The 2017 Major League Baseball season is nearing its close, and although the league is short on tight playoff races, there’s still plenty to pay attention to.
We asked our writers what storylines they’ll be watching in the final week-and-a-half of the season. Here are their answers:
Stories to watch in baseball’s final weeks
Ian Casselberry: The wild card races in each league could make the very end of the season very compelling, but I’ll have my eyes on the AL East race. A good ol’ Yankees-Red Sox competition. Granted, the stakes aren’t what they would’ve been 20-plus years ago, when one team would win the division and the other was done for the season. Both teams will make the postseason, which takes some juice out of this race.
But there are still some stakes here, namely having to play in the one-game Wild Card playoff. I’d like the Yankees or Red Sox’s chances against the Twins or Angels (OK, the Rangers too), but it’s entirely possible they could lose a do-or-die game. Additionally, they’d have to play the Indians in the divisional round (in a best-of-five series), rather than the Astros. Nothing against Houston, but Cleveland looks far more formidable with more postseason experience on the field and in the dugout. Avoiding those circumstances creates plenty of incentive to win the AL East.
Matt Clapp: Well, as a Cubs fan, the NL Central race is obviously my main interest/24-hour obsession. And I’m still watching MLB Extra Innings daily to follow all of the races.
But Giancarlo Stanton’s home run chase is especially fun to follow. Sure, this season there have literally been more home runs hit than ever before, and it sure seems like we’re dealing with a juiced ball here. But what he’s doing is absolutely amazing. He has 11 more dingers than anyone else does! It’s bonkers.
Alex Putterman: I’m all about the awards races. It’s rare we have genuine toss-ups for each of the four major honors, but that’s what we’re dealing with here. Altuve or Judge for AL MVP? Giancarlo or a crew of challengers for NL MVP? Sale or Kluber for AL Cy Young? Scherzer or Greinke for NL Cy Young? All four of those awards could be determined by strong finishes from certain candidates.
The NL MVP race particularly bears watching. When we asked this group two weeks ago who was the favorite, we heard four different answers, and nothing has cleared up since. You could make a legitimate case for Stanton, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Anthony Rendon, Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, Scherzer or Greinke. The winner could easily wind up being whoever closes the season the strongest. I’ll be checking box scores every day.
Deesha Thosar: The AL East is the most exciting storyline as the regular season winds down. With the Astros and Indians securing playoff berths, for the West and Central respectively, all eyes are on the Red Sox. As of current standings, the earliest they can clinch the AL East is Monday, with any combination of Red Sox wins and Yankees losses totaling eight.
But the Yankees aren’t giving up that easy. The Bronx Bombers can clinch a playoff berth as early as Friday, with any combination of Yankees wins and Angels losses totaling three. Though they’re not scheduled to go head-to-head again this year, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry steals the spotlight in baseball right now.
Joe Lucia: It’s all about the tank, bout the tank…
I want to see how the race to the bottom shakes out. Could the San Francisco Giants, who have won three titles this decade, finish with the top overall pick? Could the Atlanta Braves fall out of the top 10, which would be potentially disastrous as they continue to rebuild? Will the top five be solely made up of large-market teams? The top of the draft is wide open right now and with most of the playoff races already decided, this race is one of the most compelling over the final two weeks of the year.
Liam McGuire: If you’d asked me a month ago, my answer would have been the Dodgers’ chase for the win record. However, since they’ve fallen off, my vote goes to Giancarlo Stanton. What he’s doing is nothing short of incredible. The fact he’s got a legit chance to break the “clean” single-season home run record is insane. His performance is somehow flying under the radar — as it might be the most impressive single achievement in the last two decades.