Leader's choice: Yanks decide ALDS setup
With league's best record, New York determines length
NEW YORK -- The Yankees have clinched. Now they must choose.
For the third consecutive season, by virtue of winning the All-Star Game, the American League team with the best record -- the Yankees -- has a choice between a seven-day AL Division Series, with two off-days, and an eight-day series with an additional off-day between Games 1 and 2.
The official rule gives the team with the best record one hour to make its choice after either clinching the top spot or learning its first-round opponent -- whichever comes later. Because the Yankees clinched the AL's best record before the ALDS matchups were finalized, they should have several days to discuss their options before they must choose.
For the Yankees, it may turn out to be an obvious decision.
Seemingly, the most compelling arguments are for the longer series, which would allow the Yankees to rest their bullpen and -- perhaps more important -- use only three starters, all on regular rest. Though Joba Chamberlain is now stretched out long enough to start games in the postseason, he has no doubt been erratic over the past two months, and the Yankees may be better served to use him out of the bullpen in the ALDS.
The longer series would allow them to do just that, as well as carry an extra bench player without needing to overuse Mariano Rivera or Phil Hughes out of the bullpen.
"I think you want to physically see how you are at the end of the year," manager Joe Girardi said. "The thing is, with the longer series ... You can use your bullpen pretty much every day -- every guy, every day. Our bullpen has been a strength of ours, and that's something we're definitely going to consider."
Should the Yankees choose the longer series, of course, their opponent -- either the Tigers or the Twins, unless the Rangers do the remarkable and steal the AL Wild Card spot from the Red Sox -- will be able to enjoy its benefits as well. The Tigers, for example, could use both Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson twice in the longer five-game series. The Twins, without such a devastating a tandem at the top of their rotation, would -- in theory, at least -- benefit less.
"I think you look at your opponent, and that could have something to do with it," Girardi said. "To me, I don't think it would be fair to pick which series you want until you actually know who your opponent is."
Though the Yankees have announced CC Sabathia as their Game 1 starter, they could use either A.J. Burnett or Andy Pettitte in Game 2 and, presumably, on regular rest in a potential Game 5.
Whatever they decide, the Yankees have already clinched an arguably greater advantage -- the right to play Games 1, 2 and 5 of the best-of-five ALDS in their home park, where they have a .705 winning percentage this season.
"That's a good thing, man," outfielder Nick Swisher said. "We play well here at home, we feel confident and I think the fans have really made this stadium everything that the old stadium was -- and hopefully more."
"We know how to play very well at our ballpark," fellow outfielder Johnny Damon said. "That's what makes home-field advantage so special."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.