The State of the Races

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Trying something new here: a daily snapshot of the pennant races. It may be a bad time to do such a thing given that, you know, we have one little pennant race of note and it tends to get less interesting every time the Angels get close, but I think it’s OK. Sort of like how a recession is often thought of as a good time to start a business because things can only improve, this may be the best time to launch a daily playoff race roundup too. Or not, but we can’t know until we try, right?

AL EAST

The spread: Yankees ahead of Boston by two and a half games, Yankees Red Sox leading the Rays in the Wild Card by seven.

The skinny: Yankees won yesterday, Boston lost. Each team has some bipolar thing going on with its pitching. One day you see good things, the next day they’re giving up double digits. Since both the Yankees and the Sox have a playoff spot more or less locked up, finding some kind of consistency and groove is the name of the game in September. Oh, and staying healthy. Josh Beckett’s ankle sprain is obvious concern for the Sox.

AL CENTRAL

The spread: Tigers seven and a half ahead of Cleveland, eight ahead of Chicago.

The skinny: Detroit has taken care of each pretender/contender in the division quite handily when meeting them face-to-face, and this week’s series against Cleveland seems no different. Everyone’s talking about Justin Verlander, but then Doug Fister strikes out 13 guys yesterday. This can be overstated because writers are out trolling for storylines right now, but the Tigers are a pretty dangerous-looking team.

AL WEST

The spread: Rangers ahead of the Angels by two and a half.

The skinny: Wow, a bona fide pennant race! Rangers lost yesterday, Angles won. Worth noting that the Rangers appear to have the easier schedule the rest of the way by virtue of the Angels having to play a series against the Yankees. But let’s hope this stays close through the end of the season, because we have a Texas-Anaheim series from September 26-28th that sure would be awesome if it was meaningful. We’re owed that, right?

NL EAST

The spread: Phillies eight and a half up on the Braves, Braves leading the Giants in the Wild Card by eight and a half themselves.

The skinny: It’s not the biggest lead by number of games — that goes to the Brewers in the Central — but it is the biggest gulf in team quality between first and second.

NL CENTRAL

The spread: Brewers up by ten and a half over St. Louis.

The skinny: The actual race is over, but the race to see who will be the last person in the media to stop referring to the Cardinals as a contender is still hot and heavy. Really, I can’t recall a team with a double-digit deficit with under 30 games to play who so frequently has their “playoff chances” referred to in game stories and the like.  Let it go, folks, let it go.

NL WEST

The spread: Diamondbacks seven up on the Giants

The skinny: The Giants have the worst run-differential of any second place team in baseball. Also the worst offense. You can’t gain ground when your only viable strategy is to wait for the other team to totally and utterly crater.

Must-read: A profile on former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, currently in jail for alleged murders of three men

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Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times has an outstanding profile of former Rays prospect Brandon Martin, who is currently in jail for allegedly murdering three men nearly two years ago.

Fenno describes Martin’s erratic personality as he became a highly-touted baseball prospect who then descends into drug use. Friends described Martin has having completely changed into an unrecognizable person. Martin had repeated conflicts with friends and family such that police reports became common and he was placed in a psychiatric facility. Sadly, the facility only held him for less than 48 hours. He would allegedly murder three people upon returning home: his father, his brother-in-law, and a home security system contractor. Martin fled from police, who eventually caught up to him and subdued him with the help of a police dog.

Fenno’s profile is really worth a read, so click here to check it out.

Martin, 23, was selected by the Rays in the first round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. He spent three years in the Rays’ system, reaching as high as Single-A Bowling Green.

Pedro Martinez: “If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him.”

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On Sunday, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes was ejected for throwing at Orioles third baseman Manny Machado‘s head. It was revenge for a slide of Machado’s which ended up injuring Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Barnes was suspended four games.

Hall of Famer and former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez said that if he were in Barnes’ shoes, he would have also thrown at Machado, although not necessarily at his head. Via ESPN’s Scott Lauber:

If I was pitching, I was going to drill Machado, as much as I love him. The only thing I would’ve done differently is probably bring the ball a little bit lower.

Martinez added that Machado “did not intend to hurt Pedroia. And I know that because I know Machado.” And he doesn’t think Barnes meant to throw at Machado’s head.

Martinez, of course, was certainly a pitcher who wasn’t afraid to pitch inside to batters and even hit a few of them when he felt he or his teammates had been wronged. This is an unfortunate part of baseball’s culture and the fact that it continues means that it will eventually result in someone being seriously hurt. It’s disappointing that Martinez isn’t willing to be a better role model now that his playing days are over. Martinez could have set an example for today’s pitchers by saying what Barnes did crossed a line. Getting a Hall of Famer’s seal of approval will only embolden players now when they feel they must defend their teammates’ honor.

The “tradition” of beaning batters to defend one’s teammates is anachronistic in today’s game, especially when Major League Baseball has made strides in so many other ways recently to protect players’ safety.