Baseball is a very interesting sport. With 162 games, it opens the door for expected and unexpected playoff appearances by teams of both conferences. Baseball is also a game where injuries can change a team's season and impact in the playoffs. The National League's Washington Nationals for example, stunningly missed the playoffs last year, but most of the teams who made the 2017 postseason qualified once again. The Oakland Athletics on the other hand, qualified for the final wild card spot in the American League. While both teams could make the playoffs next year or miss it, they both serve as perfect examples of the surprises that baseball can bring to one season. So let's see who will be playing baseball for at one more month.
American League Division Winners:
A.L. East: New York Yankees
A.L. Central: Cleveland Indians
A.L. West: Houston Astros
A.L. Wild Card #1: Boston Red Sox
A.L. WIld Card #2: Oakland Athletics
National League Division Winners:
N.L. East: Philadelphia Phillies
N.L. Central: Milwaukee Brewers
N.L. West: Colorado Rockies
N.L. Wild Card #1: Atlanta Braves
N.L. Wild Card #2: Washington Nationals
American League Playoff Results:
Wild Card - #1 Red Sox over #2 Athletics
A.L. Division Series - #1 Yankees 3 games to 1 over #4 Red Sox. #2 Astros 3 games to 2 over #3 Indians.
A.L. Championship Series - # 1 Yankees 4 games to 2 over #2 Astros.
National League Playoff Results:
Wild Card - #2 Nationals over #1 Braves
N.L. Division - #1 Brewers 3 games to 2 over #5 Nationals. #3 Phillies 3 games to 2 over #2 Rockies.
N.L. Championship Series - #1 Brewers 4 games to 3 over #3 Phillies.
After a few years of mediocrity, the New York Yankees have re-emerged as one of the MLB's elite. They have loads of talent, young core players, and good management. But it's their experience gained over the past two years that will be the key for what will probably be a memorable 2019 season.
The Yankees burst onto the scene, exceeding expectations by making the ALCS in 2017, and followed that up with a short playoff run last year. During these runs, the "Baby Bombers" have grown up, and are now primed to use their past experience for a 2019 run.
The talent that this team has, is crazy. As of now, their roster is filled with players that do lots of damage both at the plate and in the field such as:
Here's some information on some of these players! Aaron Judge in just 2 years, has been amazing to watch. At 6 foot 7, he has hit home runs as far as 495 ft. He has a cannon for an arm - base runners don't have a good chance to get any extra bases once a ball is hit to him. His height helps him to steal home runs with leaping grabs at the fence. Giancarlo Stanton, who was acquired in last year's offseason, struggled at first, but rebounded with 38 home runs, 100 RBIs, and batted .266. It is likely that he'll be even better next season, now that he has had a season to adjust to the American League. Gleyber Torres was one of baseball's top rookies last year, hitting 24 home runs and batting .271. He also has shown an ability to come up big in pressure moments, which has added an exciting element to his game. Miguel Andujar has emerged as a reliable hitter as well. While there was speculation about whether he might be traded if the Yankees signed Manny Machado, Machado signed with the San Diego Padres indicating that the Yankees truly trust Andujar to become a key piece of the team. Didi Gregorius has been very consistent and reliable for the Yankees throughout last season both in the field and at the plate. Aaron Hicks has emerged as the x-factor of the Yankees. With his ability to hit at the plate, fielding skills, and competitiveness, manager Aaron Boone called him, "The most underrated player in the game." It also got him a 7 year contract extension with the team. Pitcher Luis Severino, who had a hot start followed by an inconsistent second half of last season, has still emerged as the Yankees' pitching ace. Catcher Gary Sanchez did not have as good a year as expected, but rebounded with a strong postseason. His skills both at the plate and in the field will be essential for the Yankees in the years to come. And the bullpen, led by Aroldis Chapman who added a vicious slider to his arsenal, should ensure the Yankees don't lose many leads. All of these players are, without doubt, their core players now, and most will remain key players in the future. Unlike other teams with great players, management knows to lock in their good players.
