Let's figure out which division is the best
Which division is the best? For years, the AL East has carried a reputation for being the most loaded and ruthless division in baseball, thanks in large part to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. Those two historic franchises have continued to give us many reasons to appreciate the AL East in 2018, but there is no shortage of other rivalries and intriguing narratives across baseball that have other divisions worthy of the spotlight.
But, there are so many ways to assess and rank the qualities of each division. How would you even go about making the decision? Let's try, anyway.
This is a thorough yet incomplete exploration of the basic question: Which division is the best?
A good division should have good teams. What a concept!
Basic math dictates that not every team in a division can be cruising to a 90-plus win season, but some divisions have more teams hovering at-or-above .500 than others. The AL West -- the division with the best player on earth who's currently in fourth place -- has a combined record of 281-234, or a .546 combined winning percentage. That's a far cry from the AL Central's combined .420 winning percentage, the lowest among the six divisions. The NL Central and NL West aren't quite as top-heavy, but each feature four teams with at least a .500 record.
Advantage: AL West, NL Central, NL West
Divisional races are the core of what makes the regular season so exciting. A division that is already lopsided by the All-Star break is almost never as exciting as one with multiple teams jockeying for a postseason spot with a month to go. If you're looking for a consistent two-team clash of baseball behemoths, the AL East is likely your preference, with the Yankees and Red Sox both boasting two of the best records in all of baseball. But with Boston starting to pull away -- it currently sits 4 1/2 games up on their arch rivals -- there may not be as much of a race as we may have expected back in Spring Training.
If you want a more inclusive battle for a divisional crown, the NL West boasts four teams within five games of the top -- every interdivision series has the potential to shake up the standings dramatically, which is exactly the type of tension you want to see during the latter part of the regular-season schedule.
Advantage: NL West
If a division is going to earn the title of Best Division In Baseball, it had better have a healthy number of super-duper stars whose highlights fill our social media feeds and whose numbers sit atop our favorite statistical leaderboards. The game's talent is largely spread evenly across the league, but some divisions are home to an especially high number of stars. The AL West and NL Central each sent 14 players to Washington for the Midsummer Classic. The AL East can brag about having the most All-Star starters with five.
Advantage: AL West, NL Central, AL East
Arguing a ranking of the best ballparks in baseball is never a dull exercise among fans. Some prefer the classics like Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, while others argue that it's all about the scenic backdrops like PNC Park. However, while each division can claim at least one elite stadium, no division boasts a more diverse portfolio of ballparks than the NL West.
It's got a consensus top-tier stadium in AT&T Park, a timeless classic in Dodger Stadium, the best weather on earth at Petco Park, the park that consistently produces the most jaw-dropping sunsets in Coors Field and a modern staple in Chase Field that has its own swimming pool. What more could you want?
Here is a sunset photo.- Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) June 10, 2018
Good night from Coors Field. pic.twitter.com/nv5qKzcpUI
Advantage: NL West
If each division were to assemble all its mascots, the masters of between-inning hijinks and tomfoolery, into a full-blown squad of entertainment, a clear leader emerges. Admittedly, any mascot All-Star team that can boast the Phillie Phanatic is going to have a leg up, but the NL East also boasts an exceptional supporting cast, including Mr. Met, Billy the Marlin and Screech. They've even got a brand-new mascot in the Braves' Blooper! Add in the Nationals' ridiculous Racing Presidents and you've got a mascot crew that's tough to top.
Advantage: NL East
Best Bat Flippers
Every division can claim at least one player with an all-time bat flip in his past. The elite flippers in the game today are generously spread across the league, from Odubel Herrera in Philadelphia to Yasiel Puig in Los Angeles. The NL East may seem like the obvious answer here for boasting not only Herrera, but three legendary flippers in Queens in Yoenis Cespedes, Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Bautista.
But the edge here goes to the AL West, and not just because it has been home to Luis Valbuena for the last four years.
Valbuena is an elite bat-flip contributor, yes, but this has more to do with the shocking ascent to the top of the bat-flip universe by A's outfielder Mark Canha, who has taken his passion for flipping beyond the field and has turned it into a larger conversation. First, he graced us with one epic flip back in May against the Mariners:
Then, Canha followed his bat flip against the Giants with some wise words for the haters:
Keep it up, Mark.
Advantage: AL West.
You've heard the cases for each division from competitive balance to celebratory bat flips. Now it's time for you to decide. Which of the six divisions reigns supreme?