The MLB postseason is right around the corner, effectively making the September stretch run an extremely exciting time in sports.
Let’s just call the MLB schedule makers geniuses. Well, perhaps it is not fair to go that far.
Call them people with common sense, looking out for the league in a fashion which will spike ratings massively.
As the season comes steamrolling towards a state of closure, intensifying schedules will be the name of the game. Perfectly planned in a well-thought, strategical manner, divisional opponents will go head to head at a constant rate.
With that comes an incline in attendance, revenue, and overall buzz. Solid call, Mr. Manfred.
Of course, there is also a consequential nature to the scheduling. In certain divisions containing extra relevance, teams get left out. The non-stop beating up on one another does not come to a halt until the season does.
Is this a good thing? Sure. It separates the men from the boys and the contenders from the pretenders.
With that said, it does, in fact, tell the common fan one thing: there is an extremely high chance that the current playoff picture will not hold from now until the end of the regular season.
Specific divisions have their way of portraying that claim.
The American League East is probably the most significant example in all of baseball. What has become a four-team race can just as easily turn into a two-team bout in the matter of half a month.
The Yankees – currently 6.5 games out – square off with the Blue Jays seven more times, the Orioles five more times, and the Red Sox seven more times. As for Toronto, they have six more pivotal meetings with Boston along with the aforementioned clashes with New York. The highlight of Boston’s September slate is seven meetings with the Birds.
The Orioles, who clearly, as mentioned, have their fair share of duels, will be hard pressed to find any moments to exhale.
To think that a four-team race will persist is naïve. Even fathoming a scenario in which both wild cards come out of the division is far-fetched. There is simply too much shaking up that still needs to go down.
A few weeks ago, you would have said that the AL Central belonged the Cleveland Indians. While the Tribe’s lead remains firm, it is not nearly a sure thing. Additionally, tremendous wild card implications linger throughout the division.
The Tigers, who trail Cleveland by 4.5 games, have three games left at Progressive Field and four against the Indians at Comerica Park. That could make for quite the interesting race.
Furthermore, their five meetings with the Royals will determine who makes a final push for a wild card spot. With all of the shuffling going in the AL East, those games will come at a premium.
The St. Louis Cardinals are one of those teams making a strong case for the second NL Wild Card. However, their schedule is not indicative of greener pastures.
While a competitor like the Mets has snooze fests against the Phillies and Braves, the Cards will have to square off with the division-leading Cubs — who already have 87 wins — six times.
Moreover, the six games left with the Pirates not only present an obstacle for St. Louis but a path for Pittsburgh.
A lot still has to work itself out to finalize a mostly fortified NL playoff landscape.
This chase, in particular, is a do or die situation for both teams. The Giants and Dodgers are both vying for the top spot in the National League West, ferociously trying to avoid a one game play-in.
Fittingly enough, the best team will have the chance to prevail. September 19-21 will showcase both teams at Dodger Stadium, likely creating realistic expectations for the season’s final week.
Oh, but it gets better. The final three days of the season — September 30, October 1, and October 2 — will feature a much-anticipated clash. Los Angeles and San Francisco will go prime time from AT&T Park.
Two clubs separated by 2.5 games will not go out without a fighting chance. They will have the opportunity to grind it out, get in each other’s respective ears, and go tooth and nail to the finish line.
Evidently, the playoff picture can be shifted in various directions. The spontaneous nature of the final month was created by the schedule makers, who deserve all of the credit that comes with a brilliant race.
Brace yourselves. Two weeks from now, few factors will remain the same.