The game’s top player, Mike Trout, tries to push his Angels to the playoffs
There are now less than two weeks remaining in the 2017 Major League Baseball regular season. In fact, two weeks from today the American League Wildcard Game will take place, kicking off the October madness of postseason baseball.
While the two teams who will face one another in that game, or in the following day’s NL Wildcard Game, are yet to be determined, one thing can likely be said with confidence. Your favorite team is likely not taking part in the MLB postseason.
For most of this season, that was not the case. Until the last couple of weeks, there were anywhere from 8-10 teams involved in the American League Wildcard race.
Over in the National League, while the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have controlled the two slots for months, four or five other clubs were legitimately alive into August.
But now, three of the six divisional races are settled. The Houston Astros clinched the AL West on Sunday. They joined the Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals, repeat winners in the AL Central and NL East respectively.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched at least an NL Wildcard, and will soon clinch the NL West Division crown. Two of the four Wildcard spots are all but wrapped up as well.
Both the Dbacks in the NL and the New York Yankees in the AL hold six-game leads in the loss column as they each draw close to wrapping up at least a Wildcard spot.
The Yanks hold that lead over the Angels. They also trail the Boston Red Sox by just three in the loss column for the AL East crown. The Bosox thus hold a nine-game edge on the Halos in that Wildcard loss column. Boston now having a ‘Magic Number’ of just 4 to clinch a spot in the postseason.
We began the season with 10 total spots available in Major League Baseball for October playoff berths. But it appears now that there are just two spots left to be contended. Those would be the final Wildcard berths in each league.
Entering Tuesday games, the Rockies lead the Milwaukee Brewers by two games in the race for the final NL Wildcard spot. In the AL, the Minnesota Twins lead the Angels by just a single game in the loss column.
In the AL, the Indians and Astros are in already. The Red Sox and Yankees are nearly there. In the NL, the Nationals and Dodgers are in, with the Diamondbacks and Cubs nearly there.
There remain a handful of teams who appear tantalizingly close, but who are just running out of time. In the NL, the Saint Louis Cardinals have fallen four out in the loss column for the final Wildcard spot and six behind Chicago for the division title, with Milwaukee in between them.
Over in the AL, what once looked like a mad scrum among a half-dozen teams has finally spread out. The Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, and Texas Rangers are all four out in the loss column in the Wildcard race with the Angels standing between any of them and the Twins in the final spot.
For me, they are all out. They join the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, and even the Atlanta Braves as clubs who spent a good portion of the summer with realistic playoff hopes.
The Brew Crew chasing the Rockies. The Angels battling the Twins. Two Wildcard races. That’s really it. Counting those two races, the spots already clinched, and those nearly in, just a dozen teams remain realistically alive in the 2017 season.
For 18 teams, it is time, or nearly time, to begin plotting the off-season. Time to start putting plans into place that will hopefully lead to their being a part of the October picture a year from now.
For most of the summer, the odds are that with more than 20 teams alive, your team had realistic postseason dreams. Now, with just 12 left in the race, the odds are that your team is no longer one of them.