A SEASON THAT HAS FEATURED BOTH THE GOOD (MOOKIE BETTS, MATT CARPENTER, JACOB DEGROM) AND THE BAD (LOOKING AT YOU, CHRIS DAVIS) HEADS INTO THE FINAL STRETCH, WHERE HARDWARE-WORTHY STARS WILL TAKE CENTER STAGE
IF YOU like uncertainty, this is your year—though perhaps not when it comes to pennant races. Clear front-runners have emerged in two of the three National League divisions, and in the AL, the playoff field looks all but set. The Red Sox siphoned all the drama out of what was shaping up to be the best story: a Red Sox--Yankees race in the East. Since a 30--6 midseason run that opened a 10-game gap, the only theater left has been whether the Sox can top the 1912 team's franchise-record 105 wins, and whether Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez is its best candidate to win the AL Most Valuable Player award.
Martinez is Boston's hitting guru who might miss out on the Triple Crown only because of Betts, who held a 10-point lead in batting average with 15 games to play. But look beyond the Green Monster and you'll find Mike Trout of the Angels, José Ramírez and Francisco Lindor of the Indians, Alex Bregman of the Astros and Matt Chapman of the A's also with MVP credentials.
Indeed, the real drama of September is slathered over the races for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. Rare is the season like this when all six awards lack a heavy favorite. In the NL rookie race, how do you choose between statistical doppelgängers Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto? Could the next Babe Ruth keep the Yankees from having their first back-to-back ROY winners? Is it possible that a pitcher with a losing record will win the NL Cy? Should Houston's Justin Verlander win his second Cy, Cleveland's Corey Kluber his third or Washington's Max Scherzer his fourth? Can Javier Báez become the MVP with the lowest on-base percentage (.330) since Andre Dawson, another Cub, won it in 1987? How do you choose among NL first basemen Matt Carpenter of St. Louis, Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona and Freddie Freeman of Atlanta, all hoping to propel their teams into October?
Now that makes for a September worth watching.