By Ron Johnson
Take a look at the above photo. In a matter of weeks, this photo will be filled with the teams that have punched their ticket to the MLB Postseason. Twelve teams will be vying for a shot to show up and show out at The Fall Classic. And while there are a lot of disappointments of this regular season (looking at you St. Louis), there are some teams that are determined to punch their ticket to October.
So if the playoffs started today, they would look like this:
(1) Baltimore and (2) Texas would get a bye into the ALDS, while (3) Minnesota would be in the AL Wild Card.
(6) Seattle vs. (3) Minnesota
(5) Houston vs. (4) Tampa Bay
At press time, these six teams would be battling to represent the American League in the Fall Classic. However, Toronto, Boston and even the LA Angels are jockeying to overtake the Mariners for the final Wild Card spot. Currently the Mariners are sitting at 69-55 and hold the final spot. Toronto is a half-game back at 69-56, followed by Boston at 66-58 and the Angels at 61-64.
Due to be losers of eight straight, the Yankees have fallen from potential postseason contenders to odd men out at 60-64. The Guardians have also stumbled as they have lost back-to-back games and are sitting at 59-66. A huge series is on the horizon for each team as the Blue Jays head to Baltimore to face the Orioles for a set, and the Red Sox travel to Texas to open a series with Houston. Seattle goes to the Windy City to lock up with the White Sox, the Rays host a series with the Rockies, the Rangers go to the desert to battle the Diamondbacks, and the Twins go to Brew City to face the red-hot Brewers.
While Baltimore has been on the rise, the Rangers have been in a proverbial freefall. Losers of four straight, they now have Houston nipping at their heels as they are two and a half games back on Texas for the West lead, but the red-hot Mariners (who have won six straight) are only three games back and looking more motivated to take the West rather than the Wild Card. Minnesota has the Central in its pocket, with Cleveland suffering back-to-back losses and being six games back of the AL Central leader.
As for the AL East, it does not get any crazier than the rat race going on here. Baltimore is riding a three-game winning streak and three-game lead in the AL East over Tampa Bay. Besides the Yankees, all the teams in the AL East are on the winning side of things as they prepare for the most excruciating leg of the regular season: September. The Yankees just have not been the Savages in the Box they used to be, and it shows.
Losers of eight straight games and not being able to win on the road have caused the Yankees to silently panic. Hell, the team itself is 1-9 in their last 10 games. This is not something that will get the job done if you are vying for the postseason.
(1) Atlanta and (2) LA Dodgers would get a bye into the NLDS, while (3) Milwaukee will have to contend with an opponent in the NL Wild Card.
(6) Chicago Cubs vs. (3) Milwaukee
(5) San Francisco vs. (4) Philadelphia
The National League Wild Card is just as clustered as the AL, but worse. Tell me if this is crazy or not. Arizona, Cincinnati and Miami are all one game behind the Cubs for the final wild card spot, and with the exception of those Diamondbacks, the Reds and Marlins have lost two straight. Looking at the playoff picture, each division has at least two representatives currently, but again, this could change by this time next week. All three teams behind the Cubs have the same record going into today (64-61), and all three have huge series coming up (ARZ vs. TEX, CIN vs. LAA and MIA vs. SD).
Philadelphia may be riding shotgun in the NL East with Atlanta, but they are in the driver’s seat for the Wild Card as their lead is two games over the Cubs and a half-game over the Giants. Atlanta is out to prove that their dream season from a few years ago was not a fluke. The Braves lost their last campaign and are set for another divisional showdown with the Mets and the Phillies lock up with Wild Card rival San Francisco. Milwaukee has outlasted the onslaught from the Cubs and Reds and is now riding high winning three straight games.
They now turn their attention to the Twins, while the Cubs head north to face the Tigers, and Cincinnati goes West to face the Angels. In the NL West, the Dodgers are close to returning to the playoffs (only to choke that away again) and have a comfortable 11.5 game lead on the Giants. They now turn their attention to Ohio and their series with the Guardians, while the Giants head east to face the Phillies, and the Diamondbacks entertain the Rangers at home.
So all that being said, and to put it as clear as I possibly can, that blank photo would look like this with a few tweaks added to it
MLB Postseason Picture
Either way, this should make things interesting and help wake people up when September ends; But it also should light it up for October. And just when you think you know who will win it all, don’t forget that one rule of the MLB Postseason:
Keep in mind that there are some key series to watch this week with postseason implications, and they will get hotter down the stretch.
Giants vs. Phillies
Both teams hold the top two spots in the NL Wild Card with only four and a half games separating the top six teams (Phillies, Giants, Cubs, Reds, Marlins and D-backs). This series could be make or break for one if not both teams. And with several other teams fighting for their these spots (Cubs and Reds playing musical chairs for the third), anything can happen as August ends and September begins.
Blue Jays vs. Orioles
Orioles have the AL East crown currently, while the Jays are vying for a Wild Card spot at worst. With Baltimore holding on to a three-game lead in the division over Tampa Bay and a five-game lead over the Rangers for best record in the AL, the Orioles look to party all the way into October.
Twins vs. Brewers
At stake in this series is a chance at history. Both cities have been good at different times, but neither have been good enough to win their Central divisions at the same time. Currently Milwaukee holds a three-game lead over the Cubs in the NL Central, while the Twins have a six-game stranglehold over the Guardians for the AL Central. Both winning their respective divisions this year would turn a five-hour drive into the longest multi-city parade in the history of mankind.
Dodgers vs. Red Sox
Everyone remembers Mookie Betts in Beantown. Everyone loves Betts in Hollywood. With Dodgers fans screaming out, “THIS IS OUR YEAR!” as if they exchanged that blue LA logo for a blue Dallas star, Betts have the Dodgers eyeing another trip to the Fall Classic. But Boston is riding high and looking to keep the momentum going against the red-hot Dodgers in a quick two-game set. Two red-hot teams looking to improve their standings in the postseason race…what more could you ask for?
Yankees vs. Rays
The Rays have a chance to pad their standing in the top of the AL Wild Card. Having an impressive 14-game lead over the Yankees helps. They have also taken six of the 10 meetings between the two clubs, including two of three at Yankee Stadium. As for the Yankees, this may not sound professional, but it is accurate: They stink! Keep in mind that they are sinking fast and losing faster as they come into this series losers of eight straight. They need something to feel better about themselves and considering that the season can change in an instant, New York would do good by remembering the Al Davis manta: Just Win Baby.