For the second year in a row, all three of my favorite teams have made it into the Major League Baseball playoffs.
While that’s cause for celebration, it also makes me squirm a little, knowing that I could very well wind up having to choose one favorite over another should they come up against each other.
That will make for some tough choices, but for now I’m digging the fact that the A’s, Tigers and Pirates are three of the 10 teams left standing after a grueling 162-game season.
With apologies to certain relatives (I’m talking to you, my Dodger-loving cousins in California) and friends (yes, you Giants fans in San Francisco and Seattle), here’s hoping your teams fall flat on their face.
No offense intended, of course (smile).
The Oakland A’s, my favorite team since I was a teenager growing up in the East Bay, staggered into the playoffs as one of two Wild Card teams – that is, the two teams with the best runner-up records outside of the three division winners in each league.
The A’s had the best record in baseball until the All-Star break. Then they got greedy – or too generous, most people would say – by trading one of their top hitters for one of the best pitchers in baseball. Their new pitcher, Jon Lester, was as good as advertised but all of a sudden, without the slugger they traded away, they couldn’t score runs and so they had a miserable second half of the season.
It took a win on the very last day of the season to earn a spot in the Wild Card game against the Kansas City Royals. The A’s had won the last two American League West Division championships, but this year finished in second place. They will have much of America rooting against them tonight because Kansas City hasn’t been to the playoffs in 29 years and is perceived as an underdog.
The Detroit Tigers, a team I took as liking to when I was on a sabbatical at the University of Michigan in the early ‘80s, won the American League’s Central Division for the fourth straight year.
Ah, but they’re playing Detroit.
The Tigers made it to the World Series in 2006 and 2012, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals and then the San Francisco Giants. Maybe this even-numbered year means they’ll get back to the Series one more time before this aging team inevitably breaks up.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, a team I adopted three years ago when my daughter moved there to attend graduate school, are one of two National League Wild Card teams, having finished second (again) to the dreaded Cardinals in the NL Central Division.
After 20 consecutive seasons of losing records, they finally turned it around last year and made it to the playoffs. They beat the Cincinnati Reds in a one-game Wild Card playoff, and had the Cardinals on the ropes, but ultimately lost that series.
This year, they play the Giants in the Wild Card game. If they win tomorrow night, they move on to play the Washington Nationals, the team with the best record in the National League.
Now in the best of all worlds, the playoffs would go like this:
Oakland beats Kansas City, then beats the Los Angeles Angels, owner of the best team in the American League.
Detroit beats Baltimore, then plays Oakland. (I’ll decide then who to root for, but I’m leaning toward the Tigers.)
Pittsburgh beats San Francisco, then beats Washington, then beats the winner of the Cardinals vs. Dodgers series.
If all that happens, it would be Detroit (or Oakland) vs. Pittsburgh in the World Series. Another tough call. But a dream match-up I’d love to see.
Let’s get it on.