It's been a streaky year for Major League Baseball.
How else do you explain a Los Angeles Dodgers team that had been compared to the best of all time suddenly losing more games in 10 days than it lost in an earlier stretch of two months?
And then the Cleveland Indians (they used to describe them as the woebegotten Cleveland Indians, but no more) reel off 22 wins in a row.
Granted the Los Angeles Dodgers had no more right being compared to the 1927 Yankees, 1931 Philadelphia Athletics or some more recent dynasty teams, as
Sports Illustrated did just a month ago, but they did set the tone for a strange year. It's been a year, by the way, that contrary to what Yogi Berra always told us, actually was over before it was officially over. More on that later.
Between June 6 and Aug. 25, the Dodgers went 56-11, a pace anyone with a clue about the game knew was not sustainable. In the next 10 days they lost 11 in a row. Now a lot of teams have threatened the 11-game losing streak lately, but not with the resume of the 2017 Dodgers, who suddenly are more concerned about being the best team in their own division and/or league than any comparison to the best of all-time.
Since their two-and-a-half-month stretch of dominance, the Dodgers have come back to the pack, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, while not a threat to win the National League West, have established themselves as a legitimate threat. Meanwhile the Chicago Cubs, whose dynasty may have been announced prematurely a year ago, seem to play only as good as they have to and may have all they can handle if, as it appears, they hook up with the Washington Nationals in the opening round of the playoffs.
On the other hand, this version of the Indians is very much reminding me of the Kansas City Royals, who lost a captivating, seven-game World Series in 2014 before bouncing back the next year to beat the New York Mets in the World Series. The Cubs' run to their first World Series championship since 1908 overshadowed just about anything involving the other 29 teams in the major leagues, but the Indians have served ample notice that there was another participant in the Fall Classic last year.
The Dodgers and Indians, of course, weren't the only noticeable "streakers" this year. Just about every other team took part -- and the Orioles were among the worst offenders when it came to streaks of a losing persuasion. They managed to offset a 22-10 start with two six-game losing streaks, one that lasted seven games and another that went five.
The six-gamers proved to be the deal-breakers. One induced a stretch of 12 losses in 14 games while the other produced a 4-12 skid. Two six-game winning streaks, the first of which inspired the early 32-game run, were not enough to counter.
This was probably the kind of year Bud Selig was thinking about when the former commissioner decided to add a second wild-card team to the playoff mix. Of baseball's six division races, four could be classified as "walkovers." Ironically, it was the Cubs' inability to put away the upstart Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central that produced the only true race in the National League.
Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have spent most of the season jostling for the top spot in what used to be known as the American League (B)east, but when it comes to strength at the top, it might now be the weakest of the AL divisions.
We shouldn't be fooled by some of the wild-card standings, because this is really when we can find out it sometimes is over before it's over. In this age of modern metrics, the magic numbers are often misleading.
For instance, with a 74-80 record, the O's were listed as five games back with eight to play, so mathematically they're still alive. In real time, however, there were five teams ahead of the Orioles, and making up five games is light years easier than covering five teams, especially when two of them (the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners) have three more scheduled meetings, while the Tampa Bay Rays have six more on tap with the Orioles.
Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com