Jul 21

Looking At The Pennant Races Heading Into Second Half

By rights the most intriguing storyline of the second half should be the pennant races, as that is the essence of the sport. No matter how hard Major League Baseball tries to screw up the integrity of the regular season schedule, we’re still there watching at the end to see who is left standing.

The New York Mets are one of nine teams at least ten games out of first place in their respective divisions. That puts 21 teams within reach, if you define that reach as the ability to pick up one game a week.

Mathematically, the  “best’’ race is the National League West, where nobody is more than 7.5 games out. Trouble is, three of the five are under .500, including the defending champion Giants. Do you remember when they wanted to get rid of Don Mattingly in Los Angeles? Well, the Dodgers are a mere half-game out.

Another compelling race is the National League Central, where the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are bunched up under a four-game tent. Considering the mediocrity of the rest of the league, all three should qualify, as nobody else is close to becoming a wild-card contender. That would mean the first winning season in Pittsburgh in two decades, or since before Barry Bonds juiced himself out of the Hall of Fame running.

The Washington Nationals, the team supposed to get a pass into the World Series, is floundering and Stephen Strasburg is just 5-7. Not disappointed here, as the arrogance the Nationals showed last year by saving Strasburg under the assumption they will be a playoff fixture might not come to pass.

Once again, that leaves us with the American League East with the most compelling race. Boston, a team given no chance at the start, is in first followed by Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the Yankees, who are some how six games back without Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis and mediocre years from C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. Joe Girardi, to me, is the AL Manager of the Year.

There’s the chance for a compelling race in five of the six divisions. The worst? That would be the NL East.

A lot of things play off the pennant races, including the trade deadline. Every year it is the same, but with each team gearing up for a run there seems another about to unravel and call it a season. The manufactured excitement of the wild card in some cities is often off-set by the resignation summer is over by the first of August in others.

The Phillies are in town this weekend playing the Mets. Take a close look at them as they might break up that group. They are claiming they won’t trade Cliff Lee, but it’s another July and who wouldn’t be surprised to see him check out of one city and into another? It isn’t also hard to see Chase Utley traded.

Minnesota, both Chicago teams, Milwaukee, Miami with the Giancarlo Stanton Watch and perhaps the Angels all could undergo personnel facelifts in early preparation for spring training. The Angels won’t say it, but they’d love to be out from under Albert Pujols‘s contract. Probably the same goes with Josh Hamilton.

Meanwhile, the Mets are saying they won’t be sellers, but we’ve heard that before.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Mar 12

Chipper Jones Rejects Yankees

I was very glad to see Chipper Jones reject the Yankees’ overtures for a comeback. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to see Jones have a change of heart, but not with the Yankees … not with anybody else but the Braves.

CHIPPER: Turns down Yankees

CHIPPER: Turns down Yankees

I’ve always admired players to begin and end it with the same team. That ‘s what I want to see for David Wright. It’s one of the things I liked about Cal Ripken, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter.

It’s rare these days for a player to retire with the same team he began his career with. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that way with Pete Rose, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

The Yankees’ stream of injuries prompted WFAN to run a poll of retired players fans wanted to come back with the Yankees. Ripken was on the list. I wonder if it is more a sign of respect or just not being realistic.

Incidentally, Wright is enjoying his time at the WBC, but I can’t but wonder if his time would have been better off had he stayed in Port St. Lucie.

Think of it for a moment, he’s going to be the captain of this team, so it stands to reason his presence would be beneficial to the younger players in camp.

 

 

Jan 09

New Parameters For Hall Of Fame Voting?

The outcome of today’s Hall of Fame voting could have far reaching ramifications as to future induction parameters.

I voted for both Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell, both with good but not overwhelming numbers. My criteria was not only a long productive career, but that both performed of PEDs in that they were never formally accused, named in the Mitchell Report or failed a test. It was a testament to doing it cleanly. In that regard, I also saluted Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez.

These guys, and Jack Morris, approached most of these numbers the right way. Although he fell short because of injury, Mattingly had several dominating years before he was cut down by injury. Sandy Koufax is another who had a mixed career, mediocre followed by great numbers before an injury cut him down. Mattingly’s career was in reverse, with the numbers spiraling down in the end.

As far as Martinez is concerned, he’s being penalized by an anti-DH bias. Designated hitter is an established position and he was the best. He shouldn’t be discriminated against based on his position.

You know my feelings towards the rest.

Numbers have always played a big part in the voting process, with three historically providing an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame, those being 3,000 hits, 500 home runs and 300 victories. Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds touched those numbers, but could be left out. Voters in future years could tweak those numbers, but I am not sure how they will go. Will they raise the bar or enforce them even more with a continued anti-steroid bias?

I will choose the latter. I’ll continue to respect the numbers and vote against those who used PEDs until there is a change in the acknowledgement process. I believe the Hall of Fame is a baseball history museum, and history isn’t always clean. Would you have a Twentieth History Museum and not mention Hitler, Stalin or Charles Manson? Of course not. History is also damning.

In that regard, if the Hall of Fame were to acknowledge on their plaques the linkage to steroids and the baseball record books would have an asterisk next to their names and statistics, I could see changing my vote. But to let them in under the present acknowledgement process wouldn’t be right.

It is a lame argument to claim they didn’t break any baseball rules, but they did break the law. Using steroids without a doctor’s prescription is against the law. How else to you explain Clemens getting injections in his hotel room?

Until that changes, I can’t justify voting for those who cheated, and in future ballots that will include Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz.

 

Jun 10

Today in Mets History: Keith hammers Cubs.

Keith Hernandez wasn’t much of a home run hitter, but on this date in 1987, he went deep twice as the Mets pummeled the Chicago Cubs, 13-2, at Wrigley Field.

HERNANDEZ: So smooooth.

The game also featured four hits each from Gary Carter and Kevin McReynolds. Hernandez, Tim Teufel and Rafael Santana drove in three runs apiece, and Dwight Gooden pitched eight innings to earn the victory.

I always liked watching Hernandez play. Whenever I watched the Met from that era, Hernandez was always the guys I’d want at the plate when a clutch hit was needed. Darryl Strawberry was always feared for his power, but Hernandez was the one with the game on the line.

One question I’ll ask Hernandez when I see him next is whether he could have been a home run hitter if he tried to hit for more power. Wade Boggs always said he would hit more homers if that was his mindset, and I believe the same the same would have applied with Hernandez.

Defensively, he was superb, and along with Don Mattingly, New York was blessed to have two premier first basemen during the 1980s.

Hernandez was so smooth at the 3-6-3 double play, and, of course, making the throw to third off a bunt. Nobody made that play better than Hernandez.

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