Let’s say the Yankees are 2.5 games behind the Red Sox on Friday but 5.5 games ahead of the Tigers. With 10 games left, what should Joe Torre do?
There are basically two choices: Push hard and try to win the division or line up the rotation for the playoffs.
To me, it’s an absolute no-brainer: You work to enter the postseason in the best shape possible.
For the Yankees, winning the division is almost totally insignificant. They will be judged on whether they get to the World Series. If they win the division and lose in the first round, it’s a disaster.
Having Wang, Pettitte and Clemens (and Rivera and Chamberlain) rested and ready for Games 1, 2 and 3 is far more important than anything else. So is giving Jeter a day or two to rest that knee, etc.
Beyond that, they can go 10-0 and still not win the division. They need Boston to cooperate by losing. It’s entirely different than being in the lead and playing to keep it.
Torre will never admit it. But starting on Friday, they need to make plans for October. Nothing will be won on Sept. 30.
UPDATE, 11:50 p.m.: I think some people are missing my point. What I’m asking if whether it’s worth it to use front-line pitching over the final few days of the regular season to try and win the division knowing you may not have your best guys for Games 1 and 2 in any series, whether it’s home or not.
I’m suggesting that the mission is to have Wang and Pettitte rested and ready for Games 1 and 2 with Rivera and Chamberlain also rested. Whether the game is in the Bronx, Anaheim or Cleveland, you want your two best pitchers in the first two games.