Every morning I take a glance at the standings and the pennant races. There’s nothing like the drama and intensity of a pennant race. It is the essence of the sport.
For the record, this morning the Mets are 15 games under .500 and 24 games behind the Nationals with a schedule that could plummet them to 20 below.
So much for a pennant race involving the Mets. Even the collapses of 2007 and 2008 gave those Septembers more meaning than this excruciating month. Of course the remaining schedule is of importance to the Phillies, Pirates and Braves, all in wild card contention. There are six games left with the hated Marlins in the battle to stay out of last place.
Major League Baseball added a second wild card in the hope of creating spice and interest in more cities. So far, it has worked in both leagues.
In the American League there are eight teams – including the three division leaders – that could end up with a wild-card berth. In the AL East there is a dogfight between the Yankees, Orioles and Rays. But, what kind of fight is it really if all three were to qualify for the playoffs? Mathematically it could happen.
In the National League, seven teams are in serious wild-card contention with all three division leaders having comfortable margins.
For all the drama – is it really manufactured drama? – in the wild-card races I think of perhaps the greatest pennant race in history, that being 1967 in the American League when five of the then 10 teams in the league were alive in September, but only one would survive.
For much of that tumultuous summer, the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Tigers and Angels were all packed at the top. The Angels were the first to drop out, then with over a week remaining the White Sox’s woeful offense finally wore down their marvelous pitching staff led by Gary Peters and Joel Horlen.
I remember it vividly because I spent that summer in New England and started following the Red Sox on the radio at night. My Indians, of course, were like the present day Mets and well on the outside.
The Red Sox, Twins and Tigers were alive heading into the final weekend. Carl Yastrzemski’s Sox and Harmon Killebrew’s Twins would eliminate one of those teams. All three were alive the final day. Boston eliminated the Twins early, then had to wait until the Tigers lost the second game of a double-header before clinching.
There have been many great pennant races, but for the amount of teams involved, that one had the most.
If the old, no-division format were in place today, the Nationals and Reds would be having a great race, with the Braves and Giants on the fade.
The American League would have a spicier race with the Rangers, Athletics, Yankees and Orioles within five games of each other. That combination would give 1967 a run for its money.
Perhaps, because I was a kid and was just developing my passion for baseball, but the 1967 race stands out for me. Nearly four decades later, it is still special reading about it. To me that was one for the ages.