The New York Yankees have endured a lot in the 2021 MLB season.
They are currently still aiming for the playoffs, at 66-52.
American League Updated Playoffs Odds (FanGraphs):
Red Sox: 83%
Blue Jays: 31.2%
White Sox, That's it.
— Pinstripe Perspective (@pinstripepers) August 16, 2021
That includes a recent hot streak that has positioned the team well to make a late push for October.
The Yankees Are On The Outside Looking In, For Now
However, if the season ended right now, the Yankees would miss the playoffs.
Yes, that’s right: the most popular franchise in MLB is still, in mid-August, on the outside looking in for a place in the postseason.
The Tampa Bay Rays are leading the tough American League East division with a 72-47 record (3.5 ahead of the Boston Red Sox and 5.5 ahead of the Yankees).
There are two Wild Card spots for the two best records that aren’t leading their division.
Those two spots are currently occupied by the Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics.
The Yankees are very close to both: two games behind Boston and 1.5 behind the A’s.
But as of right now, they are not making the playoffs.
Could the Yankees miss October?
Yes, they could.
Theoretically, they would need to overcome one of the A’s or Red Sox while keeping teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners in check.
All five teams are extremely competitive, and more than capable of getting hot at the right time.
MLB doesn’t have a say in which teams make it into October and which ones are left out.
However, everybody knows that they would like the Yankees to make it.
Because it would mean more interest in the on-field product.
All of the previously mentioned teams will generate interest in their own state and perhaps raise some viewership at a national scale.
The Yankees, however, would obviously generate interest at a national scale, at a broader rate.
The Yankees have the most fans in America, and are the most popular baseball team in Latin America and the world.
Their fans are extremely passionate.
However, a large portion of their viewers are also people who love to hate them.
Yes, people are interested in seeing them lose, and it’s part of fandom.
Big Markets Equal Big Profits
The postseason would be better for MLB if teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Houston Astros make it.
Popular teams are often associated with big markets and big cities.
One of the Los Angeles teams (Dodgers), Houston, and one Chicago team (White Sox) are virtual locks for October.
Both New York teams, the Yankees and the Mets, are currently out of the playoffs but very close to the positions that guarantee qualification.
Evidently, the league would love to have both the Yankees and the Mets in the party.
In the end, it won’t matter because they cannot control who makes it who doesn’t.
But if the league wants better TV numbers (and they do, for a myriad of financial ramifications) they will surely prefer the Yankees to keep improving and make the playoffs, something that seems entirely plausible as they get healthier.
You need to look at close games and specific situations, not just general statistics. I do think it’s true that MLB is always wants the yanks to make the playoffs because of ratings.
— Skydomer (@Jaysrallycap) August 17, 2021
Baseball needs to gain more fans around the country, and a team like the Yankees playing meaningful games in October can only help.