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The AL East, the NL East, and the dream of a five-way tie

Is this the year that our dreams of postseason chaos come true?

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

We all have dreams. Apparently mine is to watch the world burn. There was never a time in baseball when a five-way tie would have been easy to sort out, but with the addition of two wild cards, it would be a steaming hot mess now. There would be play-ins for the play-ins for the playoff to see who makes the playoffs. There would be arcane tiebreakers that supersede other arcane tiebreakers. People would freak out, but not in a cars-set-on-fire way. Just in an Internet meltdown kind of way. Those are the best. All hail the five-way tie.

I will also accept a four-way tie.

A three-way tie would still be hilarious.

Alas, the four- or five-way tie is supremely unlikely. Sam Miller wrote about the freakiest of the freaky preseason simulations spit out by Prospectotron 3000, and he doesn’t remember a perfect four- or five-way tie among the 50,000 simulations. Still, I just watched a 275-pound reliever run 4.1 seconds down the line to beat out a bunt single to win a 13-inning game, so I’m feeling froggy. It’s a day to celebrate baseball’s unlikeliness, and there are two divisions that look like they might give us a chance. Standings as of Tuesday morning:

AL East
1. Orioles, 15-14
2. Yankees, 16-15
3. Red Sox, 15-17, 1½ GB
4. Rays, 15-17, 1½ GB
5. Blue Jays 15-17, 1½ GB

NL East
1. Nationals, 18-14
2. Braves, 17-14, ½ GB
3. Marlins, 17-15, 1 GB
4. Mets, 16-15, 1½ GB
5. Phillies, 15-15, 2 GB

Please. Please, please, please. One of you silly divisions, stay like this all year.

Wait. This reads familiar. Because it is.

Either division. Pick one of them. National League East or American League East. Five-way tie for first place.

I truly, deeply love the game of baseball. But I think I'd love that specific chaos even more. Do you think there's a secret dossier in the vaults about a five-way tie for the division? I think there is. And I think it's a doodle that Bud Selig drew on hotel stationery when he was on a conference call. The doodle was of him emptying a bank account and moving to Paraguay to start a trampoline-basketball league.

This was in 2012, when the Marlins were still fooling us and the Phillies were fresh off a 100-win season. Then the Marlins finished the season 40-71 and the Phillies sank into a tar pit, which will enable us to reconstruct Ryan Howard’s skeleton for future generations. Everything went wrong for the Red Sox, they lost 93 games, and we never heard from them again. That article was published in June, which gave us an extra month of wins and losses, yet everything still got futzed up.

Everything’s going to get futzed up this year, too. We’re never going to get a four- or five-way tie.

But I come to you today with simple truths. And after sharing them with you, we’ll all feel better.

1. The Marlins are going to screw everything up

It’s in their DNA. Even when they’re good, they mess with the fabric of baseball’s space-time. For example, ruining what should have been the greatest season in Indians history. Here’s what I could believe by the end of the year:

  • Giancarlo Stanton becoming a titan
  • Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich breaking out
  • Jose Fernandez winning a Cy Young
  • Nathan Eovaldi making the Dodgers feel bad

And here’s what I would have a hard time believing by the end of the year:

  • Everything else

Everything else includes, but is not limited to, the continued success of Tom Koehler, Garrett Jones, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Adeiny Hechavarria, Casey McGehee, and Derek Dietrich. Even Jeff Mathis has a 950 OPS in 16 at-bats. The Marlins are hitting .305/.370/.484 at home, which seems like a lot of fun, but certainly isn’t sustainable.

Unless they’re stealing signs.

Watch out for that.

2. The Mets and the Phillies might not actually screw everything up

The old hitters are doing fine, for the most part. Counting on the younger guys to get better isn’t so crazy, and with Cole Hamels back, the front of the rotation looks impressive once again. They’ve been outscored on the season (Pythagorean record of 13-17), but I could see this being a garden variety kinda-bad/slightly under .500 team instead of full LOL Phillies. And when the team is close to .500, they’re always a couple of fluke seasons away from contending. Cody Asche hitting 30 homers? Ben Revere hitting .360? Sure, whatever.

The Mets don’t have a shortstop. They have three starters with an ERA over 5.00, a lineup filled with underperforming players, and a sketchy bullpen. But if they’re kinda-sorta okay when David Wright is disappointing and Curtis Granderson is hitting like Matt Garza, they could surprise when the expected good things happen. All three of the struggling starters (Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, and Jenrry Mejia) have solid strikeout-to-walk ratios. I didn’t think the Mets were going to be a laughing stock before the season, and they’re looking only mildly amusing, at best.

The first two sections, dumbed down: Don’t expect the fluky seasons to continue for the Marlins, but maybe the Mets and Phillies can get fluky seasons. Baseball writing in May, everyone.

(They’re all going to screw this up.)

3. The AL East is our great hope

If you wanted to dismiss a team as easily as the Marlins, Mets, or Phillies in the AL East, you would have to start with the Blue Jays, who are playing below-.500 ball despite Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Adam Lind all going nuts. The closer has allowed more than two runners for every inning he’s pitched, R.A. Dickey looks dreadful again, and Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion have been lousy.

Just wait until last offseason starts, though. The Blue Jays have big plans. Big plans. They just might shore up this roster after all.

The other four teams are close, though. So close. The Rays looked to have the slight advantage before the season, but now they’re down Matt Moore. The Yankees looked like they were going to be miserable and old, but instead they’re the vampire Yankees again. The Orioles have a deep enough lineup that they don’t need Chris Davis to be an MVP candidate again, and their rotation is probably underperforming. The Red Sox are almost certainly better than their 15-17 record.

A four-way tie. Please. Even a three-way tie would be magnificent chaos. The dream is still alive.

All 10 teams in the two divisions are within three games of each other. By the end of the season, everything’s going to be higgledy-piggledy, and the teams at the bottom won’t be anywhere near the teams at the top. For now, though, we can still dream.