A great man once said, “It’s not over ’till it’s over”. I for one, am inclined to degree with such a statement. That being said, the Athletics decisive three-sweep of the Texas Rangers over the weekend widening their divisional lead to 6 1/2 games has many Athletics fans looking to the future. Namely, the American League Divisional Series.
Assuming the Athletics avoid a historic late collapse that would rival the Texas Rangers of last season or say the 2007 New York Mets; they will more than likely capture their second American League Western Division title in as many seasons.
For the moment the magic number sits at the lovely number six. At the risk of counting chickens before they hatch, perhaps it’s time to prepare for inevitable future by getting to know thy enemy. Or enemies. Hypothetically, at least.
Here we go. First things first. Let’s take a look at the race for best record in the American League as of September 17th, 2013.
Team Wins Losses Winning % GB Remaining Schedule
Boston 92 60 .605 – 1o Games (2 vs BAL, 3 vs TOR, 2 at COL, 3 at BAL)
Oakland 89 62 .589 2.5 11 Games (1 vs LAA, 4 vs MIN, 3 at LAA, 3 at SEA)
Detroit 88 63 .583 3.5 11 Games (2 vs SEA, 3 vs CHW, 3 at MIN, 3 at MIA)
As you can see, it’s a race on it’s final lap with Boston in the lead by a car length. So if the division is more or less wrapped up, why is finishing with the best record such a big deal? Well the answer lies in the formatting of the 2013 playoff schedule.
Which plays out like this:
|Game 1||AL Wild Card @ AL Div. Winner #1||Fri, Oct 4||TBD||TBS or MLBN***|
|Game 2||AL Wild Card @ AL Div. Winner #1||Sat, Oct 5||TBD||TBS|
|Game 3||AL Div. Winner #1 @ AL Wild Card||Mon, Oct 7||TBD||TBS or MLBN***|
|Game 4*||AL Div. Winner #1 @ AL Wild Card||Tue, Oct 8||TBD||TBS|
|Game 5*||AL Wild Card @ AL Div. Winner #1||Thu, Oct 10||TBD||TBS|
|Game 1||AL Div. Winner #3 @ AL Div. Winner #2||Fri, Oct 4||TBD||TBS or MLBN***|
|Game 2||AL Div. Winner #3 @ AL Div. Winner #2||Sat, Oct 5||TBD||TBS|
|Game 3||AL Div. Winner #2 @ AL Div. Winner #3||Mon, Oct 7||TBD||TBS or MLBN***|
|Game 4*||AL Div. Winner #2 @ AL Div. Winner #3||Tue, Oct 8||TBD||TBS|
|Game 5*||AL Div. Winner #3 @ AL Div. Winner #2||Thu, Oct 10||TBD||TBS|
It’s all pretty straightforward, and with the exception of last season’s absurd home field advantage schedule that has since been rectified, it’s the same as it ever was. The Wild Card winner will advance to take on the team with best record, while the best record runner-ups and fellow divisional champions will face off against each other. At this juncture, the Boston Red Sox would open at home against the Wild Card, while the Athletics and Tigers would enter into a rematch of last season’s ALDS classic.
Although anything can happen in the playoffs, there’s something foreboding about challenging Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander once more for a chance at postseason glory. Despite Verlander’s off-year, and the Athletics relatively easily conquering Detroit in a four-game set last month, such a series may represent Oakland’s most unfavorable matchup. With Detroit currently nipping at Oakland’s heels, it’s paramount that the Athletics fight off the Tigers to retain home field advantage with the 2-3-1 format in effect this season.
Should the Athletics rally to overthrow Boston for best record, then obviously they would gear up to face the winner of the Wild Card game. Now whether the eventual Wild Card come to representation in the form of Tampa Bay, Texas, Cleveland, New York, Baltimore, or Kansas City, the A’s would have a very short window to prepare for such a series. Yet, they would be guaranteed to open at home and would debatably face a team with inferior starting pitching to the Tigers fearsome foursome of Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Doug Fister. A key point, that may be the difference in a short series.
The season is ending, the champagne is on ice, and there is still so much to be decided.