Manny Returns

With or without Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers will be hard to catch in the otherwise sorry National League. But can he save them from playoff embarrassment when the competition gets a little tougher?

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In the American League East, the usual suspects—the Red Sox and the New York Yankees—are dueling at the top with the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays a few games back. All four teams have suffered through significant injuries and surprising bouts of ineffectiveness. Of the four contenders, the Rays have the best run differential, so barring further injuries or slick trades by the other teams, Tampa Bay should win this division, and the Yankees and Red Sox will battle for the wild card.

The other two divisions are too close to call right now. The Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers are dueling in the Central Division, and both teams are tied in most leading indicators. The Angels and the Texas Rangers are also tied in run differential and comparable in other key areas.

Fans in several American League cities can hunker down for what looks like a series of classic races. In the National League, fans of the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Chicago Cubs can hope that their teams stop their underachieving ways, but even if they do, it may not be enough to catch the Dodgers. Only the harsh realities of October baseball can do that. 

Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.

*This article previously reported that the Dodgers' record during the first week in May was 21-9.

Martin Johnson writes about music for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate and beer for Eater, and he blogs at both the Joy of Cheese and Rotations. Follow him on Twitter.

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