History in the Making

By | September 26, 2005

In 1998, the Boston Red Sox went 92-70, a record that would have easily won the American League Central or West. Unfortunately, they played in the AL East, and they finished 22 games behind the 114-48 Yankees. That Red Sox team holds a record that I made up: the furthest out of first place a team finished with a record that would have won another division. Well, that record could be in trouble.

As of right now, the San Diego Padres are 77-78. The Milwaukee Brewers, in third place in the NL Central, are also 77-78, with the fourth-place Cubs a half-game behind at 77-79. The Brewers and Cubs are 19 and 19.5 games behind the Cardinals, respectively. Let’s say the Padres go 2-5 in their last seven games, which would probably be enough to win the division. They would finish at 79-83. Well, if the Cubs and/or Brewers can win three games this final week, they would end up 80-82. The Cardinaly are currently 97-60, so if they win their last five games, they would end up with 102 wins, 22 games ahead of a team with an 80-82 record.

Let’s look at it another way: since the start of division play (1969), only 16 teams have finished in third place or lower with a record that would have at least tied for first place in another division in either league. This year, eight teams have a realistic shot at finishing in third place or lower with a record at least as good as the Padres; if the season ended right now, five teams would fit that description. The record for any one season is three: in 1984, the AL East was so much stronger than the AL West that the third-place Yankees, fourth-place Red Sox, and fifth-place Orioles would have finished ahead of the first-place Royals (by 3, 2, and 1 games, respectively).

So yes, these Padres are monumentally bad, which means that the rest of the NL West is monumentally worse. The Rockies have a chance to finish with the worst record in baseball, but still finish closer to first place than the Twins, who are actually over .500!

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