MLB pennant races a snooze in 2017By Matt Verderame
The Major League Baseball season is 162 games long. Before 1995, when only two teams from each league reached the postseason, it wasn’t rare to already be bored, waiting for the playoffs. Then, the wild card was introduced by commissioner Bud Selig, and races heated up well through Labor Day and through the end of the campaign.
In 2012, MLB once again expanded the postseason pool, giving us a pair of wild card teams for the American and National Leagues, respectively. Unfortunately, all of those changes couldn’t infuse magic into the 2017 races.
In the AL, the Houston Astros are rolling to the top seed. Houston is sitting at 71-40, a solid 8.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox for the league’s best record. The Astros have one of the best young rosters we’ve seen in some time, featuring the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Lance McCullers. With a 15-game lead in the West, the Astros won’t play another meaningful game until the first week of October.
In the East, Boston has a three-game lead over the New York Yankees, but the gap feels larger. While the Yankees did acquire Sonny Gray, the rest of their rotation is lackluster and the lineup has scuffled some with Aaron Judge struggling out of the All-Star break. Since that point, Judge is hitting .178 with four home runs.
The Central has the Cleveland Indians leading the Kansas City Royals by 2.5 games, but again, the lead feels both tired and safe. Kansas City is without a good rotation, while the Indians are loaded on the mound. At some point, Cleveland will take off and hide.
The National League is even more absurd. The Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers are brawling in the Central, with the defending champs leading by just a half-game. Still, this is with the backdrop of Milwaukee falling apart in recent weeks. Coupled with the Cubs’ extensive talent, it seems impossible the Brewers last another two weeks.
Meanwhile, the Washington Nationals have cinched the East, and the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have locked up the wild card spots. Both are more than 15 games over .500, but still have no chance of winning the NL West due to the unstoppable force that is the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers won on Saturday night against the New York Mets, becoming the first team since the 1912 New York Giants to win 43 times in 50 games. After finishing off the Mets on Sunday night at Citi Field, Los Angeles moved to 79-32, authoring one of the best seasons we’ve seen in the last century.
It all makes for a very boring August and September. If there is a bright side, though, the playoffs are going to be fantastic.