A week from today the 2010 Major League Baseball season comes to an end. Some post-season participants are already decided, and congratulations to the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers. The Twins, you may recall, were one of the teams marked for extinction not too long ago. Now they have a great new ballpark, attendance over 3 million, a much larger payroll and a team that will be very dangerous in October. The Rangers parlayed some astute moves by GM Jon Daniels (Vladimir Guerrero, Cliff Lee) and a resolute new ownership group led by Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to emerge from the wilderness. They haven’t been to the post-season since 1999, so the fans in the Lone Star State will have something else besides football to watch this year.
The race in the American League East remains compelling. In their final series of the year, the Tampa Bay Rays earned a split of their four-game series with the New York Yankees, who no longer appear invincible. Their traditional nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, who fell behind early this year and never got untracked have hurt them already by taking the first two games of their series; a sweep by the Sawx would be devastating to the Bronx Bombers who would almost certainly be assured of a trip to the frozen tundra (well maybe it’s a little early for that) of Target Field.
In the National League, no one can say they’re really surprised that the Philadelphia Phillies are on the cusp of their fourth straight Eastern Division gonfalon. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. rebuilt his starting rotation with Roy Halladay in the winter, then added Houston Astros stalwart Roy Oswalt in July and now that 2008 post-season MVP Cole Hamels looks better than ever, Phillies Phans are anticipating a long, deep run into the October nights. The Cincinnati Reds also have a smallish Magic Number before they claim their first post-season berth since 1995. The Queen City is a great baseball town and they will support their team to the hilt.
The drama in the NL is in the West, where the Giants, Padres, and Rockies are still battling it out; and in the ad-hoc “Wild Card Division” where the Atlanta Braves are also involved. The Rockies are likely to be the odd men out, and that could happen early this coming week, while final season series next weekend in San Francisco and Atlanta will determine who wins the West and who gets the Wild Card. There will no doubt be much discussion as to whether, assuming the Phillies have clinched, manager Charlie Manuel pitches his “big three” as they have been set up to do so when it looked as though that series would be decisive. Certainly, if the Phillies are still playing for post-season home field advantage Charlie will do that, but otherwise, I can imagine Commissioner Bud Selig calling Phillies President David Montgomery and reminding him of the need for utmost effort at all times…but if those are virtual exhibition games for the Phillies, Mr. Selig has little authority in the matter other than exhortation.
One thing you can count on…the only thing better than September baseball is October baseball.