Just as football gets ready for another season, baseball kicks into high gear.
With less than two months in the regular season, no division is secure as the largest lead is four games in the National League and American League East. Multiple teams shook the baseball world last week with the trade deadline, especially with the Rays sending David Price to Detroit and the Red Sox shipping Jon Lester to Oakland, all leaving the Yankees out of the running for two of the league’s best pitchers.
If you haven’t checked into the season since Opening Day, you haven’t missed much.
August is when the season begins to really matter as the divisional races heat up along with the chase for two wild card berths in each league. Injuries are inevitable. Just ask the Yankees as they lost their golden goose (ace Masahiro Tanaka) during the summer, but who could return to the team this month. The Giants, once upon a time ago, had the best record in baseball through the second week of June, but they have fallen although they command a lead in the wild card.
The only teams with the biggest divisional leads come in the East with Baltimore and Washington. Toronto and New York are one game within each other for second in the East, while Atlanta and Miami are 2.5 games with each other for second.
Once you start moving your way across the country, the races are much tighter.
Detroit has a 3.5-game lead over Kansas City in the American League Central while Cleveland is 6.5 behind. Oakland and Los Angeles have the best records in baseball with the A’s holding a two-game lead over the Angels in the West. Seattle might as well pack up this season as they trail by 10 games, although its 59-54 record would be competitive in the other two divisions.
The best race is in the National League Central as Milwaukee, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are fighting for first. The Brewers lead the Cardinals by only one game heading into Thursday’s action while the Pirates are only 1.5 back. The Reds sit four back of the Brewers.
The National League West is a two-team race.
Los Angeles took advantage of San Francisco’s summer slump to steal first and held a 2.5-game lead going into Thursday afternoon. The Dodgers also have the best record in the National League but are still four back of the A’s for the best in baseball.
If the season ended today, the Angels and Blue Jays would snag the two wild cards from the American League, while the Giants and Cardinals hold the top two spots in the National League.
But the question will be how long does this last?
Baseball’s longevity (spans an entire pregnancy) makes the season unpredictable but exciting. Trade acquisitions either pay off and make the general manager the smartest person on the planet or can lead to a cleanup after the team misses the playoffs. Injuries can increase, especially this late in the season, and a sudden blow to the rotation could cripple a club. What would happen to the Dodgers if Clayton Kershaw went on the disabled list?
The last two months are the most exciting in baseball with the playoffs just around the corner. The final day of the regular season is in sight after four months of battling through a weary schedule.
This is why baseball is America’s favorite pastime.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.