The pressure has been on for the Philadelphia Phillies in the first few weeks of the 2023 season. After making it back to the playoffs and working their way to their first World Series appearance since 2009, expectations have been high. The Phillies, however, entered the 2023 season a bit flat, losing their first four games against the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees.
Fast forward a few weeks, and Game One of Tuesday’s doubleheader marked the Phillies’ 17th game of the season. As such, we thought we would look at the standings across Major League Baseball and ask the question: What if the MLB season were only 17 games like the National Football League? What would the playoff picture look like?
The American League
Starting over in the AL, not a single predicted divisional winner claimed their division’s title through 17 games. The red-hot Tampa Bay Rays, who won the first 13 games before losing on Friday to the Toronto Blue Jays. With a 14-3 record, the Rays would earn the AL East crown while the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers win the AL Central and AL West respectively.
The Wild Card gets a bit more complicated in the AL. The Yankees and Blue Jays combine to take the top two Wild Card spots before we get to the complications. See, the Cleveland Guardians are 9-8 and slotted nicely into the spot, but the Baltimore Orioles won their 10th game of the year on Tuesday against the Nationals, moving to 10-7 and securing the Wild Card.
So, after a close race, the AL BEast proved present as the AL East claimed all three Wild Card slots. Meanwhile, the reigning World Series champions, the Houston Astros, would miss the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The Guardians, who were favorited to win the AL Central, would also be spending their October guarding the links rather than going for the World Series title.
The National League
Only two teams who were originally predicted to make the playoffs would be in the picture if the playoffs began today in the NL. First, we have the Atlanta Braves who, at 13-4, would run away with the NL East title. The New York Mets would also make the playoffs as a Wild Card team after being predicted to earn a slot. That, however, is where the line deviates… a lot.
The Milwaukee Brewers, who are overall looked at as the number two team in the NL Central, usurped the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Central title. Instead, the Cardinals would end at the bottom of the division with the Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates earning Wild Card spots That’s right, Pittsburgh.
Wait, so if New York, Chicago, and Pittsburgh making up the Wild Card spots, does that mean only the Los Angeles Dodgers made it from the NL West?
Nope. And no, not the San Diego Padres either.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, with a record of 10-7, would be your NL West Champions. No offense to any Snakes fans reading this, but do you see how messed up that is?
So What is the point of this Phillies article?
Then there are the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies, who would miss the playoff window with a 7-10 record, falling behind the Miami Marlins for fourth place in the NL East.
A combination of injuries on both sides of the ball, weak showings from starting pitching, and inconsistent performances (especially with runners in scoring position) from the offense have put the Phillies in this difficult spot. But here is the thing about their position: it will be fixed over a 162-game season.
There is a reason the baseball season is so long. Football is a physically-taxing sport. Every game, players leave battered, bruised, and physically exhausted. In baseball, however, the biggest tax on a player comes mentally. Yes, injuries and exhaustion are still a concern.
The great Yogi Berra once said “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” Baseball is a game of streaks and slumps. Kyle Schwarber can go and hit terribly in May and then all of a sudden hit double-digit home runs in June. But if the season is only 17 games long, chances are high that you will only see one side of Schwarber. It could be Jalen Hurts, or it could be Carson Wentz.
Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. A bad start does not ruin a season and there is no need to overreact as fans. There are 144 games left in the season. Bryce Harper will return this year. Darick Hall, Ranger Suarez, and Andrew Painter will come back. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler will rebound.
So take a breath, Phillies fans. There is plenty more baseball to be played.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke