First the news: The Padres exercised 1B Adrian Gonzalez’s $5.5 million option for 2011. The only time Jed Hoyer had a decision easier than this was the time that guy asked him if he’d rather have delicious chocolate cake or a knee to the groin. He probably decided on the Gonzalez option even quicker, actually. There will always be more cake, after all. A stud first baseman for that price doesn’t come around very often.
But that’s not really why I’m posting this. I’m posting it because Adrian Gonzalez represents everything that went wrong last offseason.
Beloved players with bargain contracts are supposed to be traded away before they get expensive. Or at least they’re supposed to be given the cold shoulder by their current club so as to ensure that the Yankees and Red Sox of the world signed them. By keeping Gonzalez last year and teasing their fans with a season of high quality baseball and hope — hope! — until the very last day, the Padres disturbed the natural order of things.
Look San Diego: the other baseball writers and I have a lot of content in the can for these situations. We’re supposed to be writing the trade rumor stories now. By January we’re supposed to be writing the “well, the [Yankees/Red Sox] bought another title” column. In March we’re supposed to bury you for your cheapness and complete lack of playoff chances. On Opening Day we write about how to fix baseball so there’s actual parity in it instead of the usual hope and despair for all but the richest of the rich. By holding on to Gonzalez last year and having the gall to contend, you screwed all of that up.
So, if you could, get back to the program, will ya?
Here we are, the final day of the regular season. And every game with playoff implications will start at the same time: 3:05 p.m. ET. What to watch …
American League Wild Card
NYY @ BAL
HOU @ ARI
LAA @ TEX
This is where the most intrigue lies heading into the day. We have the Yankees currently in position for hosting duties, but they’re only one game up on Houston. And then Houston is only one game up on Anaheim. Also at play here is that the Astros are just one game back of the Rangers in the American League West standings. If the Yankees, Astros, and Rangers all win on Sunday the current postseason map stays the same — the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday will be at Yankee Stadium with the Astros visiting. And the Angels would obviously be out. But if the Angels win and the Astros lose, we’ll have a play-in game Monday. And if the Yankees lose, the location of the Wild Card Game on Tuesday could change.
American League West
HOU @ ARI
LAA @ TEX
As we touched on above, the Astros are still in a position to force a tiebreaker for the division if the Angels beat the Rangers again in Arlington. It’ll be Garrett Richards against Cole Hamels in that one. Houston is throwing Lance McCullers vs. Robbie Ray in Arizona.
American League Best Record
KC @ MIN
TOR @ TB
If the AL Central-champion Royals (94-67) beat the Twins on Saturday behind deadline acquisition Johnny Cueto, they’ll get the Wild Card Game winner in the ALDS and clinch homefield advantage throughout the postseason. But if they lose, the Blue Jays (93-68) could move into that top seed because they won their season series against Kansas City 4-3. Mark Buehrle is pitching for Toronto in what is supposed to be his final major league game.
National League Wild Card
CIN @ PIT
CHC @ MIL
Pittsburgh losing and Chicago winning on Saturday kept Wild Card Game hosting duties alive for Wrigley Field. If the Pirates fall again to the Reds and the Cubs win at Miller Park, the game Wild Card Game Wednesday will be in Chicago because the Cubs have the season-series edge (11-8) over the Bucs. Pittsburgh can wrap up clinching duties with a victory behind J.A. Happ.
Stay tuned. We’ll be covering all angles as the 2015 regular season comes to a close.
There was a pretty cool moment in Saturday’s game between the Reds and Pirates.
A.J. Burnett has announced that this will be his final season, so his start Saturday at PNC Park might have been the last time he ever pitches off a major league mound. (Pittsburgh has to make it through the Wild Card Game to get the 38-year-old right-hander another turn).
Aware of all this, Joey Votto made eye contact with Burnett just before his at-bat in the top of the first inning and gave a tip of the cap. Er, batting helmet …