During the All-Star break, 11 of 14 teams were viable candidates for the postseason. Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles were all division leaders with the following tight Wild Card race:
Minnesota . . 48-38 GB
Baltimore . . 47-40 1.5
New York. . . 46-40 2.0
Texas . . . . 46-40 2.0
Cleveland . . 47-41 2.0
Oakland . . . 44-43 4.5
Toronto . . . 44-44 5.0
Detroit . . . 42-44 6.0
So now it's about 50 games until the end of the regular season, and the face of the Wild Card race has changed a bit. The A's began surging. The Orioles began reeling. Tampa Bay stayed the same. Who's left in this thing?
Eliminating the obvious: Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Seattle
Detroit is 6 games under .500, 20 back of Chicago and 8 1/2 back of Wild Card leader Oakland/Los Angeles. After dropping 3 straight to the Indians at home (two of those they had leads and lost them) and trading closer Kyle Farnsworth for two promising pitchers, the Tigers are reloading for next year, so they're out.
Baltimore fired Lee Mazzilli, their pitching has spiraled downward, and oh by the way their slugger is shrouded in steroid controversy (and I'm not talking about Sammy Sosa). And if today's injury suffered by Sidney Ponson lingers, they have no chance. They're out.
As much as I love the small market teams like Minnesota, they haven't been making good moves. Bret Boone turned out to be a waiver bust, plus home run thief Torii Hunter is out for the season and everyone this side of Lew Ford is on a dismal slump this month. As much as I love that pitching staff and bullpen, they've fallen 7 games back in the Wild Card after possessing the lead by 3 games. It's tougher to climb back up, and the competition ahead is much tougher. Sorry Cullen, but they're out.
Yes, Toronto still has an outside chance. This weekend home series against the Yankees could have been a big statement in that division. It's a team with Roy Halladay and nobody else famous, and Halladay's hurt. The Blue Jays are the epitome of Jan Brady this season. Nobody's talking about this team, yet they're only 5 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. The coming week's schedule features two teams down on their luck — 4 hosting the Tigers and 3 at the Orioles. If the Jays have any chance of staying in this, they need to win 6 of those 7. If and only if they accomplish that, they're 61-55 and in — barely. Otherwise, they're out.