Welcome to the MLB Star Power Index -- a weekly undertaking that determines with awful authority which players are dominating the current zeitgeist of the sport, at least according to the narrow perceptions of this miserable scribe. While one's presence on this list is often celebratory in nature, it can also be for purposes of lamentation or ridicule. The players listed are in no particular order, just like the phone book.
At this point, the readers -- both of you -- are probably best served by an explanation. It says here that the team with the best record across the National League Central and the American League Central is the MLB Big Ten champion for that season. At this writing, the Brewers, NL Central champs, "lead" the Chicago White Sox, AL Central champs, by six games with six to play when it comes to the inter-divisional title that we call the Big Ten championship. In other words, it's still theoretically possible for the White Sox to catch the Brewers, but we're calling it anyway.
At this point, one might be wondering whether the AL East and NL East can pair up for the ACC title or whether the two west divisions amount to MLB's Pac-12. They do not, for reasons explained forthwith:
- The author is partial to the midwest. Vive le fire pits, rust-belt craft beer, mowing during a tornado watch, and twice-baked Zwieback rolls.
- MLB's central divisions are geographically coherent, at least by the standards of the genre. The NL and AL Central teams occupy seven different states, and six of those are home to actual Big Ten teams. Better yet, none of those six states are New Jersey or Maryland, who have no place in the Big Ten as the framers intended it.
- The one state that isn't a part of Big Ten country is Missouri, home of the Cardinals and Royals. However, it's not all that much of a reach. We'll allow it.
- The Pac-12 has changed its name too many times to be honored herein. Also, MLB's West divisions include teams from Texas, which is not western enough to fall under the Pac-12 banner.
- The SEC, alas and alack, doesn't have a regional analog in MLB.
- We could call the Easts the ACC, but we're not going to do that for an array of reasons, none of which merits explanation. Just trust us that the Big Ten is the only reasonable conference title to award in baseball.
So now we add the 2021 Brewers to the list of MLB Big Ten champions. Here is the roll call of honor, dating back to 2013, when the current divisional alignments completed their journey from heaven to This, Our Baseball (the final step was belatedly kicking the Houston Astros into the AL West). By way of (surely unnecessary reminder), the team with the best regular season record across the NL and AL Central divisions is the Big Ten champion. Run differential is the tiebreaker for teams with the same record. The trophy is a lager barrel filled with lake-effect snow that shall never melt, and every time a new champion is crowned Kirk Ferentz gets a contract extension. To the owners of history:
|Year||MLB Big Ten Champion|
St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals
Congratulations, 2021 Brewers, for you are the best the MLB Big Ten has to offer this year. Now go forth and lose to Alabama in a high-stakes bowl game by a score of 38-13.
As long as we're talking about divisions, let us now praise the National League West, home to the best two teams in baseball. Please regard the following relevant digits:
Pictured above are San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford and L.A. right-hander Walker Buehler. They lead their respective squadrons this season in WAR and for shorthand purposes can be said to be the drivers of their respective squadrons' 100-win seasons.
The high-minded among us will note that the Giants and Dodgers toil in the same division, the NL West, and that will conveniently prompt you to ask: How many times has a single division yielded multiple 100-win teams. As it turns out, not many. Here is your official ledger of such divisions going back to the onset of divisional play in 1969 (each team's regular season win total in parentheses, much like these words):
- 2021 NL West: Giants (102 and counting), Dodgers (100 and counting)
- 2018 AL East: Red Sox (108), Yankees (100)
- 2001 AL West: Mariners (116), A's (102)
- 1993 NL West: Braves (104), Giants (103)
- 1980 AL East: Yankees (103), Orioles (100)
And that is the exhaustive list -- five divisions, counting this year's NL West. Only one of these teams -- the 2018 Red Sox -- went on to win the World Series. The Giants and Dodgers, in accordance with industry best practices, will attempt to change that come October.
Let us not take leave of this matter without shouting-out the Arizona Diamondbacks. None of this would be possible without their 5-30 combined mark against San Fran and L.A. this season. The duality of the human experience is such that there can be no greatness without an offsetting coil of steamy crap.