Wacky Year

Wackiest Year 


By David A. Avila

Never before has baseball endured a wackier year.

Baseball’s craziest season is about to get crazier.

Not since 1967 when the American League pennant was embroiled in a heated race between four teams on the last day of the season has Major League Baseball seen something similar. This year has it beat.

With more than 16 teams battling in both the American and National League the playoff season matchups will not be identified until the last day of the 2020 season.

Back in 1967 there were four teams battling for the American League pennant. Eventually the Boston Red Sox emerged from the muddle led behind Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Longborg that season 53 years ago.

Now in 2020, we have eight teams in both leagues about to enter a playoff season like no other before. One of the teams, the San Francisco Giants, even has a Yastrzemski on its roster - Mike Yastrzemski.

No team will be guaranteed an easy path. Not even the Los Angeles Dodgers who have led most of the way and have the best overall record to date. Stellar pitching and bombs away hitting won’t be enough this season.

When the regular season concludes, three-game playoffs will commence and the real damage will begin. Upsets will be the norm and surprise teams will emerge from the division playoffs when the mushroom clouds disappear.

Care to disagree?

Division winners and best records do not guarantee World Series championships. Just take a look at last year’s winners the Washington Nationals. Or even the San Francisco Giants who won two of their three World Series despite not winning their division. They both emerged as Wild Cards teams.

Luck plays a big factor when it comes to the wild cards. A hot team can go all the way.


More on Wild Cards

One of the hottest teams is the Los Angeles Angels and it took the month of September for them to gain traction.

Led by Mike Trout, a three-time Most Valuable Player, the Angels are a mere two games behind the Houston Astros who are in second place in the AL West. Pitching had been a problem until Angel manager Joe Maddon figured out who in the bullpen was able to produce outs. They shocked the San Diego Padres with back-to-back wins.

Only a handful of games remain and the Angels must face their neighbors the Dodgers in the final three games to make the list of eight. It’s a very long shot, but that’s what hot teams can do.

In the National League the St. Louis Cardinals have a number of games to make up after being quarantined due to an infection to members of their organization. It probably will not be decided until the final day.


Movers and Shakers

Playoff races are the perfect time to distinguish the clutch players in the Major Leagues.

None are hotter than Cincinnati Red pitcher Trevor Bauer.

Last year when the Cleveland Indians traded Bauer to Cincinnati it was an eye-opener. Few have a more moving fastball than the former UCLA Bruin pitcher who along with Gerrit Cole led their college team to the College World Series.

Bauer leads the National League with a 1.73 ERA and a microscopic 0.79 WHIP. He also tamed a number of teams along the way and has piloted the Reds toward a possible spot on the playoffs. He is also a front-runner for the Cy Young Award.

Hopefully, this nonsense about Jacob DeGrom being a strong candidate for Cy Young ends this year. Last year, Hyun Ryu had a better ERA and still lost to DeGrom. There’s too much New York favoritism going on when it comes to awards. Bauer is the better candidate.

In the American League, its Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Indians who is a strong candidate for the Cy Young with a 1.63 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP.

That Cleveland Indian system seems to know how to pick and groom pitchers. But they let Bauer go and they may pay for it this season if the Reds make it while the Indians don’t.


Passing Willie Mays

Albert Pujols hit two homers and passed the homerun total of the great Willie Mays who hit 660. The Angels first baseman now has 662 homers to place him in fifth place all time. Those in front are Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.

It’s a tremendous achievement.

Mays played most of his career for the New York Giants and San Francisco Giants. He ended his career playing for the New York Mets. But as a Giant, the centerfielder known as the “Say Hey Kid” was about the best in baseball. Clutch hitting was his strongpoint and beating the Dodgers was another. Mays could also snag line drives in the gap with the best of them.

Pujols began his career as a St. Louis Cardinal and immediately let the baseball world know that hitting line drives was his forte. And he hit for average too. For the past eight years he’s played for the Angels and though not the deadly bat he was before, he can still deliver big hits. He now has 662 of them.