By Jack Reyering, For The Miami Student
It’s that time of year again. Having been in Oxford for over a week now, most of us have settled into our weekly routines. Most of us look forward to nothing more throughout the course of the summer than returning to our beloved Oxford.
For sports fans, the beginning of the school year marks more than the return of our friends and a routine of weekend night debauchery. Football is just around the bend.
When we were kids, baseball signified the good times: summer vacations, swimming pools and lack of homework. Now as college students, baseball subconsciously reminds us of internships, summer jobs and mindlessly binge watching every episode of “The Office” for the third time.
It’s not surprising that college students anticipate football now more than ever. It marks the return of the good times, afterall.
This is the most anticipated time of year for many sports fans across America. Professional and college football have become the cornerstone of American sports. Coverage and speculation dominates our favorite sports programs during the weeks leading up to kickoff. Fans engage in ritualistic activities like tailgates and fantasy drafts for the first time in nearly seven months. The American sports world is gearing up the boys of fall.
As we prepare for the return of gridiron battles and two-minute drills, let’s not forget about America’s richest and most historic sporting tradition: baseball.
I had numerous conversations with friends and colleagues about baseball over the summer. Later in the season, during mid-July, I heard a co-worker say something along the lines of “I hate this time of year. Nothing is going on in sports.”
I cringed, opened my mouth and lifted my pointer finger, ready to defend the sport I love. But I decided to take the high road and bit my tongue instead.
He was so wrong. Here are just a few reasons why baseball deserves a portion of your wide-capacity sporting attention:
The 2015 MLB season has been one of the most exciting and strange seasons in recent memory. For many of the cities with pipelines to Oxford, there is much to watch as the regular season winds down.
Look no further than the National League Central, and you’ll find three or four teams who share homes with many Miami students (Cincinnati, Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis). The Reds left the mix after we celebrated the birthdate of our nation, so that still leaves three teams. St. Louis is … St. Louis. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have held the best record in baseball for much of the year and have all but locked up home field advantage for the NLDS.
The more intriguing battle in the NL Central is being waged between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs. Thanks to a no-hitter from Jake Arrieta on Sunday, the Cubs are sitting in the second wild card spot in the NL, 5.5 games ahead of the hot-and-cold Giants.
Speaking of no-hitters, there have been six of them this year. There have been 11 in the past two seasons combined. Arrieta was magical Sunday as he struck out 12, including the final three batters. Justin Verlander was three outs short of throwing the third no-hitter of his career last week, and numerous other pitchers have flirted with no-no’s this year. The record for no-hitters in a single season is seven. With over a month to go in the regular season, that record could be broken.
If you like spectacular pitching, this is your kind of year. Take a look at any 2015 pitching statistics page, and I guarantee you will have double-take. Nineteen pitchers have ERAs under 3.00 this year. Zach Greinke has been inhumane to batters, boasting a 1.61 ERA this season. You could write a whole article on his change-up alone – people have, in fact – but the overarching theme is he is really good and getting better. Watch for Greinke to make pitching history this season, as he looks to become the first pitcher since 1968 to end the season with an ERA under 1.50.
Back to the NL Central. Sitting 5 games ahead of the Cubbies are the Buccos. Assuming these two clubs play solid baseball for the remainder of the regular season (a tall assumption, I know), we are in for a great playoff battle down the stretch. The two teams meet seven more times this regular season, including a crucial three-game series during the last week of September in Chicago. The results of that series and the final six games following will likely have huge implications as to who gets home field advantage for the dreaded one-game wild card playoff round.
Over in the American League, another team with hometown ties to many Miami students is shaking things up in the wild card standings. The Cleveland Indians are on a miniature tear in the AL Central, winning eight of their last ten. Although they are out of contention for the Central title, they find themselves only 5 games out of the second wild card spot in the AL. Their remaining schedule is tough; 10 of their final 33 games are against teams in first place in their respective divisions. However, the Indians are playing some of their best baseball during crunch time.
So while we are all excited for the football gladiators to take the field, remember that your favorite NFL or college team plays once a week. There’s a good chance the boys of summer from your hometown will have life beyond the regular season, and they’ll be playing almost every day. And if you’re like me, with no dogs in the fight, you can still appreciate the little things in baseball and the re-writing of sports almanacs.