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In the year of COVID-19, when Major League Baseball did just about everything it could to make sure all of its good teams are in the playoffs, two of the three local teams to New Jersey are going to miss out on the postseason.

Think about that for a second: MLB included more than half the teams in both leagues, and the New York Mets (almost certainly) and the Philadelphia Phillies (as of Wednesday) look likely to be on the outside looking in when the playoffs are set this weekend.

Once again, it will be the New York Yankees flying the flag for the local population in the postseason, although not as AL East champions as so many people expected (not me, though; I told you all in July to take the Tampa Bay Rays.)

With just a few days left of this crazy campaign, the Yankees are still the second favorite to win the World Series with most books, but they have fallen way behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the odds (+350 to +600 or so with some mobile sports books in NJ), and now have some company in the AL Pennant race.

Tampa Bay is +350 to win the American League, and should go into the playoffs as the top seed, which it was Wednesday before the final game of the series with the disappointing Mets. The Rays then have a desperate Philadelphia side at home this weekend for three games, but could have the top seed and the AL East wrapped up by Friday night.

Where picking a pennant winner gets tricky is in the new format. Eight teams will get into the postseason in each league, with the Wild Card Series a best-of-three at the higher-seeded team. Then, the two Division Series, the two Championship Series, and the World Series will all be inside bubbles, in either Southern California (AL series at Petco Park in San Diego and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles) or Texas (NL series at Globe Life Field in Arlington and Minute Maid Park in Houston). The World Series will take place at Globe Life, which is a brand new, state of the art facility.

Has there been a true home field advantage anyway during this season with no fans?

While the Wild Card Series will see the higher seed at home, needing to win just twice to advance, the next rounds could be wide open to some teams that might not have been thought about before the year began. Since there should be no cheating this year, for maybe the first time in a while (we are looking at you, two unnamed pennant winners), this could be a fun postseason for fans of teams like the Chicago White Sox, who could win the AL Central for the first time since 2008. Right now, the White Sox are third choice to win the AL Pennant at odds of +450, behind just the Rays and Yankees. Maybe this is the year of the Minnesota Twins, as long as they don’t have to play the Yankees in the first round: the Twins have lost 13-straight playoff games to New York, and are 2-16 all-time in the postseason against the Yankees.

Yikes!

But if Minnesota can catch the White Sox and avoid the Yankees, its +550 odds to win the AL Pennant could shorten before the postseason starts.

Of course, in the National League, it is all about the two NL West teams, the Dodgers (+150) and San Diego Padres (+500), who could be the two best teams in the league. It is a shame they are set up to meet in the Division Series and not the Championship Series (if they both win their Wild Card rounds), but so is the set-up of the playoffs. For me, the winner of that series should win the pennant.

Prediction:

I picked the Dodgers and the Rays before the season, and I will stick with both. But the Padres offer value for both the NL Pennant (+500) and World Series (+900), and I might back them a little bit.

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