To better understand how the expanded playoff format works, not to mention the wackiness of this season, pretend the season ended last night. The playoffs would begin with back-to-back wild card knockout games: the Orioles at the Angels and the Dodgers at the Pirates.
Wait. The Orioles? The Pirates? What is this, 1979? The Orioles-Angels winner would advance to play the Rangers. The Dodgers-Pirates winner would move on to play the Nationals. That's right: a postseason game in Washington. Now we're talking 1933 vintage.
That Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Washington -- total playoff appearances in 42 combined seasons since 1998: zero -- are sitting in playoff position halfway through the season tells you this truly has been a half-baked year. As teams reach their 81st game this week, and with the All-Star Game a week from today in Kansas City, it's time to take stock of how we arrived here by taking a look at the major award winners for the first half.
And yes, a Pittsburgh Pirate figures prominently on my MVP ballot. Over the past three years, baseball writers have filled in 1,440 places on NL MVP ballots. None of them have included a Pirate. The last Pittsburgh player to be named on a ballot was Nate McLouth, who received one 10th place vote in 2008. The times are indeed changing.