Everett: Baseball set for intense finish
Joe Everett | Wednesday, August 22, 2018
As my colleague Toby Hoonhout eloquently stated in yesterday’s Sports Authority, “it’s good to be back.”
Yesterday, my colleague proceeded to recap what has been a wild and entertaining summer of sports, highlighted of course by the World Cup and also by big names such as LeBron James and Tiger Woods, but in the backdrop the entire summer has been a sport that is quietly setting up for some intense excitement in the near future. That’s right, you guessed it: baseball.
It’s been quite a summer of 30 teams fighting for 10 playoff spots. Many fell off that wagon early, but many more stayed in the hunt. In terms of quality teams and quality storylines, this baseball season has them. Example A: The Boston Red Sox are 50 games above .500 with an incredible record of 88-38 and a winning percentage of .698, while the rival New York Yankees are right behind them in the American League East and currently hold the second-best winning percentage in all of baseball at .629 with a 78-46 record. Regardless of what you think about either club, no one would argue that the Red Sox vs. Yankees matchups haven’t been exciting, or that a potential playoff clash wouldn’t generate a huge amount of excitement. The renewed quality and significance of this rivalry is nothing but good for baseball.
And it’s not just the AL East that has drama and intrigue. As August draws to a close, there are still 14 teams with a great chance of making the playoffs, with division and wild card races as far as the eye can see. While the AL Central is comfortably controlled by the Cleveland Indians, the AL West features three teams that could all feasibly sit atop the division by the time the dust from the pennant race settles. While the defending champion Houston Astros have taken over and maintained their status in first place for the majority of the season, the red-hot Oakland Athletics have pulled dead even at 75-50 thanks to a great combination of their bullpen, defense and slugging. Not to be overlooked are the Seattle Mariners, who now only sit 3.5 games back of both the division and the wild card, and there is plenty of time to make up three and a half games.
The National League features tight division races all around with an abundance of teams contending for the two leftover wild-card spots. Atlanta and Philadelphia — two teams that finished 25 and 31 games behind the division leader last season, respectively — are neck-and-neck atop the NL East. The Central features the Chicago Cubs holding on to a dwindling lead over the Milwaukee Brewers and my red-hot St. Louis Cardinals, both of which are fewer than four games back. Out west, the Arizona Diamondbacks hold a half-game lead over the Colorado Rockies, while the big-market Los Angeles Dodgers are fewer than three games out. Currently, the Rockies, Phillies and Cardinals are all tied for the second wild-card spot and are a half game behind the Brewers. This last month of baseball, especially in the National League, is going to be crazy.
Therefore, teams are still making moves and looking to improve and simply get into the postseason. On Tuesday, the Washington Nationals finally gave in and opened up shop, dealing infielder and three-time All-Star Daniel Murphy to the Cubs as well as moving outfielder/first baseman Matt Adams back to the Cardinals — the team that drafted him in 2009. Maybe these moves will pan out or maybe they won’t, but both rivals are ramping up for what should be a fun stretch (hopefully with the Cardinals coming out on top).
So while you’re waiting for the NFL and College Football to come back, realize that baseball is just entering its best time of the year, and it should provide us with plenty of drama and excitement over the next two months.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.