How deep does the faith run in baseball fans? True believers are the only ones who may still think that certain Major League teams have a chance to reach the 2014 playoffs.
It is only mid-August, but even though the strict rule of mathematics has not taken hold yet to eliminate selected teams, all of the warning signs are on the wall for many teams.
“Dead team walking” is the description for many clubs that will merely be playing out the schedule. Normally at this time of year it is popular to ooh and ah over how many teams are still in the running for a playoff berth.
This season the big picture feels different. No team looms as a super team, a sure-thing pennant winner or World Series victor. The way the standings are breaking it seems likely that there will be surprises of some sort when the playoffs commence and even maybe at the end of October when the Series is over. This could be an anything-goes fall.
There are 30 teams, 15 in the American League and 15 in the National League and 30 teams do not still have a chance to win it all. No team is technically eliminated but several of them are hopeless cases and others are at best 50-1 shots to sneak into the playoffs. By any objective standard short of a miracle, they are dead teams for 2014.
In the National League, under the category of dead teams you will find the Chicago Cubs, in last place in the Central Division, the Colorado Rockies, in last place in the West Division, and the Philadelphia Phillies, in last place in the East Division. Just as dead, whether they admit it or not, are the New York Mets and Miami Marlins in the East, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Diego Padres in the West.
The Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds still have faint pulses, but could expire any day now. That wipes out nine out of the 15 teams in the NL, leaving the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals to fight it out for five spots. One of the Central Division teams, Brewers, Pirates or Cardinals, will lose out, and injuries to key personnel may settle that.
In the American League, under dead teams you will find the Texas Rangers, last in the West, Minnesota Twins, last in the Central, and the Boston Red Sox, the 2013 World Series champs, last in the East. Just as dead, whether they admit it or not, are the Houston Astros, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays would be alive if they hadn’t traded David Price.
The Yankees are probably dead, sitting third in the East. The Mariners, third in the West, and with more wins than New York, have an outside shot at the playoffs.
That leaves six other teams. The Oakland A’s have the best record in baseball, with the Los Angeles Angels not far behind. The East is a bit of a muddle. Although the Baltimore Orioles should win the division, the Toronto Blue Jays might well be edged out of the playoffs by Seattle. The Kansas City Royals have edged ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the Central. The Tigers looked like one of the best teams in the sport, but injuries could unravel their season.
No team appears invulnerable. Any team inching into the playoffs could get hot and keep rolling. It may be a fluke, but it may occur.