MLB Nears Playoffs

Each year, the return to campus for Colgate students in August signifies the end of summer, a transition to the fall and new beginnings in Hamilton. In Major League Baseball (MLB), this same passage of time draws national headlines as the regular season comes to a close and the playoff picture begins to take shape. 

With a six-month-long regular season that lasts 162 games, the middle portion of the MLB season can be monotonous for an average viewer. However, the beginning of September signifies the intense final push to make the playoffs and build momentum toward the World Series.

This season, the MLB announced an expanded playoff format that includes 12 total teams and an additional Wild Card entry from both the American and National League. Under this reconstructed and exciting format, three Wild Card entries and three division champions will battle through three rounds prior to the World Series. Initially, the two teams with the best record in each league (currently the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets) receive a bye into the second round of the playoffs. The remaining four teams will then participate in a Best-of-Three Wild Card Series to determine who advances to the Division Series, the League Championship Series and, finally, the World Series. 

As the only major sport in the United States that does not mandate a salary cap, the MLB is often dominated by teams willing to spend frequently on free agents and acquisitions. For this reason, the three highest spending teams in the league are clear playoff favorites and locks for World Series contention. 

In Los Angeles, the Dodgers are chasing history with a chance to set the single season record for wins, currently set at 116 by the Chicago Cubs in 1906. With a record of 92-41, the Dodgers sit comfortably atop both the National League and the 2022 payroll standings. According to Spotrac, a partner of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group, the Dodgers have a total combined salary of $265 million for 2022. Consistent spending and acquisitions allow the Dodgers to achieve success as they are led by Mookie Betts, a six-time All-Star, Tony Gonsolin, who burst onto the scene with a record of 16-1 in 2022, and Freddie Freeman, a free agent signing from the Atlanta Braves who maintains the second best batting average in the MLB. 

Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets and Yankees possess the MLB’s second and third highest payrolls of $262 million and $253 million, respectively. 

In Queens, the Mets sit in first place in the NL East with a record of 85-50. For a Mets franchise that has struggled to consistently succeed in recent years, passionate fans have rallied behind the team, especially closer Edwin Diaz. If you are unaware of Diaz’s walkup song, “Narco” by Timmy Trumpet, and the breathtaking environment at Citi Field as he trots to the mound in the ninth inning, it is well-worth the watch on YouTube

Across the East River, the New York Yankees entered the All-Star Break with the best record in the MLB. Led by outfield slugger Aaron Judge, who continues to chase the AL single-season home run record of 61, the Yankees’ season has been a tale of two drastically different halves. In August, the club struggled with a record of 10-18, even after an active free agency period to bolster their pitching staff and outfield. The play of the Bronx Bombers in September will truly decide whether the Yankees will continue their decline or return to mid-season levels of dominance.

On the opposite end of the spending spectrum, the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Guardians, two teams in the bottom-five of total payroll spending in the league, are in the hunt for the playoffs. With a sell-first and prospect heavy structure, both of these teams are not only competing today but also are well-equipped for future playoff runs. 

Even after selling Trey Mancini and Jorge Lopez at the Trade Deadline to other American League contenders, the Baltimore Orioles are two games out of the final Wild Card playoff spot. After a 2021 season in which the club finished with a record of 52-110, very few expected the Orioles to compete in the cutthroat AL East division. With a yearly payroll of only $44 million, the Orioles are often overshadowed by their division counterparts, but the emergence of talented rookies creates meaningful games in September that will decide the future of their season.

Finally, on Nov. 19, 2021, the Cleveland Indians announced their name change to the Guardians. In Cleveland, this rebranding has transformed the team’s culture both on and off the field. On the field, the Guardians are one of this season’s biggest surprises. With a payroll of $67 million, which is 28th in the league, the first-place Guardians are the youngest team in the MLB and are also younger than any Triple-A team, an astonishing stat considering the team’s recent success. During the 2022 season, 14 rookies have made their MLB debut with the team’s average age at only 26.2 according to With a focus on putting the ball in play, the Guardians have the lowest strikeout rate in the MLB and continue to pressure opposing defenses to make difficult plays. 

With 30 games remaining in the season, a new and improved playoff format guarantees a highly competitive race to capture Division titles and Wild Card berths. As a fan, it is truly an exciting time to follow baseball and prepare for the “Fall Classic” in October.