introduction to realignment 101: You have a better idea?
dive right into the argument here. And to begin…
tired. (And cranky.) So I really don’t want to stretch this out
into a fourteen page examination of each and every possibility.
Expansion? That would be one of the easiest ways to do this. Drop
down to 28 teams and split into two 14-team leagues. Add up… which
would be just colossally stupid… and 32 teams works for balance
happen to like the designated hitter, mainly because of the consistency.
It’s not so much that the pitcher is an easy out… there are several
that aren’t, and it is quite admirable to be impressed by those
that have figured out that at least learning how to bunt can be
a huge benefit to your own efforts on the mound. But a designated
hitter doesn’t play one day and sit four. There is a rhythm and
consistency to good hitting, and heading to the bat rack every
fifth game doesn’t… to me… feature the best.
are not going to debate the pros and cons of how National League
parks hurt American League teams because of how the rosters are
built or whatever. And we are not going to dive into the mess
of going all DH or all no-DH. We will not spend hours looking
at whether or not season-long interleague is as bad as it sounds.
designated hitter… I don’t have the time (or patience) for it
I have a set of suggestions that result in a balanced, division
heavy schedule. Here we go…
number one – Adjust the leagues to be fifteen teams each. (Yeah…
that’s right… interleague play every day. Six teams in the NL
Central and four in the AL West annoys me more than anything else
in baseball that needs help right now.)
number two, part one – Thirty interleague games per year. (Ok…
I sense some of you pulling away from me. Stay with me…)
thirty interleague games allows for: (1) A full American League
division playing a full National League division. (2) Both a home
and an away three-game series against each team.
no more of the not playing the same schedules... no more crying
over when or where the DH was or wasn’t used. Five teams in the
opposing division… two sets of three game series against each
team… thirty games.
number two, part two – A home and away series against each of
the same-league, non-division opponents.
number two, part three – Eighteen games… nine home and nine away…
against each division opponent.
number two, the math – 30 interleague games plus 60 non-divisional
league games plus 72 division games equals 162
now, the idea is simple… You rotate against the other league once
every three years. You play each of the non-divisional league
opponents every year. And, you play an even number of divisional
I see many of the problems. DH differences between the leagues…
additional interleague contests… and so on. It’s meant to be a
can tinker with things so the American League East is not likely
to be decided by Boston being on the road the last week of September
against Houston and Cincinnati while New York is battling Toronto
and Tampa. We can set up road trips so Baltimore doesn’t have
to go to the west coast five times in a single season.
we have to stop is pretending that the world needs six games of
Mets and Yankees or Dodgers and Angels every season.
a shame for the Rays… they’ve fought valiantly all season, and
yet they are looking up at two teams that should easily clear
95-wins. And I don’t see how Tampa can go 42-18 the rest of the
way to compete with that pace.
the only question here is whether or not the Yankees can compete
with the Red Sox. Now… before you throw up your hands and try
starting some sort of “Yankees suck” chant in agreement or defense
of Derek Jeter in disagreement, let’s make this simple…
Boston and New York play each other, Boston can right now say
they expect Beckett and Lester to be there first two pitching
options. Hard to say what order… the third option is Buchholz,
and he has to return from the DL… the opening round would have
been played and the length and usage of staff could possibly adjust
who goes when. But there’s your top two, and with Buchholz, the
top three. New York will send Sabathia and… who?
there you have it. Who pitches games two or three? If you tell
me the consideration for number two is being given to Burnett
or Colon or Garcia (and we can go on), the reality is those guys
are no better or more reliable than Lackey. Yes… that’s exactly
what I’m saying… arguably the fourth and fifth best starters on
Boston’s team are better than any potential second starter in
can argue offense and bullpen and how things have played out over
the past two… five… ten years in all sorts of numbers.
I’m asking is… all things being equal… if you could, today, set
up the rotation with confidence for the playoffs… who do the Yankees
pick to pitch game two?
maybe Colon is awesome. Maybe he does it. The thing is… well,
I’ll try to quote Robert Fulghum (my words may be off, but they’re
close)… “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to
the strong, but you better bet that way.”
possibilities for the needy: I’m hearing all sorts of
things I don’t like for Boston.
Beltran. Honestly it’s too expensive for a player that gives you
nothing in 2012 (no draft picks, and he’s likely leaving since
Boston wants Khalish or Reddick in right and they won’t even try
to keep him). He’s also an injury risk.
Francoeur. Really? Really? I mean… to be fair… .269, 13 home runs,
and a nice season for a 27-year old player. But he’s up and down
from year to year, and .268 with 20 homers is about what you could
consider an average year. More to the point… his career on-base
percentage is .311, with a .319 on-base this season. Folks… the
guy Boston wants out of the line-up is struggling to a .317 on-base
percentage this year. That’s right… J.D. “don’t let the door hit
you in the ass” Drew at his worst is getting on base at about
the same clip that Francoeur is right now at his best. Ta-dah!
