Being a baseball fan usually means rooting for excellence. We cheer for tape-measure home runs and dominant pitching performances. Ten-game winning streaks. No-hitters. The rare hitting streak that can even start to threaten DiMaggio. This is usually what we want to see.
But this season, baseball’s biggest source of excitement is emanating from an entirely different place: mediocrity. Eight teams teams sit within four games of each other in the race for the American League’s second wild-card spot. That dizzyingly close race stems not from half the league playing exemplary baseball. The current leaders in that chase, the Angels, sit just three games above .500. Five of the eight teams within that four-game threshold have actually lost more games than they’ve won this season.
And all of it is glorious. The next seven weeks will feature meaningful and exciting baseball in a passel of cities that might not get that jolt in a different playoff system. So while three of the divisional races were already decided weeks ago, fans of 2016 also-rans like the Angels, Twins, Royals, Mariners, and Rays could be looking at games with playoff implications every night until October. That’s a helluva thing.
This is the AL version of The 30.