By Doug Halberstadt
As we get closer to the end of the month of August, my thoughts really start to focus on the upcoming NFL football season. As much as I’m looking forward to spending Sunday afternoons watching the games, I can’t forget the fact that the pennant races in baseball are starting to take shape.
Coming down the stretch, each team has about 40 or so games remaining in the regular season. Some teams may not be mathematically eliminated at this point, yet I think it’s safe to say their playoff hopes are non-existent.
The Chicago Cubs are among those teams with no playoff hopes. At press time, they are 26 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central Division. The only team in worse shape than the Cubs is the Houston Astros. They are 34 1/2 games back.
The Reds are seven games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates and nine full games in front of the St. Louis Cardinals. Any of those three teams could win the division.
The Reds will have to stay focused and not let the pressure of having the lead in the division get to them. The Cardinals have a history of coming on extremely strong over the last month of the regular season and could turn up the heat on the Reds.
The Pirates seem to be hanging just close enough to the top of the standings and may surprise both the Reds and the Redbirds.
The White Sox are in first place in the American League Central Division. They are clinging to a tenuous 1 1/2 game lead over the Detroit Tigers. The other three teams in the division — Cleveland, Kansas City and Minnesota — are all 11 or more games back.
The Sox and the Tigers are poised to battle one another for the division crown. It should be the best race in the American League during the month of September.
In the American League East, it’s no shock that once again the Yankees are atop the division. What might be a bit different from recent years is who is in second place. It’s not the Boston Red Sox — they are in fourth place, 12 1/2 games back. The Tampa Bay Rays are in second and trying to stay within reach. They are five games back, and will have to step it up some to surpass the perennial postseason favorite Yankees.
In the American League West, the Texas Rangers are looking to return to the postseason again. They have a 5 1/2 game lead over the Oakland A’s. The Los Angeles Angels may also make a run at the Rangers. They are only 8 1/2 games back and could put some pressure on the A’s and Rangers , especially if Albert Pujols were to get hot at anytime over the last six weeks of the season.
Back in the National League East, it’s another two-team race. The Washington Nationals will be trying to make their 4 1/2 game lead over the Atlanta Braves hold up. The Braves are another team much like the Cardinals in the Central Division that tends to peak at precisely the right time of the season. They could easily wipe out the Nationals’ title hopes.
The tightest race in baseball right now is in the National League West. The San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers are in a virtual tie for the division lead. Right behind them is the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are only five games out of first. This is another division where any one of those three teams could walk away the winner.
So, even if you’re like me and have your sights set on the upcoming football season, let us not forget that the boys of summer still have some things to sort out before the month of October rolls around.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Aug. 22-28, 2012, issue