Friday, September 16, 2011

Don't Look Now

My advice to the Boston faithful: close your eyes and hope for the best. With their faces buried in their hands with silent prayers floating through their minds, the Red Sox Nation is in full panic mode. And they should be.

While the Rays are furiously banging on the Red Sox door, the Angels are politely knocking. At just 4 games back, the Angels have inserted themselves as a second layer of Wild Card competition for the Sox. The difference, of course, is the scheduling. The Rays still have three vitally important games against the team they're chasing. The Angels, probably more focused on the Rangers, have none against the Red Sox.

Over in the National League, The Beer-Makers are in a similar spot. After building what seemed to be an insurmountable lead in the Central, the Brewers are suddenly faced with an entirely surmountable lead. Up 5.5 games on the Cardinals, Milwaukee probably has little to worry about, but a streak of two or three losses could make this interesting.

Beyond that, the Braves, who once seemed destined for the Wild Card, now carry just a 4 game lead over the Cardinals and a 6 game lead over the Giants. Yes, those Giants. With no head-to-head match-ups between these teams, the standings may not change much by the end of the year, but each game becomes more and more important down the stretch.

Just a month and a half ago we all had the play-off match-ups pegged. Yankees or Red Sox host the Tigers and Yankees or Red Sox on the road to Texas. Now things aren't so clear. In case you haven't noticed, the Tigers have the second best record in the A.L. all the sudden. They have moved from a sure-fire road series in the first round to potentially hosting the Red Sox or Rays. Even more surprising is the dwindling gap between the Tigers' record and the Yankees' record. They are now only 3 back in the win column for the American League's best record. Unfortunately, they are 5 back in the loss column and you can't control losses that have already happened.

What about the National League? Well, no one is catching the Phillies. But if I told you on August 1st that in mid-September the Diamondbacks would be tied for the second best record in the N.L., would you have believed me? The Phillies were all set to host Arizona in the first round, but now may be faced with hosting a Brewers club that can be as streaky as the best (or worst) of them.

A month ago, I wrote about what a second Wild Card in each league would look like this season. While in support of the idea, I wrote at the time that it would water-down the play-offs this season. That's no longer the case. How amazingly fun would a three game play-off series be between the Red Sox and Rays? How about the Braves and the Cardinals? These would be compelling match-ups worthy of postseason baseball.

In a 162 game season it's amazing to see such swings in the standings. You'd think things would normalize and start to be clear by September. Instead, thing get even more uncertain. And I love it.




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