Welcome to June. This is your wake up call.
Think your team that stumbled through the first two months can still make the playoffs? Think again. While we all might easily remember the comeback of the 2005 Astros, who began June at 19-32 and wound up in the World Series, the reality is that teams that are bad for the first two months tend to remain bad, a corollary that the Cleveland Indians, for one, might do well to heed.
Here are the facts. There have been 104 teams to make the playoffs in the 13 full seasons of the wild-card era. Exactly three of them, or 2.9 percent, were worse than five games below .500 when June began. Here are the three outliers:
1. 2005 Astros (19-32 start; 89-73 final record).
This is very bad news for the Indians, Athletics, Nationals, Pirates, Astros, Diamondbacks and Rockies. One word of advice: sell. Better to make players available now, especially for players on the last year of deals. A four-month rental has more value than a two-month rental.
What about the teams with records only slightly worse than .500? The news is better, but not by much. Only 12 teams (11.5 percent of wild-card playoff teams) made the playoffs after entering June with a losing record. Sorry, too, Marlins.
The news is especially bad for AL laggards. Only four of the 52 AL playoff teams (2007 Yankees, 2006 Athletics, 2006 Twins and 2002 Athletics) entered June with a losing record. And no AL team has won the pennant in the wild-card era after starting June with a losing record. So class dismissed, Rays, Orioles, White Sox, Twins, Royals and Mariners.
Still, most teams do their best to keep up appearances, lest they signal to their fans even before school is out and prime-attendance season is in that their team has no shot. And so you will hear, "We'll hit when the weather warms up" ... "We're a second half team" ... "Wait until our star pitcher comes back from [insert catastrophic arm injury here]; it will be our trade-deadline acquisition" ... and other bromides of the desperate.
Take Cleveland, for instance. (Why not? The Magic did, as well as a team in every major sport since 1964.) The Indians began June at 22-30 with their best player,
"There's nothing going on right now other than preparation," Indians GM
Shapiro was preemptive in trading aces
And so the Indians will play the optimism game for another month: pitchers
"Up until very recently we were more in the mode of looking to add," Shapiro said. "I've probably slowed the effort to try to acquire. We're probably more in the middle ground right now. People may think we're crazy, but we still like the core of this team."
Cleveland has been hit somewhat hard with injuries (Westbrook, Laffey, Hafner,
Would-be contenders that would appear to be even more buried by the first two months include Oakland, Houston, Arizona and Colorado. In some ways, such teams are now competing against one another: Who will be first to the trade market? Despite what playoff history suggests, the answer might not come until next month.