THE LUXURIANT, FISH-CATCHING BEARDS OF THE BOSTON RED SOX: The WSJ's Jason Gay thinks that despite the start of the NFL season, you should still be paying attention to baseball:
You could look at this "enhanced" wild card in a couple of ways. You could be a fuddy-duddy and groan about the dilution of baseball's fussy, old-school postseason, and then complain about your oatmeal and the line at the pharmacy and the lack of Walter Matthau movies on cable. Or: You could view baseball not as a museum piece but a living thing—and see the re-evaluation of the playoffs as a way to goose a beloved sport.
And this season, fruitfully, you have craziness. At least in the American League—so, half-craziness. The National League race is sort of a slumber party—St. Louis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh look poised to hoard the Central title and the two wild-card slots, unless Washington finds a miracle (even here, you see the influence of the double-wild-card system; that Central title looks massive). But in the AL, it's madness. The following teams are still in the mix: Texas, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, the Kansas City Royals, the Yankees…and, if I'm not mistaken, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Vancouver Grizzlies, Biscuit, my neighbor's orange tabby cat…and I think the Alabama Crimson Tide.
That's a lot of action shoved into one telephone booth, with not much of a season left. It's hard not to feel a little sentimentally charged for the Royals (no playoffs since 1985, when Bud Selig was a toddler) or the Cleveland Indians (Terry Francona…who had any idea this guy could manage!). Simultaneously, it's hard not to hope for a little extended bedlam. What about a three-way tie…or even, deliciously, a four-way tie, a scenario in which, if I am reading this confusing handbook correctly, the four qualifying tied teams will play a second, separate 162-game series in another dimension.