During those 2 years, Brian Cashman went from making moves that only benefit the team short term, to making moves that will benefit them in the long term. Therefore, fans can thank him for all of the excellent drafts, smart trades, and carefully thought free agent signings. Judge, Severino, Sanchez, and Andujar? Drafted by the Yankees earlier this decade. Stanton, Hicks, Gregorius, and Torres were all traded to the Yankees. Chapman is the only member of this core group who was a free agent signing. The Yankees added to their core of players this offseason with the acquisitions of pitchers James Paxton, Adam Ottavino, Troy Tulowitzki, and Gio Gonzalez. Second year manager Aaron Boone will be more experienced this season and will look to manage a deep playoff run and possibly a championship.
The key that will probably help this team win the World Series, is experience. There are a lot of different areas of the team that will show tremendous growth. Stanton, Torres, and Andujar will be even more comfortable with the team as they enter their sophomore season as Yankees. Aaron Boone showed some flaws but should learn from some of his mistakes. As a whole, despite only 2 years of contending, the Yankees have had significant playoff experience - as well as the motivation that comes from losing early in the playoffs that they expected to win a championship. This playoff experience should give them the mentality that makes champions, not just in 2019, but for many other years in the future.
Three years ago, the Yankees had an uncertain future. They were average at best but weren't looking like a team that could compete in the years to come. Now, they look set to compete at the highest level. Before Yankees' fans know it, they could be in New York City celebrating a 28th World Series Championship
Before we start, I must say, this stings a bit as my favorite team besides the New York Yankees is the Washington Nationals (my dad grew up in the Washington D.C. area). Star outfielder Bryce Harper's new contract with the Philadelphia Phillies is not only a massive contract (13 years and $330 million), but a huge change to the landscape of baseball players.
Over this offseason, MLB stars Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, and Bryce Harper received massive contracts. On February 20th, Machado signed with the San Diego Padres for 10 years and $300 million. Arenado resigned with the Colorado Rockies for 8 years and $260 million on February 26th. Then of course, Harper topped them all on February 28th with his contract which is the largest in baseball history.
However, there is lots of ego among these players who, despite the great talent they have, are question marks for their big contracts due to the lack of deep playoff runs or consistency. Machado has been in the postseason 4 times in his career. Three of those appearances were when he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. They only won one playoff series. He was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers midway through the 2018 season and helped them get to the World Series where they lost 4 games to 1. What was more widely known was the fact that Machado publicly said that hustling "isn't my cup of tea." When he was running the bases, he was clearly trying to intentionally trip the fielders of the Milwaukee Brewers in the Championship series. Game 4 in particular got people irritated as he intentionally tried to trip Jesus Aguilar. He was fined $10,000 by the league and M.V.P. Christein Yelich supported his teammate by calling Machado's actions "A dirty play by a dirty player. It absolutely is." So despite making his first world series, Machado's reputation has already distinguished him from being called a winner.
Arenado didn't make the playoffs until 2017 when the Arizona Diamondbacks eliminated them in the Wild Card round. He won his first playoff game next year against the Chicago Cubes, but were swept 3 games to none in the divisional round by the Milwaukee Brewers. Harper has not had a losing season throughout his Nationals career. He has made the playoffs 4 out of his 7 years winning the division in every year, but the Nationals have never won a playoff series, losing in excruciating fashion in every game. So there you have it: winning for these players is common, but they still have a way to go if they want to have purely consistent winning ways.
They want money to be mentioned when people talk about their legacies. They may not admit that, but they want to go out with both money and fame. The dead end to this is that not all of these players are generational talents. Harper is the only one out of the 3 who is considered a generational talent and he hasn't had any playoff success. By contrast, in the 2018 NFL off season, lots of players got big contract extensions in August. Yet those players have already proved to be generational talents already and played massive roles on their teams. In what has become a sports world in which big contracts have been common, these baseball players also wanting to get paid big time.
Contract standards are also made by these players. Machado was offered $220 million by the New York Yankees, while the Chicago White Sox offered him $175 million and 8 years. The Phillies were also a dark horse candidate for Machado. The Rockies originally avoided arbitration with Arenado by giving him $26 million. Harper was given a 10 year, $300 million contract by the Nationals in hopes of resigning him in which he denied. Other teams placed solid offers for Harper, but it was the Phillies that won Harper.
This is a new period in baseball, and it is a new period regarding the contracts that are handed out to these players. The sports world of contracts has already been changing dramatically and these baseball players have exceeded most of the contracts that athletes in other sports already have. It'll be interesting to see if these high paid players will deliver great individual play and championships to their teams.