Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who Is "Playing Meaningful Games In September"?

When last I talked (or typed) about the Yankees' current doings, as opposed to mentioning what they could do, or mentioning them in connection to this all-30-teams'-all-time-regional-team project...

They were in Toronto, losing 2 out of 3 to the Pesky Blue Jays: Losing 3-2, winning 11-5, and (here's where I start to have not yet reported) losing 6-3.

Then they went to Chicago to play the White Sox, winning 2 out of 3: Losing 9-4, winning 12-9, and winning 2-1.

Now, they've come home, and they closed out August by beating the Oakland Athletics, 9-3 last night. Phil Hughes, by his own admission not sharp, nonetheless got his 16th win. Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira homered. Swishalicious, the Grandy Man can, and a Teix message, as John Sterling would say.

With Tampa Bay losing, the Yanks are now 1 game in first place going into September.

Here's baseball's current standings:

AL East: The Yankees lead the Tampa Bay Rays by 1 game, the Magic Number to clinch the Division is 30. The Boston Red Sox are 8 back, the Toronto Blue Jays 13, the Baltimore Orioles 33. The O's no longer have the worst record in baseball (Pittsburgh does), but the O's did become the first team to be completely eliminated from postseason possibilities this season. But, between the Yanks and Rays, it's far from over.

AL Central: The Minnesota Twins lead the Chicago White Sox by 4 games, the Detroit Tigers by 11, the Kansas City Royals by 20 and the Cleveland Indians by 23. It's a 2-team race now, and the ChiSox think getting Manny Ramirez is going to help? I don't think so.

AL West: The Texas Rangers lead the Oakland Athletics by 8 1/2 games, the Anaheim Angels (it's just simpler to call them that) by 10 1/2, and the Seattle Mariners by 22. The Strangers have this one wrapped up, their first Division title in 11 years. They've still never won a postseason series.

AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay leads Boston by 7 and the White Sox by 9. It is now quite clear that, whoever wins the East, the Yanks or Rays, the one who doesn't will get the Wild Card. The Red Sox aren't making the Playoffs. The Scum's Tragic Number to be eliminated from postseason contention is 24.

NL East: The Atlanta Braves lead the Philadelphia Phillies by 3 games, the Florida Marlins by 10 1/2, the hopeless Mets by 12 and the Washington Nationals by 20 1/2. (Last night, while the Yankees were getting 44,000 to see them host the .500 A's, the first-place Braves hosted the Mets, whose fans do travel well and hate the Braves, and got just 18,000. Shame on the Braves' fans for not showing up to watch a first-place team. I'll bet at least half of those in attendance, 9,000, were rooting for the Mets.) The Phils can still beat the Braves, and they are getting key guys off the Disabled List.

NL Central: The Cincinnati Reds lead the St. Louis Cardinals by 7 games, the Milwaukee Brewers by 15, the Houston Astros by 16, the Chicago Cubs by 21 1/2 and the Pittsburgh Pirates by 33. (The Pirates have been eliminated from the Division race, and one more loss or one more Phils win, and they're mathematically out of the Wild Card race.) This race is over, and the Reds will win their first Division title in 15 years (an eternity by their former standards), and this is the first time they'll play an official 163rd game since 1999, when they tied the Mets for the NL Wild Card, and then lost a Playoff game at Riverfront Stadium. They haven't played a 164th game since 1995, when they swept the Dodgers in the first-ever NLDS, then got swept by the Braves in the NLCS. Their last Pennant, and World Championship, was 1990. Cue the Beatles: "It was 20 years ago today... " Almost.

NL West: The San Diego Padres lead the San Francisco Giants by 5 games, the Colorado Rockies by 7, the Los Angeles Dodgers by 9 and the Arizona Diamondbacks by 23. Both the Jints and the Rox still have a shot, but I think the Friars are going to take it, for their 3rd Division title in the last 6 years -- as many as they won in their previous 26 years of existence.

NL Wild Card: Philly currently leads San Fran by a game and a half, St. Louis by 4, Colorado by 4 1/2, L.A. by 6 1/2, Florida by 7 1/2, and the Mets by 9. The Mets' Tragic Number is 22. Doesn't look good for the 'Ropolitans, but overall, this race is hardly done.

If the current standings hold, the AL Playoffs would be the Yankees with home-field advantage over Texas (it will be the Rangers' 4th-ever postseason series, and the first 3 were all been losses to the Yankees), and Minnesota with HFA over Tampa; the NL Playoffs would be Atlanta with HFA over San Diego, and Cincinnati with HFA over Philadelphia.

Not that long ago, Mets owner Fred Wilpon said he wanted his team to be "playing meaningful games in September." They went on to do so in 2006, '07 and '08. They even went on to play games in October in '06.

A lot of teams will be playing meaningful games this September. The Mets will not be one of them.

The Yanks, as usual, will.

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