Wait a minute! Do you hear that? The pop of catchers’ mitts, the chatter around the diamond, the glorious thud of flipped bats crashing onto the grass … baseball is back, baby!
Welcome to year two of The 30 here at SI.com. All season long, I’ll rank all 30 major league teams and delve into the biggest stories swirling around the game.
Six months ago, we embarked on a long journey, one filled with brilliant bat flips, goofy GIFs and gobs of analysis. Today, we fete the 10 teams that survived the long slog to earn their way into the playoffs and look at one key player to watch for each.
One more for the road.
This is it. After nearly six months of battling for MLB’s 30 teams, we’re now down to the final week of the season. It’s time to make plans.
This week’s four featured teams are preparing for all kinds of different outcomes. The Brewers are focused squarely on 2017 and beyond.
The longshots have faded, and the early-season flukes have fizzled out. The six-month dogfight is nearly done, and only the strongest teams have survived.
This week’s four featured teams are all either contenders to watch or potentially dangerous spoilers. The Athletics end the season with a four-game series that could decide one American League West contender’s fate.
Few things get baseball fans more fired up than a good redemption story. When a player falls from grace or fails to live up to expectations, we look ahead to the second act, and that he can hopefully salvage that rough start. When that rebound happens, both player and team get to taste sweet vindication.
Trust the process. It’s a phrase that’s gained lots of traction in sports over the past few years. If a team’s making smart moves, the theory goes, then over the long haul those moves should eventually lead to strong results for that team and the players it’s acquired.
The problem is, trusting the process is often easier said than done.
August can be a rough month to be a baseball player. Dating back to the start of spring training, you’ve been diving after liners in the gap and snapping off curveballs for six months. When a day game after a night game comes along in 97-degree weather, it’s easy to feel a little less sharp or to lose that normal jolt of energy.
The concept of momentum in baseball is fraught with counterexamples. Plenty of teams have entered the postseason scorching hot only to flame out quickly. Plenty of teams have backed into the playoffs only to go on to win the World Series. Generating big winning streaks (or big losing streaks) late in the season guarantees nothing.
One of the most puzzling trends in baseball awards voting over the years has been (some) voters’ attempts to tie themselves in knots over the meaning of the word “value.” The Most Valuable Player award, they posit, must go to a player who plays for a playoff team. Their flip-side argument often looks something like this: If a team is losing with a great player on the roster, it can also lose without him.
At long last, it’s trade deadline day! Sure, teams have been making deals for weeks now and can continue to do for the rest of the season (assuming the players they trade pass through the complicated waiver system). Still, the last day for non-waiver deals can often produce unexpected and spectacular drama.