Ron Gardenhire Returns Victorious

Twins manager, Ron Gardenhire, will return with a two year contract along with all of his coaches. This means Gardenhire has prevailed in his discussions with the Twins. I assume he has obtained promises that the Twins will add players in the off season. How specific these promises are is not known, but the fact is that Gardenhire has done his job well and is not responsible for the three year 90 plus loss seasons the Twins have endured.

I think Gardenhire kept this team together this year and without his leadership a total collapse would have occured.  When Tom Kelly decided to retire, I remember telling a high place Twins executive that they had no choice but to hire Gardenhire. That was and still is the right move.

By the way, the Cubs just fired Dale Sveum as manager, and Gardenhire could have moved there.

MLB Playoffs: Tampa Bay at Texas, Winner to Cleveland and Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

The convoluted American League playoff scheme that could have occured had Cleveland lost yesterday did not occur as the Twins gave it to the Indians. However, Tampa Bay and Texas both won. They play one game to settle the issue today in Texas. Both teams will start left handers, David Price (9-8, 3.39) for the Rays and Martin Perez (10-5, 3.55) for Texas. “We’ll have to watch this one to see who wins,” said Nancy Pelosi, while lamenting the Giants (76-86) poor season.  Of course, the issue that will be settled today is just about who plays in the real Wild Card game in Cleveland on Wednesday.

If I were to hazard a opinion, I would give the edge to the Rangers based entirely on Joe Nathan, its closer. We’ll see.

The Pirates play the Reds tomorrow in Pittsburgh. The Reds will start Johnny Cueto (5-2, 2.82) and the Pirates will start Francisco Liriano (16-8, 3.02). Again, if I were going to hazard a guess here, I would flip a coin. (The flip just said Pittsburgh)

Where I have been focused on these wild card games,  the real fun starts with the Divisional Series, schedule here.

Some years ago, I was involved in discussions of playoff formats as the expansion of the major leagues would cause a change in league alignments and the force the creation of divisions. This is so no team would finish 12th (or now 15th) in the standings and more pennant races equals more local interest.

The creation of divisions, first East and West and then to East, West, Central, created the need for a WIld Card. or the non winning team with the highest winning percentage, so that two series could be played. That lead to the creation of a second wild card because Fox wanted another game.

The discussion I was involved in focused on who should play in the World Series. Some thought that the true league champions should play there and those were the two teams at the top of each league. The creation of divisions ended that argument, but now we have second wild cards eligible for the World Series. Maybe we have gone too far, but the money generated by broadcasts of extra games means this is permanent. The problem is that the extra games pushes the World Series into the second half of October. It is scheduled to end on October 31 this year and that is too far into the Fall to hold national interest as each sports league has its natural season and baseball games in late October just don’t work as well. World Series TV ratings illustrate this fact.

Nevertheless, I will watch them all as it is the greatest championship series of all, even though it may not reward the True league champions

MLB 2013, Playoff Schedule Possibilities on the Final Day

In trying to keep up with the Wild Card race in two leagues, after the division winners were all but settled early in September, the focus has been on the permutations and possible end game scenarios. Yesterday we had Cleveland and Tampa Bay tied for the wild card lead with Texas a game behind, today we have Cleveland one game ahead and Texas and Tampa Bay tied for the second of the two wild card slots.  This means that if Texas and Tampa Bay win today, and Cleveland loses, we have a three way tie that will be settled by the Playoff Rules for determining ties.

The rules would have the Rays play at Cleveland on Monday with the winner playing in Texas on Tuesday. This is because the Indians are 7-5 against the  Rays and Rangers, so it plays at home for the first game. The Rays are 7-6 against the Indians and Rangers and picked the Monday game over hosting the Tuesday game, a decision I don’t understand. The Rangers had no choice. This is a wonderful scenario and I hope it happens. Remember, these games only determine who plays the actual Wild Card playoff game on Wednesday. The home field is determined by head to head records and the Rays lead the Indians, who lead the Rangers, who lead the Rays. Bookmark this post so you can keep track.

Elsewhere, the Pirates beat the Reds and will host their one game playoff on Tuesday as they lead the head to head series 10-8. Today doesn’t matter there. For the Division winners in the AL, Boston plays the Wild Card in Fenway for the first two of five possible games, and Detroit will play at Oakland.

In the NL, St. Louis leads and will play the Wild Card, but if it loses today and Atlanta wins, they will be tied but the Braves will play the Wild Card game because it won the season series 4-3. The Pirates will play the second finishing division winner in the Division series.

