With one month to go, here are The Commish's percentage odds to make the playoffs:
98% - Chicago (would take a colossal collapse)
88% - Boston (a division lead and too much offense to falter)
67% - Oakland (jelling at the right time)
60% - New York (currently "in," but only by a nose)
48% - LA Anaheim (time to right the ship or it will sink)
35% - Cleveland (must continue to overachieve)
4% - Minnesota (injuries and record make this a tough climb)
99% - St. Louis (sure bet if ever there was)
96% - San Diego (average team worth worse teams chasing)
95% - Atlanta (familiar with winning divisions)
35% - Houston - (favorable September games and solid pitching = October?)
26% - Florida - (rest of games against playoff hopefuls)
25% - New York (heating up just in time)
20% - Philadelphia - (early Sept. homestand might decide it)
2% - Arizona (offseason moves brought respect back)
2% - Los Angeles (a little late for a run)
With the Cubs finally shutting down Kerry Wood and allowing him to have arthroscopic surgery, they have admitted what everyone else already knew: their playoff hopes are over.
With Cleveland and Oakland tied for the wild card lead, it's time to get off the fence. I'm going with Oakland, simply because they've been there before.
ESPN's 50 States in 50 Days focused on Illinois yesterday with some of the broadcast coming from outside Wrigley Field. When the story began about what it means to have the field in the middle of a neighborhood, clips of Harry Caray (dead) were shown along with an old interview of Steve Stone (no longer a Cubs broadcaster). The story was about the present, but the clips were from the past. I expected better.
For those predicting "gloom and doom" for the White Sox and Cardinals just because they went 3-7 and 5-5 in their last 10 games (respectively), keep in mind the NEXT four teams in winning percentage (Boston, Anaheim, Atlanta, and Oakland) are a combined 19-21 in their last 10 games. It's a long season, and one bad week doesn't break a season.
If you don't subscribe to Sporting News Magazine, I highly recommend buying the August 26th issue for the article on stats on sports. Stat freaks may find it to be a little "old hat," but Steve Gietschier provides some interesting background on how statistics are being used more and more in sports other than just baseball.
No one expected the Royals to be contenders, but losing 17 in a row (and counting) is just unacceptable. It's hard to believe that just 2 years ago the Royals finished above .500 and actually stayed in the division race until the last month of the season. With Tony Pena firing up his squad and a group of young players reaching their prime (Beltran, Sweeney, Berroa), it seemed like KC was on the upswing. Things even looked bright on the mound, with Affeldt, George, and Runelvys Hernandez being touted as the "next big thing" even outside of Missouri.
In true small market form, however, economics (Beltran), injuries, and a lack of depth has kicked KC to the curb in sudden fashion. Pena is already out the door, the handling of the pitching staff has been questioned time and time again, and the phenoms are less than phenomenal. From a statistical standpoint, a reader named "WindyCity" sums up KC's recent struggles with the only stat that matters when gauging wins and losses:
The fact that Kansas City stinks is obvious, but what should be even more obvious is why they stink. The Royals are second lowest in the majors in runs scored (502) and second highest in runs allowed (692). When even John Madden knows that you gotta score more runs then your opponent to win a game, it's clear why Kansas City is the worst team in the bigs.
Well said, WindyCity.
With a home run and 2 more outfield assists yesterday, Atlanta's rookie outfielder Jeff Francoeur continues to scorch opposing hitting. In just 28 games, Francoeur has 9 HR, 26 RBI, and a robust .382 average to go along with EIGHT outfield assists. The last time a 21-year old put up such memorable numbers like that, Albert Pujols was killing the ball for the Cards in '01. It's way too early for comparisons like that, but with the early success of players like Francoeur and pitcher Felix Hernandez (19 years young), baseball is in good hands for years to come.
Going against everything I said about closers in the last Hot Corner, after watching Mariano Rivera dismantle the White Sox in the ninth inning last night, Rivera is WITHOUT QUESTION a Hall of Famer because he has dominated so much for so long, even though he hasn't logged the innings. Yeah, I'm a hypocrite. Get over it.
If it's possible for a player to make over $25 million a year and be underappreciated, it would be Alex Rodriguez. ARod has never had an off year, fields his position well, runs well, and has enough power to pass Hank Aaron before he turns 40. The knock against ARod as a poor "clutch" player is ridiculous, sporting a .330 average (and a .978 OPS!) with 6 HR over 26 postseason games. Last night's home run gave Rodriguez at least 30 in 8 straight years. Barring injury, ARod will surpass 40 for the 7th time in 8 years. When New York fans realize that Jeter's "leadership" qualities don't quite equate to 40 long balls a year, maybe Derek will move over to second where he belongs and give the SS position back to ARod, the best shortstop in the history of the game.
It's official: if Roger Clemens can dust off the D-Backs at the age of 43 (7 IP, 1 ER, 8 K) and stay on pace for the best ERA by a starter since, well, forever, then I, at the age of 31, can pick up a ball and start throwing again. Having been cooped up in an office the past decade, my arm is pretty "fresh" and doesn't have any innings logged in it, so I'm already ahead of most minor leaguers. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to watch Dennis Quaid in The Rookie for some inspiration...
A lot of the focus on baseball was off the field the past couple days, with the Hall of Fame inductees, the trade deadline, and now Rafael Palmeiro testing positive in a drug trust. Nothing earth shattering happened (although it was nice to hear Ryno sound off for once) until the Palmeiro announcement, but even then, you knew someone big would make a mistake and get busted. It just happened to be Raffy. Obviously this puts a dark cloud over his career numbers. The size of the cloud will likely be determined about 5 years after he retires. In the meantime, it gives even more credibility to players like Boggs and Sandberg who did so much more than just hit home runs.