Welcome to the Dog Days of August! With the NHL, WHL, NBA and NFL still weeks from meaningful games, this is the time of year that major league baseball steps up to the plate. Sure, the CFL is in the midst of its season, but the playoffs are a whopping three months away.

There are a few reasons why MLB is more intriguing on August 8th this season than previous years on the same date. The factors include: The Toronto Blue Jays in contention for a playoff spot; the close races in all divisions; and the repercussions to the two major pitching acquisitions at the trade deadline, one by Oakland and the other by Detroit.

The AL East is helter-skelter. In the last 16 years, the division has been won by either the New York Yankees (12 times), Boston (twice) or Tampa Bay (twice). This season Baltimore is the top team and Toronto is in the hunt. The Red Sox threw in the towel when they traded Jon Lester to Oakland, the Rays surrendered when they unloaded ace David Price to Detroit and the Yankees are still alive but are dealing with an aging roster filled with key injuries to the pitching staff. The Orioles haven’t won the division since 1997 and the Blue Jays have not taken the pennant since 93. New blood adds intrigue, charm and a lure that captivates a wide range of audience. Fans tend to get bored and disenchanted with the mundane of the same ole, same ole so it’s a breath of fresh air that the division is topsy-turvy.

The Jays have not had more than 88 wins in any year since they went 95-67 in 1993 (the second of two straight World Series titles). I doubt they will get to 88 this season but they are in position to capture the 2nd wild card spot in the AL and appear on their way to their first winning season since they went 85-77 in 2010.

It may be ironic that the Jays average home attendance in 2014 is 28,697 (17th out of 30) down from the 31,316 in 2013 when they team finished 74-88. This may indicate that the skeptics remain out despite the team’s improved play. The Jays are batting .264 this year compared to .252 last year while Toronto has a team ERA of 4.11 in 2014 compared to 4.25 in 2013.

The Milwaukee Brewers had the same record as the Jays last year (74 wins) and yet have turned it around to contend for the NL Central along with St Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in a four way race for the top. With two wild card spots up for grabs in each league, just nine of the 30 teams are out of contention: San Diego, Philadelphia, Arizona, the Chicago Cubs and Colorado in the NL plus Minnesota, Boston, Houston and Texas in the AL. This means that 70 per cent of the teams (21 of 30), with just 30 per cent of the season remaining, still have a shot at the playoffs. The more the merrier scenario adds to the drama of a playoff race.

The major league leading A’s, battling the Angels in the AL West, are all in to win but will it backfire? They dealt slugger Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes, which is a great trade for this year, yet for financial reasons the A’s have no realistic chance to re-sign Lester for next year when he becomes a free agent. As Oakland was getting applauded for acquiring Lester, the A’s were upstaged just six hours later when the Tigers won the Price sweepstakes in a three way deal that also included Seattle. Detroit has three Cy Young winners on its roster but is that enough to beat out Oakland which has a strong four man rotation in addition to a well balanced attack?

In the end, maybe both the A’s and Tigers look foolish if another AL team reaches the World Series. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have the highest payroll and are battling the Giants in the NL West while the Nationals and Braves are going toe to toe for top honors in the NL East although Atlanta is fading thanks to an 8-game losing skid.

There seems to be a storyline for just about everyone. Yes, to borrow a term from horse racing, down the stretch they come; which in 2014 is far more compelling than any of the usual 7th inning stretches.

From the Quote Rack:

The Fresno Grizzlies held a ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Night and a couple got engaged in full costume. I hear they’re planning their honeymoon at an A’s game the next time the sewers back up.

Report—Josh Gordon has reportedly passed ‘at least 70 drug tests’. Problem is, he’s taken over 1,000.

Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

The Green Bay Packers have announced that Brett Favre will be in the Packers Hall of Fame. Although if they really wanted to honor Favre they would have changed their mind about the announcement and rescheduled it later.

Not only did the Dallas Cowboys send season-ticket holders their regular tickets, but they also
included playoff tickets, including one for the NFC championship game. Well, to be fair, maybe the team figured it was the only way their fans would ever see playoff tickets.

Contributor Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

The NFL announced they will put tracking chips on players so that fans can record their speed and track their movements. “What an awesome idea!” said Lindsey Vonn.

Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder named his daughter Bowden after his coach at Florida St. Good thing he didn’t play for coach Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic.

Comedy writer TC Chong of Vancouver (http://alwaysfunny.com/)

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s studies this fall include yoga and golf. A yoga class seems like a stretch, but I can see there being a golf course.

A Quebec man has reportedly been arrested for selling meth tablets bearing a Montreal Canadiens logo. Makes you wonder what logo he had on downers, the Edmonton Oilers?

Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

And in case you missed it:

The NBA is mulling plans to extend its All-Star break to an entire week. Apparently they want to ensure there’s enough time to finish the game’s final two minutes.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sidelinechatter/

Hartley Miller is the sports director for radio station TheGoat94.3 His column appears weekly on hqprincegeorge.com. Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca
Follow him on twitter: @Hartley_Miller