The MLB wild card has provided us with great moments over the years, from classic single elimination games to underdog champions. This year, Major League Baseball has expanded the playoffs, which will without a doubt give us even more of those moments come October.
Now when we look at the current wild card rankings, remember that some of these teams still have a shot at winning their respective divisions. For others, they have no choice but to shoot for a wild card spot.
Toronto Blue Jays – 54-43, 2 games up
Toronto was a team picked by many, even here at MLBbro.com, to win not only the AL East, but the American League pennant. However, the way Aaron Judge and the Yankees are playing, it looks like the wild card may be the Blue Jays best shot at a playoff berth.
George Springer has continued to produce for Toronto, slashing .333/.394/.433 collecting 10 hits and seven RBI over his last seven games.
Seattle Mariners – 53-45, 0.5 games up
Now anytime we mention the Mariners, we have to say it—Seattle is looking to break the longest postseason drought in North American sports. Twenty years. Two decades. That’s how long it’s been since the Pacific Northwest has hosted a playoff game.
Seattle came into this season with hopes of winning the division, but a horrible start to the season has put the Mariners in the same position they were in last season. Despite their failure to live up to preseason expectation, Seattle has blossomed into one of the most exciting clubs to watch in the league.
J.P. Crawford has continued to be a solid leadoff man and a steady hand at short for a squad that has won seven of its last 10 ballgames. Their current pace would help them break that streak, but Crawford and Co. will need to be consistent. Only three games separate the last AL wild card spot from Cleveland, Baltimore and Chicago.
Atlanta Braves – 59-40, 7.5 games up
The Braves came out flat to begin the year, and as a result have been playing catch-up to the New York Mets all season long. But if there’s any team that the National League doesn’t want to see as the wild card, it’s Atlanta.
Atlanta has one of the best lineups in baseball, and that’s been without second baseman Ozzie Albies. Third baseman Austin Riley is an MVP candidate, and Ronnie Acuna Jr. still looks like one of the best young superstars in baseball. Combine all that with the arrival of MLBbro Michael Harris II, and you have one of the most dangerous teams in baseball.
Harris II has provided gold glove caliber defense since day one in The Bigs, but what has been most impressive is his consistent contributions at the plate. In his last seven games, Money Mike is slashing .385/.407/577 with 10 hits, four RBI and four stolen bases. Harris’s production will be much needed the rest of the way, especially after losing OF Adam Duval for the rest of the season.
San Diego – 55-44, 3.5 games up
Any hopes of a San Diego World Series run are relying on the return of superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis’ absence has allowed for young MLBbro C.J. Abrams to get some much-needed experience at the major league level.
Although he’s only hitting .231 on the year, Abrams has done damage against the fastball, batting .310 with 18 hits including a homer and four doubles. The Padres are always active during the trade deadline, so reinforcements may be on the way soon.
Major League Baseball and Nike unveiled the seven participating clubs in this year’s City Connect uniform program. The seven clubs announced today will join the inaugural seven clubs that participated in 2021, making a total of 14 clubs that will sport City Connect uniforms on field by season’s end.
Three years ago, on February 18th in 2019, MLB lost one of its pioneers and baseball lost its first Black pitching star. His death was announced by the Dodgers in a Tweet, but it didn’t represent the full impact of Newcombe’s MLB experience as a racial barrier-breaker back in the 50s. Baseball fans, celebrities, and common folk from all walks of life sent their condolences.
Former President Barrack Obama put things in perspective in 2010 when he said, “I would not be here if it were not for Jackie and it were not for Don Newcombe.
“Newk” was a fearless, ferocious fireballer and baseball pioneer. He was the first black pitcher to start in a World Series and the first Black Ace to win 20 games in an MLB season. He’s also the only baseball player ever to win Rookie of The Year, MVP and the Cy Young Award.
Branch Rickey’s Integration Plan
Born in Madison, New Jersey on June 14, 1926, Newcombe only lived there because his dad was a chauffeur for this wealthy family. His pops made a good living making beer and driving.
Newcombe’s only connection to baseball was his uncles, who played sandlot ball on Staten Island. His parents would get into the car on the weekends and go watch them play.
A big-time New Jersey athlete taught Newcombe how to play baseball at age 13.
While Jackie Robinson gets all of the props for being Branch Rickey’s first choice to break baseball’s color barrier, Newcombe was the first African-American pitcher brought in by the Dodgers
He started in the Negro Leagues with the Newark Eagles and then after meeting baseball’s great emancipator, his life changed and he started his MLB career in 1949.
Said Newcombe in a classic interview with former Yankees and Mets announcer Fran Healy:
In 1945, we played in an All-Star Game…Negro League stars like Monte Irvin, Roy Campanella… and I happened to be on the same team with them. And we were playing at Ebbets Field and I pitched the first three innings against a major league team and shut them out.”
(After the game) into the clubhouse walked this thin white man with a great big hat on that looked like a parachute and while I was sitting there getting ready to shower he asked me if I was Don Newcombe? I replied, Yes. He asked me if I could come to the Dodgers office tomorrow in Brooklyn to talk with Branch Rickey about playing on a new Negro League team the Dodgers were starting.”
He says Rickey was using the Negro League All-Star team as a diversion to mask his true intentions of integrating baseball which he eventually and strategically did in 1947 with Jackie Robinson, and then Roy Campanella in 1948 and Newcombe the following season.
The rest is MLB history. Together they played on the first racially-integrated baseball team in the United States.
Of all the positions in baseball, pitcher is considered the glamour position. The pitcher usually gets the riches, glory or becomes the goat. Newcombe had an even rougher time than Robinson according to some historians because he was a pitcher and it was considered a white mans position.
