As CNN.com reported on Sunday, ‘Billionaire Warren Buffett told congressional negotiators that if they can’t agree on a proposed financial bailout, the nation will face “its biggest financial meltdown in American history.'” But, as long as the rest of the country seems to be ignoring that, I guess I’ll just write about baseball.

Welcome to October, the best month of what has already been a great MLB season. After 162 games, four of the six divisional races and one of the two wild card races still came down to the season’s final week. The Cubs walked away with the NL Central, and the Angels did the same in the AL West. Here is a look at how the other races played out:

National League:

Following one of the most epic regular season collapses in 2007, the ’08 version of the New York Mets were back at it. For the second-straight year, it was the Marlins who put an end to the Mets’ playoff hopes, and, for the second-straight year, it was the self-destruction of the Mets’ bullpen that ultimately caused the shortfall. The NL East crown went to the Philadelphia Phillies, who were powered by Ryan Howard’s league-leading 48 homeruns.
In the West, it was Manny being Manny that brought the Dodgers their first division title since 2004.

‘Going to the playoffs never gets old,” first-year Dodger manager Joe Torre said. Torre might have missed out on Yankee Stadium’s closing ceremonies, but at least he’s not the one missing out on the playoffs.

The most interesting race in the National League was unequivocally the Wild Card. As the Cubs and Phillies clinched the Central and East, respectively, the Brewers and Mets both of which fired their managers during the season battled for the remaining playoff spot. The race put two of baseball’s greatest pitchers against each other down the stretch and neither disappointed.

For the Mets it was Johan Santana (16-7, 2.53 ERA), who carried the team through much of the season. For the Brewers it was C.C. Sabathia (17-10, 2.70 ERA total; 11-2, 1.65 ERA with the Brewers), who was traded from the Indians to the Brewers at this year’s trade deadline.

The final few performances really set Santana and Sabathia apart from the rest. The clincher for the Brewers came in dramatic fashion on the second-to-last day of the season, as Sabathia pitched a complete game with only one unearned run. It was his third-consecutive start on three day’s rest and his seventh complete game since joining the Brewers.

NL Playoff picture:

Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers:

Dodgers in 5. Joe Torre knows what Manny can be like in the playoffs, only this time he’ll be pretty excited to have Manny on his side. Sorry, Cubs fans.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Milwaukee Brewers:

Brewers in 4. CC Sabathia and the Milwaukee momentum will be too much for the NL East champs.

American League:

It took a 163rd game to decide the playoff picture in the AL Central, and many would still argue that the AL East was even more exciting. With the West wrapped up by the Angels, the other three spots remained up in the air until the final week of the season.

The story of the year was undoubtedly the Tampa Bay Rays. The once bottom-dwelling team of the AL East went from worst to first in what seemed like an instant. The young and inexperienced Rays went toe-to-toe with the Red Sox and Yankees all season and, in the end, pulled off the most unpredictable of upsets, winning the AL East. The Sox still made the playoffs as the AL’s Wild Card team, but the Bronx Bombers were not as fortunate. At least for the Yankees, the over-hyped and drawn out goodbye to Yankee Stadium somewhat eclipsed the team missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995.

The AL Central race was so close that it needed two extra days to conclude. The Minnesota Twins ended their season with a loss in a one-game-playoff at Chicago on Tuesday. Jim Thome’s solo homerun in the seventh was all the White Sox needed to win and make a date with the Rays in the ALDS.

AL Playoff picture:

Boston Red Sox vs Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Red Sox in 5. Just because.

Tampa Bay Rays vs Chicago White Sox:

White Sox in 5. The Rays’ first playoff series ever is great for baseball, but not great enough for the young Rays to beat the veteran White Sox. Starr is a member of the class of 2009.



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