The dog days of the baseball season are almost over.
August can be a bigger drag than the last 3 1/2 hours of Peter Jackson’s latest movie, and can be equally as entertaining.
So as we look forward to cooler weather, pumpkin spice lattes, Halloween and, oh, October baseball, here are some things I’m looking forward to during baseball’s stretch run.
1. A big-time waiver trade
No, there’s no Justin Verlander to be had this year, but there are plenty of difference makers on the waiver market.
Bryce Harper being claimed by the Dodgers could have changed the landscape of the postseason in its entirety. We saw the Cubs make a move for Daniel Murphy while the Cardinals brought back Matt Adams, both in division races.
Could Joe Mauer supply a bat for a team in desperate need of it? Could Adam Jones decide to play for a contender? Who knows? But the waiver deadline is one of the more important and underrated part of the MLB season — just ask the Astros.
2. An epic collapse by (your favorite team here)
Listen, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of (your favorite team here). Really, the same can be said about all national baseball writers and editors. We all hate the (your favorite team here).
Make no mistake that epic collapses lead to some of the best content — and stories — in baseball. We revere the great teams, we remember the bad ones.
The ’07 Mets. The the ’69 Cubs. The 2011 Red Sox. While debates rage on surrounding the great teams, nothing produces better stories and drama than late-season peril after leading a division by 8 1/2 games in August.
Yes, it’s selfish and a little hurtful to wallow in others’ misery, but at the same time, what brings fans together better than a good, ol’ fashioned collapse?
Maybe chicken wings, but that’s about it.
3. The Yankees getting healthy
Whether you love them or hate them, there’s no denying that the Yankees are good for baseball.
Fans can’t keep their eyes off the pinstripes, and 2018 has been no exception: Even in a year when the Yankees have consistently been 30-plus games over .500, baseball fans are still talking about them. Are they overrated? Underrated? Are they even actually — gasp — bad?
Well, no, but believe it or not they have yet to hit their full offensive stride in 2018.
The lineup is without some of its stars: Catcher Gary Sanchez has been out a large part of the season with a groin injury; Aaron Judge remains sidelined with a wrist fracture; Didi Gregorius is on the disabled list with a bruised heel.
Injuries to Gleyber Torres and Greg Bird have also hampered the team, so seeing the Yankees finally get healthy at a key juncture in the season will be fun to watch for the AL East and for all of baseball.
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4. The Nationals making the NL East race interesting
Sometimes in baseball, making a decision has an adverse effect on a team. Other times not. Getting rid of players isn’t always a sign of surrender, and firing a manager can occasionally propel a team.
The perpetually frustrating Nationals sit just a game over .500 this season (64-63 entering Thursday’s games) and seem to be waving the white flag on their playoff hopes this year, shipping off Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and Matt Adams to the Cardinals. Washington sits 7.5 games back of first place, behind the upstart Braves.
But the Nationals still aren’t all that bad (They’re 2-0 since those trades, with both wins of the comeback variety). They have enough talent in the rotation and the lineup to stay in a race, even though those trades make them seem much worse on the surface.
They’re not totally out of it, and it’s going to take a total team effort — sorry for the cliche — to get there. There’s a chance — if Bryce Harper can carry the offense on his back as he’s prone to do — we could see a very interesting September stretch.
5. September call-ups
The business of baseball can be as funny as a screen door on a battleship. The transparency of an organization’s business decisions have skewed the way fans view teams, with fans often taking the side of franchises and not players. Example: How in the world is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. not a Blue Jay at this point? The answer: business decision.
In any case, players like Vlad Jr. will get a chance to showcase their abilities and give fans of teams and of the sport as a whole a glimpse at the future in September. For bad teams, it’s a chance to inspire hope and reward players for their seasons in the minors. For good teams, it’s an opportunity to give their everyday players a breather.
6. The A’s finishing the job
What’s Michael Lewis up to these days?
The author of “Moneyball” might have his hands full if he’s lacking ideas for a new project, because the sequel to his iconic baseball book seems to be writing itself.
The A’s, 21-9 since the All-Star break, have proven that they’re no fluke. They’ve gone 12- versus AL West opponents over that span and have added pieces to their bullpen to build for a run to and through October. Entering the day’s games on Aug. 21, they were in a tie with the defending champion Astros in the AL West. They have 19 games remaining versus division opponents through the end of the season.
Is this not the most typical A’s season? Let’s not undersell them, either: Matt Chapman is a top 10 player in baseball in 2018, their rebuilt bullpen is among the best in the game and Sean Manaea has been a star for Oakland this year.
Everyone would be thrown for a loop if the A’s win the AL West — if nothing else, they can keep it interesting through the end of the year.
“Time to spread the word, and the word is … panic.” — Ra’s al Ghul, “Batman Begins”
“Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair.” — The Joker, “The Dark Knight”
“I learned here that there can be no true despair without hope.” — Bane, “The Dark Knight Rises”
If you haven’t noticed the theme here, then I don’t know what to tell you.
Really, we’re in it for bedlam. Chaos. Anarchy. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.
Baseball is at its best when things break down and cannot be contained, both in a game and during the season. Look at Game 162 in 2011, one of the greatest days in baseball history — it’s always fun when things break down and division races come to a close in the final week or final day. It makes the long season, watching as fans, totally worth it.
For how rigid baseball is, it’s always great when the structure is broken. Hopefully we can get more chaos in 2018.