The Yankees clinched the AL East and home field advantage in the playoffs with their sweep of the Red Sox on Sunday. They're easily the best team in baseball right now, which isn't too hard to do when your GM's entire strategy is to overpay for every talented free agent athlete so they can't possibly turn it down. If that sounds bitter, it's because I am bitter. The Yankees 2009 starting infield makes more than the entire 25 man rosters of 13 other major league teams and is roughly equivalent to 3 more. That's half of the teams in major league baseball. I've always tried very hard to stay positive about a team's chance to compete if they're built the right way no matter their payroll, but the evidence against that grows stronger every year. Anyway, they clinched and while I know the playoffs can be a crapshoot, I don't see how they don't make it to the World Series. In the first round of the playoffs they will play either Detroit or Minnesota, two teams that will barely be over .500 at seasons end. They'll then play either the Red Sox or the Angels, both of whom they've manhandled in the 2nd half.
The Angels clinched the AL West last night with an 11-0 victory over the Rangers. I don't really have much of an opinion on the Angels, probably because I don't hear about them too much. They don't seem to have much of a personality, but again that could be because I don't know enough. I do know that no one would have blamed them if they had crumbled this year after the Nick Adenhart tragedy. But they didn't, and they're going to their 6th postseason since 2002.
The Red Sox magic number to clinch the wild card is just 1, so they'll probably clinch tonight. The Red Sox had a great first half but are just 37-31 since the AS break. Josh Beckett had to be scratched last night due to back spasms. They are a very good baseball team, but not as solid as I thought they'd be at the beginning of the year. They'll be playing the Angels in the first round. In the past several years the Red Sox have beaten up on the Angels, but they are 4-5 against them in '09.
The only real race left in the AL is in the central. The Twins are two games back of the Tigers with 7 games to play. 4 of those games are head-to-head and start with a double header this afternoon. That'd be pretty exciting if I thought either of these teams had an inkling of a chance in the postseason. Still, I thought the Yankees would demolish the Tigers back in 2006 and they didn't, so stranger things have happened.
The St. Louis Cardinals clinched their division last Saturday night, but with the collapse of the Cubs it's been inevitable for most of the season. Albert Pujols, who is always awesome, has been just otherworldly this year, and Matt Holliday has been on fire since being traded. Unfortunately for the Cards other than that their lineup isn't very intimidating. They do have very good starting pitching.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have clinched a playoff berth and with one more win will clinch the AL West as well. The Dodgers also have good pitching. Randy Wolf is having a career year and Clayton Kershaw is blossoming into the beast we all know he would be. Their bullpen is just sick with Flat Breezy and Jonathan Broxton working the 8th and 9th innings.
The Phillies are doing their best Mets impression in the NL East. On September 20th they had an 8 game lead that is now down to 4. Cole Hamels got knocked around last night and the bullpen is a hot mess. Pedro Martinez, who looked like their savior for awhile, had to be scratched from his last start with a a stiff neck. The defending champs have a magic number of 3 and are 4 games ahead of the red hot Braves. I can't imagine they won't make the postseason, but who knows.
The Rockies are still in the NL wild card lead, but are just two games ahead of the Braves with six to play. It's their spot to lose but the Braves aren't giving them any breathing room. They've won 16 of their last 18 and seven in a row to seemingly come out of nowhere. The Giants, who had been in the race, have fallen down the stretch.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the races have been boring this year, and here's your proof. The Yankees have been in first place in the AL East for 85 days straight. The Angels have been in first place for 95 days. The Tigers, who could fall to second place this week, have been in first place for a whopping 156 consecutive days. Over in the NL, the Phillies come in at 135 consecutive days in first place, the Cardinals 141, and the Dodgers 170.