At Bat: The balance of power has shifted in Major League Baseball in favor of the National League, and we should have seen this coming when the NL finally ended their losing streak in the All-Star Game three years ago.
Since 2010, the NL has won the last three All-Star Games and the last two World Series. This year doesn’t seem to be any different, as American League contenders do not seem as balanced as their counterparts in the NL.
The American League is not only without a division winner, but also does not have a single team with a playoff spot with a week remaining in the season. There is only one more playoff spot available in the NL—more than likely the second Wild Card spot.
Last Thursday, the Washington Nationals became the first MLB team to clinch a berth and are just days away from be crowned NL East champs. That was followed with two divisions being claimed Saturday as both the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds were crowned champions of their respective divisions. Tuesday evening Atlanta edged out the Marlins to earn a spot as well.
This is Cincinnati and San Francisco’s second division title each in the last three years, and this is the first time since 1933 that a baseball team from Washington D.C. will be playing in October.
The counterargument can be made that the NL is still inferior, and because the competition is better in the AL, it will come down to the final days of the season.
On Deck: Last year the Atlanta Braves held the lone NL Wild Card spot over the St. Louis Cardinals until the final day of the regular season. A September collapse followed by a St. Louis surge saw a team seemingly out of the playoffs reach and go on to win the World Series.
Like last year, the Braves have the leg up on the Cardinals, possessing a 5½-game lead and an early invitation to extra baseball. Because of the additional Wild Card implemented this year, the Cardinals will not eliminate Atlanta from postseason play—yet.
With a week of baseball remaining and St. Louis possessing a 3-½ game cushion on the rest of the competition it appears the NL Wild Card is almost set in stone.
But even though the Cardinals cannot eliminate Atlanta on the last day of the season as they did last year, St. Louis can once again send the Braves home and end Chipper Jones’ career on a sour note before divisional play even gets underway.
How ironic that the whole reason the additional Wild Card was added was because of what happened last year, and that it could very well happen again between the same two teams for that same trip to the divisional series!
In the Hole: All the races in the AL are great aside from one—the one happening in our own backyard. Watching the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers “battle” for the AL crown is like watching overweight, non-athletic men play basketball on a court in the city and just hoping it will end soon.
Neither team has guaranteed that they will have a winning record, though they are likely to with a week of baseball yet to be played.
What is unfair in my mind is that the two Wild Card teams – who will have a better overall record than either of these two at the end of the season – will have to play a one-gamer to decide who goes on into the division series while Detroit or Chicago will be able to sit back and relax just a little bit before starting postseason play.
I get that these are the rules and we all have to accept that this is the way the playoffs are done and have been played for as long as I can remember. But I’m really starting to dislike teams having a worse record than others in the same league, yet not getting a invitation to the playoffs due to the fact they won the division.
Let’s give it some time and see what this additional Wild Card does for the game of baseball before we knock it as another stupid idea from Bud Selig. If this fails, I do not want to go back to the old format. Instead, I would prefer that we implement a whole new playoff system and a complete change to the baseball schedule as we know it.
Eliminate divisions and have every team in the same league play each other an equal number of games while trying to cut the number of regular season games down a bit. The top four teams from each league are then sent on to the postseason – which will always start on Oct. 1 – having first place battle fourth place and second obviously squaring off with third place.
Follow on Twitter: @midwayMars