Boston and New York should be burning up phone lines with Oakland
and San Diego for relief pitching. Breslow and Adams will be the
big targets there… but the A’s and Padres have multiple arms that
might be sent out in a deal.
thing is… with the trade deadline approaching, I wonder if Boston
can trust Buchholz returning and the arms they have in place (both
here and the minors). I suppose I would not be stunned to see
them call to look for a middle-of-the-rotation starter that clubs
may not really be focusing upon… see…
mentioned in the NL column that Boston might be willing to do
some things where overpaying was a part of the deal, and that
probably is an important thought… because I would guess Boston
is looking at a starter on the top of their trade wish list. I
don’t know that for certain though… but pitching trumps right
field. And here’s again is why they could make some waves…
Red Sox have a funny situation developing where they need roster
spots on the 40-man for 2012. I don’t know all the deals in place
or what they really need to do… but absolutely heard no less than
Theo say during an interview that it’s a nice problem to have,
and they need to get creative to keep the players in the organization.
And I wholeheartedly believe that Boston would rather add an extra
player into a trade and use him as a chip to get a player they
really want instead of not adding him in and losing both the trade
and the prospect after the season to something like Rule 5.
short… Boston might just figure out how to surprise us. But they
won’t do it for Carlos Beltran. It’s going to need to be someone
that stays with them after 2011.
believe the hype: I’m going with the Yankees here.
the risk of jinxing everything… a couple of years ago Boston leaped
out to a huge head-to-head advantage. By the end of September
they were running about even. This year though, Boston has handled
their starters (including Sabathia), is scoring more runs, and
overall has bounced back from a rough start to become a team that
seems level-headed, focused and on automatic pilot from game to
New York could bash their way past Cleveland or Detroit if they,
by some strange turn of events wind up facing the Indians or Tigers
in the opening round, I don’t see how they can beat up Texas or
Boston. In fact, I think the Yankees lose in the opening round
of the playoffs.
put… I don’t like New York to be ready to keep things going all
season and win the division, and I don’t like their roster against
what I see as other playoff rosters. They may be looking good
for the postseason… they need help.
like Boston to investigate some really interesting trade possibilities.
Theo and the management group always seem to be on the cusp of
pulling off a blockbuster at the trade deadline… only to fall
short, in no small part because of how complex the trade was.
This year though, as I mentioned when kicking these review off,
the Red Sox have some pieces they may lose in a numbers game.
If we’re asking them to trade too much for Hunter Pence… they
won’t. On the other hand… the question this year may be trade
four prospects for Hunter Pence in a deal that overpays for him
or lose three of those prospects for nothing when you have no
room on the 40-man… and that is a totally different situation.
Again though… Theo has a habit of setting things up only to fall
Blue Jays seem to be kicking the tires and are getting active
on trades for some long-term deals… ones that make no sense for
2011, but actually add pieces for 2012, 2013 and beyond. (And
I say make no sense because they won’t catch Boston, New York,
and likely not even Tampa. But next year… especially if another
playoff team is added… worth watching what they are up to.)
I expect: Boston and New York in the playoffs. Tampa
to reach an impressive 90-wins. Toronto to break even. Baltimore
to be below .500 but telling us about the organizational hope
for the future.
everything is beginning to take focus here in the Central… and
by that I mean the Indians are no longer controlling much. They
have fallen behind the Tigers… and the White Sox and Twins, while
not necessarily back in the race (our previously discussed below
.500 at 100 rule), are no longer so far behind they can’t even
in first place.
since my 40-game review… 35-27.
since my 40-game review… 32-26.
since my 40-game review?
I say more?
watched Detroit blink before as the season drags on… so let’s
not just hand this to them. While Chicago and Minnesota are both
below even, as I just outlined, they are playing better, and they
are easily closer than weeks remaining and have plenty of head-to-head
contests. In short… the within 5-games rule with competition that
isn’t looking particularly dominant is absolutely worthy of consideration
like the NL Central, one or two good trades could prove difference-makers
for teams in this division.
possibilities for the needy: I keep hearing about the
White Sox. (Which, of course, means to expect nothing from the
White Sox. Never jump on a bandwagon with everyone else.)
has been willing to add payroll in the past, but I honestly expect
them to look for tinkering-level moves. They already brought in
Martinez during the off-season, and added with Peralta and Cabrera
they have a good lineup. There sure is a place or two they could
put an everyday player, but unlike resources we’ve seen in Boston,
New York and Philadelphia, eventually the pockets can’t support
adding the contracts. They could use a starter… even with Justin
Verlander leading the way, pitchers like Scherzer and Porcello
are getting wins without dominant numbers. But the starter of
a quality they could use likely isn’t on the market, and definitely
not at a price they can afford.
