September 8, 2005 [LINK]
Astrodome: refuge from the deluge
Thanks to a freak meterological calamity unleashed by Mother Nature, the aging but once-ultramodern Astrodome is presently getting the most intensive use it has had since the Astros left after the 1999 season. Several thousand refugees from Hurricane Katrina have taken shelter there after the collapse of utility services and lack of police protection obliged authorities to move them to a safer location. In recognition of this unique role played by a former baseball (and football) stadium, I have revised the diagrams on the Astrodome page.
Wild card races heat up
I generally try to avoid thinking too much about the wild card standings until well into September, since diverting attention from the divisional races seems to undermine the sport's tradition. Now that Washington has lost three games in a row to the Florida Marlins, they are only three games above .500, and their chances of making the postseason are sinking fast. At the beginning of the season, a finish at or above .500 would have been considered a big success for the transplanted Nationals team, but after their magical hot streak in June put them in first place for over a month, we were hoping for a finish that was more than just "above average." The Phillies and Mets are also in the midst of losing streaks, leaving Houston (on the rebound from a mini-slump) and Florida as leading contenders for the "back door" route to the divisional playoff series.
In the American League wild card race, the Indians have pulled ahead of the Yankees, to the surprise of many. In contrast to Cleveland, the Yanks still have a good chance at winning their division. Pitcher Kevin Millwood (a former Brave) has been a big part of the Cleveland tribe's late upsurge this year. I'm sure those folks up on Lake Erie would love to get revenge on the Marlins for the 1997 World Series. But then the same goes for Bronx fans who want revenge for the 2003 series. With just over three weeks to go, however, both of the wild card races could turn around completely.