Continuing on yesterday's topic, it seems Atlanta is experiencing some karma backlash of its own. After releasing fan favorite Marcus Giles this past offseason, big bro Brian Giles enacted revenge with a 9th inning, 2-out, 3-run home run in San Francisco last night that prevented the Braves from creeping just 2 games behind San Diego in the Wild Card race.
Now, with just 5 games to go, it will take a near miracle for Atlanta to gain 3 games on the Padres while also passing Philadelphia and Colorado along the way. Perhaps the Braves should promote John Smoltz's humanitarian award loud enough for the karmic forces to hear.
Obviously the San Diego Padres have never watched My Name Is Earl, because they have been messing with karma all season long. First, they were on karma's good graces for signing good guy Greg Maddux. They offset that with some bad karma thanks to David Wells entering the clubhouse. San Diego attempt to rid themselves of that bad karma, but they simply exchanged it for worse karma, taking it troubled outfielder Milton Bradley. The result? The strangest way to lose 2/3 of an outfield in one game, thanks to Bradley stepping on Mike Cameron's hand in the outfield, then Bradley tearing his ACL (hard to believe, but true) after being gently tossed to the ground by manager Bud Black in an attempt to stop Bradley from tearing the first base umpire's head off.
Now it's looking like San Diego might be playing themselves out of contention. Had they listened to Earl Hickey, they might have had a handle on this karma thing by now.
The Wild Card has added suspense to many races over the past decade, but it also has the potential to ruin a race, just as it did last year with Minnesota and Detroit, and again this year with Boston and New York. No one outside of diehard Red Sox and Yankees fans care who wins what is now a very tight AL East race because both teams will be going to the playoffs anyway.
The NL East race is much more intriguing because the Mets or Phillies risk missing the playoffs altogether if a division title isn't wrapped up, thanks to the Padres and Diamondbacks.
I'm not against the Wild Card format, but it is worth pointing out the problems associated with progress.
I attended the Cubs-Reds game in Wrigley Field last night, and the fans reacted differently than expected. After I questioned the purpose of booing players like Zambrano and Jacque Jones in the past, they instead gave Zambrano a standing ovation as he departed after yielding 10 baserunners and 4 runs in 5 1/3 innings. I guess I can't complain about that (and risk becoming a "Jay Mariotti"-type who whines on both sides of the fence), but I found the ovation interesting for such a pedestrian (at best) performance.
Every once in a long while there's some news out there I find to be a little more interesting than baseball. This is one of those times:
Back to regularly scheduled baseball blogging tomorrow...
On 8/28/07, I wrote about the pesky Rockies refusing to go away, 4.5 games back in the Wild Card race at the time. Now, after winning 7 of their last 10, Colorado is just 2.5 games behind San Diego and October baseball in Colorado is becoming a real possibility. If someone other than Greg Maddux and Jake Peavy can't figure out how to get hitters out soon for the Padres, the Phillies, Rockies, and Dodgers are going to make late September a very nervous time for fans in San Diego.
In an ongoing wager, I have attempted to convince my coworkers that I can throw a baseball at least 80 mph. Hoping I never need to prove myself, the myth can grow until I can start claiming a youthful history of 90 mph heaters. Based on an old story from Slate.com, however, I best keep my "big fish" stories in check, because medical history suggests that my 5'11" frame is not exactly capable of hurling the 110 mph splitters of which I had hoped to boast. Note to all other exaggeraters: keep pitching claims under triple digits and keep home run power claims under 470 feet.
The second best website ever, baseball-reference.com, posted an interesting stat the other day: Cleveland closer Joe Borowski is destined to post the highest ERA for a closer with 40+ saves in a season. With an ERA currently sitting at 5.50, it's not even remotely close - Antonio Alfonseca is next in line with a 4.24 ERA back in 2000.
Cleveland fans should be very nervous come October. While Borowski likely was handed plenty of 2 and 3-run leads for his saves in the regular season, playoff games against Boston, New York, Seattle, Detroit, or Los Angeles will be closer contests and require less margin for error. With the competition so close in the top ranks of the A.L., I would much rather put my money on a team finishing with a K-Rod, Papelbon, or Rivera rather than a Borowski.
The Cubs got a much needed victory last night over the Dodgers, but I think their power numbers would go up significantly if they moved all their home games to THIS version of Wrigley Field.
What was shaping up to be a thrilling September with 6 possible division races appears headed more toward just Wild Card races in both leagues, an interesting battle in the NL West, and a sad competition of 3 mediocre teams in the NL Central. It's early, but my money is on the Brewers, Padres, Diamondbacks, and Mariners to emerge from the playoff races.