August 18, 2005
It's best to start with the easiest part. The Kansas City Royals have eliminated themselves from playoff contention, mathematically or otherwise. They could bring Dick Vermeil over from Arrowhead Stadium and even he could not make these guys feel good about themselves-- heck, this would be a tough challenge for Tony Robbins. Happiest man in America these days? Tony Graffanino, who was saved from the wretched mess in KC by the Boston Red Sox, and he has played well for Boston, which means he has the fans on his side, at least for now. Must be heaven.
Also on the outside looking in: Texas, Detroit, Seattle, and Tampa Bay, with Baltimore hanging on in the AL, and Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in the NL, with Milwaukee and the Cubs on life-support.
So I guess this is parity, where even the Giants at 13 games under .500 can dream of the streak that puts them on San Diego's heels in the NL West. A week ago, the Oakland A's had caught and passed the Angels to gain first place in the AL West, only to lose 5 of the next 6 games. Of course, next up on their schedule are the reeling Royals, so the A's will have a chance to right the ship in quick fashion while the Angels draw the Boston Red Sox for 4 games.
Cleveland looked like a good pick in the wild-card race if only for their schedule, which had them playing 32 of their final 50 games against teams with records below .500, including 10 games against the Royals and 10 versus the Devil Rays. The Indians then proceeded to sweep KC and get swept by Tampa Bay, while Minnesota, left for dead by the fellas on Baseball Tonight not 4 days ago, pulled themselves off the mat and are now only four games back in the wild-card race, one game behind the Indians.
The Twins, who have lost Torii Hunter for the season, have done it with great pitching in taking 2 of 3 from Oakland over the weekend and sweeping the White Sox in Chicago over the past 3 days. With Chicago visiting the Metrodome for 3 contests next week, the Twins could put themselves in position where a month from now, when they have 7 more cracks at the White Sox, they might be shooting for something more than just the wild-card entry.
The Yankees are right there too, but I have to believe that their road will be tougher than it has been over the past few years since the AL East is tougher from top to bottom. The Yankees have a losing record within their own division, and Toronto is definitely still a playoff contender, the Orioles seem rejuvenated under Sam Perlozzo, and Tampa Bay has enough offense to be a danger. Oh, yeah, and there are those 6 remaining games versus the Red Sox.
In the National League, where only the St. Louis Cardinals have a winning record on the road, the Houston Astros flattened out enough to fall back into a tie with the Philadelphia Phillies, with everybody else from the NL East within 2.5 games for the wild-card spot. The advantage for the Astros is that all of those NL East teams have to play each other down the stretch. If the Astros can improve a bit on their .500 mark in games against the teams in their own division, they could end up on top of the pile.
As for the NL West, the Dodgers have just begun a stretch where they play 16 days in a row. Needless to say, they have to hope that the bullpen survives to the end of the month. The Dodgers have 9 games remaining against the Colorado Rockies, the Padres have 10. The season might come down to who takes more of the Rockies' lunch money before both teams reach the final 3 games of the season against each other in San Diego.
Posted by Andrew Torres at 7:20 AM