The National League Wild Card race just got, well, pretty wild.
Craig Kimbrel had the Marlins down to their final strike in the bottom of the ninth inning tonight, but the rookie closer served up a walkoff two-run home run to former Brave Omar Infante en route to a stunning 6-5 loss. The home run followed a single by Emilio Bonifacio which was originally ruled as an error on Chipper Jones.
Kimbrel has allowed home runs in consecutive appearances after giving up just one over his first 75 games. Perhaps this is just something fluky, but one wonders if his heavy workload is finally catching up to him.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals survived a ninth inning rally to beat the Phillies 4-3. Kyle Lohse allowed an unearned run over 7 1/3 innings in the victory, besting Roy Halladay.
Following tonight’s action, the Braves hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals in the Wild Card race. It’s actually two games if you count the loss column. And don’t forget about the suddenly hot Giants, who are 3 1/2 back. The Braves have eight games remaining while the Cardinals and Giants will play nine apiece.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?