Yankees Sign Brian McCann

The Yankees make huge signing by getting catcher Brian McCann to 5-year, $85 million deal, outbidding #Rangers —
Let’s this mark the beginning of the post season team building  competition that I think is as interesting as the season itself.

Please note this player is beyond his peak. See full career record Here.

This points out the flaw in the baseball reserve system where teams spend huge amounts for players who will have declining performance. Experts are already speculating as to what McCann will play when he gets older. He will be 30 this year.

Wild Card Race on September 16; Yankees Falter

The AL Wild Card race is becoming clearer. In two weeks the regular season will be over, and,we will know more, and may even have a playoff for the playoffs, an interesting scenario.  This morning finds Texas and Tampa Bay tied at 81-67 for the two Wild Card slots. Cleveland is now only  .5 games behind, with Baltimore  2.5 back and New York 3 back. On August 23 Here that the Yankees, due to the easy schedule in the last twelve games had a real chance to make the Wild Card, however, the Yankees have faltered. Where they had to win half the games against the better teams, Baltimore and Boston, they have lost 8 of 12, and dominate the lesser teams, they beat Chicago times. The poor showing against Boston, especially, where they lost 7 of 8, is the reason they remain 3 games back. The Red Sox, I am certain, regale in their role in the Yankees apparent demise. 

The Orioles likewise, lost 6 of 8 against NY and Cleveland. They did win 5 of 8 against Toronto and the White Sox. They remain 2.5 games behind.

The team that has won according to the dominate/breakeven rule is the Cleveland Indians. They won 6 of 7 against the Mets and White Sox in September, and won 4 of 7 against KC, Balitmore and Detroit. They are  .5 games behind. If any of the three teams are to make the Wild Card, it seems the Indians are the team.  They will  have to pass Tampa or Texas to do that.

Texas has only won 1 of 10 recently and play Tampa Bay and KC 7 times this week.  They finish with Houston and LAA. Tampa Bay, of course, has the 4 against Texas at home this week and then play 7 against NYY and Baltimore before the final three in Toronto.

Tampa Bay and Cleveland are the probable winners here. However, baseball has strange twists. Yesterday, trying to win its twelth in a row against Minnesota, ran into a Twins team that hadn’t scored in 25 innings only to have the Twins score twice in the 7th on a single by Chris Parmelee, BA  .223 and four times in the 8th, three runs coming on a homerun by Josimil Pinto, a catcher who spent the Summer in AA, to win the game. Tampa Bay will remember that piitch to Pinto if they fail to make the playoffs. That final three in Toronto are critical.

There is another race worth noting and that is to avoid the Igniminy and the MLB Cellar Dweller, Here.  In the NL West, San Francisco, San Diego are tied and Colorado 1 game down for last place. Maybe they will all tie for last, or, as they would describe it, fourth, place and all will avoid the Ignominy of the Cellar Dweller.

The last two weeks of the regular season, like all of September is War, after that we have the playoffs and then the long, cold Winterl

MLB Playoffs on September 10

The playoff drama of September is now focused on the American League where Cleveland and Baltimore are 1.5 games behind Tampa Bay and New York and Kansas CIty are 3 and 4 games back. This drama is created by the new format that adds a one game playoff between the two top non-division winners for what has been the lone wild card position. I wrote hereearlier that the schedule favors the Yankees, but they have faltered and have only gained a half game since August 23.  Kansas City finishes with seven games against Chicago and Seattle, but may be a game or two too far back to close the gap. Baltimore plays three against the Yankees this week and then Boston six times and the resurgent Blue Jays (8-2 over the last ten) six times with three against Tampa Bay. There is no easy road there.

The lesson here is that although it is possible to close a gap in a few weeks, the gap was caused by the way a team played for 135 games, and it is unlikely to change very much in the last 27. So, too, is the lead a team has earned. A team must collapse to lose a long developed lead. I still think the Yankees can make it to the wild card due to the schedule, but they must dominate the lesser teams and they lost 3 of 4 to the Red Sox where a split was necessary, but they swept three against the White Sox. Playing the top teams even and dominating those below is the secret here. The reason the schedule favors the Yankees is that when they finish with Baltimore and Boston next Sunday, they play last place teams twelve straight to end the season. If they are 4-2 or 3-3 with Baltimore and Boston, they can be 9-3, or 8-4 with the lesser teams. It will still be close.

Cleveland has a similar chore, and plays thirteen times against sub .500 teams to end the season, with five more with KC whom they beat yesterday, as well. Cleveland may, in fact, have a slight edge over the Yankees in this race to the wild card.

Of course, all is pure conjecture if Tampa Bay plays well as wild card pretenders trail this team in the standings. TB plays six of twenty against sub .500 teams. If they split with Boston, Baltimore and NYY, and dominate 6-0, 5-1 or 4-2 against Minnesota and Toronto, they will win. It will be interestng and that is why our interest remains.

The real race is to avoid ignominy by finishing last. In the NL Central, San DIego, San Francisco, and Colorado are one game apart for last. All of these teams have tough teams to play going forward with the final series of San Diego at San Fransico likely determining the loser.

“It ain’t over ’til its over,” said Yogi Berra, the sage of baseball lore. So true. It will come down to who throws and fields the best, as it has for the first 140 games of the season.

