Yankees, Orioles, Athletics, and Rays: The Countdown Begins for Baseball’s Playoffs

Crunch time. The end. Finito. And, for the first time ever, five teams get a chance. Well, do they really, though? Realistically, that one-game playoff between the top two Wild Card teams in either league will always be treated like the last regular season game of the year. Playoffs should always be treated like orgies: everything works better in round numbers.

After all, who can argue against what we saw last season? When the Braves and Red Sox both tanked and the Rays and Cardinals both needed a little help from their own magical bats, their friends, and God (we’re assume He’s big in Florida and Missouri), nobody could have argued against the intensity.

This year, the Yankees, Athletics, Orioles, Rays, and Angels will all be in the running for that unfortunate final contest.

There is only two weeks to go, and then October comes around. FOX will roll out Reggie Jackson highlights, while NESN will trump out brains with constant reminders that, yes, Boston still has a baseball team. And, then we climax.

The American League has always showcased the best the sport has to offer.

Sure, the Cardinals won the World Series last year, but there is a legitimate amount of corny excitement that comes from the AL.

The Rays, for example, rising out of irrelevancy to reach the World Series in 2008. The Mariners winning 114 games in 2001, or the Oakland Atheltics and their Moneyball-ish antics. Even the heartbreaking journey of the two-time (I said TWO-TIME!!!) AL champion Texas Rangers is improbable and impossible, but it’s true. George Bush and Nolan Ryan have owned that team, you say?

What about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, formerly the Anaheim Angels, and formerly the California Angels? They were owned by Roy Rogers, underwent some kind of Disney makeover, were turned into a Disney movie starring a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tony Danza, Donald Glover’s father, and Christopher Lloyd, and then won the World Series with a guy named Tim Salmon. No joke. Salmon.

The AL is just goofy. When goofy teams win from the National League, they always seem a little more serious. Florida’s two World Series wins were unexpected, but businesslike. Philadelphia and San Francisco acted like they deserved it, and St. Louis just takes advantage of the plush toys in the American League who get out from beyond their own, protective borders.

The American League is fantastic.

It continues tonight. And, our motto for the players remains the same as it did when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s dad left him in a broken down Orange County sh*t house and was therefore taken prisoner by a group of angels:

“Even though you can’t see us, we’re always watching.”