The Oakland Athletics are the best team in baseball right now.
This doesn't mean they'll win the World Series. It doesn't even mean they'll be the best team a month from now or even a week from now, but as of July 30, there's pretty much no objective way to say they aren't the best team.
What about the second-best team, though?
The Tigers have been up here in the top two frequently this season and completed a three-game sweep over the A's less than a month ago. They definitely have the talent needed in-house and have the look of a very good postseason team considering the powerful rotation. They also have two four-game losing streaks in the past few weeks and just lost three of four to the Angels. Frankly, we just can't trust them right now.
Speaking of the Angels, they sport the second-best record in all of baseball and the people who think I should just list the overall standings as the rankings don't even understand why I'm asking this "second-best" question. They've been playing great baseball for a while, too, as they're 26-10 since June 16. But they just lost two of three at home to the Orioles and then lost again in Baltimore on Tuesday night.
This means the Orioles are 3-1 against the Angels in just over a week, but still trail them by four games in the standings. After more than 100 games, how much do four head-to-head affairs truly count in judging the teams overall? Especially since I'm stuck ranking these teams now and the Angels could very well win the next two games and make an Orioles-over-Angels ranking look even dumber two days from now. Not to mention each game between the two teams was close. Of course, the Orioles have been going pretty well themselves of late, with a 17-7 record since June 29. So maybe we should consider it?
I'm still going Angels, but it's real close. If the Orioles sweep the Angels, well, I'll have wished in two days that I went with the Orioles, but I don't get to think like that. Where we are right now, the head-to-head thing moves the needle, but not enough to negate the four-game difference overall and the Angels being on an overall hotter streak (26-10 is a better winning percentage than 17-7).
[NOTE: I left out run differential so the Baltimore crowd didn't flip out, but, well, it doesn't benefit them in this argument either]
As for the Dodgers? They have a decent case, too. I have no doubt they are capable of the top spot not only by the end of the season, but within just a few weeks. For now, though, it seems pretty clear to me that the AL has the bulk of the elite teams.
Please feel free to contact me with comments on Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Definitely remember that if we have differing opinions, it means someone is stupid and/or biased -- and probably doesn't even follow baseball.