Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The State of the Races

10 Comments

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.

White Sox ballpark to be renamed “Guaranteed Rate Field”

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 10:  General view as members of the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins stand for the National Anthem before the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on April 10, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images
7 Comments

Stadium naming rights have long been with us. They’re just a part of the sports landscape now. Some are pretty spiffy despite their corporate underwriting: “Great American Ballpark” could be the name of a sports facility even if it wasn’t also the name of an insurance company. “Progressive Field” could be the name of a field even an anti-corporate dude like Bernie Sanders could appreciate, at least if he’s sloppy with capitalization.

Others are clunky: “Globe Life Park in Arlington” seems to have both adjective and preposition problems, as if it were run through a foreign language translator and then back again to English. The joint in Oakland went by the name O.co Coliseum for a spell. That was for Overstock.com, but it didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

At the risk of being snobbish, I think it’s fair to say that there are also higher and lower rent names as well. Banks, airlines and beer companies, however crassly commercial they are, seem a bit more respectable and venerable than, say, the fly-by-night dot com companies which named sports facilities for several years. “Chase” and “Coors” aren’t going anyplace. Those places are named after American institutions, even if they’re still corporate institutions. I’m pretty sure that circa 2001 half the stadiums and arenas in the country were named after businesses still being run out of tech incubators in nondescript office parks, their first biggest investment being the naming rights, their second biggest investment being the ping pong table in the break room.

The White Sox have long played in “U.S. Cellular Field.” This is pretty dicey as it is, given that that company is only a regional wireless provider. Fifth largest in the country. Certainly not A-list, and likely far more identifiable to more Americans as the name of a ballpark than the name of a going telecommunications concern, thereby sort of defeating the purpose of naming rights. Which must be why U.S. Cellular is getting out of the naming rights business, leaving the White Sox to find a different naming rights partner:

As the tenth largest mortgage company in the country, is there even any guarantee that Guaranteed Rate will be in business in 2030? If the choices are “it goes under,” “it gets purchased by a larger lender” and “it’s still there,” I am not putting money on the latter choice.

That aside, it’s just a goofy name for a ballpark. It’ll better lend itself to columnist jokes about bad guaranteed contracts for bust veterans than it will to spreading awareness of a financial services company. And don’t even get me started on the dissonance between the ballpark name and its tenant’s ticket price policies:

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.48.18 PM

Best work on that, guys.

UPDATE: LOL

 

Phillies’ Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz cleared waivers

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies follows through on a 3 RBI double in the ninth inning off of Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 10,  2016 in Los Angeles, California. Phillies won 6-2.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Leave a comment

ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz have both cleared waivers, which means the club can attempt to trade either player unimpeded. Stark adds that two teams are mulling a pursuit of Ruiz, but Howard is “virtually certain” to stay with the Phillies.

Howard, 36, has unimpressive overall stats, as he’s carrying a .198/.252/.445 triple-slash line with 19 home runs and 43 RBI in 286 plate appearances. The Phillies have limited Howard to right-handed pitching by platooning him with Tommy Joseph.

Shockingly, Howard has been one of the best hitters of the second half, as Corinne Landrey explains at FanGraphs. Using wRC+, an all encompassing offensive statistic that sets 100 at average, only Joey Votto has been a more productive hitter since the All-Star break, owning a 226 wRC+ to Howard’s 191. Howard is trailed by Freddie Freeman (179), Adrian Gonzalez (149), and Paul Goldschmidt (140).

Howard is owed the remainder of his $25 million salary for the 2016 season as well as a $10 million buyout for ’17. Despite Howard’s productive second half and even if the Phillies were to cover all of the remaining money owed, there won’t be much of a market for an inconsistent 1B/DH in his mid-30’s who can’t field, can’t run, and can’t hit left-handed pitching.

Ruiz, 37, has had a solid season, batting .261/.368/.352 in 193 plate appearances. Like Howard, Ruiz has lost playing time at his primary position to a younger player — Cameron Rupp, in this case. Ruiz is owed the remainder of his $8.5 million salary and is under contract next season if his controlling club picks up his $4.5 million option. That option may make him even more attractive to interested clubs, as Ruiz is still a valuable catcher. He has accrued 1.3 Wins Above Replacement despite limited playing time and has a reputation for working well with his pitchers. A playoff-bound club could do a lot worse.