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Yankees must get off to fast start in shortened season

The Yankees had a brutal start to the 2019 season. After crushing the Orioles at home on opening day, they actually lost the next two games of that series. They continued to stumble over the next few days, and after 15-games had a 6-9 record.

We all know what happened after that. They swept a mini-series at home against Boston and absolutely took off. Despite the entire team getting injured, they essentially had the division wrapped up at the All-Star Break. They also never lost another game to Baltimore, finishing the season 17-2 vs the Os.

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Overcoming a bad start will not be as simple this year.

2020 Crunch

As momentum continues to build towards the approval of an abbreviated 82 (ish) game season, many hurdles need to be worked out. Health concerns, travel, safety, logistics and of course, salary, need to be agreed on before we can have baseball. But make no mistake about it, whatever ends up happening, it is imperative that the Yankees get off to a fast start.

It’s only one game! It’s still April! You can throw all of those tired baseball clichés out the window. Over an 82-game season, the games are doubly important. Start out 2-6 during a normal season and it’s no big deal. Start out 2-6 during an 82-game season? That’s straight panic mode.

The 2017 Blue Jays started 3-12 and were effectively done. This was a team coming off back-to-back ALCS appearances and had expectations to compete for the division, but a slow start put them in a deep enough hole they could not dig out. A 2-6 start in an 82-game crunch is basically the same thing as what the ’17 Jays dealt with.

Load Management

The Yankees are notorious for trying to implement load management into baseball. They were the only team not to use any reliever for three days in a row last year. Furthermore, Boone even said during his opening presser that the Yankees “aren’t necessarily going to be chasing wins every day.” He spoke of long-term improvement and of being committed to a process that would bear fruit over 162-games. None of that is applicable this year.

Over what amounts to half a season, expect the Yankees to deviate from their usual conservative game planning. I can’t see them giving random load management rest days to Gleyber Torres or DJ LeMahieu. If they have to use Aroldis Chapman three days in a row to win a rubber match of a series, expect them to do so. They may still end up punting a game or two (they always do) but there simply won’t be the same kind of room for error as in previous seasons.

Yes, the Red Sox will be weaker without Mookie Betts. But remember that the 2019 Rays won 96-games despite Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow missing over half the season. They could have easily challenged the Yankees for the division with those guys healthy, and they remain a serious threat this year.

An 82-game season is going to be a sprint. Starting out 9-6 instead of 6-9 will make the race a lot easier.