MLB.com have issued yet another MLB.TV sale this weekend with the service available to buy for the rest of the season for just $20.17.
Adding on the VAT makes it $24.20, so approximately £19 at the current conversion rate. That’s great value, especially as it will entitle non-US fans to watch the post-season as well.
Even if you already pay for BT Sport and can watch MLB games that way, for another £19 you can give yourself the freedom to watch any game you wish the rest of the way and to watch back games ‘as live’, which is just as important when the practicalities (or impracticalities) of the time difference are taken into account.
MLB.com has always decreased the price of MLB.TV during the course of the season, hailing it as a saving although of course it really just gets discounted to take into account you’re only buying part of the season. However, there have been more special short-term deals this year than ever before.
They’re not publicly revealing subscriber rates so it’s difficult to know if that’s due to a dip in people signing up, although more likely sign-ups have held steady and this is a way to try to encourage more people to give the service a go in the hopes of hooking them longer-term.
The promotional details make a point of talking up the pennant races. This all plays into the second Wild Card and how this has affected the regular season.
There has been no surprises since this was introduced for the 2012 season: adding an extra Wild Card spot has increased the odds of more teams being in the running – or at least believing they are in the running – for longer, which gives more fans the chance to dream of a play-off run. However, the negative side of that is the bar for getting into the play-offs has been lowered.
When we look at the American League race this season we see the Houston Astros well out in front, the Cleveland Indians keeping ahead in the Central as expected (although not in such an authoritative way as most would have thought) and the Boston Red Sox looking good in the East with the Yankees not too far away.
After that we have a whole bunch of teams that could still potentially claim the second Wild Card. Quite how far you want to go down the list before putting a cut-off probably depends on if you support a team among them.
Prior to Saturday’s games there was a two-game gap between Toronto (4.5 games back) and Detroit (6.5) so you could use that as the line, but the Blue Jays are 54-61 and would need to jump seven teams. The Baseball Prospectus Play-Offs Report put their Wild Card odds at 2%, so I think we can call that a long shot.
You could skip up past Texas and put a line under Baltimore who are 57-59 and are two games back, but Baseball Prospectus isn’t all that much more optimistic, putting their Wild Card odds at 5.6%. What I’d also add – fanning the flames of Orioles fans who are used to people writing their team off – is that frankly they’ve been mediocre at best this season so expecting them to explode into life is asking for a lot.
However, the trouble with using that argument to put Baltimore out of the running is that the team currently holding the second Wild Card, the Minnesota Twins, aren’t exactly blowing teams away either. That can be overlooked to an extent given how the Twins are hugely exceeding their modest expectations for 2017, but it does rather feel like a disappointment.
Essentially what we’re seeing in the American League is that there are fewer than five really good teams and, as five teams have to go through to the play-offs, that means someone is going to get in by default.
As a fan of a team well out of the running, I can add that I’d be quite happy if it was my team stumbling over the line. Whoever claims that spot has every right not to give a stuff what anyone else thinks: if you’re in the post-season you can win the post-season and that’s all that matters.
But is it a good thing? Really?
It’s not going to change any time soon so the answer is irrelevant in some ways and it’s also inevitable that you won’t get a great battle every year, so maybe I’m being overly harsh. Still, I’m hoping that a couple of teams put a charge on over the next three weeks to create some separation and a more direct battle. The Tampa Bay Rays look to me like the team best placed to do that and I would have added Seattle to the case too, but their recent injury blows might prove fatal.
In the National League things generally look more settled. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been outstanding are clearly the team to beat. Part of the second Wild Card idea is around the much wider concept of parity and so seeing the big-spending Dodgers dominating might be seen as a bad thing, but honestly I don’t mind it.
I want to see genuinely great teams emerging every now and then as there’s still so much room for the unexpected in baseball, especially play-off baseball, that there are no guarantees of World Series success. Whether the Dodgers will go on to claim the big prize, or be toppled after a potentially historic regular season, will make for a captivating story, much more so than not knowing who’s going to come out on top simply because all those competing are much of a muchness.
The Washington Nationals also look impressive and are all-but assured of taking the NL East, whilst the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies are looking good for the Wild Cards.
That leaves the NL Central to be decided and it’s going to be all the more exciting because, subject to one of Arizona or Colorado hitting the skids, it’s going to be all or nothing. There are four teams still in the hunt and there is unlikely to be a Wild Card safety net.
Whilst you would still put the Chicago Cubs as favourites, currently sitting at the top of the division and their quality there for all to see as reigning World Series champs, the way St Louis have charged at them this past week has really been something to behold, just as the free-fall experienced by the Milwaukee Brewers has caught the eye too. Add the still-dangerous Pittsburgh Pirates to the mix too and the NL Central has the potential to be a tremendous battle the rest of the way.
That’s going to be well worth watching and make signing up to the MLB.TV package, and getting to catch the games of those involved, all the more worth doing.