Perfect Fifth Game in New York

I posted an article on “Fifth Game Theory” here; that explains how pennants are won by those who win the Fifth Game. In short, most all teams win two of five games and lose two of five games, That leaves the fifth game to determine who wins the pennant. Tonight in New York, the Red Sox tied the game in the top of the ninth at 3-3 and in the bottom of the ninth Ichiro Suzuki singled, stole second, advanced to third on a fly ball and scored the winning run on a wild pitch. A perfect Fifth Game outcome. 

Remember that “Fall Baseball is War” here and that is how this season is finishing. 

Fall Baseball is War

A baseball season starts in the Spring with teams playing with a relaxed tone that indicates players understanding that there is the long season ahead and any early deficit can be overcome. This leads to the mid-season, from June through August, where the play intensifies as they are in great shape and have an understanding of how good or bad the team is.  With this understanding comes a developing urge to win, if the team is good, or just survive and avoid the ignominy of the cellar.Ignominy-and-the-MLB-Cellar-Dweller”

Then it is September. This is the month where every pitch has meaning. The glory of the pennant is there, as is the drive to preserve some pride by beating a contender and finishing as well as possible. This is September 3. There are about 25 games left, not the mass of 100+  that faced teams in June. Here a game won or lost can make all the difference. Just one game here or there. Players play September game as if it were war.

In the AL West, Oakland and Texas have identical records, 79-58, at the top. On those teams, as is true of all teams in the pennant race, memories of games lost in April and May due to an error, missed cut off man, misjudged flyball, and all of the ways a game can be lost are remembered, vaguely, and the fact that can’t happen now dominates players’ thinking. As said earlier, some teams play with their hands on their throats. Texas lost to Minnesota to a late homerun recently.  Oakland has won four in a row and beat Texas yesterday, and they play each other five more times this month.

In the AL East, Boston is 5.5 games ahead and shows no sign of losing. The Orioles and Yankees are battling for the wild card position, 1/2 game apart. They play each other four times next week.

In the NL Central, three teams, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Cincinnati have post season possibilities. The Pirates are ahead by one game over St. Louis and play each other this weekend. In that division, the Cubs and Brewers are tied for last, and that is a real race, as well, as the drive to avoid being last is as strong in September as is the race to win. They will play each other seven more times in what will be vigorously contested games.

In the NL West, the race is between San Diego and San Francisco to avoid the cellar. They are tied at 61-76. They are playing a three game series now, San DIego won yesterday and will finish the season with a three game series in San Francisco. Just thinking of the importance to those two teams of avoiding the ignominy of the cellar means that series will be ferocious.

The long season is 162 games long. It is like life itself where daily events have long term impacts. For the baseball fan, it’s never over ’til it’s over and for all the teams mentioned above, it won’t be over until the season is over. The only time in baseball where time is a factor and for baseball people, in September, time seems to stand still.

MLB Pennant Race on August 25

I wrote on August 12 about the Wild Card race here and added the Yankees to the mix recently here. The Yankees have the benefit of the right schedule but they need to win half the time versus Tampa Bay, Boston and Baltimore. So far, they have lost two to Tampa Bay to move 4.5 games behind in the Wild Card race. They must win against the top teams to allow the schedule to work for them.

The most disapointing feature of the race is the Kansas City Royals seven game losing streak. I am a Royals rooter because I like seeing teams improve to the point they can contend. There are three steps to this process, first you learn to play, then you learn to win, finally you learn to win when you have to. The Royals have clearly not learned the last step. Maybe next year.

As an example of this process, the Miami Marlins, who have been playing better, lost a game 3-2 to Colorado because of the failure to cut off a throw from the outfield that allowed Michael Cuddyer to advance to second after a game tying single. He scored the winning run moments later on a double. The Marlins learned the second lesson there as this is the sort of play a winning team makes.

These are the days where winning Fifth Games ( Fifth Game Theory) is all important. Last night, Texas lost 3-2 to the White Sox, who scored in the bottom of the ninth. Oakland won in Baltimore with a run in the top of the ninth. These are examples of Fifth Games that must be won by pennant contenders.

As I look at box scores every day, I look first at the line score to see who won in the last three innings. This is because a baseball game is really two games in one. The first game is a six inning game that is played to gain an advantage in the three inning game. This short game is played by specialists, relief pitchers, closers, pinch hitters, defensive replacements and the like. To win pennants, teams have to have competence in the “specialist” category. Take a look at the line score to gain an appreciation of the nature of the game. As Yogi Berra said,”It ain’t over until it is over,” and that means after the last out.

NY Daily News Links Alex Rodriguez and Victor Conte

The New York Daily News here wrote about a meeting between Alex Rodriguez and Balco founder, Victor Conte who spend four months in jail for his connection to illegal steroid distribution to athletes, Marion Jones, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. The meeting took place in San Francisco in May 2012. Conte told Rodriguez that he could only offer legal supplements and commented on a blood test. He then sent Bonds supplements that he creates at SNAC, his supplement company. Thus story only adds to the story of how Rodriguez was seeking enhancement from different sources and Conte would only supply legal products. In fact, after looking at the product labels, these are products that I can buy at TAO.com  here in Minneapolis while eating vegan chili. The only new story is Conte’s marketing genius in linking his products to Rodriguez.  I am sure sales will be brisk this week.