This has been a tremendously intriguing big-league regular season for those that check all the results and a high percentage of boxscores over the course of 185 days and 2,430 scheduled games.
There aren't many of us, I'll admit.
Baseball has been transformed into a regional sport in this century. When the home team is good, there's still an audience. When they aren't, it makes the decision easier to cancel cable.
The Twins established themselves early as one of MLB's larger flops, and no doubt caused minimalist fans in these parts to rate 2021 as a lost baseball season.
At the end of March, the Twins had the seventh-highest over-under for 2021 wins in Nevada sportsbooks: 88.5. By the time the first quarter of the schedule was winding up in mid-May, the Twins were 14-28, 11½ games out in the feeble AL Central.
To quote my father Richard from another time: "Dead as doornails."
My interest in the Twins had faded to the point I set an all-time record for not attending a home game. My last visit to Target Field had been in early August, before taking in Jose Berrios' start vs. the Twins last Friday.
In my defense, I had fully intended to show up earlier in September, before a last-minute check revealed rookie Griffin "Jacks" Jax was starting for the Twins.
Easy decision: Stay home, monitor the Giants.
San Francisco has been at the top of the intrigue list for months. The Giants remained there as they started a six-game homestand Tuesday to finish the schedule.
The betting line over-and-under for the Giants at the end of March was 75.5 wins, 21st among the 30 teams. Giants backers were able to collect on Aug. 15, after a home win over Colorado put them at 76-42.
What's remarkable is the Giants are at 103-54 and are yet under heavy pressure to keep pushing.
That's because the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers — blessed with the game's deepest, most expensive roster and entering 2021 with a record over-and-under of 102.5 wins — are only two games behind at 101-56.
If the Giants were to lose a couple this week, to the Diamondbacks or Padres, and wind up in a division tie, there would be a one-game playoff in San Francisco on Monday — with the loser going into a wild-card game.
Do me this favor: Tear yourself away briefly from the 180 you've taken from "Cousins is an overpaid stiff" to "Kirk is the MVP frontrunner" for a couple of minutes.
Just take a look at the two rosters, Giants and Dodgers, reach back to any attentions you might have paid to baseball in recent years and try to fathom how San Francisco has managed to stay ahead of a Los Angeles outfit that has played to its enormous potential?
The Giants, in New York from 1883 to 1957, won 106 games in 1904. They won 103 out west in 1962, which included two of three in a playoff series with the Dodgers for the NL title. They also won 103 in 1993.
If these miracle Giants win one more game this week, they will be the winningest team in 64 seasons in San Francisco. If they win four(which might be necessary to hold off L.A.), they will be the winningest team in the 139-season franchise history.
And that isn't close to all that's amazin' this season. The St. Louis Cardinals came into existence as the Brown Stockings in 1882. They remain representatives of America's best baseball city.
Those loyal fans were disgruntled early this month. The Redbirds were 69-68, 3½ games and three teams removed from the second wild card.
Then they beat the Dodgers two in a row in Busch Stadium, lost to the Reds, then started a winning streak that reached 17 games when they beat the Brewers on Tuesday. The franchise record had been 14 in a row in 1935.
The sizzling-hot Cardinals will claim the second wild cardand play either the Dodgers or the Giants in a one-game shootout.
It must be mentioned a rookie named Lars Nootbaar hit two home runs when the Cardinals tied their franchise record at 14 last week at Wrigley Field.
I'm officially all in on the 2021 ball season when the son of Dutch and Japanese parents, Lars Nootbaar, with the middle name Taylor-Tatsuji, becomes a hero of a playoff drive.
Addendum: Mention also required here of the Tampa Bay Rays, unloved, always underrated and leaving the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays in their wake in the AL East.
The Rays are the baseball miracle that keeps on showing up, like holy scenes on water-stained buildings in Florida.