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The AL East Was a Lot Less Stressful When the Rays Weren’t Any Good

As of today, the most boring day of the baseball season, the Yankees have the best record in baseball. Tampa Bay is two games behind them, with the second best in the American League and thus the lead in the wild-card standings. And Boston has the third best record in the league, three games behind Tampa. If only the Rays were still winning 65 games a season, the Yankees could probably start printing playoff tickets right now. Damn you, Andrew Friedman, for being good at your job.

But alas, for a team with the best record in baseball, the Yankees don't have much margin for error. (We refuse to count out Boston, even though their disabled list is so long it literally doesn't fit on the team's website.) The Yankees didn't complete the trade for a rental of Cliff Lee — we maintain that this is a good thing — but they'll almost certainly be in the market for help in the bullpen and on the bench as July 31 approaches (and perhaps even afterward). In the meantime, the formula from the recent West Coast trip remains in place: Get roughly seven solid innings from the starting pitcher, and if the game is close, turn the ball over to middle relief, close your eyes, hold your breath, and hope they can protect the lead for Mariano Rivera. It's not the best plan, but it's not the worst, either.

By the way, in each of the last two years, the Yankees opened the second half with eight-straight victories. Just throwing that out there.

Photo: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images