“Pennant race” conjures images of clutch hits, great catches, overpowering pitching and long shadows slanting across the diamond. But with baseball’s division structure, there isn’t a true pennant race left.
Right now, the team I follow — the San Francisco Giants — has a slim lead over San Diego and Colorado in the National League West. The Yankees and Rays are locked in a tight battle in the American League East.
To me, the pennant represents the league championship, rooted in the pre-playoff American and National leagues when eight or 10 teams vied for the title and the right to play in the World Series. So it was in 1909 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as illustrated above.
In a diluted way, today’s races for the division championship and even the wild card playoff spots are a part of the pennant chase.
So I’ll do my best to cast off my curmudgeonly traditionalist attitude and accept that even a team in the hunt for the wild card is in a “pennant race.”
I don’t want to burst anyone’s gonfalon balloon.