ALDS Preview: Orioles vs. Yankees

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You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Orioles and Yankees have in store for us in the American League Division Series.

The Teams

Baltimore Orioles (93-69) vs. New York Yankees (95-67)

The Matchups

Game 1 Sunday in Baltimore: CC Sabathia vs. Jason Hammel
Game 2 Monday in Baltimore: Andy Pettitte vs. Wei-Yin Chen
Game 3 Wednesday in New York: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Hiroki Kuroda
Game 4 (if necessary) Thursday in New York
Game 5 (if necessary) Friday in New York

Analysis: Everything about this series points to a Yankees sweep, from the pitching matchups to the lineups to the payrolls. Sabathia allowed just four runs over his final 24 regular-season innings and is capable of keeping that run of dominance going throughout the month of October. Hammel, meanwhile, hasn’t appeared in a game since aggravating his surgically-repaired knee on September 11. He was the Orioles’ most reliable starter this summer, but it seems doubtful that he’s back to full health after just four weeks of rest.

Pettitte looked great after returning in mid-September from a leg fracture and has logged 263 career postseason innings. Chen is a 27-year-old rookie from Taiwain who might be in over his head.

The Storylines

  • The teams split their 18 regular-season meetings 9-9. New York was outscored 92-90.
  • Kuroda, the Yankees’ Game 3 starter, hasn’t been given nearly enough credit for his fantastic regular-season performance. He was a rock in that ever-changing starting rotation, posting a solid 3.32 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 167/51 K/BB ratio across 219 2/3 innings (33 starts) for the AL East champs.
  • Camden Yards should be jamming for the first two games of this five-game set. One of MLB’s most aesthetically-pleasing parks, it hasn’t hosted postseason play since 1997, when the roster included the likes of Brady Anderson, Roberto Alomar and Cal Ripken, Jr. Tickets sold out swiftly last week.
  • Orioles center fielder Adam Jones had a breakout regular season, batting .287 with an .839 OPS and 32 home runs while appearing in all 162 games. He’ll be looking to shine on the big stage.
  • Manny Machado, the Orioles’ 20-year-old third baseman, was promoted to the majors from Double-A Bowie on August 9 and quickly made it known that he’d be up to stay. He showed great awareness on defense down the stretch while slugging seven home runs, eight doubles and three triples in 51 games. The youngster can be a difference-maker. Truth be told, the O’s need him to be.
  • Alex Rodriguez had one of the least productive regular seasons of his 19-year major league career. And he tallied just two hits in 23 plate appearances last October as the Yankees were ousted in the ALDS by the Tigers. If his recent struggles continue, the boo birds will be out at Yankee Stadium.

Prediction

The Yankees have too much hitting and too much pitching for Baltimore to keep up. You could say that about probably every matchup the Orioles faced this summer, but it feels like the magic is finally ready to run out. Look for the Bronx Bombers to advance easily to the ALCS with a clean sweep.

YANKEES WIN THE SERIES 3-0

Miguel Cabrera has two herniated discs in his back

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Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera underwent an MRI which revealed two herniated discs in his back, MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports. With six games remaining in the season, if Cabrera plays again, it will be as a designated hitter.

The back issues shed a lot of light on Cabrera’s uncharacteristically subpar season. He’s batting .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI in 529 plate appearances this season. He carries an adjusted OPS of 92, which is eight points below the league average and 14 points below his previous career low set in 2003 with the Marlins.

Cabrera, 34, is signed through 2023 and is owed a minimum of $192 million through the end of his contract.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.