King of the Mountain
The last day of the Major League Baseball regular season, not unlike the last day of the school year, carries great relief for some and great excitement for others.
Last year's final day of the regular season was, unanimously, The Greatest Regular Season Day in Baseball History, with the Cardinals leapfrogging the Braves in the National League while the Orioles, Yankees, and Rays conspired to break Red Sox hearts in the American League (and how awesome was that?).
This year, today, we'll have:
3:35 p.m: Oakland Athletics vs. the Texas Rangers, AL West title to the victor
7:00 p.m.: Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays / New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox; an Oriole win and a Yankee loss would tie the teams for the AL East title and force a one-game playoff
Bring it, and then bring on the playoffs, starting with a crazy one-game Wild Card matchup on Thursday.
Baseball is on top of the sports mountain right now. It's being played at a high quality by a high number of teams unencumbered by salary restrictions or imbalances. The Yankees and Orioles are even; the Athletics and Rangers are even; the Giants are better than the Dodgers.
This is fantastic.
- The NHL is in lockout.
- The NBA has several dynamic, star-loaded teams, so it's pretty darn awesome in Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City, and Chicago, to a lesser extent in Denver, San Antonio, and Boston, and maybe Minnesota three years down the line. Otherwise, feh.
- The NFL is dealing with scandal after scandal, from bounties to replacement refs, and 99% of its headlines deal with injuries. That's seriously awful -- forget rooting for a team, root for good health! The Jets' season has been torpedoed already by injuries to Darrelle Revis, the league's best cornerback, and Santonio Holmes, the team's best receiver. My Redskins lost their best defensive end, Brian Orakpo, and best defensive tackle, Adam Carriker, for the season - and that was in one game alone. Injuries crush a sport, and no athletes get injured like NFL athletes.
- The NFL has Tim Tebow, a divisive figure who causes football fans to argue over whether he's any good or whether he just stinks.
- Major League Baseball has Mike Trout, a divisive figure only in that he causes baseball fans to argue, "Yes, he's good -- but is he as good as Miguel Cabrera this year?"
In 2011, even beyond the remarkable last day of the regular season, baseball showcased a tremendous postseason capped with a World Series for the ages between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers.
In 2012, the game has continued its excellence: seven no-hitters; Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown campaign; outstanding rookie debuts from Trout and Bryce Harper; the heart-warming emergence of 37-year-old knuckleballing R.A. Dickey; the first official at-bat for Adam Greenberg; utterly magnificent catches by Trout and the Pirates' Travis Snider; and playoff invitations for the surprising Oakland Athletics, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.
It's a fine time to be a fan of the national pastime.