San Diego Welcome to the wild, mild West.
From San Diego to Seattle and all points between, there's still hope for the local nine - and it's August already. With the turn for the pennant-race home stretch in sight, every major-league baseball team west of the Rocky Mountains - yes, that includes the Rockies - is in the running.
Or perhaps more accurately, in the stumbling. If the baseball season indeed is a marathon, not a sprint, the AL and NL West appear to be races among ponderous donkeys.
A season after the San Diego Padres become one of baseball's least-inspiring division champions, tripping across the finish line at 82-80, the mediocrity seems to have spread.
Going into the weekend, only four games separated San Diego, Arizona, Los Angeles, Colorado and San Francisco in the NL West. In the AL West, it was only 31â2 games from Oakland to Seattle, with Los Angeles and Texas in between.
Sure, being the tightest divisions in ball equates with being competitive, with no Kansas Citys or Pittsburghs stinking up the place. On the flip side, San Diego and Oakland have the worst records among all division leaders. The Detroit Tigers, they're not; potential October cannon-fodder, they are.
"No one in our division is running away with it, and that's a fortunate thing for us," Seattle's Willie Bloomquist said in a ringing endorsement of the AL West. "I've heard people say that's because no one wants it. Every team has talent; it's a case of who exhibits it down the stretch."
At least fans of the streaky M's no longer are calling for the heads of manager Mike Hargrove and general manager Bill Bavasi like they were when Seattle was 22-32 on May 30. The Mariners then won nine of 11 to crawl back into contention.
In a vast and diverse region that's spawned everything from fish tacos to Starbucks buzz to Rocky Mountain oysters and, uh, BALCO, there seems to be a prevailing opinion for why the West is marginal.
"I think with things like revenue sharing, everything is geared toward parity in baseball," said Padres leadoff hitter Dave Roberts.
"We knew going into this season our division was going to be tight from start to finish, and that's playing out just like we thought."
The late Pete Rozelle, who championed parity in the NFL, would have loved the average-at-best Wests. Imagine if every team finished 81-81.
"There's not one team that's far and away better than the other teams," said Padres right-hander Chris Young.