Down the stretch they come, White Sox ahead, but fading fast, Indians coming on strong, Red Sox just a nose ahead of the Yankees, while the Angels and A's are currently a photo finish bringing up the AL Playoff chase.
Let's take a look at history to help us handicap the race.
The Chicago White Sox are arguably the most dismal post-season franchise of the last 85 years, as they have been in just one World Series (1959), only two League Championship Series (1983 and 1993), and just one Divisional Series. All of these playoff series have one major thing in common, the Sox lost all of them. It's this background that needs to be mentioned first to explain why so many White Sox fans are jumping off the bandwagon, despite a 4.5 game division lead. Here is why I think the Sox fans should calm down. It's not like they are competing with the Yankees, it's the Indians. Sure they are a better team than the White Sox at this point, but the Tribe are 4.5 games behind, their current roster has no more pennant race experience than Chicago, plus, they are the Indians, another historically cursed franchise who hasn't won a World Series since 1948.
Speaking of cursed franchises, just because the Red Sox won last year, doesn't mean that they shouldn't feel the stress, as any Red Sox fan I'm sure would tell you. Much like the White Sox, the Red Sox are playing their worst baseball of the year and look to be physically and mentally tired. The difference between the 2 teams is that the Pale Hose have a 4.5 game divisional lead.
While the Indians have been the hottest team down the stretch, I would say the Yankees are the best bet for success in the playoffs. Here's why. 1) Reemergence of Randy Johnson 2) Most dangerous offense in MLB 3) Greatest closer in baseball history 4) Manager with more big game success than anyone since Casey Stengel. Of course, the Yankees also are the team in the worst shape of the top 4 AL teams in the standings, so despite all the above factors leave them in a precarious position.
At this point, the AL West teams should concentrate on winning their division, as the AL Wild Card would appear out of reach. One of my two favorite A's bloggers (see also Catfish Stew), Elephants in Oakland's Zachary Manprin described the AL West best, a couple of days ago in writing: "The AL West lead is fast becoming the garter thrown at a wedding to all the single men; nobody wants to touch it or go near it, fearing of the consequences and implications." My guess is the absences of Rich Harden in 2005, will cost the A's a playoff birth. Neither team looks to be a serious playoff contender this season, unless they meet the White Sox, who traditionally have problems with both squads.
White Sox- 8 finger grip
Indians- Hanging on by one hand
Red Sox- Hanging on by one hand
Yankees- 6 finger grip
Angels- 3 finger grip
A's- 2 finger grip
College Football Picks
Off to a bad start, with a 4-6 spread record, losing most of my major plays.
3-star Oklahoma (+7) over UCLA- 14 point swing from what the spread would have been before the season. Stoops is too good of coach to give up a TD to an unproven Bruins club.
3-star Michigan St. (+6.5) over Notre Dame- Despite Weis completely outcoaching Carr and Henne playing brutally, the Wolverines still almost won last week. Spartans Smith is a good coach, unlike the 2 dunces Weis started his college career against and QB Stanton is top-notch.
2-star Tennessee (+7) over Florida- Tennesse is a good road dog and it's game last week is somewhat misleading, as UAB is a quality team. All three of these games I see going down to the wire, so I will take the points. Come on Doggies.