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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

August 21, 2007 at 11:26 AM

Who to root for?

Been bringing this up a few times in recent days, but it’s quite the interesting dilemna for Mariners fans, especially with the Yankees and Angels squaring off this week. Are you rooting for the wild-card, or the division title? Not as easy as it seems. Sure, everyone wants to see their team win a division. But is that going to be the most realistic route for the Mariners?
Seattle now has a 1 1/2 game lead on the dreaded Yankees. What’s going on with New York? Nothing really. The Yanks and Angels had a playoff style battle to the finish last night. You usually don’t see a team lead a division all year and then blow it in the final days of a season. That’s what it might take this time if the M’s are to catch the Angels. But it happens more often than you’d think. Even this decade:
2006: Tigers lead AL Central from May 14 until the final day of the season, only to lose out to the Twins.
2005: The Red Sox were in first place for all but four days from June 24 until the final day of the regular season, when they ended in a tie with the Yankees and finished second by virtue of MLB tiebreaking rules.
2004: The Oakland A’s led the AL West for all but two days from July 31 onward, until the Anaheim Angels passed them with three days to go.
2000: Seattle leads AL West from June 29 onward, only to get passed by Oakland on third-to-last day of regular season.
SOME ALSO-RANS:
2003 — Seattle leads AL West from April 14 to Aug. 27 only to get passed by Oakland and beaten out.
2003: Kansas City Royals were either atop or second in the AL Central from Opening Day through until Aug. 29. But then they ran out of gas and finished third behind the champion Twins and second-place White Sox.
If this trend continues, Seattle’s shot at the division is bound to go up. Bad enough K-Rod has been blowing games, but Shields was considered one of the top set-up men in baseball.
This Fox Sports online guy, who we’ve all read before, figures the Yankees will be the ones claiming the wild-card as a consolation prize for not catching the Red Sox as they did in 1978. But what does he know? Maybe as much as all the Pythagorean numbers folks who’ve been claiming the Mariners should be a .500 team. Over at Baseball Prospectus, their “third order” wins column says Seattle should be 61-61 instead of 70-52. That’s a nine-game differential! Time to throw these things in the garbage? No, not really. Maybe re-adjust them, as folks have attempted to do over the years.
But as I keep writing, that’s why you play the games on the field. And the way things have been turned on their ear so far, who knows what the next six weeks will hold? How about the next two nights? Do you want the Angels to bury the Yankees now, so the M’s can focus on the AL West with five weeks left? Or do you want to see the M’s even closer to the Angels now, with the Yanks breathing down their wild-card necks? It’s like high-stakes gambling. You may be left with an empty hand at the end.

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