For those fans of pure playoff chaos, the masochists who derive extreme pleasure out of the idea of a seven-way tie for one playoff spot, you, like the rest of the contenders this time of year, have a magic number: 81. Once the contenders for the second wild-card spot in the American League start exceeding 81 wins, the dreams of anarchy go with it. The idea of the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles ending up in one giant morass of mediocrity is delicious, if altogether unrealistic.
“There’s nothing I can really say to them that would make a difference right now,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said inside Wrigley Field’s underground interview room on Sept. 10, answering a broad postgame question about team meetings at the end of a lost weekend where the Milwaukee Brewers outscored the defending World Series champs 20-3. “They just need to see consistency from me,” Maddon said after the division lead had shrunk to two games over the Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals. Maddon chuckled at that one-liner – and he should have the last laugh on this Cubs season. Within one week – basically the time it took for the entire Bears season/Mike Glennon experiment to crater – the Cubs went from being on the ropes to landing a knockout punch against the Cardinals and doubling their lead over the Brewers in the National League Central.
The remote chance the Orioles had to steal a wild card berth went down in flames last week with loss after embarrassing loss that spotlighted the glaring weaknesses the 2017 Orioles have faced all year – shockingly bad pitching and a hibernating offense too reliant on the home run. Major league teams can hide those flaws for only so long before proving that a playoff run is just a dream. Time to wake up, Orioles. Maybe it wouldn’t have a made a difference, but Buck Showalter’s stubborn dependence on starting rally-killers Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo instead of jump-starting the offense with an infusion of the young talent just added to the team was especially frustrating. Who knows what would