was originally looking like sellers. I’m not certain that has
changed… they close the gap to 5 games or less, and then fall
back quickly to 7 or 8. But I do believe the fragility of their
club (read: Mauer and his annual injury that turns into debates
about his catching stability) has them at least thinking about
2012 and beyond, and looking at some options that could be based
on sending away Cuddyer. I doubt they will… instead something
like trading Slowey is what to look for… but somehow the Twins
always manage to get something in before the end of July.
then, back to my Chicago comment. Mark Buehrle leaves for one
club and one club only… St. Louis. Done with that one. Won’t happen.
What I see looking interesting is stuff like Edwin Jackson on
the market… conversations about Carlos Quentin (huge possibility
for Boston… he’s 28 and isn’t hideous with his on-base and power
numbers, despite some shaky year-to-year comparisons that include
never being in more than 130 games… he likely could be earned
for at most three minor leaguers, and they wouldn’t have to be
minor leaguers that hurt). Still… they expected to contend this
year. Just like Colorado, I can’t see a team that thought they
could be in the postseason in 2011 looking to send away players
they’ll need to replace to contend in 2012.
believe the hype: Chicago.
club getting seasons like Dunn and Rios are turning in cannot
be considered a serious threat for a playoff spot.
sure… they have played very well to return to the race. And they
have some quality parts and even-keeled veterans. But I’m just
not trusting them to be better when I consider what my eyes see
and the numbers say. They are getting bad contributions from important
I expect: The White Sox are tough to take seriously when
you can pitch to most of their batting order.
the Twins… well… there’s a reason they end up leaving the playoffs
so quickly. They are solid team, and one that normally maintains
a fairly consistent approach to the regular season. (At times
they lose in bunches… at times the win in bunches… and at the
end of the year they are always good to approach 90-wins.) But
they are by no means a scary team. 100-games in and they still
sit 7-below even. Heck, at 47-54 they need to 43-17 over the last
60 to get to 90-wins. As I just pointed out… they recently went
35-27 over about 60. 40-20 gets them to 87-wins, and that is a
pace they haven’t hit all season. They’re toast.
so… it’s Detroit. If they can stay consistent… and basically winning
more than they lose would get it done… the division is theirs.
But we have seen the great fade before. There’s a reason you play
a week ago, or maybe two, the surprising Seattle Mariners were
a handful of games out of first place and sitting on a record
that was fairly impressive. 43-44? Not bad all things considered.
And then… freefall. The 162-game season is full of dips and dives
and streaks. Judging it day-to-day does not work.
and Seattle are out of it… and California is playing a bit above
possibilities for the needy: Wow.
Oakland is going to unload relievers, and basically will listen
if the price is right on other players. And Seattle… well, they
don’t have much, but what they have you could make an offer on.
there is nothing there for the Rangers or Angels to chase. Neither
club needs pitching as much as, say, the Yankees. So yeah… New
York will overpay if someone hits the market worthy of considering.
Same deal with hitting… where while they could absolutely place
some quality players if the opportunity is there, you have teams
like San Francisco in dire need of hitting, Boston looking to
place someone in right or at short if it makes sense to go after
the player… and basically there is nothing spectacular to consider.
thing to kick the tires on… watch the Rangers and the market for
relief pitching. Mike Adams… I don’t think they can land him…
he fits a huge need. The Rangers want to redesign their staff
next season, and Adams is under control beyond this year. So not
only would he be a great addition this season… he also would contribute
mightily to future plans.
believe the hype: California.
solid front-of-the-rotation pitching. Names you recognize here
and there on the roster. But read for them exactly what I said
about Minnesota. While the pitching has some dominant parts (and
Mauer counts as a dominant part for Minnesota), the reality is
that they are not made of load-bearing, dominate-a-series, playoff-marquee
names. Get to the playoffs? Sure. They can and do. Win in the
Texas they are trying to put together a deep club that can compete
in the playoffs. And while the lead may only be 3 today… the reality
is that’s a strong 3. Sure… the Angels have Haren and Weaver and
a not-too-shabby-in-2011 Santana. (Weaver is one of the best in
the game right now.) Texas is impressive as well. Alexi Ogando
has been an unreal surprise… C.J. Wilson has been as tough a pitcher
to face as you might find… and then there is Harrison and Lewis
rounding out a nice four player option. Heck… 102 games and five
Texas pitchers account for just about 100 of the starts.
I don’t think the Angels close that gap.
I expect: Texas is winning this division… and the only
real question is do they face the Yankees to open the playoffs.