Point/Counterpoint: A contentious AL Wild Card Race

New York Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner (11) reacts after he was tagged out at the plate by Minnesota Twins catcher Chris Gimenez (38) during the seventh inning of a baseball game in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. (Kathy Willens/AP)

With the regular season winding down, the Yankees appear to have the first AL Wild Card slot locked down. The second spot is up for debate, with both the Twins and the Angels making late-season pushes for the post-season. Staff Writer Rachel Schaefer and Campus Correspondent A.J. Amendola debate which team will ultimately secure the slot.

Rachel: The Twins have been on fire. They’re currently sitting in the second Wild Card spot,1.5 games ahead of the Angels. This sudden outburst in success has really come on the back of the occasional dominant inning. They have had 17 innings with six or more runs, a massive lead over the second place Diamondbacks, who have had 11.

They’re also leading the league in home runs this month, with 31. They’re in the middle of a series with the Yankees, potentially previewing a Wild Card game. The Yankees took game one Monday by a slim 2-1 margin. These two evenly matched teams are sure to make for an entertaining Wild Card battle.

A.J.: Despite leading the league in home runs for the month, the Twins’ fire has cooled significantly in September. While their run differential is still an impressive 100-77, they have only played to a record of 8-9. While the single inning outbursts have been impressive, it’s unrealistic for a team to keep up that level of offense for one inning every game. A consistent attack will be necessary to get the Twins to October.

The Angels have bolstered their offense with trades for veterans Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips who, along with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, provide playoff hunt experience. The Twins seem to lack this experience in comparison, being led offensively by younger and less experienced players.

Texas Rangers' Joey Gallo, right, is tagged out while stealing by Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. (Chris Carlson/AP)

Rachel: I’m sorry, but Pujols is hardly a threat anymore. Yes, he has brought in a lot of runs, but in this age of sabermetric analysis, we know better than to mistake that for having a good season. Trout, on the other hand, is an incredible player. An incredible player who has spent his career playing for really underwhelming teams.

Don’t get me wrong, the Angels have talent. From my perspective, though, they’re dreadfully boring. Trout has been a bright spot for a team that I sometimes forget exists. I don’t see the Angels as a threat. The Twins have Joe Mauer who, even as an infielder, is continuing to produce. Eddie Rosario is having a great season and batting for a nice average. Brian Dozier is leading the team in home runs. This team has an undeniable offensive spark and it’s exciting to watch.

A.J.: I will admit that Pujols is statistically a below-average player. However, he still can play a significant role for the Angels by providing veteran leadership and hitting the occasional homerun. Sabermetrics have changed the way we view the game, but come late September they don’t tend to matter as much. Many times veteran leadership has proven to be what it takes to take a team over the final hump into the postseason, and that is what Pujols provides.

Despite how boring the Angels may be, the final wild card spot will depend on who wins more down the stretch. The Angels have two tough series against the Indians and the Astros, then close out the season playing the White Sox and the Mariners. If they can survive those six games against Houston and Cleveland, two teams that have already clinched their divisions, they will be well set-up to take the last spot.

The Twins, who still have two more games against the Yankees, a team in a fight for the AL East, will have a tough time as well, playing the Indians in between two series against the Tigers, who still have a talented roster and will be looking to play spoiler. I see the Angels taking over the second wild card spot by the end of the season and proving a worthy opponent to the Yankees.


Rachel Schaefer is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rachel.schaefer@uconn.edu.

A.J. Amendola is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at alex.amendola@uconn.edu.