Cliff Lee Isn't the Key to the Yankees Postseason Hopes

The Yankees should just worry about themselves

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Sep 10, 2010  |  Updated 9:30 AM EDT
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Cliff Lee Isn't the Key to the Yankees Postseason Hopes

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As hard as members of the Yankees try to tell us otherwise, there are going to be playoff games in the Bronx come October. If the Yankees went .500 the rest of the way, the Red Sox or White Sox would have to go nearly undefeated to pass them for the Wild Card.

Possible? Sure. Plausible? Nope.

There's still a month of baseball to play before those playoff games get underway, however, and that means that there's plenty of time for people to come up with ridiculous notions about the postseason to come. One of the silliest comes from John Harper of the Daily News who uses the start of this weekend's series with the Rangers as a chance to write that the Yankees might prefer to finish second to the Rays so that they avoid facing Cliff Lee in the playoffs.

We're all aware of how well Lee has pitched against the Yankees, but the thought that one player on another team should strike that much fear in anyone's heart is impossible to get behind. Harper's argument is that a short series can turn quickly on the back of one pitcher, which is true, but it totally ignores the flip side of that argument. How many times has a team seen their ace turn in a stinker in a big spot and watched their playoff hopes go up in smoke as a result?

There's also the little matter of the Yankees having to play the Twins if they did finish second. No problem, right? The Yankees have dominated the Twins for years now and this year's playoffs would just be business as usual. Just like the 2004 ALCS against that Red Sox team the Yankees have owned since the dawn of time.

Oh, right.

You can't worry about how Lee's back is holding up or how good you've been against the Twins because baseball isn't a game that can be plotted out more than nine innings at a time. Even then, you've got to be ready for anything because scripts don't get followed in April or May, let alone in October when the heat is at its highest levels.

The only thing to worry about as you enter the playoffs is the strength of your own team. On that front, the Yankees actually got some good news on Thursday. Andy Pettitte looked very sharp in a start for Double-A Trenton and is on track to start against the Rays in Tampa next week. His healthy and able return would do much to quiet the turmoil surrounding the rotation that will decide whether or not the Yankees repeat.  

He's the only lefty the Yankees should be worried about, at least until Lee is staring at them from the mound on a crisp October night. 

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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