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The road to the Wild Card goes through the Oregon Trail

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We must march my darlings; we must bear the brunt of danger

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Exciting times await us in the next 48 hours. With just two or three games remaining on everyone's schedules, four teams remain alive in the hunt for an AL Wild Card berth: the Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, and Detroit Tigers. The Houston Astros have been eliminated. Is pointing out Houston's shortcomings redundant? Yes, but I never tire of saying it.

There is a seemingly endless list of scenarios and possibilities that could play out in the next couple days. In this time of confusion, terror, excitement, and baseball-filled bliss, I've turned to the only beacon of truth I've ever known to sort out the mess:

Facing aces with your playoff hopes dangling is challenging. Pitching to David Ortiz with the bases loaded is terrifying. However, make no mistake: nothing challenges you on a physical and mental level the way a journey down the trail does. With Manifest Destiny knocking on the door, who will be the one to answer? Let's load 'em all up and find out.

***

Obviously, the players are busy. Sure, the Mariners could probably spare a Chris Iannetta and the Tigers could toss out a Buck Farmer and the Orioles could send Wade Miley, but you never know when a player who actually contributes might need a cup of water or a bag of sunflower seeds or something. That is when those guys shine and they are absolutely necessary.

No, we will not be sending players. Instead, we will be sending mascots, with Rob Manfred tagging along to ensure chaos ensues.

To summarize, we have:

  • Mariner Moose (Seattle Mariners), lovable moose who once snapped his ankle whilst riding a quad. A moose is a big, sturdy animal. I like his chances here.
  • Paws (Detroit Tigers). After finishing second in the "Become a Frosted Flakes cereal mascot" contest, Paws turned to a life in Detroit to make a living. He has performed admirably and considering he could easily murder one of the two birds in the event of starvation, I also like his chances here.
  • Ace (Toronto Blue Jays). The old adage is that teams take on the personality of their mascot, so I can only assume Ace is a massive jerk. Legend has it that if a child so much as looks at him wrong in the stands, he will take the kid down to the field to "meet a former Toronto Blue Jay" and introduce him to an old, dusty cardboard cutout of Josh Johnson.
  • The Oriole Bird (Baltimore Orioles). Another gigantic bird. Do we really need two of these things?
The journey is long and the road is treacherous. We depart in April. Wade Miley sees us off with a shotgun in hand:


Early on we lose the trail after Manfred tries to shift over to a shortcut. Feeling betrayed and silly after a plethora of teasing from the mascots, he vows to never let another person affiliated with Major League Baseball stray from the recommended path ever again. This idea would eventually develop into the idea of banning the shift, with the hopes that no player would ever lose his way.

Days later, we come to a river. There is some intense arguing amongst the wagon, which really just translated to a lot of animals noises and Manfred screaming at the top of his lungs. After much debate, they agree to ford the river. Something goes horribly wrong.


The Mariner Moose–the lovable, wonderful, adorable moose–perished in their attempt to cross. The Oriole Bird swore he saw Ace holding him under, but what's done is done and the Moose is gone. With only three remaining, they carry on.

Soon after, an axle breaks and the group must stop. Paws volunteers to fix it. The Oriole Bird, growing tired and cranky, has a wrench "accidentally" slip out of his hand as he hands it to Paws. The wrench strikes Paws' leg.


Paws writhes in pain. A fight breaks out between the other three. Manfred, in anger, bashes the first aid kit over Ace's head. All the supplies are rendered useless. Days later, Paws dies.


We are now down to two stupid birds and Manfred. Tension grows. A couple days later, they arrive in a small town, where Ace immediately gets into a drunken bar fight and loses.


The Oriole Bird, recognizing that he's the only one to not suffer misfortune, begins to get a little cocky. The Baseball Gods do not take kind to this act of elation and proceed to wreck him into oblivion over the next few months:

Oriole Bird, learning a lesson in humility, admits defeat and succumbs to his gastro issues shortly after his second bout with dysentery:

Ace cheers, knowing all remaining supplies belong entirely to him. All he has to do is survive the rest of the ride and he is golden. For three days, he chugs water, consumes feasts, wears multiple pairs of clothes at once because he can, and takes in the beauty of the wilderness. On July 22nd, he goes to take another large gulp of water to find the cup is empty. He goes to eat the food to find there is nothing left. The clothes he had been wearing are tattered rags. The beautiful scenery is actually a miserable desert of nothingness in the middle of a scalding valley. It was all a mirage. He has nothing.

The very next day, as Rob Manfred curls up in the fetal position and awaits a rescue helicopter, he receives a phone call. It is the Arizona Diamondbacks, inquiring about the beauty of the area he currently inhabits. "Could a baseball field fit there?" they ask. Manfred, tired as he may be, begins to talk business. The Baseball Gods, still laughing about the fun they had with The Oriole Bird, decide to have some fun:

With no one left to care for Manfred and the supplies all used up, he wanders into the sun-soaked desert, finds a comfy spot and scrawls 'chaos wins' into the sand. Pulling a flare gun out of his pocket, he uses his one last bit of energy to fire the blood-red burst into the night sky. The sound of an approaching helicopter rings off the valley walls. Manfred closes his eyes and sleeps.

***

All the past we leave behind

We debouch upon a newer, mightier world, varied world,

Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,  Pioneers! O pioneers!

-Walt Whitman