Where has the time gone?
Football season is just around the corner and baseball is picking up speed as it ascends into the playoff pushes of October. I, for one, am typically more in-tune with the coming and going of the Cleveland Browns’ NFL season but I am a bit off schedule this time around.
Not because the lockout somehow threw off my internal sports ticker.
But because America’s Pastime has been remarkable this season, with five of the six division races going right down to the wire. It isn’t just the typical Boston-New York fend at the top of the American League East or the equally repetitious Philadelphia-Atlanta battle in the National League East. This season, teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks are toppling the defending champion San Francisco Giants in a two-team race out west.
The storylines are great. Hell, my Cleveland Indians are even within striking distance in the AL Central with just one month of baseball left to play. But can the underdogs really do the unthinkable and knock Boston, New York and Philadelphia from their perch to steal a one-way ticket to the 2011 World Series?
Answer: Yes. No doubt about it.
While the perennial World Series favorites — Boston, New York and Philadelphia — have seemingly dominated the playing field throughout the majority of the season, they have won a good chunk of their meetings against teams they will likely not face in the playoffs.
The Red Sox have been absolutely stellar within the division, toppling the Yankees in ten of 12 meetings this season. But they haven’t been nearly as sharp against teams like the Texas Rangers (3-4) and the Indians (4-6), who could potentially face-off against the Sox in the first round of the playoffs. New York has been surprisingly sharp on the mound this season and will likely take the lone wild card playoff berth by a large margin, but they have struggled against both Cleveland and Detroit in the Central Division while blasting the Rangers (7-2) — likely their first round opponent— in nine meetings this season.
Just like it is in all postseason sports spectacles, favorable match-ups are huge.
The NBA saw a No. 8 seed Memphis knock off the San Antonio Spurs, the best team in the Western Conference during the regular season. The NHL has watched the Washington Capitals get upset by lower-seeded teams time and time again.
It can happen.
The Philadelphia Phillies currently hold the best record in the league. Yet, they too are only winning about 50 percent of their games against other top division teams. They are just 3-3 against the Arizone Diamondbacks and 6-6 against division rival Atlanta Braves. The Milwaukee Brewers, as well, have taken two out of three from the Phillies this season.
Who would have guessed last year that the San Francisco Giants would be in the World Series, let alone walking away from the 2010 season with the title “Best Team in the World?”
Reality heavily outweighs expectations in sports. The teams with the least to lose also have the most to gain with big wins in the postseason. Don’t overlook the young talent in favor of huge, lucrative contracts.
Buckle in.
Hold on tight.
And enjoy the ride this postseason.