Final week: 30 teams, 30 things to savor
There is only one week left in this baseball regular season. That’s absurd, isn’t it? That is not nearly enough time. We have just gotten comfortable with baseball being back. Now it’s going? Perhaps we should just be grateful. It is our good fortune that we got any baseball at all.
With that in mind, today we point out one thing on each team that, in the last week, we as fans should try to appreciate. Sure, more than half the teams will play next week in the postseason, but the playoffs bring with it stresses and tension that can overwhelm the simple pleasures. Today, we just try to take joy in the little things. Here’s something to appreciate for each team, in the last week.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays – One last week of glorious Buffalo. There are many uncertainties for the 2021 season, but it stands to reason that the Jays are unlikely to be playing in Buffalo, N.Y., again next year. Since they’re unlikely to host a Wild Card Series, this is it for the Buffalo Jays: They’ll be talking about the year they played in Buffalo for years to come.
Orioles – A young team starting to figure itself out. There were some observers who worried the Orioles might not reach double figures in wins this year. They’ve already more than doubled that total and have watched several young hitters emerge and establish themselves as the future of this franchise. Pressure will come as the years go along; for now, just enjoy the start of whatever comes next for the O’s.
Rays – The last days before Brandon Lowe is a household name. Lowe has grown into a superstar the last couple of years, but few have noticed, in the same way it took a few years for everyone to realize who, say, Matt Chapman had turned into. Come playoff time, though? The rest of the baseball world will constantly be saying Lowe’s name.
Red Sox – One last look at Fenway Park until April. It has obviously been a difficult season to be a Red Sox fan, but there’s still not many things lovelier than a Sox game at Fenway Park. Even with all the losses, you’ll miss it so much.
Yankees – Perhaps the last games of Brett Gardner at Yankee Stadium. It was Gardner, of all people, who ended up outlasting so many Yankees in the occasional turnstiles of The Bronx. He’s been around since 2008, but if the Yankees don’t pick up his option this offseason, this could be it.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians – José Ramírez being José Ramírez again. He has played like an All-Star this year, and it has made his still-inexplicable first-half struggles in 2019 seem like a bad dream.
Royals – Salvador Perez, reestablished. The beloved Royals All-Star hadn’t taken a swing in anger since 2018 … and he has returned this year with the best offensive season of his career. He’s batting .361! Welcome back, Sal.
Tigers– Miggy, always Miggy. Sure, it isn’t prime Miguel Cabrera, but he’s still a Hall of Famer you’ll tell your kids you saw one day.
Twins – Nelson Cruz, ageless forever. You’ll want to be able to say you saw Cruz play when he was 40, which you can remind everyone of when you watch him play when he’s 50.
White Sox – The last days of the pre-postseason era. The White Sox very much look like a team that’s going to be in the postseason every season for a long, long time. Enjoy these final stress-free games. The White Sox are going to have stakes, serious stakes, moving forward.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels – Mike Trout. The best player in the world should never, ever be taken for granted.
Astros – Appreciating what might be the end of an era. Putting aside the sign-stealing scandal for now, the first wave of Astros free agents hit the market this year: George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, Yuli Gurriel. More will be coming. The Astros are becoming … something else.
Athletics – Chris Bassitt’s last quiet start. If the A’s are going to finally win a playoff series, Bassitt is going to have to be a star in his first start. This will be his last warmup outing … the last one before the lights start shining brightest.
Mariners – Another week of Kyle Lewis. It has been a while since a player has provided Mariners fans with as much pure joy as Kyle Lewis has this year. This is still just the start, too.
Rangers – Scouting out the World Series site. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new stadium, the one that will be hosting the World Series, this is your chance to see it … before the whole world is watching.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves – Freddie Freeman making his MVP push. Don’t just listen to Chipper Jones: Freeman has recovered from a nightmare start to 2020 to have his career year.
Marlins – Watching the playoff drought end. The Marlins aren’t officially in the playoffs yet, but they’re very close … and likely to end 17 years away from the postseason, the longest absence in the National League.
Mets – Jacob deGrom going for another Cy Young … and maybe the Hall of Fame. If deGrom wins his third straight Cy Young Award, many believe it’ll be the ticket to the Hall of Fame he needs, even though he’s only in his seventh season. He’d become the third pitcher ever to do it (after Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson, who both had four).
Phillies – A potential return trip to the playoffs. The Phillies still haven’t reached the playoffs since Ryan Howard limped up the first-base line at the end of the 2011 NL Division Series. But that very well might change this week.
Nationals – Juan Soto’s brilliance. This has been a mess every way for the defending champs, but Soto has been the superstar we all knew he was. And somehow he is still only 21 years old.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers – Christian Yelich on a finishing kick. It has been a step backwards for the MVP this season, but he has come around a little bit lately and will play five huge games to close the year against the Cardinals, a team he has always hit well.
Cardinals – The end of Adam Wainwright’s 30s. Wainwright hasn’t just made an incredible return in the season he turned 39: He has been the Cardinals’ best pitcher and maybe their most valuable player. Every time he breaks off that immortal curveball is a blessing.
Cubs –The final days of the Cubs’ dynasty, and at Wrigley? One of the pleasures of the Cubs’ season has been the sense that this is one last rodeo for the beloved Cubs that ended the curse. Whether or not that turns out to be the case, it has added an extra level of drama and grandeur to this final week.
Pirates – The ballpark. The Pirates were the first team in MLB to be eliminated from the postseason this year. But that park remains glorious even on TV, and there are four more games left where you get to look at it.
Reds – One more week to get it all in sync. The Reds have been trying to get their offense and pitching working at the same time for five years now. The week previous to this one, they finally figured it out. If they can pull off one more week like that, they could be in the playoffs.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs – A last chance to lick your wounds. The D-backs had high hopes for this season, but it collapsed almost immediately. They might start that rebuilding process soon, but either way, it’ll be a relief to have this campaign over.
Dodgers – History. The Dodgers have a chance to become the 15th team in modern baseball history to have a winning percentage over .700, and the first since the 2001 Mariners. Can they pull it off? And will it matter if it doesn’t transfer over into the postseason?
Giants – Can they sneak in? The Giants were not on anyone’s list of contenders this season, but they’re hovering around .500, which might be enough in the National League this year. Could they end up facing, gasp, the Dodgers in the first round?
Padres – Just soaking it all in. This is almost certainly the best Padres team in history, and they might just end up with an MVP in Fernando Tatis Jr. There will be higher expectations for the Padres moving forward. But this, this is all just happy bonus time.
Rockies – Some more time to appreciate Trevor Story. The hot start to the season has faded, and it turns out that Nolan Arenado never did get going. But Story has become the best player on this team and might just be about to ascend to superstar status himself.