We have a wonderful finish to a season as the winners play each other. For the other teams. it is the long, cold Winter ahead. As the Twins lost for the ninth time in ten games yesterday against Cleveland, T. S. Eliot’s last line of “The Hollow Men” came to mind. “…That is how the world (season?) ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” 

MLB Playoffs: Tie Breaker Rules with Two Games to Go

The Major League Baseball season started on March 31 with a game between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. All teams have played 160 times since then. When the season started, all teams could expect to win sixty-five and lose sixty-five games. That leaves thirty-two games where the winner or loser becomes a pennant winner or a cellar dweller. At this point, all teams except Boston have lost sixty-five, and all but the White Sox, Marlins and Astros have won sixty-five.  The difference is in the “Fifth Game” that I describe in Fifth Game Theory and those wins and loses in Fifth Games now brings us to the last two games of the season, with all Division winners settled as Boston, Oakland, Detroit, St. Louis, LA Dodgers, and the Atlanta Braves as winners waiting for the five game Division Series and then League Championship Series to determine participation in the World Series.  The top winning percentage team of these six, will play the winner of the Wild Card playoffs on October 1 for the National League and October 2 for the American Leaguel.  That is Boston in the AL, but Atlanta and St. Louis are tied in the NL.

The NL Wild Card team will be the Pirates or Reds, who will play the one game playoff either in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati on October 1, but Pittsburgh has a two game lead but needs to win one more. If Cincinnati wins the next two, they will be tied but Cincinnati will have won the season series between the two teams 10-9, and the game will be played in Cincnnati.

It is not so simple in the American League. There, Tampa Bay and Cleveland are exactly tied at 90-70, and Texas is one game behind them both. If Texas wins its next two, and Cleveland or Tampa Bay lose one, there is a tie therè, if Texas wins two and both Tampa Bay and Cleveland lose one each, there is a three way tie for two positions. The format for a three team playoff is Here, but don’t worry about this until tomorrow night, then just enjoy the wonders of the Major League Season.

MLB Playoffs: Three Games to Go

Last night the Indians escaped in Target Field and beat the Twins 6-5 as the Twins scored 4 in the ninth. This allowed them to keep their one game lead over Texas that beat the Angels with a walk off Homerun. The other games showed the tenacity with which Fall Baseball is played as the Padres beat the Diamond Backs 3-2 in 11 innings, the Orioles beat Toronto 3-2, KC beat the White Sox 3-2, and SF beat the Dodgers 3-2.  Six one run games out of the ten played! This is typical of Fall Baseball as teams, all of them, strive to have the best record possible.

The big series this weekend is in CIncinnati where the Pirates and Reds play for homefield advantage in their one game wild card playoff on Tuesday. This will be interesting. Of course, these teams will have to use their best pitchers this weekend and then on Tuesday while their opponents for the Division series will be resting theirs and setting up pitching rotations to be best prepared for the playoff series. Whether this makes a difference or not will be known in a week. This is the best part of the season and I only hope for extra-innings in the one game playoffs and a fifth games in the Division series then seventh games in the League Championship Series and World Series, that is scheduled to start October 23.

The Playoff Schedule is posted Here.

MLB Wild Card: The Final Weekend

Wednesday night was the final curtain for several teams with playoff hopes. The Yankees lost to Tampa Bay 8-3 and, when coupled with the Indians’ win over Chicago, were eliminated from post season play for only the second time in nineteen years. This also signaled the end of the Mariano Rivera era and his significant contribution to success over his career. Kansas City lost and its hopes ended as well. We will see more of this fine, young team next year. Both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati lost, setting the stage for the three games they play each other in Cincinnati this weekend. Pittsburgh has a one game lead over Cincinnati, so, if Cincinnati wins the series, it has home field advantage based on the record between the two teams this season where they are tied 8-8 at this time. Regardless, these two teams will play for the wild card on October 1.

In the American League, Texas remains one game behind Cleveland for the second wild card slot. Tampa Bay leads Cleveland by one as well. An interesting note here is that the inter-league, unbalanced schedule means that Texas has played seventy-eight games against +.500 teams and the Rays have played 100+.500 teams. A large part of the difference is that Texas is 17-2 against Houston. That is reality. Cleveland plays at Minnesota and the Twins play well at home and have played well there against Cleveland, Texas plays at home against the Angels who need two wins to finish at  .500, a significant achievement for them, and Tampa Bay plays at Toronto. What this means is that these three teams will play intensely to finish and win. Just think that if Toronto sweeps Tampa Bay, the Rangers win two of three with the Angels and Cleveland loses two of three in Minnesota, all teams will be at 89-72, a three team tie. This is highly unlikely, but it is baseball, so is possible. We will worry about that on Sunday.

The wild card games will be played October 1 for the NL and October 2 for the AL. The games will be played, if I am to hazard a guess, in Cincinnati and Tampa Bay. We’ll see.

MLB Wild Card: The Final Week, The Small Market Teams Prevail.

Jason Giambi hit a “walk off” pinch hit home run last night to beat Chicago and keep the Indians one game ahead of the Texas Rangers for the final wild card slot in the Majors. The Indians have won five in a row and have five games remaining against Chicago (1) and Minnesota (4). Texas has Houston (1) and LAA (4). The Indians should make it, but they have had problems in Minnesota this year and the Twins are well lead and will not lay down.

