The Opening of the Baseball Season

The last regular seaon NFL games are pver and there will be a Super Bowl sometime in the future, but this is really the beginning of the baseball season. This fact is marked by the Winter Meetings that ended two weeks ago and caused some commotion with a numbe or teams making dramatic moves to add players. The two that stick out in my mind, at least, were the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox. The Cubs also added talent.
Without getting into names and stats, it is my obsevation that teams add winter meeting free agent and traded for talent and that this talent is very expensive and seldom helps all that much. .
The cost of free agent talent is pure cash and, usually multiyear deals. That means a team has a burden to carry for sometime, It will consider the new player, who is usually older and declining in skills, a major asset, but he will be a major liability soon. The players who are traded for are also expensive, but in a different way. To acquire Jock Donaldson from the A’s (OK, I’ll mention one player!!), the Blue Jays gave up a number of young players. I don’t know who they are, but I doubt if Billy Beane would take chopped liver. So the Jays have a great third base man, but have been diminished, probably, by a like amount of talent elsewhere.  
The Padres took Matt Kemp.  (OK second player) from the Dodgers in exchange for some players and the Dodgers are paying SD like $25million to pay Kemp’s salary. I look askanse at teams that give away an old star and pay his salary to get rid of him. They know more about Kemp than SD, so what’s up with that.
The whole point here is that there was a lot of action this month, and the season is now on. I don’t think however, that much has been changed as baseball is the ultimate team sport and it takes a whole team to win a pennant. For example, the last place added free agents Torii Hunter, a 39 year old outfielder and Erivn Santana, (OK, Players 3 and 4 and that’s it) a 33 year old starting pitcher. Now, if the Twins can outbid Detroit and Atlanta for these guys, they are going to help a little, maybe, But even with these additions, the Twins will be last in the AL Central again. It pains me to say that, by the way, I am a huge fan, but that’s the reality of it.

So we are off to the MLB Season, opening day is looming in just over 90 days. Stay tuned. 

Ignominy and the MLB Cellar Dweller

As August dwindles and the last month of the MLB season promises an exciting race to the pennant or wild card birth for the playoffs, another race is underway. This is the effort by several teams to avoid the ignominy of finishing last, or in the cellar, as it is called. For some, this motivation is as strong as the passion to win the pennant.

In the AL Central, the suddenly resurgent White Sox, eight wins in the last ten recently, are now pressing the Twins and are three games behind them. The White Sox have been miserable this year, but they have been playing better. However, the schedule maker has them playing against contenders the rest of the way.  Where they play Houston this week, and Houston is trying to avoid setting a record for futility, they then play Boston, New York, Baltimore, Detroit, Cleveland, Minnesota and finish against Kansas City. The three with Minnesota will be critical. The edge Chicago may have is that these teams will be tense and the Sox may be able to pick them off. That, after all, is the role of the spoiler, that team with no chance of winning a pennant, that can have an impact by beating those who do.   

The Twins have a slight schedule advantage by playing Toronto three times, but play contenders most of the time. The last eleven are with Oakland, Detroit and Cleveland, all of these teams need to win at the end. 

In the NL Central, Milwaukee and the Cubs are two games apart, with the Cubs in the cellar. Both teams play contenders, but the Cubs get the Marlins for three and the Brewers finish with the Mets. The critical games are the seven they play against each other. To not finish behind the Cubs should be sufficient incentive motivation to keep the Brewers motivated.

The most interesting race to avoid ignominy is in the NL West, Colorado, 61-71, San Diego, 59-71, and San Francisco, 58-72 are within in two games of each other with San Francisco last.   

San Francisco will play the other members of this trio twelve times in the remaining thirty-two, San Diego plays Colorado and SF nine times, but gets the floundering Phillies three times, and Colorado plays SF and SD nine times, but finish against Boston and the Dodgers. This is a race to watch on a daily basis.

Now that you see the match ups, remember that this is late season baseball and top teams are often “playing with their hands around their throats,”  Hands on Throat Reference and those trying to avoid the ignominy of the cellar can determine the actual pennant and live vicariously during the Winter knowing they were not the worst and helped determine who was the best.