Say what you will about MLB’s use of the wild card playoff allowance—an idea many baseball purists hate—but it’s hard to deny the added interest these additional races create. Consider this: if there wasn’t a wild card playoff spot in MLB, what would teams like the Phillies, Braves, Yankees and Twins have to look forward to? Unless they got on some crazy hot streak, not much except October tee times… a concept the baseball purists undoubtedly support.Heck, even I must admit I like the concept of having only 4 playoff teams, each one a division winner. But to say the wild card race doesn’t expand this level of regular season interest is wrong as well. Before the wild card introduction, there would only be a few teams worth keeping track of on a national scale as we got into the latter part of the season. Interest for teams that weren’t in was resigned to local fans. Why should I care about Minnesota team that, under the old system, would have little chance of making the fall festivities?

So here we are with only a month and some change left in the season and because of the wild card format, there are a number of teams that are worth paying attention too. In the National League, the breakdown is as follows:

NL Wild Card Standings (as of 08/20/07)

San Diego…. 66-57 .537 –

Philadelphia.. 65-58 .528 1.0

Atlanta………. 65-59 .524 1.5

LA Dodgers.. 64-60 .516 2.5

Colorado…… 63-60 .512 3.0

Milwaukee…. 63-61 .508 3.5

Outlook

In all likelihood, the NL Wild Card will come down to the last week of the season. Not only are many of these NL teams fighting for their wild card lives, they are still in contention for their respective division title. This puts even more pressure on these teams as the stretch run begins.

In the East, both the Braves and the Phillies made moves during the trading deadline and will be in contention for both the wild card and the division until the end. Between these two teams, the Braves have the better pitching and they also have a better team batting average. However, the Phillies have scored more runs than the Braves. Both teams have MVP-caliber players and the final part of each team’s schedule is similar as well, making this call look like a toss-up.

Of course, the Cubs, Rockies, Dodgers and Padres won’t be forgotten either. All of these teams have solid pitching (yes, even the Rockies who give up about 4 runs a game) and good hitting – save perhaps the Padres and Diamondbacks – meaning stats aren’t going to do much when it comes to making a pick here. Because of the fact these teams are really even, the safest bet is to go with a hunch.

With that in mind, my thinking is that the wild card winner is going to come from the East in either the Phillies or the Braves. As of this writing, both teams were 5 and 5.5 games behind the East-leading Mets, respectively and both teams have upcoming meetings with the Mets and each other. Of course, while these three teams are beating up on each other, a team like the Padres or even the Rockies could sneak in for the final NL Playoff representative. It should be a fun month or so. Stay Tuned.

The American League

The funny thing about all of this is you can take what I wrote about the National League and apply it to the AL – at least for the top two teams (this weekend did a lot to damage the Tigers chances but they can still catch the Indians). Will the Yankees catch the Red Sox for the division title (they have two more series left against the BoSox)? If they don’t, will they be able to secure the wild card spot? Questions, questions, questions. Before we can answer some of these, let’s take a look at what’s going on in the DH league:

Seattle…………. 69-52 .570 –

NY Yankees… 70-54 .565 0.5

Detroit…………. 67-57 .540 3.5

Toronto……….. 63-60 .512 7.0

Minnesota……. 62-61 .504 8.0

Oakland………. 61-64 .488 10.0

Outlook

While the Yanks and the hot streak they are on is the talk of the town; they still trail the Mariners in the wild card chase. So how will it all shake out? The Yankees have a tough schedule coming up but if they keep swinging the bats the way they have, they will be a tough out. They still have that knack for getting that final deciding run, continuing their climb out of that notorious early season slump.

Of course, Seattle is just as concerned with catching the California Angels (Freudian slip?) as the Yankees are with catching Boston… and even though there’s a month and 10 days left in the season, it looks like Minnesota (don’t you all wish Santana could pitch every inning?), Toronto and Oakland are pretty much out of it. That leaves the big 4. Detroit and Cleveland will be fighting for their division with perhaps the 2 nd place finisher missing out altogether.

Meaning we have – at this particular juncture anyway – another toss-up. At this point, my heart says the Yankees (not a fan, it’s more a dread feeling) but my head is thinking Seattle… Of course, the upcoming 3-game meeting between these two teams (09/03 – 09/05) could go a long way towards settling matters.