July 22, 2009
As I said in the previous post, we're set for a heckuva finish in the AL East, a two-spot (max) competition that could see all three contenders finish above 90 victories by season's end.
For baseball, that's a great thing. We predicted a tight race at the beginning of the season and the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays have fulfilled that expectation so far.
But what to make of the competition in the NL Central?* As we approach the 100-game mark, four teams are all bunched within two games of another while the Reds — who are probably selling — sit 5.5 off the pace set by St. Louis.
There's a division like this almost every year — quite often it's the six-team NLC — and on the surface, it would seem a good thing for baseball. After all, the three-division and wild card systems were adopted so that more teams would stay in contention for a longer period of time and fans would buy tickets and watch more games deeper into the season.
Hope still lives in four or five NL Central cities, so that has to be a good thing, right?
Well, yes, until you figure out that trade-hungry Cardinals fans are inching toward the ledge, "sick and tired" Cubs fans are opening their ovens, Brewers fans are deluding themselves with a Halladay mirage and the Astros ... well, the Astros are just happy to be here.
From what we've seen so far, we're more or less destined for a war of attrition between a handful of incomplete and inconsistent teams that will continue to cite the 83-win '06 Cards as a reason to maintain hope even though the pitching staff that's throwing day after day might well be Triple-A quality. (Pennant fever, catch it!)
Look, is it exciting for the fans of the aforementioned team?
Probably, or at least it will be once the calendar turns to September.
But for the rest of the baseball-loving public?
Well, I'll leave that for you to say ...
*Disclaimer: This post could have easily been written about the AL Central as well, though the NL Central was cited for the sheer number of mediocre teams still contending.