We were all captivated by that search for a ring in Yankee Stadium the other night, but the REAL search for a ring begins next week. Thirteen teams are still alive in the pursuit of a World Series title ("alive" being defined by me as having an elimination number greater than one -- apologies to Astros and Yankees fans). Last I checked, only one can win it all.
While it is the dream of every organization and fan base to be the last ones standing when the Fall Classic wraps up, the fact of the matter is that some need it more than others, either as a function of the way their club is constructed or the external pressures placed upon them.
With that in mind, here is my annual October Urgency Index, a ranking of which clubs are most desperate to get it done here in 2016.
Three titles in the past seven seasons? Sorry, but nobody's going to feel particularly sorry for the Giants if they don't shake off their dismal second half and go all the way. Organizational pride and organizational urgency are two different things, and something tells me we haven't seen the last of Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey in October.
12. Red Sox
Well, on an emotional level, Boston rightly wants to win one for David Ortiz. That's the theme of this 2016 season, and the way this club has played in this final month of the season leads you to believe it just might do it. There is urgency associated with that effort, and expectations in Boston are always sky high.
But on a practical level, the Red Sox will have the means, both in available options (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Mike Napoli all come to mind) and economic viability, to replace Big Papi's bat in some capacity. And though Dustin Pedroia might become more reliant on singles and David Price might become more reliant on his secondary stuff in the coming years, this club is obviously loaded with A-grade young talent (Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi). You also can't dispute Dave Dombrowski's ability to put all the pieces together.
So if the Red Sox come out of the Big Papi retirement tour without his fourth ring in hand, it's honestly not the end of the world.
Besides, he's collected quite a few parting gifts along the way.
We simply do not know if the Cards' under-30 position player core -- Aledmys Diaz, Kolten Wong, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk -- is a championship core. Diaz (.884 OPS, 134 OPS+) has obviously been the best of the bunch this year, and Piscotty (.804, 113) has been very good. But Wong's been a disappointment, and Grichuk's been streaky. What we do know is that the Yadi Molina, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Holliday (a pending free agent) group is nearing its expiration point.
The Cardinal Way is to find a way, and newcomers like Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver provide hope for the future. Still, this season has shown that this is a team in transition, to some degree. I'd rank the Cards higher here if the organization weren't already pretty well-decorated.
The 2016 Mets have simultaneously shown how perilous a situation built around starting pitching can be and how forgiving the Wild Card picture can be.
On the one hand, this simply isn't the club Sandy Alderson and Co. expected to take into October. The rotation has been altered by injury to the point of unrecognizability. So, even if the Mets do advance into and through the NL Wild Card Game, expectations won't be nearly as high and hopeful as they were a year ago.
On the other hand, these are, potentially, the final days of the Yoenis Cespedes era. If he opts out, can the Mets find a way to re-sign him -- again? Because if he leaves, it's hard to feel great about the future offensive forecast, especially given Jay Bruce's struggles (his 2017 option might not even be exercised), Neil Walker's back and pending free agency, Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera's age, David Wright's health, Michael Conforto's sophomore struggles, etc.
So there's certainly some urgency here.
There is urgency on the part of Clayton Kershaw, who has now been a part of six division championship clubs and has yet to advance out of the National League Championship Series. And despite a strong showing in last year's Division Series vs. the Mets, he'll still have some "legacy" chatter to silence as he tries to overcome an iffy back and pitch L.A. to the Promised Land.
There is also urgency on the part of the Andrew Friedman-led front office, which embraced enormous expectations upon its arrival and has taken some gutsy -- though, in most cases, successful -- gambles with regard to club construction.
The Dodgers haven't won it all since 1988, and there was a time in the not-too-distant past when spending the kind of money they've spent almost assured you of a chance to end such a rut. We no longer live in that time, but we do live in a time in which strong economic resources and a full farm system will give you the wiggle room to make mistakes. For that reason, I don't rate the Dodgers as high as some others on this scale, though there's certainly a good argument for listing them much higher, given the need to maximize Kershaw's prime years.
You've got to give Jon Daniels' crew a lot of credit for making the moves they did without giving up Nomar Mazara, Jurickson Profar or Joey Gallo, and the Rangers -- even while paying the retired Prince Fielder and the oft-injured Shin-Soo Choo a tremendous amount of money for the foreseeable future -- are rich in economic resources via their TV deal. So it's not a total "World Series or bust" scenario.
But because the Rangers made so many in-season moves the past two summers -- for Cole Hamels and Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran and bullpen help -- and because they got to the World Series in 2010 and '11 and couldn't nail it down (all too literally in that epic Game 6), you'd better believe they're feeling the urgency in Texas right now.
