We are getting close to the end of the season, and we still do not have a single playoff berth clinched in the American League. The Yankees lead the Orioles by 1½ games in the American League East; the Orioles and Athletics are sitting on the two wild-card spots (with the A's having played one fewer game), and the Angels trail that pair by just two games.
ESPN's Jayson Stark examines what would happen if three or four of these teams tied for the three spots in question, and the results aren't pretty. There's quite a bit of detail in Stark's article, too much to quote at length from here, but the gist of it is this: because two of those teams are located on the East Coast and the other two are on the West Coast, most of the scenarios involved would have a team that wins one of these spots likely having to make cross-country flights on consecutive days, possibly playing in the East one day, the West the next, and then back to the East to play the third day.
Oh, what the heck. It's long, but here's one of the possible scenarios, a four-way tie:
The Yankees and Orioles would have to play off in Baltimore on the day after the season (Thursday, Oct. 4) to settle the AL East. Meanwhile, the Angels and A's would kick off the wild-card tiebreaker festivities by facing each other Thursday in Oakland. The winner of that game would be considered "the first wild-card team."
The loser of the AL East showdown would then live to play another day -- by facing the loser of that Angels-A's game somewhere or other, for the final wild-card slot. But where? Nobody would have any idea.
If the Orioles lose to the Yankees, they'd have to climb onto a plane, cross three time zones and play in either Oakland or Anaheim on Friday, because they got crushed in the season series against both the A's (1-8) and Angels (0-6).
But if it's the Yankees playing that wild-card game, it works the other way around. They would host either the Angels or the A's. So either way, both tiebreaker games would have to be day games Thursday, just to leave time for all the coast-to-coast travel possibilities -- and because nobody would even know which COAST Friday's game would be played on until after the Thursday games.
What a mess. You can imagine Bud Selig praying every day for this to not happen.