Tonight begins the 2014 Major League Baseball post-season, with the Wild Card round, also known as a play-in game, because, quite frankly, that's all it really is, isn't it?
The last time the Kansas City Royals were in the playoffs, they won it all in 1985. After years of being among the dregs of the AL, much like the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League, the Royals finally were able to put it together this year, and even led the AL Central for a while. Had the Oakland A's won the West, the three consecutive division titles would've mirrored their similar run 40 years ago, except for one thing. They haven't won a World Series this time around. This year, though, the A's are in decline, such that they traded outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Boston to get pitcher Jon Lester for what amounted to a rental, since everyone thinks Lester will return to the Red Sox as a free agent. A deep postseason run might change his mind, especially if the A's decide to finally open the checkbook.
However, I don't see that happening. Kansas City acquired James Shields from Tampa Bay for this sort of scenario. Now, he gets to earn his money. That's the good news for the Royals. The bad? They get the top seeded Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim next. We like the Royals tonight, but then, the ride ends as the Angels advance to the ALCS in 4 games.
The other ALDS matchup puts Central Division winner Detroit against Eastern champ Baltimore in what should be a classic series. Should be, of course, being the operative phrase. 2-time reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera, however, hasn't put up the same kind of numbers this season as he has in the past, and the Tigers' offense is no longer a one-man show. That should make them better, but their Cy Young rotation hasn't exactly been consistently spectacular. After all, didn't the Yankees smack them around? We like the Orioles in 5.
Over in the National League, there are those who think the San Francisco Giants will win it all again, as they did in 2010 and 2012. Maybe, but I don't see it. The Pittsburgh Pirates have to take the Wild Card route again, and, like the Royals, they spent some time atop the Central division this year. Then again, so did the Milwaukee Brewers, and they had an epic collapse worthy of Boston 3 years ago. The Pirates, though, are a team on the rise, and it's a matter of time before they dethrone the St. Louis Cardinals as the kingpins in the division. This time, though, the Bucs will have to go through Washington if they want their first NLCS appearance since 1992. The Nationals have a pitching staff on a par, shall we say, with Detroit, as well as a 1st year manager in Matt Williams, who is finishing the job Davey Johnson started.
That said, we see Pittsburgh over San Francisco on Wednesday, but the Nats move on to the LCS in 4.
The other LDS in the National League sees the Cardinals match up against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, don't ya think that the success Don Mattingly's enjoying in LA might prompt the Steinbrenner brothers to bring him back to the Yankees if/when they decide to dump Joe Girardi? Of course. I can see the headlines already.
I'm of two minds here. I can see a Washington-Los Angeles LCS, with the Dodgers disposing of St. Louis in 4, which would mirror the Orioles-Angels ALDS. Same result, too. I'd be happy with the first-ever Beltway Series between the Orioles and the Nats. Yep, that's how it'll play out, pilgrims. Of course, I could be wrong.