With the Olympics rightfully taking center stage and high school, college and pro football camps opening, baseball has been put on the backburner when it comes to the sports world.
That's a shame, for several reasons.
First, we finally have two teams with huge local followings battling one another for a divisional title.
The weekend series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates had a playoff-like atmosphere.
Many observers are calling the Reds the best team in baseball. Rather than get involved in that discussion -for which there is no right answer -let's say they are one of the best teams in baseball and leave it at that for now.
The Pirates, meanwhile, are one of baseball's most pleasant surprises, not to mention one of its most fun teams to watch.
It's great to see Reds-Pirates games this late in the season mean so much.
By the way, there's one tried and true measure of the strengths of baseball teams that tells us neither is best team in the division.
Rather than go by won-loss records, it's also good to check out each teams run differential. If you do that, you will be surprised to find the best team in baseball is the St. Louis Cardinals, who have scored 110 more runs than they have allowed.
Yet, heading into Monday's play, they were in third place, seven games behind the Reds, who have outscored their foes by 72 runs, and 2.5 games behind the Pirates, who have tallied just 36 more runs than the teams they have played.
Whoever eventually comes out of the Central -and its possible there could be more than one team from that division qualify for the playoffs -eventually will have to deal with the Washington Nationals.
It's been a long time since we associated any professional sports team in Washington with winning. But this young group of upstarts is for real. They're just one game behind the Reds for the best record in baseball.
The best pennant race in the NL is in the West, where San Francisco and Los Angeles seem to trade first place on a daily basis. Plus, Arizona also is within striking distance. None of those teams seem to be of the quality necessary to win the pennant, but this time last year we would have said the same thing about the Cardinals.
In the American League, it's not so surprising the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers are running away with their divisions. It is surprising that Baltimore is in second place in the AL East and that Oakland is the runner-up in the AL West.
Just as surprising is the Chicago White Sox leading the Central, although the Detroit Tigers aren't about to go away.
Speaking of surprises, there have been some bad ones, especially the dismal play of both the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies, two great examples that money can't buy you a World Series ring.
Once the footballs start going in the air, interest in baseball often wanes. That shouldn't happen this season.
Contact Dave Poe at firstname.lastname@example.org