The Yankees Weren't Supposed to Be Here

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees celebrates his sixth inning home run against the Tam
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 06: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees celebrates his sixth inning home run against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on September 6, 2015 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Yankees weren't supposed to be in the playoff mix, at least not this late into the season. After Sunday's win against the Tampa Bay Rays and Monday's win against the Baltimore Orioles, they are still .5 games out of first place in the American League East behind the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays. But that shouldn't be anything to fret about -- trust me.

For the die-hard -- and spoiled -- Yankees fan, October might feel unfamiliar. The last time they missed two consecutive postseason races was prior to the 1995 season. And this year, specifically, felt as if it was geared more toward rebuilding through the post-Jeter era rather than actually winning.

But the Yankees somehow have plopped themselves into the hunt for October. Alex Rodriguez, though only hitting .208 since the All-Star break has, in many ways, revived his career. And with the Yankees tied 3-3 in the Bronx on Sunday, he proved why he is a fixture within the Yanks' lineup hitting the go-ahead homer to break open an eventual 6-4 win.

Didi Gregorius continues to make strides, too. He started the season hitting just .238, but has now raised that average to a respectable .271. His play at shortstop also has improved. After committing nine errors in the first half of the season, he has reduced that number to just two after the All-Star Game.

Furthermore, with stars such as CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira on the shelf, at different parts of the season, young players such as first baseman Greg Bird, and the young pitching staff of the Yankees, have helped weather its storm. The Bombers' "next man up" attitude has proved to be crucial.

This season, in particular, is an anomaly. The Yankees have relied heavily on its farm system in order to win. Leading up to the trade deadline, New York had the chance to land players such as shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and pitcher David Price -- both of whom ended up on Toronto -- or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

However, they stuck to the plan at hand, which seemed almost as unpredictable as this season's success. As ESPN's Grantland contributor Michael Baumann explains, the Yankees aren't the Yankees of old.

Even though the Yankees haven't exactly been dynastic since last century, they've still been culturally dominant and divisive in recent years. In fact, they've been so culturally dominant that even if they'd been an unambiguous moral good, they'd have inspired a backlash out of fatigue.

Which makes it quite strange to head into September with the Yankees very much in the playoff hunt, and impartial fans and observers left with no idea how to feel about them. Because for the first time I can remember, the Yankees feel normal.

Normal is uncharted territory for a team that made its name off acquiring top-flight talent. That's why most who follow the team this year, hold their breath at the mention of the word "playoffs."

Though it's normal rhetoric in Bronx this time a year, it proves foreign under these circumstances.

The Yankees might not be able to catch Toronto -- even though they are just .5 games ahead. The Jays are 26-8 since acquiring Tulowitzki and Price. And young starting pitcher Marcus Stroman could rejoin the squad as soon as next weekend after suffering an ACL tear just five months ago. He could add some depth to it staff down the stretch, maybe even to the bullpen

However, the Yankees have made a killing off being the underdog this season.

They have three players in Brian McCann, A-Rod and Texeiria who have, or will, eclipse the 30-home run mark. They are second in the AL in slugging percentage, fourth in on-base percentage and third in team WAR.

The deciding series regarding who takes the AL East crown will probably come down to this weekend's four-game stint against Toronto.

If you were to say or think that about the Yankees in April of this year, people would've thought you were crazy.

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