Fall Baseball War on Labor Day, 2014

There is something disquieting about Labor Day.  It is the end of Summer, leaves turn color and die, the frost will finish off what’s left, even the daylight diminishes, and sun will be setting later until it is the shortest day and it is Winter.  Baseball is born in the spring when all teams have hope, flourishes in the Summer as teams figure out how good or bad they are,  then it is Fall and we race against the sun to see who wins it all before the game hibernates for the Winter. At this point, the teams know how good they are and how bad. The good ones now focus on the last 28 games and the ultimate, short course, pennant race. It is a no holds barred, free for all to see who will prevail.

Today we know who is really good, just good, could be good and bad. The really good are Kansas City and Detroit, Baltimore, Angels and A’s in the AL and Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh,  Washington, LA Dodgers and SF in the National.
 
The good team is Cleveland that just misses. The “could (will) be good” teams are Miami and Seattle, maybe next year, especially for Miami. The rest of them have serious work to do and only a few show any inclination to do it wisely. (By wisely, I mean.doing smart stuff,  not just stuff to appease the fans mid-winter like signing a bad pitcher, now 5-10, 5.96, to a multiyear contract that simply shows why they are bad.)
 
Kansas CIty leads Detroit by 1/2 game in the AL Central, with Cleveland 3 behind. In the AL East, Baltimore leads by 9. In the AL west, the Angels just crushed the A’s four straigth to lead by 5. The only drama is in the Central.

In the National League, Milwaukee and St. Louis are tied and Pittsburgh is two behind. Definte drama here. Washington leads Atlanta by six so its really over.  and LA.  leads SF by 2 1/2. But LA is going to win there.

The only drama is the race for the second wild-card. (DId I really say that?) In the AL, Seattle has a chance and Atlanta and Pittsburgh have a chance in the NL.We’ll see.

What does the lack of drama mean? It means that the playoffs will supply the drama the season fails to provide. More on that in a few weeks, but I’m betting on a Baltimore-Washington World Series. Both of these teams can hit, field, throw, hit with power and pitch!  See you in Baltimore in October. 

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.