Besides the blockbuster deal between Toronto and Miami (which likely won't have any playoff implications anyway), it's been a quiet offseason so far. Things will peak when Josh Hamilton starts fielding offers and makes a decision, but one signing that was quieter than expected was Boston snagging Mike Napoli from Texas. Napoli may have had a down year, but if Texas loses Napoli and Hamilton in the same year, the Rangers might not have the ammo to continue replacing lost offense. Nelson Cruz is good for a couple DL stints each year it seems, Michael Young is nearing the end, and several positions already seem poised for platoons, so Texas might have to rely on pitching even more in 2013.
Elsewhere, Mariano Rivera will be attempting to close for the Yankees again, Youkilis might be wearing the pinstripes shortly, B.J. Upton is a Brave, Justin Upton is still a Diamondback for now, Tommy Hanson is an Angel, Dan Haren is a National, and Joakim Soria is a Ranger. For the entire list of Hot Stove moves, check out MLB.com.
It didn't exactly rival 1975 or 1991 or 2001, but the World Series still had its share of memorable moments, most of them coming for the much deserved World Champion San Francisco Giants. The Commish has the complete wrapup in the latest Hot Corner.
The World Series is just hours away from starting, and TCO has the only preview you'll need. Check out the latest Hot Corner and find out who The Commish thinks (nay, KNOWS) will win it all this year. Need a quick Game 1 prediction? Verlander > Zito, so Tigers > Giants. Detroit will win tonight, but it should still be a hotly contested series most of the way. Check out Hot Corner for the latest details.
While the Yankees put up one of the most embarrassing hitting displays in the history of the ALCS, credit the Tigers with some stellar pitching performances as well. New York will be spending the early offseason answering speculation about trading A-Rod and finding more pitching, but Detroit will be setting up their rotation so that a rested Verlander will be ready for Game 1 against St. Louis or San Francisco, making life very difficult for a National League club. The Cardinals look destined to meet Detroit for a 2006 rematch, but the Giants aren't dead yet. After all, in the playoffs, you can't tell your Kozmas from your Canos, so anything can happen.
The Giants just completed an improbable comeback against the Reds, but Cincinnati's inability to field healthy pitchers made the final win oh so elusive. Buster Posey's grand slam and stellar play behind the plate showed why he is the likely NL MVP this year.
Oakland staved off elimination late last night in dramatic fashion, scoring three times in the ninth inning off Jose "look at me" Valverde.
Washington fights for its playoff life today against St. Louis, and speaking of healthy pitchers, while Strasburg was shut down before he hit 160 IP, Oakland has chosen (or been forced through limited options) to continue pitching rookie pitchers constantly eclipsing their previous highs on IP in a season. For what it's worth, combining minor league and major league innings when necessary, Milone, Parker, and Griffin were at 190, 202, and 184.3 respectively. Not to say that what Washington is doing is wrong, because each pitcher is different, but I'm guessing that if Oakland can sneak one more victory in over Detroit tonight, everyone in the franchise will deem the pitching risk worth it because playoff wins mean everything in baseball.
The new, terrible playoff format didn't allow time for a proper Division Series Preview, so we'll be back with the LCS Previews. In the meantime, as bad as the infield fly rule call was on Friday, it was the Braves' lack of execution in the field that cost them the game, not an umpire's call.
Furthermore, Atlanta's miscues along with Coco Crisp's error in Game 2 of the Oakland/Detroit series reinforce just how important a solid defense is in playing winning baseball. It is this primary reason why Miguel Cabrera isn't being unanimously handed the AL MVP Award despite his triple crown season. Mike Trout didn't have quite the power of Cabrera, but his defense and baserunning skills may have offset the difference in home runs.
So the playoffs are set, and thanks to the new setup, the St. Louis Cardinals get to defend their title, even though their record suggests they don't belong. At least in the American League, things got exciting thanks to the new rules, right? Well, let's put in this way - tomorrow Texas will play Baltimore in a one game playoff to move to the next round. If last year's rules were in place? Texas would still be playing Baltimore in a single game, but it would be called a play-in game and would be considered a regular season contest.
