Wednesday, September 24, 2008

MLB Pennant watch update I

Priceless Yankees?


The MLB regular season wraps up a week from Thursday, meaning the much anticipated "One October" postseason is just around the corner. With several playoff positions yet to be decided, the final week should include some memorable moments and fantastic finishes, and perhaps no matchup epitomizes this more than the ongoing duel between the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.

As of Wednesday, the White Sox hold a 1.5 game lead over the Twins with six games remaining; however, many critics believe the Twins, despite trailing in the standings, are in the driver's seat to win the division, since the visiting White Sox come to Target Field, only 1-6 on the year. It only takes a two game reversal to lift the Twins into the playoffs, so I'm putting my bets that Minnesota will squeeze into the postseason and live to face either the Tampa Bay Rays or the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS.

As October fever fans into flame, you'll notice a familiar team absent from the list of contenders. Yes, I'm talking about those "love 'em or hate 'em" New York Yankees, the pinstriped failure of 2008. Despite a current record of 86-71, the Yankees will miss the postseason for the first time since the lockout-shortened season of 1994. The Yankees can thank the no-longer-surprising Tampa Bay Rays and the steadfast Boston Red Sox for their early exit - one that diehard fans clearly did not see coming regarding the "old" Yankee Stadium legacy.

The Rays have utilized their young talent better than any team in baseball, while the Red Sox have once again found a solid, winning combination among their upcoming players, established veterans and newly acquired acquisitions - two facets of the game the Yankees fell way short in this season.

In the National League, the wild card race is still hot, as the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros vie for the final spot. The likely candidate for the wild card position appears to be whichever team finishes runner-up in the AL East; however, odds are that team will be the shaky New York Mets, and we all know how the Mets fared last year in September. If history repeats itself, it could be the Brewers sneaking into the playoffs for the first time since 1982. But if I were a Brewer fan, I would still be walking on eggshells for two reasons: first, the Brewers are 3-7 in their last 10 games and haven't showed signs of rekindling early-season magic under their new GM, Dale Sveum; and secondly, the Brewers end the season with a three-game home stand against the NL's best team, the Chicago Cubs. If the Brewers don't take at least two out of three games from the Cubs, their playoff hopes are virtually null, especially since the Mets will close their regular season out against the recently eliminated Florida Marlins, who have nothing left to play for.

Stay tuned next week for my full MLB postseason predictions.

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