They have arrived, as they do every Fall.
Their identities always remain secret. Their fate is one part predestined by schedule makers and one part organic, dictated by results.
The Spoilers are here.
It is that special time of year, the final week of the MLB season, when teams with their whole season in the balance have to play against teams whose seasons’ fates have already been determined.
And what happens when the season is about to end, and games are inconsequential to some teams but come weighted with 162 games for others?
What happens is that World Series dreams get spoiled, and stories of seasons that could have been regurgitated and re-consumed endlessly through time become too disgusting to even mention again.
In the worst case, that is.
In the AL, no one’s dreams will be dashed in the final week. The worst that can happen is one team can deal another a life-threatening dose of jet lag.
The sole certain remaining race is the battle for home field in the Wild Card Game between the Yankees and the A’s.
It is a battle worth nearly 3K miles.
The only opportunity for proper spoilage will come for the teams facing the Yankees.
The Yankees begin the week with 4 games in Tampa. The Rays 2018 campaign has been nothing if not worthy of postseason contention; in fact
The Oakland Athletics have spent the second half putting pressure on all of the teams ahead of them, but as it stands they are not yet clear of Tampa Bay, and if the Rays can carry on winning and Oakland will have to worry about what’s coming up behind them.
Enter two familiar foes. Tampa Bay’s only chance will be for the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels to play Co-Spoilers against the A’s, first in Seattle and then in Anaheim in the final weekend.
Both Seattle and the Angels were pegged to finish ahead of Oakland early on, and each will get a chance to exorcise some demons by devastating an overachieving division rival.
And if that’s not enough, the 3-game finale in Anaheim will be Mike Scioscia’s last in the Angels dugout after 19 seasons.
Also, the Yankees can effectively play The Spoiler to the Rays, and if not them then so could the Toronto Blue Jays in the season finale.
With all that needs to go right, the likelihood is that the Tampa Bay will be on the outside looking in, 20 games over .500 and third in their own division. They’ll need to win out their remaining games, and Oakland to lose their remaining week’s slate.
Meanwhile, though, The Rays are still red hot and have not flinched against New York all season. They will enter Monday’s game leading the season series 8-7.
If you’re Aaron Boone, who must navigate the Yankees through the stretch run without starting shortstop Didi Gregorius, this is the last team you want to play.
If you’re Kevin Cash it might feel like all of 2018 has been preparation for this, a tailor-made chance to spoil things for the Yankees in Games 156-159.
And finally, in a regular season-ending twist, the Boston Red Sox will have the chance to play The Spoiler in a
While this series should mean everything to New York and almost nothing to Boston, the rivalry and the chance to send the Yankees to Oakland will make this electric.
It is worth noting that the Houston Astros do enter the week a 4.5 game lead over Oakland in the West, and are the only contender left who will face two teams who have experienced a failed 2018.
Could the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles (MLB’s worst team) be Co-Spoilers?
Last place teams do make for The Best Spoilers, but the Astros will have to falter against Toronto for the Orioles to have the chance.
In the NL there is opportunity everywhere.
The Dodgers hold a slim lead in the West over Colorado, and in the Wild Card race, Milwaukee sits first with a 2 game lead and will likely host the Wild Card Game, but behind them St. Louis has just a 1.5 game advantage on the Rockies.
Colorado also enters the week still just 1.5 games behind the L.A. Dodgers.
The week opens with a pivotal series in St. Louis between the Brewers and Cardinals. This series is less about The Spoiler than it is just two teams still in must-win mode.
But Milwaukee could help bury the Cardinals, and St. Louis could keep the potential open for the Tigers to play The Spoiler against the Brewers over the weekend.
The Chicago Cubs, having seemingly coasted through the second half, staying clear of the chaos just below them, both in the Central and in the NL Wild Card, hold just a 2.5 game lead on the Brewers and a 4.5 game lead on the Cardinals.
The Cubs face the Pirates to start the week, and Pittsburgh can salvage a good-but-not-quite-good-enough season by making the Cubs sweat their way to the finish line.
Also during the week, the Phillies visit Coors Field. In a comeback season that saw Philadelphia in NL East contention into September, and with promising years ahead, you can bet the Phillies would love to finish strong.
In the final weekend, the Nationals may or may not represent The Spoiler at the Rockies, which ought to be a scary thought for Bud Black, whose team has struggled since losing shortstop and MVP-candidate Trevor Story to injury and who was recently swept by L.A. in a series in which they entered Dodger Stadium with the division lead.
A spoiled ending to 2018 will be especially heartbreaking for Colorado, whose window with the young core of Arenado & Blackmon & Story & LeMahieu will be closing fast.
Nationals/Rockies aside, just as in the AL, in the NL’s final weekend the bulk of the attention will be on rivalry matchups.
The Giants will have an opportunity to play The Spoiler to the rival Dodgers in front of their home fans.
On the line for L.A. could be a division title and more; a forgettable trip north could send them into a one-game playoff and potentially into the offseason.
After 159 games of “hanging around”, the St. Louis Cardinals will have to beat the Cubs to get in. Chicago can flex their muscles one last time and be The Spoiler in a serious way to their biggest rival.
Like the Red Sox against the Yankees, the Cubs may not have to flex against the Cards.
But, it’s the Cardinals. So they will.
And it’s the Yankees, so so will the Red Sox.
After all, if a rivalry doesn’t trump logic and reason then is it even really a rivalry?
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