We are closing in on September. Many consider it the best sports month of the year. Football starts and baseball pennant races come to a close before playoff action.
Teams that are over .500 but are trailing in the divisional race love the advent of the wild card game. Adding an additional playoff team has created more interest and opportunity. The American League is creating the most interest this year as there are many teams still in contention.
With just a quarter of the regular season remaining, here’s where things stand in the 2016 MLB playoff race.
Let me start with the American League.
The AL East is still up for grabs. Toronto, Boston, and Baltimore are stil fighting it out for the division title and the right to avoid the one-game playoff. This division is so good that it may end up producing both wild card teams. Right now, Toronto is on top with Baltimore and Boston holding the top wild cart spots. These three teams rely heavily on their offense so whomever pitches best will advance.
Cleveland will likely hang on in the AL Central. What a sports year in Cleveland. The Indians’ lead is over five games and they have the best pitching in the AL. Barring a big-time collapse, Cleveland will be a player in October baseball.
Texas has a similar lead in the AL West. Houston cut the Rangers’ lead to two games, but the Rangers received a huge boost at the trade deadline with the additions of Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran. Now that have got a 5.5 game lead over the Mariners while enjoying a better roster.
The AL Wildcard race will likely go down to the last day or two of the regular season. I spoke of how Boston and Baltimore lead the wildcard group. Chasing them down are the likes of Seattle, Detroit, Kansas City, and Houston. Even the New York Yankees, despite selling off its older players recently, find themselves still in the mix. Defending champions Kansas City is making a move after suffering a host of injuries over the summer.
I think Toronto, Cleveland, and Texas will hold on within their divisions. I see Baltimore fading due to its pitching problems. Seattle could surprise or Houston could live up to expectations. Detroit and Kansas City will likely come up short due to their injury issues. And the Yankees have a lack of talent issue at this time.
The National League is virtually set unless San Francisco continues its second half collapse.
I will start in the East again. The Washington Nationals lead is almost up to 10 games over second place Miami. Since the Nats always make a quick exit from playoff action, it is hard to take them too seriously.
The Chicago Cubs own the NL Central. The only question is if they can translate regular-season success into postseason bliss so they can give their long-suffering fan base the title it’s been craving for over a century now. Meanwhile, the Cardinals and Pirates are basically playing for the wild card at this point. I like the Pirates and I read that they have the easiest schedule in September. But this talented team has under-performed all season. The Cardinals, as always, are over-performing and will likely find themselves in the wild card game.
It took a while but the Los Angeles Dodgers caught and passed San Francisco earlier this month. The Giants took off early and enjoyed a large lead prior to the All-Star break. But they are falling fast and the trend of San Francisco winning the World Series every even year will likely come to a close (they won titles in 2012 and 2014). If the Giants do not right the ship, they may not even make the playoffs.
There are only a few possible outcomes with the wild card slots. Right now, it is San Francisco and St. Louis. Miami has to overcome the lost of Giancarlo Stanton to injury. Pittsburgh has to overcome itself.
There will be many meaningful and exciting games in September and October. All leading to the Cubs breaking the jinx.
Tebow and Baseball
By now I think you probably have heard that Tim Tebow wants to give major league baseball a try. Tebow fans may give him a shot. I think it is a long shot at best and I do not think it will end well for Tebow.
The former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner will hold a workout for MLB teams on August 30. Word has it that at least 20 franchises will attend the workout.
I looked up his stats the last time Tebow played baseball at any level. As a high school junior in Florida, Tebow hit .494 with four homers before leaving a year early to play football for the Florida Gators. That was a decade ago, and sports reports back than did not even consider him a top baseball prospect in the state of Florida.
Why do I think this will not end well? Even if a team signs him, he will not see a minor league field until next year when he will turn 30 years old. He has not played baseball in a long time which means what skills he did possess are likely gone.
Let’s compare Tebow to Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback played college baseball and was drafted by the Colorado Rockies. He had his baseball skills and still just hit .229 while striking out over one-third of the time while playing Class-A ball. A year later, he was winning a Super Bowl. Wilson made a smart decision to give baseball up.
Tebow does not have that choice because football gave up on him. I see baseball giving up on him too. Hitting a baseball coming at you at over 95 MPH is one of the hardest things to do in sports.