The NL Division series will start October 1, with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati playing a one game playoff game. The location, if played today, would be Pittsburgh, as the Pirates now have a one game lead. The two teams play the last three against each other in Cincinnati this weekend and that will determine the victor.

The most interesting factor in the 2013 Playoffs is that of the ten teams involved, seven of the teams are small and mid-sized markets. Only Atlanta, LA, and Boston are large market teams. Detroit is a mid-sized market, but the rest, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and St.Louis are in the bottom half of MLB rankings of market size. Oakland, due to its poor stadium, is classified as a small market due to low local revenue.

This indicates that design and intellect still matter. I once classified MLB teams as being capital intensive or labor intensive organizations and here the labor (or intellect) intensive teams are prevailing. There is a lesson here that should not be lost on the large market teams in New York, Chicago and the Angels as they try to recover in 2014. There is a way to do this and planning and thinking leads the way.

Revenue sharing allows small market teams to retain their better players, so the free agent market does not allow large market teams to spend their way to success. They will have to do it the old fashion way by scouting well and developing players in the Minor Leagues. It is, in my opinion, the only way. 

MLB Wild Card:The Final Week, update

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds both won last night, the Reds in 10 innings over the Mets, to clinch a playoff berth. They have identical records and the three game series between the two teams this weekend will settle the home field advantage, if they remain tied going into that series. They are only two game behind St. Louis, but the Cardinals show no sign of losing the division lead.

In the American League, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Texas all won last night, so Texas remains one game in back of Cleveland. As pointed out before, Cleveland has the easier schedule and should win. That “easier schedule” does include Minnesota this weekend and the Twins are showing some late season energy in that they beat the Tigers in 11 innings last night on a single by Josmil Pinto. This catcher played in AA baseball this summer until he was called up to the Majors this month. He is batting. 359 so far. is he for real or just a September wonder? What all of that means is that Cleveland will have to play well until their Wild Card berth is settled, one way or another and the Twins will not give in. This is typical of baseball teams, by the way. 

Next week we will be dealing with a new set of facts, equally engaging, and set to determine participation in the World Series. “Fall Baseball is War,” here  and these are continuing battles.

MLB Wild Card: The Final Week

The MLB WIld Card playoffs begin October 1 with the National League’s Wild Card playoff. This is new this year as two teams will be Wild Card teams and will play one game to determine who plays against the division champion with the highest winning record. Today that is Atlanta with 92 wins, but that could change this week as St.  Louis has 91 wins and LAD has 90 wins. Of equal interest is the fact that the two wild card teams have identical records at 89-67 and are 8-8 in their season series, the first tie breaker to determine home field advantage. Pittsburgh and CIncinnati play each other the last three games in Cincinnati, so they probably will not know where the wild card game will be played until the final game is played. Of course, that depends on how Pittsburgh does on the road against the Cubs and Cincinnati does at home against the Mets. Both are three game series, and we won’t know who the winner plays until next week. Atlanta has a one game lead as the highest rated division winner, and that will probably hold.

In the American League, the situation is not so clear as to the Wild Card team, but the Red Sox have a two game lead, so the Wild Card winner will play in Fenway Park October 2.  Who will be that winner? Tampa Bay has a .5 game lead over Cleveland but plays the extra game today against Baltimore. (The “extra game” is one brings Tampa Bay even in games played.)  They then finish on the road against the Yankees and Toronto. Cleveland has the easy schedule and that is why I picked them to be a Wild Card team, as they play the White Sox and Twins, and both of those teams are playing poorly. In short, we won’t know where the Wild Card game will be played until next weekend. I think it will be in Cleveland, but the Indians have played poorly at Minnesota this year. If either of these teams falters, the Rangers are only 1.5 games behind and play Houston and LAA at  home for the final seven. They could easily sweep Houston, but the Angels will be trying to finish over  .500, so will be into it. Anything can happen here, and I have seen too much baseball to predict what will happen in this close finish, but he winner will play in Fenway Park against the very good Red Sox.

The wild card in these races is how each team did in the inter-league games they played this year. Teams play twenty such games, but play against different teams unlike intra-league games where they play the same teams and intra-division games where they play each team nineteen times. The Indians are 11-9, Rays 12-8 and Rangers 10-10 in these games. (In the National League, Cincinnati was 11-9 and the Pirates 15-5.) Inter League games have an effect, but the telling factor this week is that Tampa Bay is on the road where they were -3 this year and Cleveland plays two at home where they were +20 and then four on the road where they were also -3.

The season started April 1, and we only had ideas of how it would end. (My predictions are in the archives, if you wish. Remember they were written when there was still a foot of snow on my yard.) So we are in the last week. In short, who knows what gifts baseball has for us this week, but it will be interesting. The Division Chamionship starts as soon as these Wild Card games are played and then we will have the League Championship Series, and then the World Series to follow. For the LCS and WS, I only ask for three seven game series with the last game played on October 31. It is appropriate that the last game of the World Series may be played on Halloween; Trick or Treat is the way the game is played.