Updates and plenty of playoff predictions to follow after the silliness of the "one and done" games tomorrow. My guesses (in a single game, you can't really consider it a prediction) are that Darvish and Texas will best Baltimore while the Braves run the Medlen magic one more time in defeating St. Louis.
Why is the baseball season so long and the most pure of all major sports in terms of teams earning they way into the playoffs? Because it's really hard to "fluke" your way through 162 games. Teams like the Orioles and A's are proving their mettle by continuing their winning ways all the way through September while previous upstarts like Pittsburgh have fallen back and now find the .500 mark looming (74-73) with only 15 games left. In short, playoff teams will have earned their way in. What brings the whole machine down in Bud Selig's terrible inclusion of the second wild card that will penalize a team like the Braves or Orioles when they are potentially out of the playoffs less than 24 hours after the season ends. A future Hot Corner will explain the error of Bud's ways.
Speaking of the Orioles, Baltimore won an improbable 14th straight extra inning game with an 18-inning marathon victory over Seattle last night. If you assume that the probability of winning an extra inning game is 50% (a safe assumption since both teams played evenly for 9 innings), the odds of winning 14 in a row is the same as guessing heads or tails correctly 14 times. Those odds? 1 in 16,384. Maybe it's Baltimore's year.
Felix Hernandez earned his "King" moniker by throwing a perfect game against the Tampa Rays yesterday afternoon. It was the third perfect game this season and the sixth in the past four seasons which is shocking in that there have only been 23 perfect games in the history of baseball. The times are definitely changing.
One other note in support of MLB becoming a pitcher's league: in 15 games played Tuesday, SIX ended in shutouts while three ended with the losing team scoring just one run. Melky Cabrera's positive (and somewhat unsurprising) drug test revealed that drugs are not (and never will be) completely eliminated from baseball, but the scores make it clear that hitters have lost a huge advantage they claimed in the late '90s and early '00s. My best guess is a combination of less percentage of players juicing along with what seems to be more athletes choosing the pitching route rather than hitting, although Harper, Trout, Frazier, and others are doing their best to prove that theory wrong.
Hard to believe, but if the season ended today, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Oakland would all be in the playoffs. The Nationals aren't as great a surprise thanks to plenty of young talent, but NOBODY predicted the Pirates or A's would need to get sized for a playoff patch. Still, August has yet to rear its head, and two months of baseball is plenty of time to regress to the mean of a team's talent.
While it's refreshing to see the typical "sellers" become "buyers" as the trade deadline approaches Tuesday, I hope that teams like Pittsburgh don't forsake the future at a slight chance of participating in a one-game playoff thanks to the added wild card this year. After 20 years of sub-.500 ball, though, no one could blame for franchise for grasping at every available straw to reach baseball in October.
Better yet for Pittsburgh, despite a current 10-game winning streak by Cincinnati, the NL Central has been up for grabs all year, and one added player might just be enough to win the division outright, which would pay massive dividends for the city of Pittsburgh. Either way, it looks to be an exciting summer finish in many cities.
Deadspin.com is often focused a little too much on the amateurish side of sports and on outing the negative in sports figures, but you can't deny the site its ability to entertain and provide serious depth to specific subjects (Erin Andrews, Joe Paterno, etc.).
This time around, Erik Malinowski took the time to post animated GIFs of every umpire's "strike three" call. It's really something to behold, and reason enough to reveal why sports are games meant to be enjoyed as entertainment. Using robots/lasers/overabundance of replays/etc. can take away the entertainment aspect, leaving spectators with nothing but a better officiated sport of bland. Instead of giving in to the bland, enjoy the self-expression of a judgment call based on a set of parameters. Part 1 can be found here and Part 2 can be found here. There are plenty of entertaining calls, but I'm partial to CB Bucknor's classic right cross.
If you want to learn more about umpires and their personalities, wander around Deadspin and you'll find 72 separate entries detailing each individual umpire. Enrico Palazzo is conspicuously absent however.