There are teams making headlines in the MLB playoff push, but they are teams that not many people would have expected about a month ago. Teams like the Phillies and Brewers have suddenly become contenders. Teams like the Orioles and the A’s have surprisingly stayed in the race.
I wrote about the Phillies a few days ago on my personal site, and they have only continued winning since then. As of yesterday before their series with the Astros began, the Phillies sat three games behind the Cardinals for the second wildcard spot and the day before that they had reached a record over .500 for the first time since June 3. The Phillies are surprising their fans as much as the rest of the country with many having written off the team prior to the all-star break.
The Brewers were in a similar position as the Phillies. Well below .500 and destined to be cellar-dwellers if it weren’t for the lowly Astros. They got back to the .500 mark this week. Ryan Braun is doing the best he can, perhaps having a better season than last year when he won National League MVP.
To the surprise of many, the Orioles have been able to not just keep their heads about the .500 mark, but they have played themselves in position for a possible American League East championship. Prior to yesterday’s games the Orioles sat tied atop the AL East standings with the Yankees at 80-62. Nobody really saw it coming at the start of the season even though everyone knew that Orioles manager Buck Showalter wouldn’t go down without a fight. They’ve fought alright, all the way to a possible playoff berth.
The A’s, the true moneyball team as I have written about, are another big surprise in the American League. Incredibly the A’s are 82-60, good for the fourth best record in Major League Baseball. They are doing it on the second lowest opening day payroll and their highest paid player is only making about $6.5 million this season. Although there is no movie in the works about the 2012 A’s, this team is truly built on the moneyball principles that the book and later the movie made famous.
Even if these teams cannot find their way into the playoffs, the business impact of the playoff run is sure to stick. The A’s are the exception because they have been having attendance problems for years no matter how good or bad their team happens to be. Citizen Bank Park in Philadelphia has hope restored and the crowds are coming out again. This will help into next season as well because fans will reason on the side of the strong 2012 finish instead of the retooling process that Phillies may find themselves in next season. Ryan Braun has further proven himself as the face of Milwaukee and another MVP caliber season will do wonders in quelling the steroid murmurs from last offseason. Camden Yards is another stadium that is benefitting greatly from the playoff push. Even if the Orioles lose their grip on their playoff spot, they will have hope going into next season.
That’s what playoff pushes bring. They bring hope. Hope brings fans to the ballpark. Whether or not these four teams make it to the playoffs this season, they will all have hope going into 2013. Sometimes hope is the best ingredient for a successful season of ticket sales.
Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.