PATRICK GRIMES ’23
As the weather cools and fall comes into swing, the glorious MLB postseason is in sight. In the American League, Tampa Bay, Houston, and Chicago stand atop their respective divisions. As of Sept. 19, the Boston Red Sox lead the American League wild card race ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, who sit on the cusp of a playoff chance. Just out of the picture is the New York Yankees, who sit a half game behind the Blue Jays. The Oakland Athletics are the next most plausible contender, two games behind the Blue Jay’s coveted seat. With about two weeks remaining in the regular season, it is crunch time for these bubble teams. With every passing day, every game, inning, and at-bat becomes more critical. The margin for error shrinks ever smaller, and the stakes continue to heighten.
Many avid baseball fans believe that the Toronto Blue Jays will hold their position as a wild card team. Their run differential is an astounding +175. This is due to one of the greatest hitting lineups in the MLB. With sluggers like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien, each tallying over 40 home runs, Toronto has significant offensive firepower. This impeccable hitting lineup, coupled with a newly revamped bullpen, allows Toronto to dominate opponents. Toronto is too hot to handle and steamrolling through the MLB. They are an almost- certain wild card contender.
This leaves the Red Sox and Yankees to duke out these fleeting final games. The Red Sox’s run differential is more than double that of New York’s. Also, the Red Sox are 1.5 games above the Yankees. However, they could be falling fast. The Red Sox roster and staff has been troubled by a COVID outbreak since Aug. 27 when outfielder Kiké Hernández tested positive. Over the past three weeks, 12 Red Sox players, including three 2021 All-Stars in Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, and Matt Barnes have tested positive. They must hold on to avoid any more infections to maintain their place atop the AL wild card standings. The lack of continuity the Red Sox have faced, and continue to face, could very possibly lead to a few dropped games and the loss of a playoff berth.
As for the Yankees, they face a more difficult schedule in the waning regular season. The Yankees need to find the groove that sparked a 13-game winning streak about a month ago. Otherwise, their failure to perform against their division rivals could be their downfall. They will need to continue to lean on Cy Young Award probable Gerrit Cole to pitch lights-out in big games. Yes, it is certainly true that the Yankees lack momentum and are not as talented as Toronto or Boston. What the Yankees do have, though, is the ability to control their own fate. Boston’s lineup is ever-changing, and anxiety is plaguing their clubhouse. The Yankees are completely in control of their own destiny and have the world in their hands, and they must pull together a fantastic final push to lock up an AL wild card game appearance. The Boston Red Sox must keep their talented players in the lineup and put away the less challenging teams in the final weeks. Regardless, only time can tell who will play in game 163 for a chance at the MLB playoffs.