Thanks to the sagacity of Al “Bud” Selig and the baseball owners, it is more exciting to follow New York’s most beloved team, the New York Mets, than it is to follow New York’s other team.
There is virtually no doubt that the New York Yankees will be in the playoffs. They currently lead the second place Boston Red Sox by one-half game. Both teams have 44 wins, but the Red Sox have one more loss.
Unlike the Atlanta Braves, the Mets have little chance of beating out the highly vulnerable Philadelphia Phillies for the Eastern Division title, but the wild card has made it possible for the Mets to have a chance to play baseball in October.
Throughout the off-season, spring training, and the beginning of the games that count, the “experts” expected the Mets to battle the Washington Nationals for last place. At this time, the Mets are batting Washington, but for third place.
Few of the “experts” thought that the Arizona Diamondbacks would contend for either the Western Division crown or even for the wild card, but much to everyone’s surprise, the Diamondbacks trail the San Francisco Giants by a mere one-half game and are only one game behind the Braves for the wild card lead.
Forget the Mets trading the greatest shortstop in today’s game, Jose Reyes, outfielder Carlos Beltran, or ace closer Frankie Rodriguez. It would cost more in public relations if the Mets were contending near the end of July and traded three of their key players.
The Mets, Braves, Nationals, Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Giants and Diamondbacks will battle for the wild card or division title all season. And don’t forget the disappointing Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies or the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates.
One’s first reaction might be that with so many teams contending for one playoff spot, how can one seriously consider the Mets? The answer is the fact that 10 teams are no more than five and one-half games behind the wild card leading Braves. Mediocrity creates competition.
As mid-season approaches, it’s anybody’s game.
The wild card has created a situation in which the Mets situation is of more exciting than the Yankees.
Last season a similar situation between the Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees existed. The Yankees led the Rays by one and one-half game with 10 games left. Their magic number to clinch a playoff spot was three. The Yankees and Minnesota Twins were tied for the league’s best record.
Instead of attempting to maximize his team’s chances of winning the division, manager Joe Girardi rested some of his stars, including members of the bullpen.
Girardi told the Associated Press (Girardi Ignores Criticism/) “I will do everything to win the division without hurting our players,”
General manager Brian Cashman supported Girardi, telling AP “There’s a stigma that you don’t want to be the wild card. We’ve been beaten by the wild-card Red Sox, we’ve been beaten by the wild-card Marlins. The most important thing is to get in, and then after that to get in and be at max health. Just want to be sure everybody’s lined up.”
Even if Girardi used his regulars in attempting to win the division, the enthusiasm that accompanies a pennant race would have been lacking.
The wild card has created a situation in which the modern equivalent of a pennant race may not exist, but of greater significance is that a team may not maximize its efforts to win.
The Mets will probably be contending for the wild card all season. It matters to Mets fans if they win it, but that’s not the point, which is that there will be great interest and fabulous excitement following New York’s most beloved team all season.
Unless some catastrophic events occur, such as injuries to key players on either the Yankees or Red Sox, it is almost a given fact today, June 26. that both teams will be in the playoffs. Obviously, that’s all the Yankees want.