By: Andrew Oak
These might be the new glory days for MLB!
Enough with the Yankees and Red Sox already. The Royals and Pirates are the true playoff potential teams. The best part is that each team has the opportunity to win their divisions outright as well. The Royals pitching staff has been one of the best in the league and the Pirates have overcome a lot of injuries to their star players and are only two games out of an NL Wild Card spot.
In the AL Wild Card Race, the competition is stiff. The Orioles have the AL East. No discussion there. The Yankees's chances are slim, but they are 4.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot. The Royals and Tigers are going for AL Central title, while their are three teams vying to make the playoffs in the AL West (Angels, Athletics and Mariners). The AL Wild Card Race at the moment looks like this.
If the season ended today. September 6th. The Athletics and Mariners have both Wild Card Spots. Detroit is a half game out while the Yankees, Indians Blue Jays are all 4.5 to 5 games back of the second Wild Card spot.
Think about this scenario. The Tigers miss the playoffs after acquiring David Price at the trade deadline. Their top 3 aces, Verlander, Scherzer and Price are all the past 3 Cy Young winners and they are all on the same team. Talk about a fantasy dream team. If they miss the playoffs with the reigning AL MVP to go along with multiple Cy Young winners, that would be an epic catastrophe. There is no question Brad Ausmus is on the hot seat. I don't know how much better you can improve that pitching staff at the moment. Their number four starter, Rick Porcello, currently is tied for the AL league leader in wins with 15.
The Royals have always looked up to everyone else in the division and now they are putting so much pressure on Detroit to make the playoffs. After acquiring David Price at the trade dealing, Detroit seemed like the overwhelming favorites. Now, they are scratching for a Wild Card Spot.
The AL Central runner up is not guaranteed a playoff spot because there are much better teams in the AL West. The Angels, Athletics and Mariners are all in the running and each team can make legitimate playoff runs. The Angles have the most complete team, (even with the loss of Garrett Richards), while the A's have lost their offensive punch since trading Cespedes. The Mariners are the TRUE wild card team here. Their team goes, as King Felix goes. Personally, I thought the Jon Lester trade was a good one for the A's, nonetheless for the Sox as well (for right now), but things can turn around pretty quickly. The Oakland A's have fallen fast in the AL West Standings and are now only 2 games ahead of Settle for home field advantage in the one game Wild Card Playoff.
The Pirates have gotten to the position that their even with the plethora of injuries they have had this year. McCuthchen, their top starters Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole were injured for a majority of the year, yet they always keep up with the other big boys on the NL Central. Even with the Reds slumping, there are four teams in this division that can win games in September. Even if the Pirates don't make the playoffs, Clint Hurdle should be up for Manager of the Year AGAIN. They have found some emerging young superstars including Josh Harrison and Sterling Marte, have some savvy veterans in Russel Martin and Liriano just to go along with some top perennial prospects, including Gregory Polanco to go with Cole.
The Cardinals are definite favorites to with the NL Central, but Pittsburgh can be the team again to make another run if they get into the Wild Card Playoff.
Both teams, the Royals and Pirates both follow similar patterns as the try to establish a winning mentality in their respective markets. Most often the lowlights of each sporting city, they have actually turned it around, and has given each city a chance to witness some good baseball teams, something we are not used to saying. Stocking young, talented players in their farm systems has certainly given some credibility to each front office, they can spend money on big free agents, so they must work with what they are given.
Right now, they have given us a show. The real testament will be how can each team compete in September. The Royals haven't been in the promise land in quite some time. The pressure may get to them, but you'll have to watch some September baseball to find out.
Let the games begin!