It’s the weekend after the 2017 MLB All-Star Game break. Teams are finally back in action after a four-day layoff for the start of the traditional “second half” of play.
A look at the Major League Baseball standings through games of Friday night, July 14 reveals that 17 teams are either in a playoff position, or are within a handful of games of a postseason berth.
In fact, there are currently at least a half-dozen teams with losing records who must be considered to still have a legitimate shot.
In the National League, at least for now, the list includes just one team. That would be the defending world champion Chicago Cubs.
The Cubbies have struggled along with a serious case of World Series hangover this year. After building and blowing an 8-0 lead on the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night, they managed to pull out a narrow 9-8 victory.
That win left the North Siders with a record of 44-45 on the season. The Cubs sit 5.5 games in back of the surprising Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central Division race. However, they are just four back in the loss column.
In the NL Wildcard race, the Cubs are a more distant 6.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies, who currently control the second wildcard berth. However, the Rockies are in a bit of a free-fall, having lost 14 of their last 19 games.
The Cubs just obtained lefty starting pitcher Jose Quintana from the cross-town Chicago White Sox of the American League. They are also rumored to be aggressively shopping for another starting pitcher to bolster their rotation. Perhaps someone like Oakland A’s right-hander Sonny Gray.
The Cubs are still within hailing distance of both the division and wildcard spots. With their talent and assets, it would be a major surprise if they don’t soon go on a winning run.
Over in the American League, the Orioles are one of a handful of teams within four games of the AL Wildcard race.
The O’s and their AL East rivals the Toronto Blue Jays are each 42-47 and sit those four games back. The wildcard spots are currently controlled by two more teams from that AL East division. The Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees.
The other three American League teams in the race with losing records are all from the AL West Division. The Seattle Mariners (44-47) and Los Angeles Angels (45-48) are each just three games behind the Yankees for that second wildcard berth. The Texas Rangers (44-45) sit just two games out.
Also involved in the AL Wildcard race are a pair of teams from the AL Central Division. The Minnesota Twins remain a game over .500 and just one game back. The Kansas City Royals are at the .500 mark with a 44-44 record, and are just 1.5 games out.
All of this makes the approaching MLB trade deadline even more interesting. A number of teams are going to have difficult decisions to make regarding their ability to contend this season. Add the right piece or two, and you could play into October.
When you have a losing record in the middle of July, it’s not a good sign. But only perhaps four teams have separated themselves in the overall MLB standings at this point. Now is the time for 2017 pretenders to transform themselves into legitimate contenders.