It breaks my heart to say this, but: There is only one week left in the regular season. Can you believe it? The postseason will be wonderful, but after Sunday, it’s going to be until next March that every Major League Baseball team plays on the same day. That is hard to wrap one’s mind around.
With that in mind, today we provide you with a Viewer’s Guide for the Final Week, something to savor these last seven days. Some of these teams are fighting for a postseason spot, or postseason positioning. Some are just playing out the string. Some of these things are key to October; some of them are simply things you’ll be without for a long time. Here’s what to watch for … and appreciate.
Blue Jays: Vlad Jr.’s quest for a Triple Crown
Of course the Blue Jays have a Wild Card race to worry about, but a Triple Crown chase is perhaps more rare. It still might not get Vladimir Guerrero Jr. the AL MVP Award, but all told, it’s a lot harder, in general (if not this particular season), to win a Triple Crown than an MVP. Can he do it? He’ll need a huge week in the RBI department, but it’s not impossible.
It has obviously been another rough season for the O’s, but Cedric Mullins has been an undeniable delight, the sort of leadoff hitter every team desires but only the O’s have. Who knows where this goes from here? But the O’s will always have this incredible season (fifth in the AL in WAR, per FanGraphs) by a truly likable player.
Rays: The best season in franchise history
As consistently good as the Rays have been, they have never surpassed 97 wins in a season. That will change this year, so the final week will be about lining up their playoff rotation. No one is exactly sure who the Rays’ No. 1 ALDS starter will be, or their No. 2, or their No. 3, for that matter. Perhaps this final week will give us a clue.
Red Sox: The race for a home Wild Card Game
For all the Red Sox’s success in the Wild Card era, they’ve never actually played in a Wild Card Game. Can they get in one? Will they even host one? Fenway would look wonderful in a win-or-go-home game: It has certainly hosted its fair share.
Yankees: One more ride on the rollercoaster
It has gone sideways for the Yankees this year, and then it has been wonderful again, and then it has gone sideways again. The Yankees are nothing but swings this year. But which way will the final week swing?
Cleveland: One more look at Bieber
Cleveland’s season was never quite the same once Shane Bieber’s injury woes began. After returning Friday night for his first start since June, he’ll have one more start, this Thursday, to send him off. He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy, and any success the team will have in 2022 will start with him.
Steve Balboni’s record of 36 lasted for 32 years. Can Jorge Soler’s record of 48 last for more than two?
Tigers: The calm before the storm
There aren’t many teams with more eyes on them this offseason than the Tigers, who sure seem primed to make some big moves to improve a young roster that is starting to make some noise. These might be the last stakes-free games for quite a while.
Twins: A chance to turn the page
This is the worst Twins season since 2016 and the most thoroughly disappointing since … 2011? 2007? 1993? The good news is that it’ll be over next Sunday, and they can start again in March.
White Sox: La Russa’s victory lap
Angels: The last week of Ohtani’s season
This season has been incredible and memorable in so many ways, but there’s a very real chance it is forever remembered as The Shohei Ohtani Year. There’s only one week left to witness the unprecedented show.
A’s: Marte’s incredible run
Starling Marte has long been a terrific player, but he has never quite put it together like he has this year. (And he’s perfect in that uniform.) He’s a joy to watch, and has never been more fun than this, as he goes for baseball’s first season with 50-plus steals since Dee Strange-Gordon and Billy Hamilton in 2017. Marte will become a free agent this winter, so A’s fans need to enjoy him while he’s there.
Astros: Preparing for hostile environments
The Astros have been quietly fantastic this year, but they’re about to get booed like crazy on the road for at least one playoff series, and maybe more. They also have the look of a team that’s determined to quiet every hater, one by one if necessary.
Mariners: Holding out hope for a Wild Card
The Mariners look likely to fall short this year, but the future here is as bright as any team in the AL West. If they can take over this division in the coming years as many believe they will, they will look back at this season as the transition into perpetual contention, the last year they competed without anyone expecting them to.
Rangers: García tries to convince the voters
There hasn’t been a lot of joy in Arlington this year, but what little there has been were provided by Adolis García, who has one more week to make his AL Rookie of the Year case.
Braves: The end of the most unexpected of Braves’ runs
Admit it: When Ronald Acuña Jr. went down, you thought the Braves were done. That the Braves themselves didn’t believe that, and went about replacing him, is a reason they’re still here, and why the rest of us were so wrong.
Jazz — his name is Jazz! — still feels like the center of everything this team has to sell in the coming years, and while he has had an up-and-down year, he’s been coming around lately. Expect to see his picture leading every preview for the Marlins next year.
Mets: A possible glimpse of deGrom and Thor
The Mets had their usual year of drama, and their second-half slide has soured all those good vibes from May and June. If fans are looking for a sliver of good news, there is a chance Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard both make cameos in the final week, as they recover from their respective arm injuries.
Nationals: Another brilliant Soto display
The Nats haven’t won much since that 2019 World Series, but Juan Soto remains as brilliant as ever. There is no reason not to appreciate him at every opportunity, and he might wind up with an NL MVP Award if he can keep up his current pace for another week.
Phillies: Another fevered playoff rush
The Phillies continue to have the second-longest playoff drought in baseball, which is absurd and cruel and something these fans aren’t handling well, nor should they. Bryce Harper has done his part. Can the rest of the team?
Brewers: The end of the best season in Brewers history
We will see what happens for the Brewers in the postseason. But this has been as good as it has ever been for Milwaukee, with a better winning percentage than both 2011 and 1982 and a division championship that has been a virtual assumption for two months. There is time for the postseason. Soak in this year, Brewers fans.
Cardinals: Another incredible September, 10 years later
It’s tough to imagine another 2011-like run for the Cardinals: You only get one of those in a lifetime. But the Cardinals put it all together at just the right time in September, and it looks like they’ll be rewarded with an NL Wild Card berth. One thing Cardinals don’t have to do yet: Say goodbye to Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina.
Cubs: The glory of Schwindel
OK, so yes, he’s only going to end up playing about 56 games, roughly the equivalent of last year’s shortened season. But Frank Schwindel is putting together one of the best hitting seasons in Cubs history. In the Wild Card era, only two players, Sammy Sosa in 2001 (1.174) and Derrek Lee in 2005 (1.080), have put up a higher OPS than Schwindel’s 1.080. Schwindel has a higher OPS than Sosa did the year he hit 66 homers!
Pirates: Again … the ballpark
There aren’t many places on earth more pleasant than a cool night at PNC Park, watching balls go deep into the Pittsburgh night.
Reds: A capper on Votto’s resurgence
It looked like Joey Votto might be fading a couple of years ago. He has returned to look like the old Votto, just in time to make a Cooperstown case. Are we watching a future Hall of Famer?
D-backs: Marte being himself again
Ketel Marte looked like an MVP candidate when the D-backs were contending a few years ago. He’s starting to look like one again (.920 OPS), even if they’re not.
Dodgers: A division race with their rivals!
Two rivals battling for the division in a race that could go down to the final day! Yes, the runner-up will still make the NL Wild Card Game, but there is a big difference between that and a guaranteed spot in the NLDS. And if the teams end up tied, we could get a Game 163.
Giants: A division race with their rivals!
Padres: Tatis Jr. being himself
It hasn’t quite worked out the way the Padres wanted 2021 to turn out, but Fernando Tatis Jr. has been brilliant, even while overcoming injuries that might have felled lesser players. The Padres have a lot to figure out this offseason. But Tatis Jr. is still Tatis Jr.
Rockies: Story’s (likely) last days in a Rockies uniform