2012 Pennant Race: American League Edition
September is here so that means one thing in the world of baseball: pennant races. Both the American League and National League are the midst of dramatic battles which may well culminate in another epic night of baseball, as was the case last season. Today’s focus will be solely on the American league and the varying tales from the East to the West, which teams are making pushes and which teams are limping to the finish line.
American League East:
One of the most fascinating sagas is playing out in the American League East where the once mighty Yankees held a commanding lead. An 82 day vice grip on the division has now evaporated into thin air as the Yankees are now vulnerable. They hold a tie with the Baltimore Oriole’s for first place and hot on their heels are the tenacious Tampa Bay Rays, who through Evan Longoria’s injury seemed to be irrelevant.
The Yankees fall from grace ties directly from the rash of injuries they’ve been plagued with all year. It’s debatable as to which was more surprising the fact the Yankees could hold to such a commanding lead despite their injuries for so long, or the fact that they’ve now frittered it all away. Key injuries to the likes of Arod, Andy Pettitte, Mark Teixeira, Mariano Rivera, Joba Chamberlain, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova have simply caught up to them, and it may prove too much to overcome. Their over reliance on the long ball has left them as a very one dimensional team who fails to come through in clutch situations and rally back–call it their achilles heel.
The Baltimore Orioles were supposed to be dead in the water months ago. A fast start to the season that no one, including their feisty manager Buck Showalter, could not have seen coming has left them here at this spot where they threaten to oust the formidable Yankees from the post season. The Orioles have proven they’re a team with power perhaps too much, as they’re in love with the same power hitting as the Yankees.
While the Yankees and Orioles stand as the frontrunners to make a run for a playoff spot, I’d be remiss to not at least mention the Rays who are just a game and half behind. If last year was any indication it’s that you can’t ever count out the Rays so pencil them in along side in this three headed monster of a pennant race show down.
American League Central:
Allow me to be blunt for a moment but: What in the blue hell is going on with the Detroit Tigers? While they only trail the 1st place Chicago White Sox by one game it’s still a bit head scratching as to why they’re even trailing in the first place. Many picked the Tigers to not only win the AL Central easily but to dominate come post season, now as things stand even with a 2nd wildcard they are in danger of being on the outside in.
The off season acquisition of Prince Fielder was supposed to put them over the top as they seemed to have all the major pieces on paper to get the job done. But a bad stretch of mediocre play has given the Chicago White Sox led by rookie skipper Robin Ventura ample opportunity to elbow their way to the top where they’ve remained the majority of the season. This may be one of the more puzzling of pennant races, but one must tip their cap to the resillient White Sox who are going out there and just getting the job done.
American League West:
Now this is fun. The Texas Rangers hold a 5 game lead over the 2nd place team, which isn’t the Angels–it’s the Oakland A’s. The Angels are nestled at 3rd well below expectations and even more disappointing given the the fact they gave Pujols a behemoth contract, Mike Trout is making his case for league MVP, they haven’t gotten what they’ve expected out of Greinke and Jered Weaver is having a Cy Young candidate type of year. The Oakland A’s continue to be the little team who could, no one doesn’t win streaks quite like the A’s as they recently went on a tear of 9 straight victories which gives them a record identical to that of the Yankees and Orioles and puts them in prime position for a wild card spot.
But back to the Texas Rangers who have managed to shrug off the once nagging Angels and have settled to their 1st place spot. Do they have what it takes to make another trip to the World Series, which would be their 3rd straight. If teams like the Yankees and Tigers slip and miss out on the post season there by far they would be favorites to get out of the American League. Their consistency even through tough losses and injuries is certainly commendable and what they decide to do with Hamilton after the season is done World Series win or not will be paramount to their future.