Flying high with a seven-game winning streak, the 18-7 Dodgers have the best record in major-league baseball and in a 162-game season would be on pace for 116 victories.
Thanks to this year’s shortened, 60-game campaign and the expanded playoff format that will invite eight teams from each league to the postseason, the Dodgers will need to finish with only about 30 victories to clinch an entry into October. It’s quite possible they’ll do that by Labor Day.
For the rest of September, they’ll be playing for an eight consecutive National League West title and a high seeding in the playoffs. Both will be more ceremonial than ever.
That’s because the 2020 playoffs will open with a best-of-three playoff series for every team, including division winners. And it’s because the No. 8 seed in the NL playoffs might be practically indistinguishable from the No. 2 seed.
Consider the matchups for the NL playoffs if they started today. By decree of MLB, the three division winners get the top three seeds, followed by the three second-place teams, followed by the next-best teams in the league:
1) Dodgers (18-7, .720) vs. 8) Padres (13-12, .520)
2) Cubs (15-7, .682) vs. 7) Diamondbacks (13-11, .542)
3) Braves (14-11, .560) vs. 6) Brewers (10-11, .476)
4) Rockies (13-10, .565) vs. 5) Marlins (9-8, .529)
Now, the above is not likely to be the final eight when the season ends, but regardless of the teams, the oddities could very possibly remain.
What leaps out at you? For me, it’s that by losing the NL West, the Rockies would get to play a mediocre NL East runner-up, while the Dodgers would have to win two of three from a Padres squad that by now everyone should realize is one of the up-and-coming teams in the sport.
The Dodgers could roll into the playoffs with a supreme team, and then could disappear faster than you can type Fernando Tatis, Jr.
And yes, that’s baseball. That’s October madness. Even before there were divisions, there was always the possibility that a major-league freight train could be derailed inside of a week. But the flying fickle finger of fate has never wagged more than in 2020.
If we somehow get through this pandemic-plagued season, there should be no questioning the worth of a World Series trophy, whether it goes to the Dodgers, Yankees, Marlins or Orioles. We sold our souls to playoffs long ago, and though the MLB regular season is whipping by in two months, the postseason has never been more daunting.
Conquering October under the constraints of coronavirus deserves a parade, even if it’s only a virutal one.