The hunt for October, now the fun begins

Posted Thursday, September 23, 2004 - 12:00am

The 2004 Major League Baseball regular season is coming to an end and the playoffs are about to start. Several teams are putting everything on the table to get to play for a shot at a championship. This is the time of year when the best of the best get out and show the world what they got.

With only three weeks left in the regular season and the playoffs looming in the background its time to see which teams got it and the teams that don't. With three of the divisional races within four games of each other it seems we will have some exciting baseball to watch the next three weeks.

We have the Red Sox trying to dethrone the Yankees in the American League East. The Yankees have won the past six divisional titles, so Boston is up against the wall. The Red Sox have never overtaken the Yankees for the A.L. East title after August 15 in any season. But with only a two and half game lead ahead of the Red Sox the Yankees have to be a bit worried. The Yankees pitching staff has been anything but desirable. With Kevin Brown breaking his left hand and no starter living up to his expectation the Yankees are in world of hurt. On the other hand the Red Sox have built this years team for one purpose, to win the World Series. Picking up Curt Schilling in the off season and picking up their defense with a blockbuster deal involving sending Boston's heart throb, Nomar Garciaparra. Since the deal the Red Sox have been on a tear and are knocking on the Yankees doorstep.

The A.L. West is just as tight, with Oakland leading by a slim margin over Anaheim. Oakland continues to do well using the "Money Ball" strategy. They are the reigning A.L. West champs and don't want to give it up. Anaheim is right on their tails with MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero leading the way trying to top Oakland and get into the playoffs after a one year absence since winning the World Series in 2002. Texas has a slight chance but needs a lot of help to get into the playoffs.

Lets change gears a bit and talk about the National League. With three players this year making some career milestones in home runs, its made it a fun season to watch. While Jim Thome hitting his 400th home run and Ken Griffey hitting his 500th earlier this season, their respected teams are not looking to get into the playoffs. But for one special player who on the 17th of September became only the third player in MLB history to hit 700 home runs for their career. Barry Bonds hit an opposite field home run, just like his first major league home run, off San Diego pitcher Peavy to make history. Unlike Thome and Griffey, Bonds team is in the hunt for October.

While San Francisco just a few games behind Los Angeles for the N.L. West division, it is leading one of the tightest wild card races in history. Florida, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago and Houston all chase each other for one spot to play in October. They are within four games of each other and it looks like its going to come down to the last week of the season.

Only in the past 10 years has baseball changed its way teams get into the playoffs. When the wild card was introduced to guarantee the second best team in each league a spot in the playoffs, races like the wild card in the National League was thought of. If it weren't for the wild card only San Francisco and San Diego would have a chance to play in October.

So whether you like watching all 162 games of the season or you just like watching the playoffs, baseball is getting exciting and the hunt for October is among us. Get out your baseball caps and get ready to watch America's pastime at its best. GO RED SOX!!

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