NEW YORK, NY: Eduardo Nunez #26 of the New York Yankees is tagged out at home plate by catcher Kelly Shoppach #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
I haven't done any real research, but I'm going to theorize that this weekend is MLB's least interesting weekend from now through the rest of the season.
By my rough count, there are 12 teams who are either within five games of first place or the Wild Card, or are being chased by a team that's within five games (I'm counting the Red Sox and Yankees, but not the Phillies). That is, there are 12 teams who have legitimate reasons to win every single game they can, without reservation.
None of those 12 teams are playing each other this weekend. All 12 have opponents this weekend who are already thinking about 2012 (or should be).
If we have to pick one series, though?
Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees
The Rays trail the Yankees by 8-1/2 games in the Wild Card standings. It would require a Christmas-in-August Miracle just to get the Rays within hailing distance of the Yankees this month. But if the Miracle's going to happen, it's got to start happening this weekend. These games are the first three of nine remaining between the two clubs, including a season-ending set in O.J.'s ThunderDome. If the Rays can take seven of the nine, that leaves only a few lengths to make up elsewhere along the course.*
* Thank you. I'm sorry I cannot accept my Mixed Metaphor Award in person, but you know I'm grateful.
Friday night's contest has the added attraction of James Shields and CC Sabathia. One of them looked like a Cy Young candidate until recently, and the other still does. If I weren't going to be on a jet airplane, this is the game I would be watching.
Is there anything else at all out there, though?
Well, C.J. Wilson pitches in Oakland tonight, which would be a lot more interesting if Wilson had to hit. Alas, all anyone can do is yell at him.
Otherwise? Man, it's tough out there. Sometimes I'll opt for esthetics, maybe a match-up with some real history. Pirates and Reds? Phillies and Cubs? Nope. The longest-standing rivalry this weekend features the Tigers and Orioles, which doesn't even reach back to 1950.
Look, I'm not recommending that anyone take the weekend off. There will be thrills galore, regardless of who's playing. I'm just saying that until they actually start playing, it's impossible to know which games to watch.