Unlike in past seasons, some of the perennial winners are no longer at the top of the food chain. Of course the Yankees are there because - well, let's face it - they're the Yankees. The Braves and the Cardinals are there too, but as a wild card teams - which there are two of this year in each league - and they will have to play a one game playoff on Friday to determine who will advance to the division series.
While teams that have had success over the past few years - such as the San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers - have either won, or were in contention to win their division, it is some of the other playoff teams that have made headlines and created a different playoff picture than the one we have grown accustomed to over the past several years.
Perhaps the most intriguing story, as far as teams are concerned, has been the Washington Nationals. Powered by the strong arms of Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg and the bats of rookie Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche, the Nationals claimed just their second division title in franchise history. Their first came in 1981 - a strike shortened season - when they were the Montreal Expos. In the American League, another team - the Baltimore Orioles - also ended a long playoff drought. Under the guidance of skipper Buck Showalter the O's secured their first playoff berth for the first time in 15 years last Sunday. The Orioles, who have been steadily improving over the past couple of years, have now become relevant again for the first time since Cal Ripken Jr. was the face of the franchise.
The upstart Oakland Athletics have also become a story as of late.
Going into the final game of the season on Wednesday, they were tied for first place in the AL West with the Texas Rangers. The A's ended up sweeping their series with Texas claiming the division title.
What makes the Athletics such an incredible story is not only that they have secured a playoff berth for the first time since 2006, but that they came back from a 13 game deficit on June 30 to be in the position to win their division. The play by the Athletics over the past several months also allowed them to make history on Wednesday evening by becoming only the fifth team in Major League history to win a division title or a pennant after trailing by at least 13 games during the regular season.
The Athletics were not the only ones who made history on Wednesday though.
The Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera became only the 15th player in Major League history to win the Triple Crown on Wednesday - a feat that was last accomplished by Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Going into the final game of the season on Wednesday, Cabrera led the American League in average (.331), home runs (44) and RBIs (139). However, the accomplishment was not secured until the Yankees pinch hit for Curtis Granderson, who had 43 home runs on the year, during Wednesday night's game.
With the type of season MLB has experienced, even for those people like myself who don't have a dog in the hunt - as my Red Sox couldn't find their way out of the cellar with a flashlight - it's hard not to appreciate the seasons that teams like the Nationals, the Orioles and the Athletics and some of the individual players like Cabrera and Harper, among others, have put together.
As a baseball fan, when the postseason rolls around on Friday, I will be watching, and enjoying, the play of some teams who have not been part of the playoff picture for quite some time.
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