MLB Races With A Week To Go.

Last year I wrote article nearly every day on the complicated MLB pennant race. This year, it is very siimple. In the American League, only the Central DIvision is undecided as Detroit leads KC by a single game. The Royals are playing Cleveland in Cleveland today and finish at Chicago. The Tigers host Chicago and then the Twins over the final weekend. That gives the Tigers at least a one game advantage and they will probably win the division, leaving the Royals as one of the two wildcard teams.

The other AL wild card will be the A’s who lead Seattle by 2. Seattle ends with the Angels, not the place to be if you are trying to sweep a series. Look for a playoff between Oakland and Kansas CIty for the fourth playoff spot. Of interest here, is that Oakland with 86-70 wins has a one game home field advantage over KC. 85-71 that may be determined by a coin lip in a week. Hang on.

In the National League, it is all over. St. Louis, Baltimore, and the LA Dodgers won divisions and Pittsburgh and San Francisco will play the wild card game. Pittsburgh has a 1/2 game home field advantage there, so another coin toss may occur. 

This season will end without the great drama I like to see, but that drama will likely come in the playoffs.  There are great teams playing and the chance of a Washington World Series is a lot to consider for me. Having just watched the Angels recently, I am leaning toward them as well. I would go to a game just to see Mike Trout play centerfield. There is also the possibilty of Baltimore-Washington, a LA-LA, or a KC-St.L World Series matchups.  Could be interesting, don’t you think?

For now, it is just a matter of waiting, unless, of course, something unexpected happens, and that happens often in the wonderful world of Major League Baseball. 

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, 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.

Major League Baseball, Attendance and Competitive Balance.

Major League Baseball is my first interest each morning. World news can wait as I peruse the sports section, especially MLB standings and box scores.There is a lot of information there and I find something of note every day.

Today, what captured my eye was MLB attendance levels at the ten games played Monday.  This is an era of intense media coverage and modern stadiums that has pushed average attendance at MLB games to rise to over 30,000 per game. Yesterday, however, the attendance figures were more typical of the 1970’s. In those days, for example, the only video available of live action, was a 10 second shot of something that happened in the first five innings of the local game that was shown in the 10 O’clock news on one  of the four channels available.. It was hard to generate excitement with this limited exposure. Today, fans see all the great plays that occur each day, on multiple cable channels, and that drives interest and attendance.

Last night, however, attendance was 17,653 in Kansas City, where the Royals extended its winning streak to 6, 15,514 in Baltimore, where the Orioles beat the Angels 4-3, 15,447 in Tampa, where the Red Sox won in 14 innings, 18,126 in Chicago, where the White Sox won , 12,811 in Seattle where the Mariners won 3-2, 13,259 in Miami, where the Brewers beat the Marlins, and 21, 192 in San Diego where the Padres beat the Braves 7-6. Texas and the Dodgers both drew over 30,000 for their games. 

I am always concerned by low attendance as that is the first measure of public appeal. The games were well played, five were decided on one run, one was extra innings. MLB is a very competitive business and teams rely on attendance for revenue to pay for players who are more expensive every year. Reduced attendance has an effect on competitive balance, and competitive balance is what it is all about.

The next topic that captured by attention this June morning, was the intense competition in divisions where three teams are within four games of the lead. In the AL East, Boston, New York and Baltimore are within 3.5 games, even the fourth team, Tampa Bay is over .500. In the NL West, Arizona, Colorado, and San Francisco are within two games and in the NL Central, St.Louis,the best team overall, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh are within four games. The most intense two team race is Texas and Oakland, where one game separates them.

This all means that the championship will be determined by the little things that happen, a ball that bounces erratically, a double play missed, an outfielder that loses the ball in the lights, and the hundred other little events that determine the outcome of a game or two of the 162 played each year. 

This is why we pay attention to the game and these races. There are 100 games to the playoffs, and I am making no predictions other than Detroit will win the AL Central. Then again, I picked Toronto to win, and it is last in its division. The infinite possibilities make this a wonderful game, I just hope attendance reflects that wonder.