Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday But Not A Grab Bag

Later today my wife and I will hit the road for Charm City, in order to take in the sights and sounds and savory goodies on offer at a ballgame between the 2014 AL East Champion Orioles of Baltimore and the deservedly basement-dwelling Red Stockings of Boston. The excursion is our official celebratory event for my 40th birthday, and a half dozen or so of our friends will be joining us, which promises to be a very good time. I'm stoked, and that stokedness is part of the reason why I'm posting about baseball even after I said I wouldn't until October. At least I made it three and a half weeks before cracking.

The other reason for going back on my word is because, despite my assertions and predictions to the contrary, plenty has happened since that last post which I feel is worth a modicum of commentary. So here it comes!

First, let's not skip too hastily over the O's clinching the pennant this past week. My wife and I were able to stay up and watch the decisive game until the final out, and that was fun. Even the possibility of jinxing the playoffs by exulting in the moment was not enough to prevent my wife from doing her own mini-exult, and more power to her. At one point the week prior, when the O's were seriously whupping the Yankees three games out of four, I turned to my wife and said very seriously, "The Birds had better win the World Series." So it's nice that, so far, they are doing what they need to do to make that happen, one step at a time.

And to give her all due credit, my wife has been extremely gracious in victory. Since, as above, I've already started making noise about bandwagoning for Baltimore all the way through the Fall Classic, she in turn has been a positive exemplar of optimism for the Yankees, reminding me that the season's not over yet and NY has not technically been mathematically eliminated from the wild card. This is how marriage works, I reckon; sometimes it's fun to be competitive with one another, but it's equally rewarding and probably more important to be able to support and be happy for one another.

Anyway, to the wild card analysis: when last I was paying close attention, the Angels and A's were neck and neck to be tops of the AL West, and surely whichever one fell just short would be the home field team in the one-game wild card play-in. Seattle was sitting in the other wild card spot, with the Tigers breathing down their necks, and the Yankees a few games back (with the Indians breathing down their necks). Since then, the Angels have absolutely run away with their division, leaving the A's to scramble for their consolation prize. Oakland actually has the second-best wild card record, behind Kansas City, since the Royals managed to relinquish their Central lead to the Tigers. That puts Seattle on the outside looking in, albeit just barely, with the Indians a few games behind them, Cleveland having leapfrogged over the Yankees along the way. The Yankees are in worse position now than they were in late August, but anything is possible.

(In fact, I am composing this post on Friday, autoscheduling it to go up on Saturday morning, and by the time you read this each team could have played one or posisbly even two games, any one of which could alter some or all of what I've just written to varying extents. Gotta love the relentless 162-game season.)

Unfortunately, the Yankees don't really control their own destiny from here on out. They play the Blue Jays this weekend, and they need to win most if not every game from here on out, but those wins don't translate automatically into losses of teams ahead of them and corollary gap-closings. Nor would wins over the Orioles the series after that, or the Red Sox after that. I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time the 2014 schedule was drawn up to have the final 26 games, all of September (except one stand against the Royals) match the Yankees against other AL East teams, but as it turns out the fate of the Bombers is much more intimately connected with the respective records of various teams from states that I-95 doesn't even pass through.

The good news is the Royals and Tigers are about to play each other and either they'll both ding each other or one team will sweep the other; it's impossible for the Yankees, Tigers and Royals to all win simultaneously and leave the standings unchanged. Unfortunately that still leaves the roadblocks of Cleveland and Seattle and Oakland in the Yankees' path, and those teams are next matched up against Minnesota, Houston and Philly, respectively. None of those opponent teams are in wild card contention, because none of them are very good this year, so again, the chances of what the Yankees desperately need right now - a collapse by those ahead of them combined with a winning streak of their own - are remote at best on both sides of the coin.

And now that I've gotten all of that out of my system, I will do my best to simply kick back in my seat the stadium this evening and enjoy my beer(s) and hot dog(s) and not watch the scoreboard in the outfield tracking other games. At least not too obsessively. Unless things get really crazy.

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