You really can’t predict baseball. The 78-67 Dodgers, vying for first place in the NL West, entered Wednesday afternoon’s action in Cincinnati having lost all six matchups against the 63-83, last-place Reds this season. The Dodgers’ Opening Day payroll was nearly twice that of the Reds’.
How bad has it been for the Dodgers against the Reds in 2018? Consider that, this season, Reds starter Homer Bailey has a 6.09 ERA. The Reds are 1-19 in games he’s started. That one win came on May 12 against the Dodgers when Bailey allowed three runs on 10 hits and two walks with four strikeouts over five innings.
Wednesday afternoon was the Dodgers’ last chance to get on the board against the Reds and they finally did it. Joc Pederson tied the game at 1-1 with a solo homer to lead off the fourth inning and the Dodgers took the lead later that inning on a fan interference call. The Dodgers plated four more runs in the fifth and two in the sixth to take an 8-1 lead. They would go on to win 8-1.
Ross Stripling started for the Dodgers, yielding a lone run over 3 1/3 innings before giving way to the bullpen. Zac Rosscup, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro, Pat Venditte, Josh Fields, and Kenley Jansen combined to get the final 17 outs. Jansen was making his first appearance in a week.
With the win, the Dodgers pick up a half-game in the standings on the first-place Rockies, who play the Diamondbacks in the evening. The gap between the Rockies and Dodgers is now only one game. The D-Backs trail the Rockies by 2.5 games. Things are getting real interesting in the NL West with the finish line on the horizon.
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?