Let’s talk baseball, let’s talk playoffs, and more specifically let’s talk the madness that is the wildcard race right now in the MLB. Whether you like the new(ish) system that’s been around since 2012 or you don’t, it doesn’t really matter; it’s what we have so I don’t want to hear any remarks that call to “harken back to the days of old” – it’s over boys and girls, accept the changes and the bedlam that has come with them.
Here’s what you need to know in regards to the NL wild card – the race only consists of three teams, and lately none of them look like they want it. The Mets, the Cards, and the Giants are all average and the one thing they’re all good at is losing to bad teams. Where they stand right now: the Mets have a better chance of keeping a pitching staff healthy than catching the Nats (without the aid of a meltdown similar to the one in Boston that lost Tito Francona his job); the Redbirds mathematically can’t catch the Chubs; the Giants are 5 games back with only 11 to play and I won’t entertain any talk about “it’s an even year, can’t count the Giants out”.
The Mets: The rest of their schedule is the most attractive of the three squads. They end their season up against perennial bottom dwellers of the NL East, a relatively garbage division as it is. The Mets couldn’t ask for a better road to the playoffs than they have so I’m picking them to be the first wild card and if they screw it up with a schedule as easy as theirs, then it will officially be the most New-York-Met’s-moment in recent memory. The likelihood of experiencing that moment is only getting higher as they have dropped the first two games of their series to the Braves, yikes.
The Cardinals: Can anyone tell me what happened in the STL this year? Seriously, someone please explain to me who this impostor team is wearing the uniforms we all know and love. Okay, maybe just I love them. Last year this team had the best pitching staff in baseball, literally set historical records, and this year it seems all five of their pitchers are on strike against consistency. In all honesty, this may be an inch dramatic, but, I’m a fan and I’m passionate, get over it. Sure Piscotty is a stud, there have been flashes of potential in other places, injuries have happened (not an excuse, just a fact) and the whole mess has left the cards thrashing for life at the end of the season. The spin? They end their season against the Buckos, Reds, and Cubs, which, in theory, should allow for three consecutive winnable series. The Reds are a dumpster fire; the Pirates aren’t much better (Don’t worry Pittsburgh, you can still enjoy Lord Stanley’s Cup); the Cubs are playing their JV team until the playoffs, which still may be better than the Cardinals, but I have hope. The final thought? The cardinals have a manageable path to victory but don’t be surprised if they flounder their way into or out of the last wildcard spot.
The Giants: The “even year” argument is arbitrary nonsense, this is professional baseball and they have 4 games left against their division leader the dreaded Dodgers. The silver lining is this leaves them a great opportunity to go on a run and potentially win the division in an absolute best case scenario, i.e. sweeping the Dodgers for the rest of the season and winning at least 5 of the remaining 7 games on the schedule against the Padres and the Rockies. However, the more likely case is they lose at least 2 out of 4 to LA, slip deeper into the hole they’ve dug themselves, then for good measure they’ll drop a few more pitiful games to the Rockies and Padres before gently going into that good night – otherwise known as the off-season.
The NL wildcard is just a war of attrition between under-performing clubs that have no desire to receive that playoff bonus. Keep your eye out for some magic, it is baseball after all, but I’d bet my bottom dollar the two teams that crash into the Wild Card spots will simply be the better two of three sad teams at the end of a long 162 game scheduled defined by disappointment and “what ifs”.