These MLB “Playoff Locks” May Have Their Hopes Dashed

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Welcome to installment three of my twice-weekly baseball column. If this were a trilogy, this would be the episode where everything is wrapped up, all the mysteries answered, all the drama resolved. Or if it was a Disney trilogy, it would just be a terrible movie that makes no sense at all.

How The 2021 MLB Playoff Format Works

The 2021 MLB Playoffs will return to a ten-team format, where five teams from each league will advance to the post-season. The three division winners automatically earn playoff berths, and the two teams with the best records that did not win a division title, will be wild cards.

The two wild cards in each league will face off in a one-game, winner-take-all. The winner will advance to play the division winner with the best record.

The division series are best-of-five, and the ensuing League Championship Series and World Series are best-of-seven. That’s where the legends are made. Reportedly.

Playoff Races And The Two “For-Sure” Teams Who Might Miss Out

Entering the season, the consensus among MLB experts was that these teams were playoff locks:

American League

National League

  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • San Diego Padres
  • Atlanta Braves

There’s an old saying that goes “You make your assumptions, and I’ll react to real-life events, and we’ll see who gets further ahead.”

Actually, that’s not an old saying. I just made it up. But it sounds like something my Uncle Ralph might have said. You don’t have an Uncle Ralph? Pity. Mine was pretty weird, and he was always saying something that made our potato salad-fueled family gatherings come to a screeching halt. Like, “One time I caught a whale with a piece of bread.” And so on.

As we approach the 1/3 mark of the baseball season, there are a few teams that have emerged as surprises, and a few teams that look like 2021 just isn’t their year. (We’re looking at you, Minnesota). If the season ended today, here are the six division winners and the two wild cards for each league:

American League

  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Chicago White Sox
  • Oakland A’s
  • Boston Red Sox (WC)
  • New York Yankees (WC)

National League

  • New York Mets
  • St. Louis Cardinals
  • San Diego Padres
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (WC)
  • San Francisco Giants (WC)

How about the possibility of a one-game wild-card clash between the Red Sox and Yankees? And in the other league, the Dodgers vs. Giants? Now that’s some drama. But we have a long way to go before that is a reality.

Those of you who had your money on the Minnesota Twins winning a third straight AL Central division title, think again. Or if you were gambling that the Atlanta Braves, with all-world Ronald Acuña Jr. were going to make a run at the pennant, you may want to shift your expectations.

The Best Long Shot Pennant Winner Bets

FanDuel currently has the St. Louis Cardinals as +1000 to win the National League. The Cards are in first place by only 1 1/2 games, but they appear to be the most stable team in the NL Central. The Pirates are parrot-less, the Reds can’t get anyone out, the Brewers can’t score, and the Cubs can only seem to beat the good teams. The Cubbies record against non-first place teams is 14-21.

The Cardinals pop up every few years, squeak into the playoffs, and ride some hot bullpen arms and an unknown bat into the World Series. They do this as the most anonymous team in professional sports. Can you even name the Cardinal manager? It’s Mike Shildt, who is so un-famous that I had to look at his bio five times while writing this sentence just to make sure I spelled his last name correctly. But Shildt (without a “C”) is just the type of unknown baseball lifer that would be in the dugout for the Cardinals during an unlikely World Series run.

If you want a second longshot pennant-winner bet, consider the Houston Astros, who would pay $700 on a $100 bet (according to BetMGM Sportsbook) to win the AL pennant. The Astros made it to MLB’s Final Four last season, defying their regular season losing record to come within one game of their third pennant in four seasons. Under manager Dusty Baker, the Astros are currently on an 89-win pace, only one game behind Oakland. The Astros have six legit All-Star candidates in their lineup, and while their rotation seems like a patchwork of used-to-be’s and never-wases, Houston is fourth in the league in ERA. As long as José Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Carlos Correa are drawing breath, this is a team that can go very deep into the post-season.

Special Baseball Moment This Week

How would you like to get one of these when you did something good at your job?

The Padres (with funding by third baseman Manny Machado) are awarding this supersized medallion to the Player of The Game after each victory. This bling makes me want to pull for them to win as many games as possible. Somewhere, Flava Flav is smiling.

About the Author
Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Writer and Contributor
Dan Holmes is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today with plenty of experience under his belt. Dan has written three books about sports and previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. Currently, Dan is residing in Michigan with his family.

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