As Sam Sees It

The Major League season was supposed to have ended on Saturday. It is still going on and the chances are good that at least some of the pennant races remain undecided with only three games left to be played. There is something very special and exciting about a close pennant race. We have had just that, especially in the National League East and West Divisions. Three teams were in the race in each of those divisions until recently and may still be there.

Arizona fans are counting on the pitching combination of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to weather the challenges from the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers and bring home the NL West pennant. The Diamondbacks have led the division for most of the season, but have struggled enough to keep the hopes alive in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The Diamondbacks have the tools to beat anyone in a short series, mostly because of the presence of Johnson and Schilling. The resurgence of Bobby Witt should help solidify the rest of the rotation. Miguel Batista may have claimed the fourth and in a short series last starting slot. Albie Lopez seemed destined for that berth, but may have pitched himself out of it with recent failures.

The bullpen had looked solid with B.K. Kim as the closer, but he, too has had his problems lately. With Greg Prinz struggling to overcome injuries, the closer slot looks more and more like the most glaring Arizona weakness.

Luis Gonzalez has cooled off in September, but remains the team’s main offensive weapon. More than one player has stepped up at times, most notably Reggie Sanders and Mark Grace, but none have matched Gonzo’s performances. Manufacturing runs and taking advantage of scoring opportunities remain an art this team has yet to master.

The Arizona defense has been the best in the league and should continue to be rock solid.

Maybe the best race in baseball is in the National League East. The Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies just completed a crucial series in Atlanta. Make-up games now under way may decide the pennant. The hard-charging New York Mets may even have made it a three-team race by now.

The Houston Astros seem poised to win the National League Central, but the wild card race is still wide open. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs from the NL Central join all of the contenders mentioned before as potential wild card winners.

The American League play-off teams have seemed set for weeks. What is not determined is who the favorites should be.

Seattle has been the best team in baseball over the season, but the Oakland A’s (who will be the American League wild card winner) have been the best in the second half of the season. The New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians have both awakened and taken charge of their divisions. It should be quite a post-season. In the National League at least, it has been quite a season.

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