We won't claim there's quite as much drama as last year's final games, when Red Sox Nation's collective heart was broken by seeing their team eliminated from postseason contention. This time around, all 10 playoff teams have been decided — their seeding, however, very much has not.
In the American League, we know that the Athletics, Rangers, Tigers, Orioles and Yankees will all be playing past Thursday. Likewise for the Giants, Reds, Cardinals, Braves and Nationals in the National League. How those teams will line up, however, is anyone's guess.
So let's start with what we know. Detroit is champion of the AL Central, San Francisco of the NL West, Cincinnati the NL Central and Washington the NL East. That means St. Louis and Atlanta will play the wild card one-game playoff in the NL.
Beyond that (and particularly in the American League) things get very confusing very fast.
Coming into play on Wednesday, New York is a game up on Baltimore in the AL East, and Oakland and Texas are tied — and playing eachother Wednesday — in the AL West. If New York loses to Boston and Baltimore beats Tampa Bay, that means the Orioles and Yankees are tied for the division, and must play a one-game playoff on Thursday in Baltimore to decide the champion.
But what wild-card seed does the loser get, you ask? Well, that depends.
Whoever wins today between the A's and Rangers is the AL West champion, that much is clear. If Baltimore loses on Wednesday, they would end up going on the road to face which ever AL West team loses the division. The Orioles would end up having the same record as that team, but lost the season series to both the A's and Rangers, which explains their lack of home-field advantage. However, if Baltimore wins Wednesday, whichever team loses the AL East — regardless of the outcome of New York's game Wednesday and whether or not there's a Thursday tiebreaker — would host the AL West wild card team because they'd have more wins.
In the race for the No. 1 overall seed the Yankees control their destiny: win Wednesday and they have home field advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs. But if there is a Yankees-Orioles tie at the end of the season, that means there's a three way-tie for the best AL record with those two teams and the AL West champions. And, in that case, the tiebreaker Thursday game would not be considered an extra regular-season contest.
If the Yankees and Rangers win their respective divisions, that means the Yankees get the No. 1 seed and play the wild card winner by virtue of the fact they won the season series from Texas. If it's the Yankees and A's as division winners, the No. 1 seed goes to Oakland. Those two split their season series, so why is that? Because the A's had a better record in division games.
If the Orioles and Rangers capture their respective divisions, No. 1 goes to Texas by virtue of winning the season series. Likewise, if it's the O's and A's, then positioning goes to Oakland.
Are you confused yet?
In the NL, the Nationals and Reds head into the final day of the season with the same record, at 97-64. If one team wins and the other loses, the winner takes the No. 1 seed, while the loser plays San Francisco. If they end up tied, then seeding goes to Washington, as the Nats won the season series.
And there you are, folks. Take a deep breath, and get ready to watch some final-day baseball.