Oakland Athletics executive Billy Beane once told Peter Gammons that he breaks Major League Baseball’s regular season into three two-month intervals. As Beane described it, he spent the first two months learning what his team needed. He used the next two months to land the necessary upgrades. He then had the team he wanted in place for the stretch run — and, if all went well, the postseason.

With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, it’s fair to write that the season is very much in the third and final of Beane’s intervals. The next eight weeks will decide who makes the playoffs; who claims advantageous seeding; and, potentially, so much more. Below, we’ve highlighted the six teams who we believe have the most riding on these next two months for various reasons. Think of this, in a sense, as a pressure-to-win index. Now, let’s get to it.

The Angels made several notable moves at the deadline, albeit none bigger than the non-move involving two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. General manager Perry Minasian seemed to declare that the Angels are in for hard times whether Ohtani leaves through trade or free agency, so they might as well make the most of whatever time he has remaining with the organization. (Or, perhaps: eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we rebuild.) Unfortunately, the Angels have slipped far down in the standings since the deadline, greatly reducing their chances of both making the playoffs and retaining Ohtani this winter. There’s still enough time remaining to get back into things, but at this point, you would be justified to write them off. Of course, the pressure remains because no one wants to become known as the franchise that was shut out of the postseason despite employing, in Ohtani and Mike Trout, arguably two of the best players of all time.

Perhaps this is too high, but we feel the pangs of existential dread whenever we think about what the next 18 months may hold for the Brewers. Manager Craig Counsell is a free agent at season’s end, and even if he stays, he’s likely to lose some of his core sooner than later. That’s because shortstop Willy Adames and right-handers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff will qualify for free agency themselves after the 2024 season. The Brewers, in turn, seem likely to trade at least one of the three this winter. With the Cubs and Reds on the rise and the Cardinals likely to bounce back to some extent, who knows where that leaves the Brewers competitively. It would be a shame if this era of Milwaukee baseball ends with them having not won a playoff series since their 2018 run to the NLCS.

This is about as straightforward as it gets. The Padres have used a lot of resources to build what they perceived as a championship-caliber club. Missing the playoffs, and perhaps finishing fourth in the division, would be a massive disappointment. We don’t know if owner Peter Seidler would feel compelled to make organizational changes, but we have to imagine he’d at least weigh the merits of doing so.

Whereas the teams ranked to this point are facing existential crises — or, at least, the potential loss of something or someone — the Rangers’ placement is pure baseball. They’ve never won a World Series before, yet the club that Chris Young has constructed would seem to have a fair chance at changing that fact. No one is going to write off this season as a disappointment if the Rangers lose in the ALCS, but there’s an inherent pressure that comes with this kind of opportunity. 

The Twins haven’t won a postseason game — not a series, mind you, a game — since October 2004. That kind of drought tends to make people fussy. It hasn’t helped that, until recently, the Twins were just holding on in the weakest division in the majors, or that their big deadline addition was veteran right-handed reliever Dylan Floro. (To be fair, we liked that move.) Add in how the AL bracket might not feature the Yankees, and this has to be the year the Twins win something. Right?

6. New York Yankees

Speaking of those Yankees. It hasn’t been a good year in the Bronx. Missing the playoffs is one thing, but they might also finish last in the division for the first time since 1990. Oof. Folks in other front offices have wondered aloud if the Yankees would make any personnel changes should they check off both boxes — general manager Brian Cashman is reportedly safe. Factor in how they may have mismanaged the Anthony Rizzo situation, and it’s not the best of times in New York.

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