The season is a marathon, not a sprint. Though cliché, this phrase used to describe each baseball season couldn’t be truer.
The fresh excitement of the new season gave way to the dog days and monotony of summer baseball. Summer has given way to fall, leaving us once again with meaningful baseball.
Think back to the beginning of April. Almost six months later, here we are. The finish line is not just in sight, it is staring us in the face. 160 games in, only 2 games left. This track meet is on its final leg.
While many teams, including our own beloved Seattle Mariners, will not so much as sniff postseason baseball, some races have yet to be settled. The Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox have both watched substantial wild card leads dwindle to nothing as the months of baseball now culminate in a mad dash for the finish line. I’ll offer a helpful suggestion: it is time to sprint.
While I do believe both the Braves and Red Sox will reach the playoffs by the skin of their clenched teeth, I cannot see either team making much of a push come October. While no one can deny the power these teams possess, they both have lost their luster in the pitching department.
Pitching is the golden ticket when it comes to autumn baseball. That’s how the San Francisco Giants rocked the baseball world last Oct., upsetting the power-hitting Rangers in the World Series behind the arms of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
That bandwagon has since crashed back down to Earth, but feel free to hop on the one heading out of Milwaukee. Originally the Seattle Pilots, the Milwaukee Brewers are another small-market team looking to make a splash this season.
With polarizing characters like Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, the Brewers might just be the fun-to-watch underdog protagonists as the 2011 version of the fall classic unfolds.
After finishing 14 games back in the NL Central last season, the “Brew Crew” find themselves coasting into the playoffs 6 games ahead of the Cardinals and the second-best record in the National League.
Look for Detroit to make a similar splash in the American League this fall. Like Milwaukee, the Tigers possess a lethal combination of pitching and power. Justin Verlander is about as solid as aces get, with Doug Fister (a guy many Mariners fans surely remember) taking the reins as the No. 4 starter in Detroit. While many scoff at the idea of Fister as a reliable playoff caliber arm, consider the fact that he’s gone 7-1 with a 2.02 ERA since being traded from the Mariners in July.
It will take a lot to get by perennial power house teams like the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL and New York Yankees in the AL. Come October, I will surely be rooting for sleepers like Detroit and Milwaukee.
Drama unfolds each fall; much of it can be attributed to sleeper teams like these. We will surely find out soon who will dawn baseball’s crown. Postseason baseball is near folks. The sprint is officially on.