There has been a lot of chatter about how the 2-3 format of the division series — with the higher seed starting on the road for two games — is not really a home field advantage. It certainly hasn’t been for the A’s, as they have started off their series 0-2 in Detroit despite having said advantage, theoretically speaking.
Jonny Gomes put a bit of a point on that yesterday when he spoke with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Gomes said the A’s 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. buses to the ballpark Sunday felt like 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. for the West Coast team. “It’s tough to call that a home-field advantage,” he said. …
Well, I guess that does kinda stink. And given that, aside from this year’s schedule, which was necessitated by a compressed playoff calendar, baseball has generally abandoned the 2-3 structure, it seems that no one really agrees that 2-3 advantages the higher-seeded team. Also mitigating against any advantage in a 2-3 is the fact that, over the course of baseball history, winners of Game 1 in any series have a pronounced edge.
That said, outside of the Oakland-Tigers tilt, the higher-seeded teams in these division series are 4-0 so far, so I don’t think Gomes is gonna get too many people to join his pity party.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.