I was pretty shocked the other day when I heard the words, "The Rays have pretty much wrapped up the East," uttered by someone on ESPN.
No, not because they were simply talking about the Tampa Bay Rays and a division crown; it's time to stop using the team as a punch line.
I was shocked because there is still a month left to go in this baseball season. As it stands before Friday's play, they are four-and-a-half games ahead of Boston.
That isn't nearly a large enough margin for me to pronounce them as the American League East champions.
I think it is pretty much safe to assume that the Yankees are out of the division race at least, which in turn would end Cleveland's miracle comeback, as they both stand 10.5 out from their respective division leaders.
That would also lock in the Los Angeles Angels into their West division lead, and put four teams in the running for two divisions: Boston and Tampa Bay in the East and Chicago and Minnesota in the Central.
Another comment that struck me earlier today was that the Arizona Diamondbacks had pretty much locked up the National League West, with the Dodgers struggling like they are.
The same Diamondbacks team that rocketed out to a big lead only to fall all the way down to the middle of the pack?
They're up three-and-a-half games with over a month to play. I mean, I'm not even ready to count out the Colorado Rockies in that division, and they're at six-games back. It would also keep the Florida Marlins alive in the NL East.
Now, sure, you can look at the numbers and say that. I understand the Dodgers performance doesn't give you much confidence in them actually making up that gap.
But anything can happen, and we've seen that before. Arizona is far from having their division wrapped up.
The Colorado Rockies sat at 69-65 when the calendar changed over to September last year. Both the New York Mets the Padres were 14-games above .500 at 74-60.
To compare, that would be like the Toronto Blue Jays this year making a run for a playoff spot. Can anyone honestly see Toronto making it though?
None of these teams in the hunt for the divisions or the wild cards are that far out, especially with a month to go.
I hate to break it to the Rays fans, or as Scott Kazmir has lamented, lack there of, but you shouldn't be thinking of purchasing playoff tickets just yet.
You never know when a team is going to get hot and make a run. Not necessarily Rockies 2007 hot, but hot enough to overcome a five-game deficit.
So, to summarize who exactly still has a shot, who doesn't, and which teams can start printing postseason tickets:
As pointed out, the AL East and AL Central are both open to Boston, Tampa, Chicago, and Minnesota. Los Angeles has the West pretty much well in hand. The two remaining teams in the East and the Central are joined by the New York Yankees for the wild-card chase.
The NL East is still very much a race, with Philadelphia and New York battling it out. Florida is, by all means, not out of the chase. Milwaukee has an outside shot at the Central division, with six games left against the Cubs; however, they have a good handle on the wild card. St. Louis and the loser of the NL East are very much alive there as well.
In the NL West, the Rockies and Dodgers are both alive in my opinion, but the upcoming series between Los Angeles and Arizona is very crucial.
Anyway you look at it though, you couldn't ask for some better races. Just about every division is up for grabs, and both wild cards have division rivals in the heat of the race.
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