23 September 2012

Sports Sunday #2: A Truly Wild 'Wild Card'

Ask any baseball fan about the last day of last season. No matter which team they root for they'll use words like, "EPIC" or "FANTASTIC" or "BEST DAY OF BASEBALL EVER!!!11!one!elventy!" Those descriptions are not hyperbole (Side Note: you don't not want to know how long I pronounced that, hi-per-bowl, but I digress). Four teams, FOUR TEAMS entered the night still fighting for two playoff spots.

Entering the final day of the season the Red Sox needed to beat the Orioles. The Red Sox - after what could only be described as a pathetic month of September - also needed some help from their historical rivals the Yankees, who were playing the Rays.

The Atlanta Braves - who formerly held an 8.5 game lead for the NL wildcard spot, needed to beat the Phillies. The St. Louis Cardinals needed to beat the Astros and hope for a loss from the Braves.

Here's how it all went down:

Major League Baseball loved it. They loved how hyped the fans were. They loved the momentum the league gained headed into the post season and most of all, they loved the advertising dollars that rolled in while people were tuning in to the games. They sought a way to reproduce those results every year. The result? Creating a second wildcard spot in each league and a one game playoff to determine which of those Wildcard teams gets the honor of facing down the team with the best record in the Divisional Round (aka the First Round) of the Playoffs.

So now it's September again, nearly a year removed from The Best Day of Baseball Ever and we are headed towards the same sort of craziness. Here's where all the "wild" will factor in:

American League East
1. New York Yankees 88-63
1. Baltimore Orioles 87-64 (1 game back)

American League Central
1. Chicago White Sox 81-70
2. Detroit Tigers 80 - 70 (.5 games back)

American League Wild Card
1. Baltimore Orioles 87-64 (tie)
1. Oakland Athletics 85-66 (tie)
3. Los Angeles Angels 83 - 69 (2.5 games back)

National League Wild Card
1. Atlanta Braves 87-65
2. St. Louis Cardinals 81-71
3. Milwalkee Brewers 78-73 (2.5 games back)
4. Los Angeles Dodgers 78-74 (2 games back)
5. Philadelphia Phillies 77-75 (4 games back)

Right now, not even counting the teams who've clinched - or nearly clinched - their playoff spots (Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and the San Fransisco Giants) there are ELEVEN other teams that have a reasonable expectation to make the playoffs. ELEVEN. You guys, there are only THIRTY total teams in the Major Leagues. The season only has two weeks left to go and more than one entire third of the league might make the playoffs. Eleven teams fighting for the last seven spots.

If you're not a baseball fan, but you've always been curious about what draws people to the sport, now is the time to start paying attention. Pick a team - maybe one of the teams that wasn't supposed to be here like the Oakland A's or the Baltimore Orioles - or a team with a storied history and easy to follow like my fav, the New York Yankees or the Washington Nationals who haven't had a team make the playoffs since before World War II or the Atlanta Braves as their third baseman, Chipper Jones, looks to finish up his Hall of Fame career with one last World Series or  even last year's defending World Series Champion, St. Louis Cardinals who are scraping and clawing to get back to the Promise Land. Pick a team and start cheering, it's going to be a WILD ride.

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