Players, fans and at times, umpires had a strong disdain for Newcombe, and the pressure and racism and some postseason failure eventually drove him to alcohol addiction, which shortened his career.
In addition to the hate mail and death threats, the Black players on the Dodgers couldn’t stay at some of the same Southern hotels as their white teammates. It was a demoralizing and angering experience.
“All we wanted to be was a red-blooded Americans like everybody else,” Newcombe told Healy.
However, Newcombe was able to overcome his addictions and keep his family intact. He became a positive influence on the community and cleaned up his act, maintaining his sobriety from 1967 until his death
Newcombe has given speeches to more than 2 million people ranging from schoolchildren to chief executive officers. The speeches vary, but the theme remains the same.
“The life you have now is the only one you get,” he said. “You can’t burn it out with drugs, or drown it with alcohol, turn it in and get a new one.”
Newcombe became director of community relations for the Dodgers in 1970, and for 14 years headed the team’s alcohol and drug program, the first of its kind in the major leagues.
An amazing, towering Black Ace, the 6-foot-4 Newcombe had a stellar career on the hill with four All-Star appearances, 149 wins, just 90 losses and 24 shutouts. He was in the Top 10 among NL pitchers in ERA four times, wins five times, and strikeouts five times. He also could handle the bat, hitting 271 with 15 homers and 108 RBIs in 878 career at-bats.
But it’s what he did for future generations of players that make him extremely worthy of this Shadow League Black History Moment reflection.
The results of the 2022 National Baseball Hall of Fame election will be announced exclusively on MLB Network on Tuesday, January 25 live at 6pm. ET as part of a four-hour announcement show beginning at 4pm ET.
The program will feature National Baseball Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch revealing the results live from the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery in Cooperstown, as voted by the Baseball Writer’s Association.
Anchored by Greg Amsinger, Brian Kenny and Lauren Shehadi, MLB Network’s extensive Hall of Fame election coverage will include analysis from Bob Costas, Harold Reynolds and others.
Cleveland Guardians manager Terry “Tito” Francona, esteemed baseball reporter Tim Kurkjian and our very own legend, MLBbro.com founder, MLB journalist and Hall of Fame voter Rob Parker will also offer experienced analysis on the selection results and more.
“It’s definitely an honor and privilege to share the TV set with some of the best people who have ever covered MLB the last 30 plus years,” said Parker, who started covering MLB in 1986 for the Daily News in New York. “It’s a historic night, too. We will be live to see his Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens – two of the greatest to play the game – get in the Hall via the writers vote on their 10th and final try. That will be grand theater for sure.”
The announcement show will examine a polarizing and controversial topic as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, arguably the two best to ever do it at their respective positions, are in their 10th and final year on the ballot.
Rob has been adamant about his belief that the PED allegations of the late 1990s and early 2000s should not keep these two titans of the game out of Cooperstown.
In fact, Rob and Brian Kenny had a heated debate about the Hall of Fame worthiness of these players on a previous episode of MLB Network. Bringing these two guys together for an announcement special is sure to create fireworks, evoke emotions and keep the viewers locked in at the edge of their seats.
Will Bonds and Clemens finally make it? The only baseball question more significant than that is, when will the lockout end?
Anderson, along with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined for five hits, four home runs, five runs, and 10 RBI on the giant stage of the most watched regular season baseball game since 2005.
The game served its purpose of creating an event that put the spotlight on baseball, which can struggle to keep America’s attention once football pushes its way back onto the scene.
The fact that Black ball players were the central figures in the outcome of the game was icing on the cake.
Alex Rodriguez made note of that fact, hoping that this historic moment might continue to inspire young Black athletes to give themselves a chance to fall in love with baseball.
@AROD nailed it. Great cultural perspective. Great insight. That’s why #MLBbro.com was started on April 1. If you support diversity in baseball then support the voice of that diversity by giving us a follow. pic.twitter.com/AZmq3dxp2K
Anderson and Black Ace CC Sabathia both openly stated that they had never seen the film and really didn’t plan too.
Major League Baseball’s fan base is the oldest its ever been, at an average of 57 years of age. By comparison, the NBA’s fan base is a full 15 years younger.
The country is getting younger, and browner. MLB has to start making a cultural adjustment.
Baseball can keep its “Field of Dreams” nostalgia fest, and also reach out to those fans who don’t see any reflection of themselves in the Iowa cornfields.
Here are a few sites that might resonate with Black families and honor the contributions that our community has made to making the game what it is today.
Rickwood Field, Birmingham, Alabama
Alabama is home to some of the greatest Black players to ever grace a big league diamond, including Henry Aaron and Tim Anderson. The Deep South has plenty of baseball talent and is home to dozens of minor league teams.
Why not celebrate that by partnering with the Birmingham Barons and hosting a Rickwood Classic Weekend?
A minor league affiliate of the White Sox, the Barons have hosted the game for years in the 110-year old ballpark.
Hamtramck Stadium, Hamtramck Michigan
MLB is already part of the effort to help restore the former home of the Detroit Stars. The ball park has been used as a community field for years, but once the restoration is complete, what better way to reopen than with a major league game.
There are other sites as well; stadiums that have endured in one way or another, still carrying memories from generations past. Any would be great.
Imagine the feeling of watching Black major leaguers walking out of the dugouts of stadiums that once provided the only stage for them to play, wearing the uniforms of the men whose dreams they now live.
Imagine the impact on Americans who would see again the fallacy of there ever being “separate but equal” conditions.
Imagine the stories suddenly being told by family members who had heard of or had seen some of those legendary players and inspiring the next generation to come.
Possibly the most famous line from Field of Dreams is “if you build it, they will come.”
Baseball has a chance to build a bridge to millions of potential fans.