What’s left to play for in Game 162?

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We’ve played 161 games and still not everything is decided. What’s left?

American League

The Yankees hold a one-game lead over the Orioles. A New York win or an Orioles loss gives the division to the Yankees.  If the Bombers lose and the O’s win, we have a one-game playoff tomorrow, in Baltimore, to see who has to play in the wild card game.  If the Yankees win today, they also clinch home field advantage in the AL playoffs.

The Rangers and A’s are all tied up. No tiebreaker scenarios here. Winner takes all, starting just after noon Pacific time today, in Oakland.

National League

The Dodgers loss to the Giants last night sealed the wild card for the St. Louis Cardinals. Everything is now decided in the National League. St. Louis heads to Atlanta on Friday for the wild card game. The winner of that one plays the Nationals in the NLDS. If the Reds win tonight and the Nationals lose, the Reds will have the best record in the NL, forcing the Nats to travel to San Francisco for the NLDS while the Reds play the wild card playoff winner.

Triple Crown/MVP

Miguel Cabrera went 2 for 3 last night, pushing his average up to .331. He leads Mike Trout by .007 points now.  Even if Cabrera takes an 0 for 4 today and Trout goes 4 for 4, they tie at .3285.  You figure that, even if he plays, Cabrera would be yanked if he went, like, 0 for 2. And for what it’s worth, if Cabrera totally sits out today, Trout has to go 6 for 6, so yeah. In any event, the Angels game starts 90 minutes before the Tigers game does today. Jim Leyland and everyone else will know if Trout goes on a tear.

The real threat is Josh Hamilton, playing a big game in Oakland today. But let’s define “real.”  Hamilton would have to hit two homers and Cabrera none for Cabrera to lose out on the home run portion of the Triple Crown.  He has the RBI title in the bag.

Skip out on the afternoon at work and watch the A’s-Rangers game, guys.

Javier Baez: “This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it.”

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Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.

While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.

Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”

He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”

Mike Trout proposes change to spring training umpiring

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.

According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”

Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.