Cashman: Yankees "conceded" 2010 AL East title to Rays
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman admitted Sunday his team "conceded" the American League East division to the Rays two years ago, saying the Wild Card setup at the time made the title mean "nothing more than a t-shirt and a hat."
The Rays won the title in 2010 by one game over the Yankees, who lost seven of their last 10 regular season games but rested players knowing they had the wild card locked up. New York would then sweep the Twins before losing to the Rangers in the ALCS.
Cashman's comments came in reference to the idea of having another wild card added, which could happen this year, and he's in favor of it because it brings back the importance of winning the division. Under the proposed new wild card format, the two wild card teams would face each other in a one-game playoff to determine to advanced to the divisional series. As of now, both the wild card and division winners advance.
"We conceded the division two years ago cause of the previous setup," Cashman said. "I'm not taking away from Tampa Bay's eastern division title, but we didn't try to win the division. We tried to line up ourselves for the playoffs and that worked. We wound up sweeping Minnesota and going to play the Texas Rangers two years ago because we got our guys healthy and ready to go. Because, the division title, in essence - the way the wild card situation was sitting, it was rendered meaningless the way the setup was. Whether you're a wild card or division champ, it really meant nothing mroe than a t-shirt and a hat."
The Rays, of course, have cherished their two AL East championship banners hanging from Tropicana Field, believing it's the toughest division in baseball. They have pride in the fact they have to topple the big-spending, tradition-rich Yankees and Red Sox to complete the feat. Cashman also believes the AL East is the best in baseball, but the current format doesn't give a large strategic advantage going forward to division winners.
"When you're in a position to know you're going to go and it really doesn't matter which way you go," Cashman says, "you go at that point and start resting guys and lining them up and the games in September aren't as meaningful as athey needed to be. Bud Selig did a remarkable thing by adding the wild card and I think he's now doing another remarkable thing by enhancing the playoff push. And it's going to create a lot of buzz and excitement and meaningful games deeper into the season as it should be, and certainly bring back the importance of being a division winner again...
"When you're in a position where we were, and you have to make tough choices on giving the division away to better yourself in a position to take a run at the title because that's what we're all playing for, I felt we made the perfect division to say - I wouldn't say we gave it away because Tampa Bay earned it. But we were willing to not win it, if it meant putting ourselves in a better position to move forward in October. And those are choices that I think it's best to eliminate from the equation and I think the commissioner has done a great thing by doing that."
-- JOE SMITH