Playoffs?!

The minor league season (or at least regular season play) is nearing an end. With less than a month remaining in the regular season, all of the Cubs' major farm system affiliates from Triple-A Iowa on down to Class Low-A Boise are in the thick of post-season races.

One team, Class A Peoria, has already clinched a playoff berth in their respective league. The Chiefs did so almost two months ago, winning the first-half Western Division of the Midwest League with a 41-28 record under manager Jody Davis. In the second half, the team is 24-26. They will host a first-round playoff series regardless of their second-half record.

The remaining four affiliates – Iowa, West Tennessee (AA), Daytona (High A), and Boise – are all right in the thick of things.

Up in Triple-A, the Iowa Cubs drew as close to first-place Nashville as a half-game back before splitting a double-header with Memphis on Saturday and losing Sunday. They are currently 63-59, a game and a half behind the Sounds in the Pacific Coast League's American Northern Division.

With four divisions in the PCL, the playoff format is simple. The American Division winners will face off in the first round, as will the Pacific Division winners in two best-of-five series before the winners of those series meet in the PCL Championship (also best-of-five).

Afterward, the PCL champion will meet the champion of the Triple-A International League in a one-game playoff of sorts in Oklahoma City (a Pacific Coast League park) on Sept. 19. The game can be seen on ESPN2. The International League will be designated as the home team after beating the PCL in the Triple-A All-Star Game last month in Toledo, Ohio.

Iowa will face Memphis again Monday night before opening a four-game series at Round Rock beginning Tuesday.

At Double-A, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx have long since held down the top pitching staff in the Southern League for 2006, but narrowly missed a chance at the post-season by just one game earlier this year when they lost the first half Northern Division to Chattanooga.

In the second half, the Jaxx have gone 24-26 and are six games back of first-place Tennessee entering Monday's league-wide off day. West Tenn last won the Southern League championship back in 2000.

The Jaxx would have to rally and win the second-half Northern Division title, or finish with the best overall record among the remaining teams in the division, should Chattanooga also win the second half. The Lookouts are currently 26-24 in the second half, four games behind Tennessee.

The first-half champion from each division would play the second-half division champion (or the team with the best overall record from that division) in a best-of-five playoff series. The winners from those series would then meet in a best-of-five league championship.

The Jaxx begin a 10-game home stand with two five-game series against Mobile and Huntsville beginning Tuesday.

Further south in the Florida State League, Daytona finished the first half 35-35, five games back of Eastern Division champion St. Lucie. In the second half, though, the Cubs are currently 28-20, tied for first with the Mets.

With Palm Beach finishing 39-31 in the first half and one game back of St. Lucie, the Cubs would have to either win the second half of the East or finish with a better overall record than the Cardinals and remaining teams in the division to secure a playoff spot, should St. Lucie also win the second half.

Daytona and the entire Florida State League had Sunday off. The Cubs are scheduled to open a four-game series at Sarasota beginning Monday night.

The Cubs and Tampa Yankees were named co-champions of the Florida State League in 2004. Hurricane Ivan postponed the league championship series.

The first-half champion from each division plays the second-half division champion (or the team with the best overall record from that division), but only in a best-of-three opening playoff series. The winners from those series then meet in a best-of-five league championship.

Over in Boise, the playoff format is a little more simplistic. With the short-season schedule in effect, only the first place teams of the respective Eastern and Western Divisions can qualify for the post-season.

The Hawks currently have a two-game lead over Tri-City in the East at 30-24, and will host Everett for two more games before beginning an 11-game road trip with stops in Vancouver, Spokane and Yakima.

At the end of the regular season, the two division winners meet in a best-of-five playoff series to determine the Northwest League's outright champion. The Hawks won that honor as recently as 2004, and have amassed six league championships in team history.


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