Major League Baseball teams are deep in contemplation trying to decide whether they are in the playoff running and therefore whether they should be buyers or sellers as Saturday’s non-waiver trading deadline draws near.
While there might not be trades involving multi-million dollar players at stake, teams in Britain are also staring at the standings, studying the schedules and working out where their seasons may be headed.
After last Sunday’s results, some teams already know that their playoff place has been secured. For others, there’s all to play for over the next few weeks of the regular season.
National Baseball League: Mets make the NBC
London Mets (21-3) made sure of a top two finish, and automatic qualification to the National Baseball Championships, by earning two wins against the bottom-placed Essex Arrows (3-19). Bracknell Blazers (17-3) kept pace with the Mets as they took two wins against Herts Falcons (6-14), the second of which featuring a final inning comeback. The Blazers remain two games behind the Mets and need just one more win to be sure of joining their closest rivals in the NBC, ready to defend the title they won last year.
Southampton Mustangs (13-11) and Richmond Flames (12-10) are having a great battle for third place and they split a double-header on Sunday. Both teams are good bets to move on to the playoff stage, which makes the bottom half of the NBL all the more fascinating. Herts Falcons, Croydon Pirates (7-15)and Mildenhall Bulldogs (5-13) are battling for two spots and it’s impossible to predict with any degree of certainty which one will miss out. The Bulldogs started the season brilliantly, but have been badly hampered by a player shortage over the last couple of months. They were able to field a team on Sunday and showed the sort of form they are capable of by sweeping a double-header against the Pirates. However, their forfeited games could prove to be their undoing in the end.
This Sunday could be an important round of games when it comes to deciding those last two playoff spots. The Pirates will look to improve their chances of staying in the mix with two games against Essex Arrows, while the Bulldogs and Falcons are scheduled to meet at the latter’s Grovehill Ballpark. Further details and reaction from last Sunday’s games can be found in Simon Fitzjohn’s report.
AAA: Redbacks reign over Kings, Trojans keep ahead in the North
The top two teams in the AAA-North will head on to the AAA National Baseball Championship and with the top four teams separated in the standings by just two games, it’s going to be quite a contest to see who makes it. Liverpool Trojans (16-6) are in the driving seat as they are two games ahead of the chasing pack. It looked like that lead would be 2.5 games midway through their double-header against the fifth-placed Halton Jaguars (6-16). However, the Jaguars scored six runs in the first inning of the second game and went on to win it 9-2, leaving Liverpool with a split and perhaps ruing a missed opportunity. Manchester A’s (14-8) took advantage of the Trojans’ slip and moved into third place by winning two games against Glasgow (1-19).
Harrogate Tigers (10-4) are the wild card in the North as they current sit second on winning percentage but have played less games than their rivals (8 less than the Trojans and A’s, 6 less than the fourth-placed Menwith Hill Patriots – 13-7). Several of their missed games are currently listed as ‘postponed’, but it seems likely that they will not have time to make all those games up and it will be interesting to see how that is dealt with in the standings. The Tigers are scheduled for a double-header away to the Jaguars this Sunday, with the A’s and Patriots meeting for two and the Trojans travelling up to Glasgow.
The AAA-South brought us the result of the weekend as the Essex Redbacks (8-8) won both games of a double-header against the league-leading Oxford Kings (17-3). The Redbacks were rightfully proud of their achievement while putting it down to “relentless hitting” and a strong performance from their infield that “shut down the Kings’ offense from creating any momentum”. The Kings still hold a three game lead over Bracknell Inferno (12-4), so they will not be panicking just yet. The anticipated double-header between Inferno and the third-placed Herts Eagles (11-5) does not appear to have been played. Both teams are due to be in action this Sunday, with Bracknell hosting the red-hot Redbacks and Herts travelling to Bristol to face the Badgers, who were handed two forfeit wins against Kent Mariners (0-20) on Sunday.
AA: Looking good for Leicester, Three wins for the Pilots, Playoff spots look set in the south
The playoff picture became a little clearer in the Midlands on Sunday. The league-leading Leicester Blue Sox (14-4) beat the Blue Sox 2 (2-14) team twice, meaning that they only need to split their double-header with Birmingham Maple Leafs (11-4) on 8 August to win the league. In any case the Maple Leafs look likely to join the Blue Sox in qualifying for the AA playoffs. Meanwhile the Blue Sox 2 are guaranteed an ‘A’ playoff place in their debut year after Mildenhall Bulldogs 2 (0-15) confirmed that they have withdrawn from the league. MK Bucks (11-7) will be the other ‘A’ playoff representative from the Midlands unless a big turnaround sees them usurp the Maple Leafs from second place.
In the North, Bolton Robots of Doom (13-5) were able to add two wins to their total while enjoying a lie-in on Sunday as Manchester Torrent (9-9) forfeited their two games. That wasn’t the only good news for the Robots this week as they have just received a new grant for a permanent outfield fence to further improve facilities at The Ballpark at Stapleton Avenue The only slight downer for Bolton is that their two-game lead at the top of the league was still cut as Humber Pilots (12-6) swept a triple-header against Oldham North Stars (0-20), one game of which being a postponed game from earlier in the season. Torrent’s forfeits make it likely that they will take a third or fourth-placed finish and go on to the ‘A’ playoffs, leaving Bolton, Humber and Sheffield Bladerunners (11-7) to battle it out for the top two positions, and AA playoff qualification, with the ‘loser’ joining Manchester in the A playoffs.
In the South, Richmond Knights (13-1) and Essex Archers (13-3) are now guaranteed to finish as the top two in Pool B despite the third-placed Sidewinders (8-6) earning a 20-6 win over Herts Hawks (3-10) on Sunday. The Archers won both games of a double-header against Windsor Bears (9-7), meaning that Sidewinders cannot overtake them even if they win their remaining four games. The Knights beat Brentwood Stags (0-12) 23-13 to stay one game ahead of the Archers at the top of the pool.
In Pool A, Poole Piranhas (13-2) secured top spot after being handed a forfeit win over Horsham Hurricanes (0-16). Windsor Bears are likely to join them in qualifying for the AA playoffs despite those two defeats to the Archers. The third-placed Croydon Pirates III (7-9) need to win both of their two remaining games and hope that Windsor Bears not only lose both of theirs, but do so via at least one forfeit.
A: Dragons roar into playoffs, Old Timers move ahead in Pool B
Richmond Dragons (10-2) didn’t have a game on Sunday, but their playoff spot is secure in Pool A. The third-placed Southampton Mustangs III (7-3) took a 32-12 victory over Chelmsford Clippers (5-7); however, the best Southampton can hope for now is to match the Dragons’ win-loss record and if they did that, Richmond would still come out on top in the standings due to their 22-12 win over the Mustangs III back on 25 April. The Mustangs did pull level with Guildford Mavericks (7-3) after the latter lost 16-13 to Old Timers (6-4), and Southampton and Guildford meet this Sunday for a potentially crucial game.
Pool B has turned around in recent weeks as Braintree Rays (5-6) have fallen from the top of the standings. They had to forfeit their game on Sunday against London Marauders (4-5) and that lifted their opponents above them into second place, with both the Rays and Marauders being 1.5 games behind the Old Timers. The Rays are due to play Tonbridge (3-7) on Sunday, while the Marauders travel to Melbourne Park in Chelmsford to take on the Clippers (5-7).
Full details on results and fixtures from the British Baseball leagues can be found on the British Baseball Federation website.