Previewing the final day of the 2014 regular season …

7 Comments

There are still three undecided races heading into the final day of the regular season: the American League Central, the National League Central, and the second American League Wild Card spot. Let’s get weird.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

1:08 p.m. ET: Twins at Tigers

July 31 deadline acquisition David Price can put a bow on Detroit’s fourth consecutive American League Central championship with a win over the Twins and Kyle Gibson. It’s as simple as that for the Tigers.

2:10 p.m. ET: Royals at White Sox

If the Tigers don’t beat the Twins, the Royals can force an AL Central tiebreaker (Game 163) in Detroit on Monday if the Royals beat the White Sox on Sunday behind flame-throwing rookie Yordano Ventura. Chicago is throwing Chris Bassitt. At worst, the Royals will host the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday.

 

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1:05 p.m. ET: Pirates at Reds

The Pirates can force a Game 163 for the National League Central title if they beat the Reds on Sunday afternoon and the Cardinals lose. The Bucs are facing Johnny Cueto in Cincinnati and the Cardinals are throwing Adam Wainwright at Arizona, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle has decided to use Gerrit Cole in Game 162 rather than save him for Wednesday’s National League Wild Card Game. Pittsburgh has already clinched hosting duties for that Wild Card Game. The Giants are locked in as the opponent.

4:10 p.m. ET: Cardinals at Diamondbacks

If the Cardinals win in Arizona, they’ll have their second straight National League Central crown. It’s pretty simple for St. Louis. Wainwright is expected to get the ball no matter what happens in Cincinnati.

 

AMERICAN LEAGUE WILD CARD

3:05 p.m. ET: Athletics at Rangers

The A’s can lock up the second American League Wild Card spot with a win behind 24-year-old right-hander Sonny Gray, who rattled off a career-high 12 strikeouts in his last outing. The Rangers could throw left-hander Derek Holland, who was scratched from his start on Saturday night due to a migraine headache.

4:10 p.m. ET: Angels at Mariners

The Mariners kept their hopes alive with a dramatic 11th-inning victory over the Angels on Saturday night at Safeco Field and have ace right-hander Felix Hernandez pitching in Game 162. If the A’s lose on Sunday to the Rangers, the M’s can force a Wild Card tiebreaker on Monday. Seattle would host that game.

 

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

Getty Images
6 Comments

The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.