Riding the Pine… Coming down to the Wire

Here are the updates for the first place teams magic numbers. Each team listed is winning their division and the mathematically eliminated teams are listed below them. Also listed are the wild card standings. Coming into the final 2 1/2 weeks of the season, no race is really sealed up.

AL East
Boston – 12 games
Eliminated – Baltimore, Tampa Bay
It’s pretty much assumed that the Red Sox are going to win the division and that the Yankees are the wild card. What’s more interesting than the race is the fact that the best team in the AL will get to decide if they play their first series over 7 or 8 days. If the Red Sox choose the 8 days, the Yankees will possibly lose one appearance from stud rookie Joba Chamberlain.

AL Central
Cleveland – 11 games
Eliminated – Kansas City, Chicago White Sox
Cleveland will have to screw up pretty bad to lose this division – kind of like the Tigers did last year. This year, the wild card won’t be coming from here either.

AL West
Los Angeles Angels – 9 games
Eliminated – None
This is the one race that is the closest to being done, even if no teams have been eliminated. The Mariners have lost the momentum they had a month ago and the Athletics normal second half surge didn’t come. The Angels essentially sit and wait for everyone else to finish.

Wild Card Standings – AL
1. New York Yankees
2. Detroit – 4
3. Seattle – 6.5
4. Toronto – 11
5. Minnesota – 11.5
Four games isn’t a huge lead, but when things go right for the Yankees, they are one of the top teams in the game. All the Tigers can hope for at this point is Mike Mussina giving out tips to his fellow pitchers in pin stripes.

NL East
New York Mets – 11 games
Eliminated – Washington, Florida
The usual story for the Phillies – too little too late – is going on, just like the last few years. Atlanta had a nice little surge as well, but the Mets own the division. They have the money the rest of the division doesn’t and tend to spend it fairly well.

NL Central
Chicago Cubs/Milwaukee Brewers – 15 games (for the 3rd place Cardinals)
Eliminated – None
This is the race to watch. The Cubs and Brewers are tied as the Cardinals try to replicate last year’s tailspin. Only difference is the Cards are looking up as the do it this time. The Brewers have the better overall team, but the Cubs have more veterans with pennant race experience. I hate to say it, but the Cubs are the team to beat here.

NL West
Arizona – 14 games
Eliminated – San Francisco
The wild card will come from here, which is almost guaranteed. People doubted Arizona, but their young core has pulled together – without their Big Unit. If they can make it, they’d be my pick to come out of the National League.

Wild Card Standings – NL
1. San Diego
2. Los Angeles Dodgers – 2.5
3. Colorado – 2.5
4. Philadelphia – 2.5
5. Milwaukee – 4.5 (Cubs have tie breaker)
6. Atlanta – 5
7. St. Louis – 8.5
8. Cincinnati – 12.5
This race is essentially the top 4 teams. The Padres’ pitching will be too tough to get past; they could also be a good shot to win the National League. The Dodgers don’t have the pitching, especially if Derek Lowe is out. The Rockies are in the same boat. The Phillies’ pen is too questionable, as was seen last week.

Minor League Round Up
The Minor League Season has concluded and most levels are in the middle of the playoffs. Here’s a look at each leagues championship series.

Rookie Level – Appalachian League
The Elizabethton Twins (Minnesota) defeated the Danville Braves (Atlanta) in the league championship.

Rookie Level – Gulf Coast League
The GCL Yankees defeated the GCL Dodgers for the championship.

Rookie Level – Pioneer League
The Orem Owlz (LA Angels) lead the Great Falls White Sox (Chi White Sox) 1-0 in a best of 3 series.

Short Season A – New York-Penn League
Auburn Doubledays (Toronto) vs. Brooklyn Cyclones (NY Mets)
Best of 3 series starts tonight.

Short Season A – Northwest League
The Salem-Keiser Volcanoes (San Francisco) defeated the Tri-City Dust Devils (Colorado) in the championship.

Low A – Midwest League
The Western Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit) lead the Beloit Snappers (Minnesota) 2-0 in a best of 5 series.

Low A – South Atlantic League
The Columbus Catfish (Tampa Bay) lead the West Virginia Power (Milwaukee) 2-0 in a best of 5 series.

High A – California League
San Jose Giants (San Francisco) vs. Lake Elsinore Storm (San Diego)
Best of 5 series starts tonight.

High A – Carolina League
The Frederick Keys (Baltimore) defeated the Salem Avalanche (Houston) in the championship.

High A – Florida State League
The Clearwater Threshers (Philadelphia) defeated the Brevard County Manatees (Brewers) in the championship.

Double A – Eastern League
The Trenton Thunder (NY Yankees) lead the Akron Aeros (Cleveland) 2-0 in a best of 5 series.

Double A – Southern League
The Huntsville Stars (Milwaukee) lead the Montgomery Biscuits (Tampa Bay) 1-0 in a best of 5 series.

Double A – Texas League
The Springfield Cardinals (St. Louis) and the San Antonio Missions (Padres) are tied 1-1 in their best of 5 series.

Triple A – International League
The Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay) and the Richmond Braves (Atlanta) are tied 1-1 in the best of 5 series.

Triple A – Pacific Coast League
Sacramento River Cats (Oakland) lead the New Orlean Zyphers (NY Mets) 2-0 in the best of 5 series.

Milwaukee probably has the best upper minors – the Nashville Sound, their Triple A team, was eliminated from the PCL playoffs by the Zyphers in the first round. Figure in all of the players they have brought up in the last few seasons, and you can tell they have a good scouting system in place.

Tampa Bay also has their top 2 levels in the finals of their respective leagues; once the pitching hits the majors, the D-Rays should be a tough team. They have a good core of young players at the major league level – Delmon Young, BJ Upton, James Shields. Mix in Evan Longoria, Reid Brignac, and their core of good pitching, and they have a chance to rise to the top of the East.

It’s really the same as the Royals Double A team from last year. Most of the key players advanced to the majors this year – Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, Zach Greinke. Once the first 2 got established, the Royals took off after the break. With Hochevar up for a full season next year, the Royals are just a piece or 2 from competing.

What’s up coming?
Everyone remember the Hall of Fame feature I wanted to do? Well, my wife’s computer crashed and I lost all of my research. I’m going to start again (I think I have the players that were requested), but e-mail me with current, established players and I’ll tell you if their numbers compare to those players enshrined the in the Hall. I’m also working on an interview with a couple of Major Leaguer, one Chuckles is familiar with. I’ll have that up after the season ends.

If you have any other questions, comments, request, etc feel free to e-mail them to me.

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