St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Lohse delivers a pitch to a Washington Nationals batter during the first inning of their MLB National League baseball game in St. Louis

Looking ahead to tonight’s playoff action

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Sad jams:  this could be the last time we have multiple baseball games on one day this year. What’s on tap:

Giants vs. Cardinals, 4PM Eastern: Fox:  The series is tied 1-1, but in some ways it feels like the Cardinals are behind. Probably because their starting pitching is in need of some stability. Indeed, they haven’t had a starter go more than four innings in three straight playoff games. Sure, they’ve won two of those three games, but they can’t really expect to make it through a seven game series with the tightrope act they’ve had on display.

Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) takes the hill for the Cards and will try to turn that dynamic around. This will be his first action against San Francisco this season.  Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA) goes for the Giants. He faced the Cardinals twice in 2012 and was beat up pretty badly, surrendering nine runs in 11 and two-thirds innings over two starts.  At present it looks like Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro will play despite the strained hip he suffered as a result of Matt Holliday’s farkakte slide in Monday’s game, but he is in some pain and we could just as easily see Ryan Theriot take his place.

Yankees vs. Tigers, 8PM Eastern: TBS: It’s do or die time for the Bombers, and if they have to do, at least they have CC Sabathia on the mound. The Yankees ace came up aces in each of his two playoff starts so far, and they need him to do it again or else it’s fishin’ season for New York. He’s 15-6 with a 3.38 ERA on the year. He made three starts against the Tigers in 2012, winning all three, while allowing eight earned runs in 21 and two-thirds.  Countering Sabathia will be Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74). He was rocked by the Yankees in his lone start against them this year, but that came way back on April 29, and Scherzer in the second half of the season was a way different pitcher — a way better one — than he was back then.

The real issue isn’t the pitching, though — the Yankees’ pitching has been pretty fantastic, actually — it’s the dead bats. A-Rod and Nick Swisher seem like personae non gratae in Joe Girardi’s lineup, and even when they’ve been in it, they have been non-entities. As has Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and just about everyone else.  You can’t win if you don’t score, and the Yankees just haven’t done it. If this is the last time they play in 2012, it’ll be because the bats just died.

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)
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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:

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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)
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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.