JAY DAVIS: Second MLB wild card brings intended results
The Major League Baseball regular season comes to an end tonight and there are still playoff spots up for grabs after the first 161 games.
It looks like the addition of a second wild card is having the intended results. Today is game 162. The playoffs start Friday and the only set-in-stone matchup that has been decided is that the St. Louis Cardinals will play the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta in the NL wild card game.
Nothing else is decided, well almost. It is decided that the Detroit Tigers in the AL and the San Francisco Giants in the NL are the division champs with the third best record and will play the division champs with the second best record. There are all sorts of scenarios left in the Junior Circuit. The New York Yankees lead the Baltimore Orioles by one game in the AL East. The Yankees control their own destiny. If they win tonight they are the division champs and the Orioles are the wild card team.
Of course if things go the other way, say the Yankees lose and Orioles win, there will be a tie and the teams will play a one-game playoff to decide who is the champ and who will play in the wild card game on Friday.
Out west it is all tied up with one game to go, and the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s are playing head to head this afternoon out in Oakland. One team is going to be the division champ and the other will be facing off against whoever ends up second out east.
There is also the tie-breaker to decide who will hold home field advantage throughout the playoffs. New York, Texas and Oakland all have 93 wins. That will all be taken care of if the Yankees lose to Boston today, but if they win, the Yanks and whoever wins the Rangers-A’s game today will be tied.
We’ll let MLB tell us who will get the nod as the team with home field advantage. I think they start with head-to-head results, but we’ll see. The NL did not decide its five teams until the St. Louis Cardinals clinched the second wild card slot last night.
The only thing left in the Senior Circuit is deciding who has the best record in baseball and who owns home field advantage. The Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals (that’s right, I said it) are tied with the best record in baseball, matching each other at 97-64. The Reds play the Cardinals tonight while the Nationals play the Phillies. The opposing teams have nothing to play for so I would guess the tie-breakers are going to come into effect to decide this one. The Phillies and Cards are both sending top pitchers to the mound tonight. They are planning on making their respective rivals earn their keep.
There is one more exciting thing that is going to be decided tonight and it will be decided at the plate in Kansas City. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera is on pace to become baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yaztremski did it for the Red Sox in 1967. Miggy leads the AL with a .331 average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. Josh Hamilton of Texas is one behind in home runs, but would have to pass Cabrera to take the title.
Sharing the title is the same as winning it outright. Cabrera’s RBI total is quite safe as Hamilton is next with 128. As for the batting average total, if Cabrera sits tonight (which he may do), Mike Trout of the Angels is second and would have to go 6-6 tonight to catch up. The Twins’ Joe Mauer is third and would need a 9-9 performance to get to .331.
The Triple Crown is one cool batting accomplishment. It doesn’t happen very often. Before Yaz, it had been happening occasionally in the AL, such as Frank Robinson in ’66 and Mickey Mantle in ’56, but not in the NL. No one as won the NL Triple Crown since Joe “Ducky” Medwick way back in 1937.
With the Twins and Cubs being cellar dwellers this season, some of the exciment of an old-fashioned pennant race has probably been missed by some local fans. It might have to do with the sudden and unexpected resurgance of the Minnesota Vikings.
I would guess that we could take the first 100 Viking fans and put them in a room. We could ask who thought the Vikings would have reached their 2011 win total in four games and would be in first place. Had any of the 100 answered that they thought the Vikes would be 3-1, we could have joined together in chanting, “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”