The 2016 New York Yankees will play meaningful September baseball. Spurred by a youth movement, these Baby Bombers have drawn comparisons to the youthful core which helped drive a dynasty in 1996. Yet, a more apt comparison may be the 1995 squad or even the 2005 or 2007 editions.
Entering September, the 2016 club, after an 8-14 April start, rides a 17-11 August mark to a ledger of 69-63. New York is 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card, trailing three teams in the standings. They also sit 6.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for first place in the AL East, which seems insurmountable but not impossible, because if the Yankees are going to pull this off and make the playoffs, they’re going to have to play .700 ball and they play the Jays a lot.
What might it take for that second slot? Well, last season the Yankees won 87 games and earned the first Wild Card, while the Houston Astros won 86 in gaining the second Wild Card. If the Yankees proceed at their August pace, keep winning 2-of-3 and take 20 of their next 30 games, that gets them to 89 victories.
After losing their ace Jimmy Key, the ’95 squad stumbled early with a 10-16 May. Following trades for David Cone and Ruben Sierra, the Yankees started to take off. Motivated to bring Don Mattingly to the postseason, New York went 22-6 from the start of September and clinched the Wild Card. Coming into September, the Yankees were 57-59 and two games back of a playoff spot. Within their MLB best 22-6 run, that team ran off two six-game winning streaks and ended on a five-game winning streak, winning eleven of their final 12 contests.
The 2005 team was hampered by a 10-14 April but eventually rallied to an AL East title. At 75-57 and 2.5 games back, New York recorded a 20-10 mark after September. Alex Rodriguez won AL MVP. Randy Johnson was a Red Sox killer. Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon and Al Leiter gave the team a boost. Plus, rookies Robinson Cano and Chien-Ming Wang sparked the team as well.
In 2007, a 9-14 April and a 13-15 May caused damage to hopes of winning the division. However, the Yankees picked it up in the second half. Going into September, the Yankees were 75-60, five games out in the AL East but leading the Wild Card. After August, New York went an AL best 19-8 and wrapped up the Wild Card. A big seven-game winning streak near the beginning of the month, helped propel the Yankees forward. A-Rod posted another MVP season. Plus the Yankees got a spark from a rookie Joba Chamberlain down the stretch.
Although we won’t know which players on the 2016 squad will emerge like those mentioned above, the playbook is there for them to make their own history.