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Monday, September 10, 2012
Yes, we could get a seven-way tie in AL

By David Schoenfield

Get to know this page, which lists all the various tiebreaker rules and scenarios should two or more teams tie for a playoff spot.

One problem. I don't see a listing for "Three-Club Tie for Division Championship @ Tie with Four Clubs Outside Division For Two Wild Card Spots, Two of Which Are Tied For Another Division Title."

Confusing? Yes. But, while certainly infinitesimal that seven teams will all end up with the same record, here's how it could happen. If you love chaos, this is your dream scenario.

New York Yankees
Current record: 79-61
Rest of way: 2-1 @ Boston, 1-2 vs. Tampa Bay, 2-1 vs. Toronto, 1-2 vs. Oakland, 1-2 @ Minnesota, 2-2 @ Toronto, 2-1 vs. Boston
Record: 11-11
Final record: 90-72

Baltimore Orioles
Current record: 78-62
Rest of way: 2-1 vs. Tampa Bay, 1-2 @ Oakland, 2-1 @ Seattle, 2-1 @ Boston, 2-2 vs. Toronto, 2-1 vs. Boston, 1-2 @ Tampa Bay
Record: 12-10
Final record: 90-72

Tampa Bay Rays
Current record: 77-63
Rest of way: 1-2 @ Baltimore, 2-1 @ New York, 3-1 vs. Boston, 2-1 vs. Toronto, 2-0 @ Boston, 1-3 @ Chicago, 2-1 vs. Baltimore
Record: 13-9
Final record: 90-72

Chicago White Sox
Current record: 75-64
Rest of way: 2-2 vs. Detroit, 2-1 @ Minnesota, 2-1 @ Kansas City, 1-2 @ Los Angeles, 3-0 vs. Cleveland, 3-1 vs. Tampa Bay, 2-1 @ Cleveland
Record: 15-8
Final record: 90-72

Detroit Tigers
Current record: 73-66
Rest of way: 2-2 @ Chicago, 3-0 @ Cleveland, 2-1 vs. Oakland, 3-0 vs. Minnesota, 3-1 vs. Kansas City, 2-1 @ Minnesota, 2-1 @ Kansas City
Record: 17-6
Final record: 90-72

Oakland A's
Current record: 79-60
Rest of way: 1-3 @ Los Angeles, 2-1 vs. Baltimore, 1-2 vs. Detroit, 2-1 @ New York, 2-2 @ Texas, 2-1 vs. Seattle, 1-2 vs. Texas
Record: 11-12
Final record: 90-72

Los Angeles Angels
Current record: 77-63
Rest of way: 3-1 vs. Oakland, 2-1 @ Kansas City, 2-1 vs. Texas, 2-1 vs. Chicago, 2-1 vs. Seattle, 1-2 @ Texas, 1-2 @ Seattle
Record: 13-9
Final record: 90-72

OK, like I said, this is unlikely, especially considering the White Sox and Tigers have a lot of ground to make up. On the other hand, they do have a lot of games remaining against the Royals, Indians and Twins, so it's possible they end up on a hot streak down the stretch.

In such an unlikely scenario, the AL East and AL Central titles would first have to be determined. The AL Central would be easy enough, with a one-game playoff on Thursday, Oct. 4. The three AL East teams would be given A, B and C designations based on various tiebreaker rules. Two teams would play on Thursday with the winner playing the third team on Friday for the division title. But what happens from there? That would still leave two AL East teams, the AL Central loser and the A's and Angels left over.

Remember, the one-game wild card playoffs are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 5, although one Division Series doesn't begin until Sunday, meaning you could push the wild-card game back to Saturday. But that still means you would have to resolve the seven-way tie in two days. I don't see how it could be done unless you make some of the tiebreaker games a loser-out scenario. Something like this:

Thursday
Rays vs. Orioles (winner plays for AL East title, loser out)
White Sox vs. Tigers (for AL Central title, loser out)
Angels vs. A's (winner gets wild card, loser out)

Friday
Winner of first game vs. Yankees (for AL East title, loser gets wild card)

Trouble here: One of the AL East teams -- in this case, the Yankees -- gets an automatic playoff spot by virtue of winning the tiebreaker. But I don't see another way without stretching out the schedule further (not going to happen) or playing doubleheaders (unlikely).

OK, what about a more likely five-way tie scenario with the three AL East teams and two AL West teams? The tiebreaker rules page does account for a scenario where three teams tie for a division title along with one other team, but not with two other teams. That scenario could possibly go like this, essentially a repeat of above:

Thursday
Rays vs. Orioles (loser out)
A's vs. Angels (loser out, winner gets wild card)

Friday
Winner of first game vs. Yankees (for AL East title, loser gets wild card)

Again, whichever team wins the AL East tiebreaker scenario would be assured of a playoff spot. But I don't see another way to get it done. So maybe it's not that complicated. And no coin flip necessary!