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  • The Los Angeles Angels arrived Tuesday in Washington gripping the second wild card in the American League, a position they had held for three days. They had a menagerie of pursuers, mediocre in quality and comical in number, so many that it would have been unwieldy to peer at the scoreboard and deduce a rooting interest. “Six weeks is a lifetime of baseball,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “There’s a lot that can happen.”

    In the delightful mess of the AL’s wild card chase, even one night can feel like a lifetime. By the wee hours Wednesday morning, the Angels had lost to the Nationals and watched a procession of results, culminating with the Kansas City Royals’ 10 8 loss to Oakland on the West Coast, which solidified their present status. It left them clinging to playoff position still, half a game up despite a 61 59 record. Losses by the Twins and Royals prevented the second wild card spot from changing hands for the 13th time — 13th! — since July 1.

    By decree of Major League Baseball rules, some team is going to qualify as the second wild card in the American League. There will be a road team on the night of Oct. 3, when the two best non division winners play for entry into the AL Division Series. It has to happen. As we are finding out this year, it doesn’t have to make any sense.

    The Angels enter Wednesday night holding the second wild card spot in the American League. Six teams stand within two games, and seven — more than half the league — are within 3½. The Twins, Royals, Orioles, Mariners, Rays Marcus Stroman Jersey, Rangers and Blue Jays can all convince themselves they still have a path to October. One good week and a little luck, and a playoff spot may be theirs.

    “I know that there’s a bunch” of teams in contention, was all Mike Trout could decipher. Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images
    Those eight teams jockeying meekly for the second wild card share an odd common trait for a playoff race None of them is any good. Only one, the Rangers, has scored more runs than they have allowed. Only three — the Angels, Twins and Royals — own a record above .500. None can boast both a winning record and a positive run differential.

    It is a race that can be confusing even for the participants. “I know that there’s a bunch” of teams in contention, was all Mike Trout could decipher. Even if the Angels did not view scoreboard watching as a “distraction” — Scioscia’s word — how were they to know who to pull for when Baltimore two games back entering Tuesday night lost to Seattle 2 1/2 back ?

    “There’s a whole new division that’s created as a Major League Baseball season goes — a whole new division,” Scioscia said. “You never thought you were in a division with Kansas City. Well, here you are. You never thought you were in a division with Minnesota.”

    It is a race that can make checking the morning standings a dizzying ordeal. Since July 1, the second wild card has changed hands 12 times including ties, between six different teams the Rays, Royals, Twins, Yankees, Mariners and, finally, Angels. Los Angeles seized the position four days ago, which makes their reign tied for third longest during that stretch.

    It is a race that can give you whiplash. The Twins traded for Jamie Garcia in an attempt to bulwark their playoff hopes … then proceeded to lose six out of seven games to drop to 50 54 … then flipped Garcia to the Yankees and dealt closer Brandon Kintzler to the Nationals for prospects … then reeled off six victories in seven games. The Twins would have moved into playoff position with a victory Tuesday, and FanGraphs pegged their playoff odds at 20.2 percent entering the night. In this race, even giving up doesn’t mean you’re out of it.

    The Twins traded for Jamie Garcia in an attempt to bulwark their playoff hopes … then proceeded to lose six out of seven games to drop to 50 54 … then flipped Garcia to the Yankees. Mike Stobe/Getty Images
    If the Twins feel any regret over their choice to sell, they ought to let it go. Their current condition proves that even half lousy teams aren’t out of the wild card race until September, if they ever are. But teams also must be aware of what they’re playing for.

    Even now, in position to sneak into the postseason, the Twins have about a 1 in 5 shot to have a 50 percent crack to play in the first round. Yes, that means they have a chance to win the World Series. But it’s not a big enough one to justify sacrificing a chance to improve their future outlook.

    And this year, even if randomness rules in a five game series, the second wild card will be particularly overmatched in the division series. The AL could produce a new low. In the first five years of the dual wild card format, the 2015 Houston Astros snuck into the postseason with the fewest wins, at 86. Plenty of teams could get hot and surpass that total, but the Angels are on pace for 83 wins.

    It may not be pretty. But it creates precisely what MLB wanted when it instituted the second wild card More teams can talk themselves into contention, and more cities can hang on meaningful baseball games into the early fall. The postseason chase is not producing excellence, or anything close. Chaos, along with a nightly smorgasbord of meaningful games, isn’t such a bad alternative. A playoff race doesn’t have to make sense to be a whole lot of fun.

    Registered User

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