Sports Column

With baseball’s pennant race approaching the finish line, we could witness multiple playoff spots decided on the final day of the season. The New York Mets are in the midst of taking another nosedive in both the NL East and wildcard races. Manny Ramirez has given CPR to the Dodgers’ season, and the Tampa Bay Rays are closing in on capturing the American League East from the Boston Red Sox. October is in the air, and I can’t wait for the excitement and emotion of the postseason, especially one without the Yankees.

Most of the playoff berths have been decided in the American League. The Angels clinched their fourth AL West title in five years behind record-breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez’s 60 saves, while both the Sox and Rays have secured winning either the AL East or the Wildcard. It is still hard to believe that Tampa Bay is finally a playoff team after a decade of sitting in the American League’s basement.

In the Central division, the Chicago White Sox lead the Minnesota Twins by more than two games through Sunday heading into an important three-game series between the two in Minnesota.

Despite losing power hitter Carlos Quentin for the regular season (broken wrist), Chicago sports a dependable pitching staff with the experience of Mark Buehrle to go along with young arms John Danks and 16-game winner Gavin Floyd. The Twins have plenty of firepower in the rotation with hard-throwing southpaw Francisco Liriano and can produce runs at will thanks to MVP candidate Justin Morneau, but the White Sox are the better team from top to bottom and should hold on to win the division.

You have to feel great for Cubs fans after their team clinched the National League Central within the same week its ace, Carlos Zambrano, threw a no-hitter in his first start back from an injured rotator cuff. This team honestly looks like the favorite to win its first World Series since Henry Ford introduced the world to the Model T. Could this be the year that 100 years of misery and collapse is erased in the North Side of Chicago?

The Cubbies have time before answering that question and can relax until the playoffs, while the rest of the league is fighting just to join them.

The Phillies have been rolling as of late and own a slight advantage over the Mets in the NL East. It is doubtful New York will overtake Philly in what would be a reverse of last season, but they lead Milwaukee and Houston for the Wildcard spot. This would be the opportune time for the Mets to capitalize and make the playoffs, considering the Brewers have been in a funk since the surprising firing of manager Ned Yost and the Astros have not been the same since Hurricane Ike forced the team out of Houston.

But, we are talking about the Mets, who might have the worst bullpen in baseball and continue to break the hearts of their fans with late-game blunders.

And finally, the Los Angeles Dodgers are within striking distance of clinching the NL West. Without taking away from the wonderful job Joe Torre has done managing this team, the decision to trade for Manny Ramirez was brilliant and is practically the reason why they will be a playoff team. Manny has only been with L.A. for 50 games, but is batting .400 with 16 home runs and 49 RBI wearing Dodger blue. Even though he played most of the year in the American League, Manny deserves to win the NL MVP hands down.

Bold Prediction of the week: The Mets will edge out the Brew Crew for the Wildcard, hopefully.

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