(Long Island, NY) By both New York baseball teams having the luxury of basically sitting back and watching, the Wild Card races in Major League Baseball have gone on quite well without either team. At this point, the teams and their fans are scoreboard watching, but not to see if their competition will fall to give them a post-season berth. It will be to see who their first victims will be.
Thinking with the glass half-full, the Mets and Yankees are both the best in their respective leagues. If all goes right, they should face off in a rematch of their 2000 ‘Subway Series.’ The road to the Fall Classic will not be easy, but with so many clubs battling for the right to make the playoffs, the fight may take some of the wind out of their sails.
In the National League, nothing is set besides the Mets. The St. Louis Cardinals have been the leaders in the Central, but they have had injury problems and their status is still in question. The Cincinnati Reds have been hanging around all season, and the Houston Astros have the big three in their starting rotation (Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Petite) but not much offense to supplement them.
The wild, wild West is just that. A handful of games separate the division leading Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Diego Padres, and the resurgent San Francisco Giants. The East is the most surprising division. Left for dead for most of the season have been the Philadelphia Phillies and the Florida Marlins. Both teams are playing well and are in position to make the Wild Card.
Over in the junior circuit, the Detroit Tigers had a double-digit lead in the Central, but that has been pared down. The defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins are both close enough to overtake the Tigers. One of these teams will be left watching the dance from the outside.
The Oakland Athletics are separating themselves and appear to be in good shape to win the AL West. The Los Angeles Angels still have a chance, and a very small one at that. The Wild Card team will come out of the Central, a big change from previous seasons when it was the consolation prize for finishing second in the AL East. The Boston Red Sox have not recovered from losing three series in a row in August. Losing five of six to weak sisters Kansas City and Tampa Bay was bad enough. But the BoSox sealed their fate when the Bronx Bombers came into Beantown and swept a five game series.
Baseball rules dictate that if the Wild Card team is in the same division as the team with the best record, they cannot face each other in the first round. That will only pertain to the Mets, and it is a guess currently if that will be the situation. If either Florida or Philadelphia qualify, the Mets would then have to face the weakest division winner.
October baseball is always special. But this can be one of those post-seasons where fate has a hand in deciding. It will not be the same if the Mets or Yankees are upset before having the chance to give New Yorkers their moneys worth.