Follow hockey much, and as the playoffs near you hear broadcasters talking about “desperate” play.
If you don’t know what that means initially, you figure it out pretty quickly. Stars throwing themselves in front of 90-mph rubber disks. Puck battles all over the place. Goalmouth traffic more intense, goalie scrambles more spectacular and urgent.
Desperate has several meanings in the dictionary. Among them is “having an urgent need or desire.” So desperate is the perfect word as near-playoff teams fight like mad for positioning — or just to get in the door.
I’ve never heard of desperate baseball before, but that’s exactly what’s happening in the American League.
Three series remain for each of the wild card hopefuls: Tampa Bay, Texas, Cleveland, Baltimore, New York and Kansas City. Some teams have a fairly easy road ahead, but others have to go through one or several playoff contenders to punch their tickets.
Tampa Bay Rays
Series remaining: Versus Orioles, at Yankees, at Blue Jays
Playoff chances: Likely
Solidified their playoff push with a good showing against Texas. Perhaps the toughest road ahead, though, among the wild card hopefuls. The offense has been sporadic, but the pitching has been stout — as usual — recently. Too bad Floridians aren’t bothering to root, root, root for the home team.
Series remaining: at Royals, versus Astros, versus Angels
Playoff chances: Likely but softening quickly
Will the Rangers pull out of their death spiral? Royals series now appears to be the key to Texas’ faltering playoff hopes.
Games back: 0.5
Series remaining: Versus Astros, versus White Sox, at Twins
Playoff chances: Uhhhhhhh…maybe?
The easiest road to hoe among the wild card contenders — which is good, because Cleveland hasn’t been lights-out recently.
Games back: 2
Series remaining: At Rays, versus Blue Jays, versus Red Sox
Playoff chances: Unlikely
Orioles have done a good job of beating the teams they are supposed to beat, such as the Jays. They have not done well down the stretch in beating teams either at their level or ahead of them in the standings, such as the Rays or Red Sox. This does not bode well for the O’s returning to the playoffs this year.
Kansas City Royals
Games back: 3
Series remaining: Versus Rangers, at Mariners, at White Sox
Playoff chances: Slim, but…
Seriously, if it wasn’t for Ned Yost…if this team didn’t show the amazing ability to crash and burn right after sizzling through a 14-2 stretch…this would be a done playoff deal. A lot of fans (myself included) are holding our breath over the last week of the season. We’ve been conditioned to the bottom falling loooong before this…
New York Yankees
Games back: 3.5
Series remaining: Versus Giants, versus Rays, at Astros
Playoff chances: Losing steam
They are too old. Mariano Rivera is finally showing some cracks. And yet the Yankees have surged the past six weeks to be in the discussion. Aside from the Rays, it’s a fairly easy road the rest of the way.
The playoffs have effectively been underway since early August. Hope you’re ready for the real deal.