As the final week of the regular Major League Baseball season sets upon us, there will be a crowd of fan that begins to descend on the game shortly: the playoffs only crowd. This is a varied group that ranges from the casual fan, to the American or National League only viewer, to the regional pride fan. The baseball season is long and strenuous trip, and everybody is not made for it, which is fine.
Luckily enough today is your day to get up to speed on all that has happened in the first five and a half months of the 2013 MLB season. With all that has happened across the year, the season is really just about to take off. But to understand where it is going, knowing where it has come from is key. There were some lowlight moments, highlighted by controversy around suspensions that are sure to continue to develop, but it has also been one of the most competitive years in some time. And with that, here nine of the biggest happenings of the season that is, as well as what to know going ahead.
1. Boston was strong, and stayed that way: After finishing 2012 at the bottom of the AL East with only 69 wins, they have gone from the bottom to the top of the division, and have a chance to improve on that wins number by an additional 30 this year. With a new manager in John Farrell, and as deep a roster as any in the game, they not only carried the weight of a city in peril, but also will likely enter October with baseball’s best record.
2. Cabrera Got Crushed: Miguel Cabrera has played even better baseball than he did when he won his Triple Crown a year ago. His effort this season has been more than good enough in most years to net him another one, but there has been one big problem in a repeat episode airing: Chris Davis. Baltimore’s first baseman has hit 51 homers, which outpace Cabrera by six currently. Looks like Miggy will have settle for just a batting, RBI title and bringing the third straight MVP award to the D.
3. Atlanta ran away, and hid for good: The Braves won the National League East roughly two months ago, but just made it official on Sunday. With a dominant run that saw them extend a lead to 15 games at some points, the Braves put enough room between them to hold off the late-rising Washington Nationals and have a chance to make the NL side of the playoffs run through Atlanta.
4. The Dodgers rode Space Mountain: After seeing their free spending winter find them 12 games under .500 and at the bottom of the NL West, the Dodgers woke up and have been the most dominant team in either league for 3/4ths of the season. Sparked by a virtuoso effort from Clayton Kershaw and the much debated, but undeniable presence of Yasiel Puig, LA have won 67% of the games it has been involved in since June.
5. The dry spell is dead: There hadn’t been a winning season of baseball in Pittsburgh since the year before Bill Clinton took the oath of office. Yet behind another MVP-worthy year from Andrew McCutchen, as well as a swarming supporting cast, Pittsburgh broke their 20 year losing streak. Yet their work is far from easily completed…
6. Ain’t no love in the heart of country: Despite their newfound success, the Pirates are in the midst of what has been the tightest race in all of the game. The NL Central has been home to the biggest battleground of the summer. In one order or another, the division will send three teams to the postseason, with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Pirates all in a dogged fight to win the Central and avoid what will be an all-NL Central Wild Card game.
7. The door closes on the Sandman: At some point this week, Mariano Rivera will end his final game of his career, which has seen him set the curve that all relief pitchers are graded on. After a season that has seen him awarded at every stop, he was paid his greatest pre-Cooperstown honor on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. His career will come to close with over 690 games saved between the regular and postseasons, with four World Series rings and 14 All-Star appearances.
8. The Legend Continues: Mike Trout made something of big splash during his rookie year, one that nearly ended with him crashing the MVP party as well. Despite a bit less fanfare, he has actually played at an even higher level in year two. If he adds one more double and one more triple before next Sunday comes around, the 22 year old will be the first player ever to have 10 triples, 20 home runs, 30 stolen bases and 40 doubles in one season (a season where he has improved nine different categories).
9. The Wild(est) Card: While there is far from a consensus about much of anything this season, one thing that can’t be debated is that once again it has made every game of the season matter. Coming into the last week of the season, there are seven teams within range of the last few playoff spots available. Extra incentive has done nothing but make more games matter, and after 150 already in the books, if the very last few can still be made to matter, then the system works and is only getting better.
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