and a lot of this speculation will die down for a while.