It's not often life's defining moments present themselves with some warning so you can prepare for them, and rarer still when they land on a weekend so it's more convenient to deal with them.
But that's what the Yankees and especially their fans have staring them in the face beginning tonight. With the Yankees up by three games in the American League East and three games left to play before the All-Star break, the Yankees have a chance to blow open what has been a tight nip-and-tuck race and end the first half of the season with some serious distance between themselves and the rest of the pack in a series at Fenway Park where they swept the Red Sox two months ago.
Since then, the last-place Sox have righted their ship somewhat and are currently the only team in the division with a winning record over their last 10 games. But they're still a last place team looking up at every other team in the division and every other team in the division has struggled over their last 10 -- and all of them are facing a division-leading team in their final series before the break except the Yankees.
With the team finally back this week to an almost full complement of healthy starting players, it's a harmonic convergence of golden opportunity if ever there was one, and for a Yankee fan of any self-description -- serious, casual, frustrated, hopeful, disillusioned, optimistic, skeptical or anything else in between -- sweet dreams are made of this.
The stakes on the outcome can't be overstated.
An absolute worst-case scenario would leave the Yankees plummeting in the wrong direction, hanging by their fingernails to only a share of first-place, heading into a long and foreboding break contemplating the malfunctioning pieces of a misconstructed roster causing such maddening inconsistency that they failed to hit the accelerator in a race that was theirs to lose with nearly every key injured starter restored to active duty and the entire division struggling.
An absolute best-case scenario would leave them six games up heading into a happy respite secure in the knowledge they're the odds-on favorite to take the division (as I envisioned back in spring training to the chortles of many) in a formidable position to lock up a post-season appearance for the first time in three years.
Of course, the last place Sox see this series as a chance to vault from worst to within two and a half games of first in the final pre-break weekend, so a classic New York-New England-style chowder -slinging food fight is likely.
Not surprisingly, all three games will be nationally televised so there's no excuses for missing any part of this defining moment unless you're working this weekend -- in which case, follow along on Twitter for updates if you can. You can bet your Bernie Williams bobblehead every player, manager, owner and fan of all the teams below them in the division standings will.
No excuses for the Yankees or their fans this weekend. If the Yankees are truly a bonafide first-place team, they won't blow this opportunity to at least come away from Fenway with a series win -- and any Yankee fan worthy of the name won't miss it if they can help it.
It's a must-win series for the team, a must-perform series for some of their players with jobs on the line, a must-see series for their fans and a defining moment for everyone who gives a damn about the Yankees.
If you're a Yankee fan, it doesn't get any better than this.
You can email Barry Millman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.