I don't think I'm alone in believing that the 2020 season has messed with our heads in many ways. In terms of baseball, think back to this spring. It seems ages ago, doesn't it? To illustrate the point, there was a time when we thought it was possible that Major League Baseball would keep the expanded playoff field that we had in 2020.
That didn't happen. What if it did, though? Let's take a look at what the field would look like at this very moment.
Obviously, the division winners remain. The format from last season had each second-place team grab spots 4-6 in each league while wild cards filled out the eight-team field in both the AL and NL.
On the AL side, the Rays, Astros and White Sox take the top three seeds in order. The Yankees currently hold the four seed with the A's in the five hole. For the six, we've got a team with a losing record. It's Cleveland, currently holding off Detroit by 3 1/2 games (seriously, the Tigers would be highly competitive for a six seed!). The seven would be the Red Sox while the eight would be the Mariners, snapping the longest playoff drought in baseball.
CBS Sports HQ Newsletter
Your Ultimate Guide to Every Day in Sports
We bring sports news that matters to your inbox, to help you stay informed and get a winning edge.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox.
There was an error processing your subscription.
Over in the Senior Circuit, it's the Giants, Brewers and Braves as the top three. The Dodgers easily hold the four seed while the Reds take the five and the Phillies are sixth. That leaves the Padres as the seven and Cardinals as number eight.
Under this format, 15 of the 16 teams with winning records -- sorry, Blue Jays -- would make the playoffs along with one team with a losing record. Further, the sub-.500 Mets and Tigers would be right within striking range and, for real, the Royals wouldn't be totally out of the picture at six games back despite being on pace to lose 89 games.
Of course, the trade deadline would've likely gone differently and we'll just avoid falling down that rabbit hole. Instead, let's just be happy that the league decided to go back to the five-team format. We might end up only having one fun divisional race (hello, NL West!), but the wild card races look to be hot and we don't have to worry about an undeserving playoff team. Kudos to MLB for getting this right.
|In the midst of so many people believing it was only a matter of time before they fell apart, the Giants have played their best baseball of the season in August. Even with the series loss to the Braves, the Giants are 19-7 this month.||--||107-55|
|From Aug. 7-28, the Dodgers went 17-3 and only gained 1 1/2 games on the Giants. Rough division.||--||106-56|
|Pete Fairbanks is back now and it's a good time to point out the insane organizational pitching depth the Rays have built. They just roll the arms off an assembly line.||--||100-62|
|From 1962-2016, the Astros/Colt .45s won 100 games just one time. They now have a shot to make it four straight full seasons.||1||95-67|
|The franchise record is 96 wins (2011 and 2018, though the latter took a 163rd game to get there). These Brewers are on pace to win 98.||1||95-67|
|The 13-game winning streak was the longest for this franchise since 1961. Did anything cool happen that season? Asking for a friend.||--||92-70|
|Is that dreadful Lance Lynn outing against the dreadful Cubs cause for concern? Probably not. At least Carlos Rodon is back, too, right?||--||93-69|
|In his three starts since returning from injury, Huasar Ynoa has pitched to a 2.60 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .167/.239/.317 line. And due to the extended absence with injury, he shouldn't have any workload concerns moving forward.||1||88-73|
|It sure hasn't taken Chris Sale long before he looked like his old self, huh? That's 21 strikeouts and three walks in `115 1/3 innings.||1||92-70|
|Will Khris Davis earn a September call up? He homered nine times in his first 13 games with Triple-A Las Vegas, including seven in six games through Saturday.||2||86-76|
|Wade Miley's career has been full of wide-ranging peaks and valleys. His 2021 peak is his best act yet. In his age-34 season, he's 11-4 with a 2.74 ERA and should get some down-ballot Cy Young love (he's never received a Cy Young vote, either).||--||83-79|
|The playoff drought goes back to 2001. Unfortunately, it looks like the Mariners are set to post their eighth winning record without making the playoffs since then.||--||90-72|
|George Springer comes back Monday, but is it too late for them to make a last-ditch run? Probably not, but they better hurry. The 10 games remaining against the Orioles help.||1||91-71|
|The Padres play the Diamondbacks three times this week and Angels for a two-game series Sept. 7-8. The other 25 games left on the schedule come against teams above .500 and most aren't close (the Cardinals are three of those games but the rest are Astros, Dodgers, Giants and Braves).||1||79-83|
|They probably were cooked anyway, but that Rhys Hoskins injury likely seals their fate. The lineup just isn't deep enough. There's only so much the underrated Bryce Harper can do on his own.||--||82-80|
|Coming in 2022: The Yadier Molina Farewell Tour!||--||90-72|
|He slowed down a bit this past week, but it's worth highlighting Amed Rosario's extended hot streak. From the All-Star break through last Sunday, Rosario hit .352 with a .535 slugging in 33 games. Is this a post-hype breakout from the former top-10 prospect? He's still only 25 years old.||1||80-82|
|There have only been seven worse Augusts (by winning percentage) in franchise history. All but 2002 and 1991 were 90-plus loss teams.||1||77-85|
|In his last 30 offensive games, Shohei Ohtani is hitting .206 with only four homers. He got roughed up last time on the hill by the Orioles, too. No one would blame him for being tired, but I'm worried that he is.||--||77-85|
|C.J. Cron has been on a different team for five straight seasons and signed with the Rockies on a minor-league deal for this season. He's arguably having the best year of his career. Will he finally get the chance to stay put?||1||74-87|
|Since April, the Tigers have had a winning record every month. They are 12-12 in August; can they pull it off again? This team has under-the-radar been such a great story.||1||77-85|
|This Salvador Perez power surge is really absurd. I've mentioned it recently but he's not slowing down. His previous career highs were 27 homers, 80 RBI and a .495 slugging (excluding his 37-game 2020). He's currently at 38 homers, 94 RBI and .544 slugging.||--||74-88|
|Byron Buxton is back and that's fun! Hopefully he stays healthy the rest of the way.||--||73-89|
|Bryan De La Cruz came over in a trade deadline deal for Yimi Garcia and has been tearing it up in the majors since. He's hitting .355 through his first 28 career games.||1||67-95|
|Top catching prospect Keibert Ruiz is coming on Monday, so that's fun. He was one of the main pieces coming back in the Scherzer/Turner deal. In the minors, he's hit for high average, made lots of contact and hit for good power this season.||1||65-97|
|Might Patrick Wisdom stick? Before this season, he had parts of eight years in the minors and just 88 plate appearances in 43 career MLB games. He now has 25 homers in 83 games in 2021.||--||71-91|
|It's only been 13 games, but Yoshi Tsutsugo has been a nice little find. He was traded from the Rays to the Dodgers for a player to be named later then released by the Dodgers and now he's producing well for the Pirates. Quite a weird year.||--||61-101|
|Prior to getting swept by the Phillies, the Diamondbacks had won nine of 14. They've actually been kind of serviceable since their brutal 3-24 June.||--||52-110|
|Right-handed pitcher Glenn Otto was part of the package coming back to the Rangers in the Joey Gallo trade. He debuted this past week with five scoreless innings, striking out seven without walking anyone. He had 134 strikeouts against 24 walks in 95 2/3 innings in the minors this year, too.||--||60-102|
|They broke the 19-game losing streak, but the Orioles are still having one of the worst months of August in baseball history at 3-23.||--||52-110|