By: Paul Fritschner ~Guest Writer~
The marathon that is the Major League Baseball season is drawing to a close. In the last few weeks of the season, teams will either make or break their year. Eliminated teams will look to improve for next year. What many fans will be watching for, though, is how postseason contenders position themselves for a playoff run.
This season has provided fans with many surprises and many have deemed this to be the year of the rookie. Young stars such as Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa have helped their teams rise in the standings.
Bryant’s Chicago Cubs have considerably exceeded expectations. Their roster, along with the addition of manager Joe Maddon, positioned them to be a contender soon but not necessarily this soon. However, the Cubs, who are considered “cursed” and have not won a World Series since 1908, are rather secure in the standings. They have a seven-game lead for a wild card spot and, barring an astronomical collapse, will find themselves in the do-or-die game in October.
Elsewhere in the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates all seem poised to lock up postseason spots fairly soon.
One of the largest disappointments of the current MLB season has been the performance of the Washington Nationals. The Mets have taken the NL East by storm and have essentially dethroned the Nationals from their position as defending division champions. The Nationals were once again the trendy pick to win the World Series.
However, after not having their full lineup for nearly two-thirds of the season due to a plethora of injuries and coupled with under-performance upon the return of those players, the Nationals find themselves nine and a half games out in the NL East.
On the American League side, the playoff picture is much more intense and much less clear. The Houston Astros have dropped their “Lastros” moniker and sit atop the AL West division. Aided by the stellar play of shortstop Correa, the franchise has turned itself around and risen once again to national prominence. The Texas Rangers are close behind though, trailing by only a half game after a recent surge.
The Toronto Blue Jays, powered by their machine of an offense, sit atop the AL East. The Kansas City Royals, last year’s postseason darlings, have also set themselves up well for another playoff run, despite winning only two of their last ten games. Mike Trout’s Los Angeles Angels are currently on the outside looking in.
The Minnesota Twins sit one game out of a wild card spot. If the playoffs started today, the AL would be represented by Toronto, Kansas City, Houston, the New York Yankees and the Rangers.