For all the talk about teams tanking in today’s Major League Baseball landscape, somebody forgot to tell the National League. Or the plucky Oakland A’s.
The Pittsburgh Pirates don’t seem to care that the Brewers spent all off-season beefing up their team and now have an MVP candidate in Christian Yelich, or that the Cubs seem to just assume they will end up winning the division in spite of themselves. The Pirates are still 5.5 games back in wild card and 8.5 back from the Central, the suddenly streaking Cardinals and Matt Carpenter are a game better than them. Too late to make a push? Decidedly not.
What I love about the Pirates season is that this team appeared to give up last off-season when they traded Gerritt Cole to the Astros and Andrew McCutchen to the Giants. Now they are back at it.
On the other end of these teams is the National League East, where the pitching rich Phillies continue to lead the Braves by 1 game and the Nationals by 5.5. Why does the Nationals 5.5 deficit feel so much farther though than the Pirates deficit? Still – the Nationals have a lot of nascent talent that could push through at anytime. They also could be the most dangerous team in any wild card game – with likely and 2 time defending Cy Young winner Max Scherzer the likely chosen starter.
National League West? Dubbed “the goat rodeo” earlier this season on a Baseball Tonight podcast, it continues to live up to it’s name. After a dramatic 14 inning win last night – it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks in first place this morning by a .5 game over the Dodgers, 2 games over Colorado and 6 games over the Giants. We still have roughly 50 games left to decide these spots, but this year could easily be the best wild card races we have seen yet, and perhaps best final weekend since 2010. That season there was still only one wild card and the Braves, Giants and (believe it or not) Padres entered the final weekend knowing that only 2 of the 3 could make it in.
While here at DDDT we’ve been watching the A’s run for awhile, now they are getting major notice if not by their own fans. They have hopped over the Mariners for the 2nd Wild Card spot and only 3 games back from the Yankees for the first one. All season long it was assumed that the Yankees or Red Sox would take a WC spot by default – now the Red Sox have secured the AL East and the Yankees are in the thick of a real pennant race just to make the playoffs.
Seriously – 2/5 of the A’s rotation is Edwin Jackson and Trevor Cahill. Yes – that Edwin Jackson, on his 13th team. It’s incredible. When the A’s were last relevant we saw them losing the one game playoff against the Royals in 2014 as they went for broke and fell. This year they took a decidedly less aggressive approach at the deadline – and with some additional starting pitching why would this team NOT threaten the Astros for the division title in 2019?
Yes – 162 games is a long season. Yet it allows for teams to grow, change, and surprise us like these teams are doing here in 2018. Less than two months to go – and by my count only 4 teams in the National League are OUT of it, while in the American League all of a sudden the AL West is fighting to be the best division in the whole lot. Here we go.