The teams with the two best records in the American League meet this weekend, and it means next to nothing.
Baseball's top rivalry resumes this weekend, with first place on the line, except that in this case, second place is basically as good as first.
If commissioner Bud Selig has the best interests of baseball in mind, he'll forget about Alex Rodriguez's supposed poker games, and do the one thing that would make this version of Yankees-Red Sox truly important.
Can we get the second wild-card team added for this year?
I realize it can't happen. I realize baseball is heading towards adding the second wild-card team in 2012, and that's the best we're going to get.
But if you're one of those who still don't believe in the concept, just look at what the current system has done to a series that should be great.
The Red Sox and Yankees have been separated by no more than 2 1/2 games in the standings since the middle of May. The Red Sox have dominated the first nine head-to-head meetings, winning eight of them, but the Yankees have done better against everyone else.
The Red Sox have been winning like crazy, but so have the Yankees.
It's a great race, except for one thing: They're both going to the playoffs, and there's only a minimal reward for winning the division rather than the wild card.
In fact, if the season ended today, the division winner would play the Tigers, which means facing Justin Verlander twice in a five-game series. The wild card would play the Rangers, who may be better overall, but don't have a Verlander-like ace.
A second wild-card team solves most of this.
With a second wild-card, winning the division means avoiding a one-game play-in against a team like the Angels. It means not just an extra day of rest, but also the chance to save your best available pitcher for the first game of the Division Series.
Yes, the Yankees already want to beat the Red Sox, and vice versa. But in the current system, in a year like this, with both teams nearly guaranteed a playoff spot and little distinction between a division winner and a wild card, there's very little penalty for not winning the division.
And that's too bad.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. When the Yankees didn't trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline, general manager Brian Cashman suggested that Bartolo Colon would be as good a No. 2 starter as anyone he could acquire. So let's see how Colon matches up against Jon Lester, his mound opponent in Yankees at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Lester has won both his starts against the Yankees this year, despite giving up seven runs in 12 innings. He's won his last five starts against the Yankees, dating back to last year. Colon has lost both of his 2011 starts against the Red Sox, despite going 10 1/3 innings and allowing just three earned runs.
2. One of those pitchers the Yankees passed on, and the only one who realistically could have slotted as a No. 2 starter, was Ubaldo Jimenez, who debuts for Cleveland in Indians at Rangers, Friday night (8:05 ET) at Rangers Ballpark. He faces Derek Holland, who has three complete-game shutouts in his last five starts, and also shut out the Indians in June at Progressive Field.
3. The Phillies broke their five-year string of trading for a starting pitcher at midseason, in large part because they knew Roy Oswalt was coming back from the disabled list. The Phillies also decided against trading for a reliever, in part because Oswalt's return means that either he or Vance Worley can move to the bullpen for the playoffs. Oswalt returns from the DL in Phillies at Giants, Sunday afternoon (4:05 ET) at AT&T Park. Tim Lincecum, the guy Charlie Manuel said was "good, not great," starts for the Giants.