As it stands today, the Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros and New York Mets are all in first place. Yes the Astros, a team that won 51 games two years ago is in first place. Yes, the Blue Jays, a team that has missed the playoffs every year since 1993 is crushing baseballs and its competition. Even if you started following the MLB this year and knew nothing of these teams and their historical contexts, it’s hard to say that this season is typical.
The power drought that seems to have plagued baseball over the past few years seems to be disappearing as according to ESPN.com, about 30 players seem to be on pace to hit at least 30 home runs this year. In spite of this statistic, 2015 has also been “The Year of the Pitcher” to a certain extent. With an abundance of starting pitching that includes the likes of Zach Greinke and his sub-2.00 earned run average; Jake Arrieta, whose dominance over the past few months has catapulted him into the Cy Young discussion; consistently masterful pitching from perennial ace Clayton Kershaw; and Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros and a host of other scary seasons from should-be Cy Young contenders all prove that young, powerful arms will be running the league for years to come.
I guess the point I’m making is simply this: baseball is exciting again. Sure, every year has its moments, but there have been a host of improbable performances that have made this season something of legend. Take the Mets for example. Two days before the trade deadline, the worst hitting team in baseball over the past two months announced (unofficially via Twitter I must add) that they would be trading Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler for all-star Carlos Gomez. Fans were ecstatic, so much so that they began to cheer for Flores as he recorded a routine out at the plate in the middle of the game. Flores eventually pieced together the details of the trade and began to cry as he took the field. He became the laughing stock of all sports media and fell victim to Tom Hanks’ famous quote in “A League of Their Own”, “There’s no crying in baseball.”
To make a long story short, the trade fell through, Flores hit a walk off homerun in what was then the biggest series of the Mets’ season, the team traded for Yoenis Cespedes and took over first place from the flawed Washington Nationals, and now boast the most powerful offense in the National League over the past few months. Matt Harvey, the team’s posterboy dubbed “The Dark Knight of Gotham” by Sports Illustrated a few years ago, made controversial statements regarding his health, innings limit and postseason eligibility last week, evoking the famed quote from “The Dark Knight”: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Harvey backtracked on these comments, yet put the Mets in a 7-1 hole Tuesday night. Of course, his performance was salvaged by an incredible comeback that saw the team score six runs with two outs in the seventh inning to tie the game. They won 8-7. Add in moments like David Wright hitting a homerun in his first at bat in four months and a host of dramatic come-from-behind victories and you have the makings of a storybook season.
But enough about the Mets. The addition of a second wild card has shown to increase competitiveness amongst teams that in the past would have been out of the race come July. Pittsburg and Chicago, two perennial losers in their own right, boast the second and third best records in the national league but are sadly destined to face each other in a one-game playoff come postseason time. In any other year, the Cardinals, aka the Yankees of the National League, armed with their video game-like rotation of gods and the best record in baseball, seem destined to steamroll through any and all competition on their way to a World Series title. But this year, anything goes.