The Yankees are the first in with the Cardinals probably next in line. And the Phillies, Dodgers, Rockies, Angels and Red Sox will lock up their spots sometime in the next few days. The only drama for the next couple of weeks is “Will the Tigers hang on or will the Twins pull off one heck of a comeback?”.
Congrats to the Yankees (96-56), several of whom I had the pleasure to broadcast in the Minor Leagues. It is true that the playoffs just don’t seem right without having those pinstripes playing in October. And the credit has to go to Brian Cashman, Joe Girardi and the rest of the front office that put this team together. They figured out that while spending a lot of cash helps, you still have to have the right mix of players to make the whole thing work.
And even despite the A-Rod steroid drama in March, the fans stood behind this team from Day One and helped them into the playoffs.
And it looks the Yankees and Dodgers will have the best record in each league. Only the Dodgers is still in question, currently holding a 2 1/2 game lead over both the Phillies and Cardinals with a week and a half left. Only a Mets-like collapse could keep L.A. from the top spot in the playoffs.
The Cardinals (89-63) will the next team in, and the first to clinch their Division Title, with a magic Number of “2” going into tonight. Despite a strong season, they have been susceptible to left-handed pitching, which will be a tough hill to climb if they face the Phillies.
The Phillies (88-62) present an interesting problem. What was their strength last season, their bullpen, is a definite achilles heel this year. With injuries to J.C. Romero, Scott Eyre, Chan Ho Park and Brett Myers and the well-documented struggles of Brad Lidge (and those of next-in-line closer Ryan Madson in the closer’s role), the Phillies bullpen is shaky to say the least. Their strong starting pitching will be a key.
Unless Atlanta (81-70) wins their last 11 games, the Rockies (86-65) will be the Wild Card team. They are a team with a lot of offense and a pretty good pitching staff. They don’t have a dominant star in that staff, but could produce five 10-game winners (Jason Hammel has 9 wins right now).
In the American League, the Angels (90-61) best move was picking up lefty Scott Kazmir from Tampa in what ended up being a bit of a fire sale. All he has done since heading West is post a 1.42 ERA in four starts and keep L.A. South in games. Not bad for a guy who was the key to the Rays World Series run last year, only to be moved after a sub-par 2/3 of a season.
The Red Sox (89-61) are solidly set to face the Angels in the first round. The Sox have a great left-right 1-2 in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Beckett has responded after a tough August with a solid September… and we all know what he can do in the post-season. Meanwhile, Lester has just been solid since struggling in April and May. He is 10-2 since June 1st with a 2.16 ERA, allowing more than three runs in a start only once in his last 20 outings.
And we will leave the AL Central till we have further information.
More to come in the next few days.