By Allyus Fritz
There is just over a month and a half before we officially know who will make what Joe Madden’s affectionately calls “the tournament”. Twenty teams will begin their offseason while ten others will continue a quest that began back in spring training. Until that time comes, we have the opportunity to sit back and watch it all unfold. Here’s August’s edition of the Seventh Inning Stretch.
There will certainly be more drama in the AL than the NL as we come down to the end. Each division is up for grabs and the two teams that will play in the dreaded Wild-Card game could literally come down to eight different teams. In my opinion the NL only has one serious divisional race.
Nelson Cruz’s suspension hurts the Rangers’ chances of catching the A’s. I don’t think they will. Oakland continues to win despite the fact that Texas and Los Angeles throw their money at whoever they want. My belief is that when a player is fighting to stay on a team, as opposed to living it up with a new contract, that player is more likely to give maximum effort and play his best baseball. That’s why Oakland continues to outshine their competitors.
Thank God the New York Yankees don’t have a prayer of making the playoffs. Can you imagine the additional attention A-Rod would get if the Bronx Bombers made the tournament? It makes me want to pull my hair out just thinking about it. Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa Bay all have a realistic shot of winning the East and that’s enough for me.
Can the Pirates really hold on and win the Central Division? If Pittsburgh can win the division and get the number one seed in the NL they could very easily find themselves in the NLCS because of their success against the Central this season. It’s clear at this point that both of the Wild-Card teams will come from the Central, therefore their first round match-up would be against the Cardinals or the Reds. Recently Pittsburgh humiliated St. Louis, almost completing a five game sweep.
Aside from the central there is literally not any drama in the NL. Can the Arizona Diamondbacks catch the Los Angeles Dodgers? Paul Goldschmidt is going to have to pull an A-Rod to get Arizona to make a charge at Los Angeles. Speaking of A-Rod…
The biogenesis suspensions are just another black eye for a sport that’s already black and blue. Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, and others have accepted their suspensions, admitting guilt all at the same time. The only one that won’t come completely clean is Rodriguez, who far and away has become a distraction. What a fall from grace! He’s essentially just playing in an attempt to squeeze as much money out of the league that he can. Anyone who feels sorry for him should be ashamed. He went from a king to a court jester in a matter of years.
The saddest thing of all is that the game that we love is getting press or all the wrong reasons. Baseball should be getting press for…
Baseball Personalities and Why We Need More of Them
All the young stars in baseball represent the sport’s bright future in more ways than one. Not only will the competition continue to be amazing, but also the stars of tomorrow will hopefully all stay clean, giving baseball a clean streak it desperately needs. Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and other young stars have to continue to produce on clean energy.
To go along with that, baseball needs a villain that didn’t cheat. Players that get booed now are ones that cheated, like A-Rod. Only a few players get booed for legitimate reasons, like when Derek Jeter comes up to bat at Fenway Park. They boo him because they hate the Yankees and they respect him, not because he’s injecting himself with poison. Philadelphia used to boo Scott Rolen because of his comments about the city. All of this is okay.
More of passionate hatred needs to happen. Yasiel Puig and Bryce Harper have ruffled feathers league wide since they have come up to the bigs. Players who fans love to hate is what every other league has and it’s exactly what baseball needs. Baseball needs a Lebron James, a Kobe Bryant, a Tom Brady. Hell, even a Jim Harbaugh or two.
Biggest Surprise Since The All-Star Break
The Kansas City Royals have been on an absolute tear. In my past articles this season I’ve expressed my frustration with the Royals. They have an immense amount of talent but never seem to perform like they should. Since the All-Star break this group of underachievers has finally broke out, winning 14 of 18 games. Eric Hosmer has become a batter to be feared. Even Billy “country breakfast” Butler has been producing out of the three spot. The incredible thing is that recently the Tigers and Indians have been just as hot, resulting in the Royals not gaining any ground for over a week and a half. I sincerely hope that the Royals didn’t wait too long to realize their potential and they can make a run at the division crown.
Disappointments Since The All-Star Break
What a dud of a trading deadline. So many moves that would have made teams better were left undone. The Pirates could use another bat in their lineup but they were quieter than a sleeping baby. The Marlins decided to keep Giancarlo Stanton instead of fire selling literally the entire team. However, Miami could have gotten a boat load (a buccaneer ship sized load, if ya know what I’m saying) of young talent out a trade with Pittsburgh. Instead, it remains a wasted opportunity for both teams.
Don’t get me started on Raul Ibanez. There is absolutely no reason he should still be wearing a Mariners uniform.
What is Ruben Amaro doing? The Philadelphia Phillies should have known that they weren’t cut out for catching the Atlanta Braves (I did). Instead of dealing stars like Chase Utley and Cliff Lee, Amaro decided to keep everyone. How much does Utley still have in the tank? How much Jimmy Rollins still have left in him? Philadelphia could have replenished their farm system like the Chicago Cubs did. Right now the Phillies are only two games ahead of the Cubs in the win column. Was it worth it?
The San Francisco Giants are another disappointment. Their club is essentially the same team that won the championship last year. Inconsistency and a couple of key injuries sunk the ship. We all know they’ll be back next year though.
Not So Obscenely Early Playoff Scenario
If the season ended today…
Wild Card Game: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays
4. Rangers/Rays vs. 1. Boston Red Sox
3. Oakland Athletics vs. 2. Detroit Tigers
Wild Card Game: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals
4. Reds/Cardinals vs. 1. Atlanta Braves
3. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. 2. Pittsburgh Pirates
Sticking To My Guns
For the most part I’m going with the same scenario I’ve been thinking about all along. I’m predicting more than just who will make the playoffs this time. My World Series prediction is here too.
Wild Card Game: Boston Red Sox over Texas Rangers
Boston Red Sox over Oakland Athletics in 4
Tampa Bay Rays over Detroit Tigers in 5
Tampa Bay Rays over Boston Red Sox in 6
Wild Card Game: Cincinnati Reds over Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals over Cincinnati Reds in 5
Los Angeles Dodgers over Atlanta Braves in 4
Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cardinals in 6
Los Angeles Dodgers over Tampa Bay Rays in 6
There will be another 7th Inning Stretch before October comes, and hopefully I don’t have to eat my words by that time.
See you in September.