I just don’t see the problem – at all – with the Yankees being a 100-win Wild Card team, so I’m not inclined to listen to the woeful chatter out there about it. That’s the entire point of the Wild Card! If it didn’t exist, they’d be a 100-win nothing. Don’t want to be the Wild Card team? Win more games. Don’t want to miss the playoffs entirely but you’re stuck in a division with a monster? Take the Wild Card.
I understand that the one-game playoff format may seem unfair – and maybe it is! – but it accomplishes so much. For one, it provides an avenue for more teams to play in October, and in a guaranteed decisive game at that. For another, it added a layer of intrigue to an AL East race that otherwise long would have soured (the Yankees were just swept by the Red Sox and are now 9.0 games out of first). And for yet another, it helps more middling teams stay relevant/competitive for longer.
- But perhaps my biggest beef with the Yankees’ (non)problem is that something extremely similar happened with the Cardinals, Cubs, and Pirates back in 2015:
Indeed. The 2015 Cubs won 97(!) games – five(!) more than any team in the NL East or West – and were the second(!) Wild Card team. https://t.co/WAMFtlmyOo
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) August 8, 2018
- Again, maybe the one-game Wild Card format needs to be reconsidered, but let’s not pretend this is 1) new or 2) peculiarly unfair to the Yankees. It’s neither.
- But I’ll concede that it can be improved, and at FanGraphs, Travis Sawchik offers an extremely enticing solution: “I suggested baseball adopt the best-of-two Wild Card format employed by the KBO. The lower seed needs to win both games, both on the road … while the top Wild Card just needs to win once to advance.” This gives a bigger advantage to the home team than just home field advantage in a single game *and* it’s a much bigger advantage difference than switching to a best-of-three series (which is often the most suggested alternative). Give Sawchik’s article a look, I think he and the KBO are onto something. [Brett: A big part of the argument here is that it’s less flukey than a one-gamer, extends the “wait” period for the division winners by only one day, and doesn’t require a pitching-staff-crushing double-header to pull off a three-game set in two days. The big con, as far as I can see? Feels less dramatic.]
- Of course, if the league really does expand to 32 teams and the playoffs expand thereafter, this entire conversation could become moot or even trickier for baseball overall. While I am 100% always on board for changing the sport if it’s for the better, too many changes is not a good thing. So if the commissioner sees expansion and a new playoff system within, say, the next 5-10 years, perhaps it’s better to leave things how they are instead of making massive changes … twice.
- 19-year-old phenom Juan Soto continues to impress, hitting his 14th home run last night. That puts him just ahead of Mickey Mantle (13) and just behind Ken Griffey Jr. (16) for most homers in age 19 or younger season. The three guys ahead of them on the list include Mel Ott (18), Bryce Harper (22), and Tony Conigliaro (24). CBS Sports has some other lists and rankings to really underscore just how impressive everything Juan Soto has done has been.
- Do you remember when the Braves’ announcer blasted the Dodgers’ earlier this season for a “very unprofessional” batting practice session? You know, the session that featured – *gasp* – shorts and t-shirts?! Well that same guy, Joe Simpson, raised some questions about Soto’s actual age and if he was older than he was letting on. The basis for those questions apparently was Soto’s size, success, and country of origin (where age issues haven’t been a thing in like a decade). He later backtracked those comments, and, sure, people make mistakes, but this guy can’t stop making ’em, it seems. Whether you like or dislike Len and JD, they aren’t out there embarrassing the Cubs fan base.
- Shohei Ohtani (elbow) has been playing the role of designated hitter for the Angels for some time now, but hasn’t thrown a competitive Major League pitch since June when he hurt his elbow and nearly needed Tommy John surgery. Instead of the surgery, however, he went with a PRP injection with rehab, and yesterday he began his pitching comeback in earnest:
Shohei Ohtani is throwing from 120 ft with aggression. His rehab is coming along quite nicely and he’s closer to throwing off a mound than the Angels expected last week.
— Trent Rush (@TrentRushSports) August 6, 2018
- According to the Orange County Register, Ohtani threw off the mound … with a towel today (towel drills!), and is scheduled to take his first true bullpen session this Saturday. I hope he comes back as good as ever, because he’s one fun player to watch.
- Jayson Werth has made some news in a recent interview. First, he called out Scott Boras for – in his view – botching Werth’s offseason plans to, you know, continue working. Apparently, Boras advised Werth not to accept any of the offers he received in November, which he went along with, only to find no offers at all by Spring. But that’s not it: Werth apparently called 29 different teams on his own to see if they’d have any interest, but they responded by saying they hadn’t heard from Boras all winter and assumed Werth didn’t want to play. Yikes. As for your double-yikes, the one team he didn’t call? The Mets. “I wouldn’t play for them.” Lulz.
- In other Werth news, he said this:
Jayson Werth on MLB analytics: "They’ve got all these super nerds in the front office that know nothing about baseball…I think it’s killing the game. It’s to the point where just put computers out there. Just put laptops…It's a joke." https://t.co/RzMtDcPLPB
— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) August 8, 2018
- I am so tired of hearing this. I don’t even have the #fight in me anymore. But listen: I truly understand (even encourage) that players don’t need to bother themselves with the overload of information – that’s what the coaches and front office members are for – but I don’t know how anyone can say this and mean it at this point. I mean, come on. Theo Epstein is a super duper nerd and he knows WAY MORE about baseball than Jayson Werth.
- Have you been following Jesus Aguilar’s ascension with the Brewers this year? The 28-year-old first baseman homered again last night, his 27th of the season, bringing his production up to 143 wRC+ overall. HOWEVA, that was just his third homer since the All-Star break, and he’s hitting .148/.281/.352 (68 wRC+) since then. Is he turning back into a pumpkin? Well, maybe. But that’s been driven entirely by a .132(!) BABIP, which is not entirely explained by the contact data. So, he is probably still good and just really unlucky right now. Sorry.
- Remember when Julio Urias was the best teenage pitching prospect in decades? Yeah, well: TINSTAAPP and such.
- Little League home runs are always fun, but when they happen on a bunt you gotta just shake your head:
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 8, 2018
- And finally, this is just some evil-genius-(or just angry-genius)-level trolling:
😂Manager so angry he REMOVES third base and gives it to some kids in the stands. (But then they have to get it back, because, you know, it's kind of important.) pic.twitter.com/FQ5r31AAlj
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) August 8, 2018