There is and ought to be tremendous urgency here, because this team has never escaped past the NLDS. Problem is, the Nats' growing list of injury concerns -- Stephen Strasburg's flexor strain, Daniel Murphy's bum bum, Wilson Ramos' season-ending torn ACL, Bryce Harper's sore thumb and, depending on who you believe, shoulder -- does not help their cause in this year's Division Series entry.
As far as what the future holds, the Nats will always have hope so long as they have Harper. But, for now, they've only got him two more years. Trea Turner looks special, and the Nats have some nice young pitching pieces, fronted by Lucas Giolito. But Strasburg's fragility means his extension comes with no guarantees (except for the $175 million guaranteed to him), Jayson Werth's old, Ryan Zimmerman has fallen apart, Ramos is a free agent, etc.
Basically, the Nats need to advance to quell the critics. But you do wonder if the injury bug is going to get in their way.
If the Mets showed how fragile a great rotation can be year over year, the Indians have shown how fragile it can be within a single year. Three months ago, we were talking about what a cheap, elite rotation the Tribe had assembled. Now, with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar on the shelf and Corey Kluber battling a quad injury, it enters October in disarray.
The good news is that all of those guys, in addition to rotation mates Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin and relief aces Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, are under contractual control through at least 2018, as are middle-infield linchpins Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis. So you can feel good about the Tribe's ability to get back to this point, especially in a division with two likely rebuilds in Chicago and Minnesota.
The bad news is that the Indians' success this season is due in large measure to one-year free-agent finds from Napoli and Rajai Davis that will be difficult to repeat (and in the case of Napoli, specifically, difficult to keep), and Michael Brantley will enter 2017 with the same questions and concerns about his shoulder that he faced in '16. The Indians have been really good at finding undervalued talent on the open market with their limited budget, and they'll likely have to do so again, especially if they opt to exercise Carlos Santana's $12 million option. Any small-budget postseason scenario is a precious one.
5. Blue Jays
I had them eighth on this list a year ago, and they've obviously risen up the ranks with Encarnacion and Bautista about to hit the open market (though Bautista's market seems to have cratered with his injury issues this year, so maybe Toronto can find a way to retain him). Any club that derives so much impact from so many players 30 and older -- Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, pending free agent R.A. Dickey -- is going to rank high on this list, and the Jays' farm system is obviously weaker than it was before the Tulo and Price deals of 2015.
After the surge in interest created by the 2015 run and the lofty attendance totals this year, Toronto has the financial ability to become a ballclub more reflective of its market size. It's also got Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Roberto Osuna, Devon Travis and Kevin Pillar to help offset some of the age effects. So we won't bump the Jays all the way up to the top spot here, but we will acknowledge that going deeper than they did a year ago is important (and, given their likely seed and now the loss of Joaquin Benoit, difficult).
In the time Dan Duquette has been the general manager of this club, Baltimore's Opening Day payrolls have increased: 10 percent from 2012-13, 17 percent from 2013-14, 10 percent from 2014-15 and -- this is the big one -- 25 percent from 2015-16. Can we expect that trend to continue, especially given the strikingly sagging attendance totals this year? Or have the O's, who are going to have to dole out substantial raises to Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Chris Tillman in arbitration, maxed out? They're going to have substantial questions to address with Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters entering free agency, and their need to address the rotation in significant fashion is pretty glaring. Furthermore, the farm system rates as thinner than many of their fellow contenders. So the time is now.
(The only counter to all of the above is that Buck Showalter could probably pluck 25 dudes out of your weekend softball league and at least win a Wild Card spot with them.)
2 (tie). Tigers and Mariners
Two clubs in the same basic situation in the final days of 2016, clinging to hope in the AL Wild Card race while fielding an aging core. Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander have already had to make some concessions to their outlandish career innings totals (though it's been nice to see Verlander avoid Father Time with his resurgent 2016), and Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz obviously ain't getting any younger.
That's not to suggest the future is totally bleak. Taijuan Walker. Edwin Diaz. Michael Fulmer. Nick Castellanos. But the Mariners haven't been to the postseason since 2001, and, for all we know, this could be their last, best chance with this group. And the Tigers have spent the last decade compiling four first-place finishes and two AL pennants with zero World Series titles to show for it.
The Cubs were the furthest from first on this list a year ago, and there's a justifiable argument for listing them there again. They've got it all: controllable talent, a strong system, money to burn, a great culture. This won't be the last time we see this particular group in October, and it's not hard to imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when we're all collectively sick of the Cubs' annual entry to the October stage.
So under ordinary circumstances, this would not rate as a high-urgency situation.
But the Cubs' drought is not ordinary. Eight is enough? No, no. One hundred and eight is enough.
If the Cubs weren't already facing inordinately high expectations to win the World Series going into the year, they raised the bar with their inordinately high winning percentage. So, unfair though it may be, anything short of a championship will be painted as failure, even though their own organization history and recent baseball history (only four times in the Wild Card era has the team with the best record gone on to win it all) is stacked against them.
No pressure, boys.
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.