Many of the words that follow will almost certainly be outdated by tomorrow, and then some of those will be accurate again the next day, and this see-saw of emotions and outlook will continue for seven more weeks because this is how Bud Selig wanted it to be:
Eleven of the American League's 15 teams are holding or within three games of a playoff spot as of Saturday morning.
Selig, the former commissioner, cared primarily about maintaining interest and producing revenue and this year his creation looks to be working better than he ever could've imagined. Fans in a super-majority of American League markets have reason to believe their team can be in the playoffs as the season hits the stretch run.
Even here, in Kansas City, with the Royals working on three wins in two weeks, they're only two games out of a playoff spot. One hot stretch — and how many hot stretches has this group had the last five years — and the standings can flip.
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One awesome byproduct: with so many teams bunched together, it seems highly possible if not probable that we'll have a 163rd game to get into the wild card. In other words: an effective one-game playoff to get into a one-game playoff.
Actually, that may be selling this madness short, because there are many scenarios for a three- or even more team tiebreaker for a wild card spot.
In that terrific version of reality, we could have the first 164th game in more than a half century: a virtual one-game playoff to get into another virtual one-game playoff to get into an actual one-game playoff to get into a playoff series.
If funhouse mirrors were a playoff format, this would be it.
In Kansas City, we tend to put hyper focus on the Royals, which is simultaneously natural, more fun, simpler — and distorting.
Ballplayers often say they don't look at the standings or out-of-town scores much until September, and even if that's more about what they want to do rather than what they do, right now it's the only path that makes any sense.
Because, look, this weekend the Mariners are playing the Angels, and the Rays are playing the Indians.
If you're the Royals, who do you want to win those games? Those teams are tied in the standings, each a game ahead of the Royals, so that's a wash. The Rays are also a game ahead of the Royals, so maybe you want them to lose, but that means the Indians win and become increasingly difficult to catch in the division (maybe you're giving up on that already).
There are no ties in baseball, and at least at the moment, rules prohibit both teams from receiving a loss in the same game.
The Royals need to worry about their own house before they look at others, anyway. What's felt like a six year roller coaster ride — literally, each of the last six years have included wild extremes — is going strong with a 2-10 stretch immediately following a 10-1 run.
But, what's the fun in that?
We all know the Royals need to stop stinking. Fewer bad starts, fewer bat at-bats, fewer grand slams given up in the late innings (or early or middle innings).
They are in a critical stretch right now, with Sal Perez in the dugout as the world's loudest assistant coach (other than Rusty Kuntz) and the pitchers scuffling and Alex Gordon working back in the lineup after a benching so short you could've gone out to dinner and missed it.
But, as much as we can say such things with so much time left and so many teams involved, the Royals are effectively one of seven teams competing for two playoff spots. If you want to hold on to the dream about the division, then they are also one of three competing for that spot.
Ten remaining games against the Indians — that's more than one fifth of the remaining schedule for both teams — will go a long way. At this point, anything less than six or seven wins will make it difficult.
The Yankees are three games clear of the wild card as of Saturday morning and the best team in the bunch. Several advanced metrics have the Yankees as baseball's third-best team behind the Dodgers and Astros. They are the wild card contenders' best mix of hitting, rotation and bullpen. Even in a tough division, it would be a significant surprise to see them fall.
The Rays are a half-game out of the second wild card, and probably the most balanced team we'll talk about the rest of the way. Logan Morrison is among three Rays with at least 22 homers, and the pitching is strong despite Chris Archer still not quite developing into an ace.
The Mariners and Royals fans have their own standard for postseason droughts, but the last time Seattle saw a playoff game they'd probably rather forget it — the 2001 team won 116 games and lost in the ALCS. Yonder Alonso makes a good offense better, and James Paxton is a stud, but Felix Hernandez is both injured and carrying around his worst ERA since his first full year as a starter.
The Twins (bullpen, lineup depth), Angels (pretty much everyone but Mike Trout), and Orioles (rotation, even after the Jeremy Hellickson trade) all have potentially fatal flaws, but every year a team or three works around a potentially fatal flaw to make the playoffs.
So that part won't be different.
What would be different is if this claustrophobic playoff race ends up with a 163rd, and even a 164th, baseball game before the playoffs technically start.