Two wildcards in baseball this season for each league…Which teams are dangerous ?
BASEBALL’S “MOST DANGEROUS” LIST
My list of the most dangerous teams in baseball, the teams that should be of most concern to teams with playoff positions pretty much sewn up, might surprise you. For all the worrying the Pirates and Cardinals have done about each other in the National League Central they’d probably rather see each other in the playoffs, one as the division winner, one as a wild card winner, than, say the Washington Nationals. The Nationals, if they were to get to the playoffs, from 7-1/2 games off the wild card pace with three and a half weeks to go, would be the hottest team in baseball, a team no division winner would want to face if they won the wild card game, particularly with their pitching staff. That the Nats have any hope at all, no matter how slim, is notable, based on where they came from to finally get over .500. The Arizona Diamondbacks are a similar team, also two games over .500, also 7-1/2 games back in the wild card race, but they aren’t as hot as the Nats coming into September. If they did come back to win a wild card, however, they’d be sizzling. In the American League the Rangers, A’s and Rays are currently in a tie for the two wild card spots, but the Rangers or A’s will emerge as the winner in the West, so it’s two teams flatfooted for two wild cards at the moment. The Yankees, Orioles, Indians and Royals are all within 4-1/2 games, all with more than enough time to close the gap. Of that group the Royals and Yankees are the most dangerous at the moment because they’ve had to come the farthest just to get into contention. The Rays could become problematic for anyone in they come on to win the American League East. They’d not only avoid the wild card game, they’d have to be the hottest team in baseball if they did, having caught the Red Sox, currently the hottest team, to get there. If the Rays, however, settle for a wild card, they’d have pretty much reached the finish line on a run of status quo standards. In a one game playoff any team can be dangerous, as the old saying goes, “Your only as hot as your next starting pitcher.” Once a team gets past the wild card game everything changes as entire pitching staffs once again become part of the equation. In the American League the Royals, the contenders furthest away from a wild card berth at the moment, and the Yankees, the closest contenders, are the most dangerous, the Royals because, if they get there they’d have come the farthest in the shortest period of time, the Yankees, because a month ago they were given up for dead and they’ve already begun a toot that’s seen them pass all the other contenders to put themselves on a straight line to the Rays. If the Yankees do catch up it will be the result of two things, getting healthy in the nick of time, though still playing without five players who were originally expected to be on their 25 man roster, including three starting position players, and the wake up call delivered by Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster when he intentionally hit Alex Rodriquez last month at Fenway Park and brought the Yankees to life. If you’re trying to size up the post season as the final weeks of the regular season play out, keep an eye on four teams that have a chance to get there riding more momentum than the rest of the entries, the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Royals and Yankees. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.