The Cleveland Indians enter play Sunday eight games back of the Chicago White Sox in the American League Central division.
That right there is the Central race.
The Indians are in second, while the Detroit Tigers are next at 14 games back of first.
The Minnesota Twins, a team supposed to compete, are 16 games back and the Kansas City Royals are dead-last at 18 games back after a solid start to the year.
We bring this up because MLB.com recently ran a piece ranking all eight playoff races in baseball this year.
There are six division races and two Wild Card races, for those counting.
While the American League Wild Card race, which includes the Indians, did come in at third overall, the Central race came in last.
Two-Team Race In The Division
— Bally Sports Cleveland (@BallySportsCLE) July 17, 2021
White Sox fans likely believe it is really only a one-team race with the Indians sitting in second as pretenders.
However, the two teams have eight head-to-head matchups remaining this season, including a five-game series near the end of the season.
The Indians are just fine if they can avoid letting the deficit get to double-digits before September.
The biggest surprise in the Central has to be the way the Twins are playing.
Minnesota was projected to win the division by some outlets, and that projection held throughout the start of the year.
But they could just never turn things around and also own a 17-27 road record on the year.
Being behind the rebuilding Tigers in the standings is not what Twins fans had in mind in what is now a lost season.
The Royals are also a surprise, but that team was never expected to go far in 2021.
That leaves the Indians as the only real threat to the White Sox, while the Wild Card race features much more competition.
A Packed Wild Card Race
The Tampa Bay Rays hold the top Wild Card spot and the Indians enter play Sunday 4.5 games behind the Oakland A’s for the second spot.
The Indians join the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels in a packed fight for the second and final spot.
It should be noted the Indians are only five losses behind the Rays for that top spot as well.
An Indians win Sunday over Oakland would provide a nice boost of confidence, but it remains too early to get too caught up in the daily Wild Card changes.
This is a race to check back in on at the start of September to see which teams have a realistic shot of competing.
1) Have the best winning percentage in the AL.
2) Have the largest division lead in baseball.
3) Have four All-Stars.
4) Start a homestand tomorrow.
Can't wait to see you there.
— Jason Benetti (@jasonbenetti) July 16, 2021
A big losing streak for any of the teams involved totally changes the landscape.
Just think how far the Indians fell in the division after the recent nine-game losing streak and how that shifted plenty of postseason narratives.