Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Monday, August 25, 2003
There's a lot of talk around here (Chicago, that is) about the great races we have at the end of the year involving both of the city's teams. The Cubs are in a three-way race with the Cardinals and Astros for the NL Central title, and winning the division is probably the only way any of the three will make the playoffs. The White Sox are in a three-way race with the Royals and Twins for the AL Central title, and it's certainly the only route for any of those teams to taste the postseason. But these are a races to mediocrity, limps to the finish, contests to see who is least unqualified to play into October. So, while the last thirty odd games that these teams play may be compelling to their fans, there's something missing for everyone else. If you want to see excellence vs. excellence, you have to look elsewhere.
Specifically, you have to look at the triad of Oakland, Seattle and Boston. Earlier today, Boston completed an impressive four game sweep of the Mariners, never scoring fewer than six runs, and holding the Mariners to just one run in each of the last two games. If the A's can win tonight's tilt against the Blue Jays, all three of these teams will have matching records. Big deal, you say, you have a nearly identical situation in the NL Central: two teams with the same records (Cardinals, Astros), and one team that's a half game back (Cubs). What makes this AL West/Wildcard race any better?
The better teams do. In the NL Central you have two teams at a respectable, but pedestrian 68-62, with the other team a half game back. Assuming the Cubs were to win the game less that they've played, that's three teams with a .523 winning percentage, which if we round up, puts them on pace for an 85-77 campaign. Decent? Yes. Compelling? Well, lets look at the alternative. If we assume that the A's win tonight, locking them in a dead heat with Boston and Seattle, that puts them all at 76-55, or a .580 winning percentage. These teams are on pace to have a 94-68 season. That's three very good teams vying for two playoff spots. If I were a dispassionate viewer, I know which one I'd rather see.
Of course, if one of your favorite teams is involved in one of the Central divisions' wars of attrition, by all means keep your eyes glued to your boys. Especially for us Cubs fans, it's not very often we get a chance to see our fellas playing as the leaves turn orange and gold. So keep watching those games, get to the ballpark if you can, and root until you're hoarse. Just consider keeping a bit of your energy in reserve, and paying some attention to another great race. You don't have to care who wins. Sometimes it's enough to just watch them play.