The AJC’s Mark Bradley has a column up today with the headline: “With Lee again a Phil, are the Braves playing for the wild card?”
My answer — which I’ve been giving anyone who will listen since midnight Monday — is “Yes. Yes they are.” Even if you set aside their top two pitchers who will often face opposing aces, they will have a supreme advantage in 60+ starts in which their starters face vastly inferior three and four starters from the opposition. That’s a recipe for a double-digit division lead, possibly before the All-Star break.
For that reason, I don’t plan on considering Philadelphia as the Braves’ primary competition next year. I’m going to consider the competition to be the Reds, Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, Cubs, Padres and whoever else might muster enough for a run at the wild card. It’ll make my summer much easier, that’s for sure.
And it’s not like such a thing is defeatism. Why not? Because in 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2007, the NL pennant winner was the wild card team. And in 2006 the pennant winner was the weakest of any of the NL playoff representatives during the regular season. And last year’s pennant winner — the Giants — mowed down the Phillies’ already-formidable rotation.
Lament the near impossible task of winning the NL East next year, Braves fans (and Marlins, Mets and Nationals fans), but don’t worry too much if the wild card represents the best shot at your team making the playoffs. NL wild card teams do quite well with that, thank you very much.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.