*** Scott’s Note: Please read my comments (No.5), as they give a partial retraction for some of what I wrote here.***
Despite what ESPN would lead you to believe, there are a few other teams involved in baseball, besides the Yankees and Red Sox. (Yeah, I know your marketing research tells you otherwise, but c’mon.)
Let me begin with the White Sox. Can you imagine if Ozzie Guillen was manager of the Yankees? His press conference’s would have their own time slot, though subtitles would probably be needed. Guillen just might be the best quote in the history of coaching. Don’t give me Casey Stengel or Yogi Berra as being superior. Their verbal stumbling was fun, but Ozzie says stuff publicly that only the darkest part of your brain would contemplate. Once again, not defending, just saying he’s the most interesting person in baseball and the MLB should be promoting it, as he would be a key into capturing a younger demographic. Ozzie Guillen: Sports first Gangsta Manager.
Now on to the team. The pitchers look tired and have seemed that way since June. With all the innings they logged over the past few years, it’s not surprising this would happen. Kenny Williams knew this could occur, which is why he obtained Javier Vasquez in the off-season. (Paying a heavy price for him.) I’m guessing that Ozzie and pitching coach Don Cooper thought they could revive Javier back to his glory days in Montreal. I can see why they would think that, as he is tantalizing to watch, putting together 5 good innings most games he pitches. The problem would be that he can’t escape the big inning. In crunch times, Vasquez can’t stop from delivering hanging breaking balls that even Omar Infante could hit. Vasquez reminds me some of Jose Contreas before he had his breakthrough last June. This is the long-shot ticket the Sox are still gripping in their fingers.
Considering that the White Sox have one of the best young starting pitchers in its bullpen by the name of Brandon McCarthy, it’s time to try something different. McCarthy is well-rested and has superior stuff to probably anyone in the rotation, so put him in there. Use this time to give Garcia, Buerhle and, Contreas each a stint on the 15 day DL to rejuvenate. I know I’m not the pitching expert (sorry he’s gone to a higher profile gig), but I think it’s worth a try, as the starting pitching has been in a rut for awhile. I’m not sure only 15 days off could help Garcia, but I think it might do the trick for the other 2.
The only reason the White Sox have a chance to still make the playoffs is the Twins misfortune, much of it brought upon themselves. Anyone who could do the numbers knew that Batista and Castro were horrible lineup holes. It seemed like a slam dunk to pick up a Frank Thomas or Mike Piazza to DH on the cheap. These poor decisions might very well keep them out of the playoffs. The Twins management have been great at developing young talent, but the lack of picking up a veteran player to push them over the top must be maddening for their fans. Despite these bad moves, if they still had a dominant Liriano, I would make them my choice as World Champs. Without him, they are just like everyone else just trying to hang on.
I still don’t believe in the Tigers. I think their starting pitching is ready to implode, but much like the 2005 White Sox, they have a big enough lead that they should be able to make it to the divisional round. Unlike the 2005 White Sox, I don’t see them getting past that.
Considering how much attention is paid to the Yankees and Red Sox, I can’t think of anything new I could offer. My pre-season picks had the Yankees winning it all and the Red Sox not even in the playoffs. Can’t see why I would change those choices, now.
Baseball Prospectus is where I get the majority of my news about the game. The one blind spot that most of its writers (and the rest of the sabermetric community) have had is its failing to be impartial about Billy Beane and his former employees. J.P. Riccardi falls under this category, as he was even quoted on the cover of the 2003 edition touting BP. Hey, I know it’s hard to rip the one’s you love, but Ricciardi made a colossal mistake in signing A.J. Burnett to a 5 year deal and it will be a franchise albatross for the next 4 years. While BP has questioned some of their moves, the attacks have generally been muted in regards to bad moves by Beane, Ricciardi, DePodesta, etc. Now that Ricciardi has ripped former BP writer Keith Law, I’m guessing the kid gloves will come off. Maybe a little too late, though.
It will be interesting to see if the A’s can hold on, using good defense and a superior bullpen to hold the rest of their weak elements together. My guess is that the former qualites will lessen, but improved hitting and starting pitching will step up and help them outlast the Angels. I’ve not been a fan of most of new GM Jon Daniels’ moves and I think Buck Showalter is a negative force as a manager. I sure do love their park, though. (insert smiley face)
Since I did it for the NL here is how I see the AL teams winding up at the end of the season.
3. White Sox (wildcard)
5. Red Sox
9. Blue Jays