Two of baseball's divisions are closer—and more exciting—than they've been in years.
The Red Sox, Twins, Mariners, Phillies, Cubs, and Padres have something in common. They're all last-place teams. But what distinguishes the Red Sox and the Phillies from their fellow basement-dwellers (aside from recent World Series titles) is that Boston and Philadelphia are competitive teams. With one-third of the season now over, the American League and National League East divisions are both logjams, with Boston trailing division-leading Tampa Bay by just six games, and Philadelphia trailing division-leading Washington by eight. A cynic might argue that these two divisions are congestive pools of mediocrity, but that's a spurious line of thinking. A more honest assessment is that the American and National East divisions are loaded top to bottom with talented, dangerous teams, with the potential to provide fans with the most competitive playoff races in—I'm not afraid to say it—baseball history.
Then again, maybe it's a bit premature to be talking about the great playoff races that await us in the American and National League East divisions. After all, we haven't even reached the All-Star Break. But anticipation of what's possible—even if it doesn't pan out—is a huge facet of sports fandom: We look forward to games when we think they're going to matter, and we check out mentally and emotionally when they seem like duds. And with both the NL East and the AL East being so close this season, fans of teams in these divisions won't be checking out any time soon.