Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland was probably sleeping better after clinching first place in the American League Central Division last week, and he likely won't lose any sleep over seeing his team get no-hit by the lowly Miami Marlins on Sunday. The team was resting much of its normal starting lineup, including the still banged-up All-Star Miguel Cabrera. So being blanked by the National League's worst team was probably no big deal to the veteran manager.
But Detroit still faces some uncertainty when it comes to injured relievers Bruce Rondon and Phil Coke. Detroit leftfielder Jhonny Peralta remains a work in progress, but I foresee the Tigers reaching the World Series. Of course, I do wear glasses.
As for Cincinnati, the Reds know they will be playing at Pittsburgh in the National League's first wild-card showdown. The question is, will this be the Reds' shortest postseason ever? Or the hungry Pirates' shortest ever?
Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said that he really wanted to win the National League Central Division, but considering all the injuries that the club has suffered, he should just be happy to still be playing this October.
Reds' All-Star Joey Votto set a team record for walks in a single season (132) and the Reds have way more playoff experience than the Bucs. In addition, Cincinnati infielder Brandon Phillips vowed to be healthy enough to play Tuesday, as Cincinnati will start Johnny Cueto on the mound over teammate (and former Fort Wayne TinCap) Mat Latos.
Despite reaching the postseason, it's no sure thing that Cincinnati will remain in place for the 2014 season. Longtime Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo and lead-off man Shin-Soo Choo, who leads the team in runs and stolen bases, are the two most notable names set to be free agents.
Arroyo shouldered the loss Saturday after being torched for six Pirate homers.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona recently described his feeling of waking up each morning as being a combination of excitement and nervousness during the American league's crazy wild-card race. He may not have gotten a good night's sleep for quite a while, but his team has won 10 straight to end the season, which is as well as the Indians have ever done.
The Indians entered Sunday's game against Minnesota with a Major League Baseball-leading 55-18 record against teams with a losing record. Cleveland had 20 wins in September for the first time since 1948 (when the Indians were world champions).
The Tribe's one-run record is an MLB best 31-17 may help Francona sleep better. But Indians' closer Chris Perez lost his job with another ninth-inning meltdown last week, so it could be a closer-by-committee situation. Cleveland could also use Joe Smith in that role or look to starter-turned-reliever Justin Masterson, or maybe even Cody Allen, who is getting a late push from Francona for American League Rookie of the Year honors.
For now, the Tribe awaits its Wednesday game at Progressive Field against the winner of today's Tampa Bay-Texas wild-card playoff game.
In Chicago, the White Sox can at least be glad that they avoided losing 100 games this season, as the Cubs did -- though both teams finished in the basement this season.
Disenchanted Chicago fans can take it from a life-long Indians fan, spring training will be here before you know it, and this season's memories can (at least for a little while) be replaced by optimism. Hang in there, and remember, you still have the Blackhawks, Bulls and Bears, so smile!