Monday, August 25, 2014

The wacky AL playoff picture

It sure looks like the American League will go right down to the wire before the playoff teams are finally sorted out. Consider the three divisions.

In the west, the Oakland A's and LA Angels are tied for the division lead. Certainly one of them will win it, and the other appears to be almost, but not quite, a lock for a wild card spot.

In the east, the high-flying Orioles keep belting home runs and maintain a semi-comfortable lead over the Yankees and Blue Jays.

The central division has tightened up. The Detroit Tigers were supposed to win it handily, but it's not working out that way. In fact, they've been passed, again, by the recently hot KC Royals for the division lead, though it remains nip and tuck. Unless the Cleveland Indians get super-hot, either Detroit or KC will come out on top.

But what's really getting interesting is the wild card race. Only two from the combined three divisions will qualify. Then they'll have the pressure-packed honor of a one-game knockout between them. Somebody will move on. The other will go home for the season.

Sure, with 30-some games remaining, a lot can happen and sometimes does. Yet as they approach the final month of the regular season, a serious dogfight is shaping up.

For the sake of argument, let's assume the Angels win the west. The A's would likely be a wild card team. Let's give Baltimore the east crown. Let's further assume KC hangs on in the central (they're currently a slim game and a half ahead of Detroit). That would mean the only avenue for the Tigers to make the playoffs would be as the second wild-card. (They currently trail both Oakland and LA by 6 games.)

But quitely, the Seattle Mariners have slipped into the wild card picture as well. They're actually a game ahead of the Tigers. And don't look now, but the Bronx Bombers have fought through a rash of injuries and are only a couple games back themselves.

So if the above scenario happens, whereby LA, Baltimore, and KC wind up division champs, the race for the second wild card spot could wind up going down to the last game. Between Detroit, Seattle, and the Yanks, all basically neck and neck, it becomes a game of musical chairs with three players still alive but only one seat left.

When the music stops in another month or so, two of them are going to be SOL which, as we all know, means "sent off lamenting". Right. Ahem.

Yep, this could literally be a fight to the finish during September. High drama indeed. Just one problem. Baseball's ratings are about to take another nosedive. Why? Because the gorilla, sometimes known as the NFL, is about to move into the room again when their own regular season starts in a couple weeks. Even exciting division races and wild card chases in baseball will get shoved to the back burner media-wise. Right or wrong, that's just the way it is, and has been for quite some time in America. There can only be one king, the NFL rules, and it's not even a close call.

But in baseball circles, September should be interesting to see how it all plays out. Maybe we can catch it on ESPN2.

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