Greetings, everyone. Thoughts and prayers to any and all of you who were impacted by Irene.
I ordinarily pay less attention to action during my vacation week, and of course, that went double this time, what with pretty much everyone focused on other matters. So let's get up to date on the largest matters of the past nine days.
First of all, just one change in the playoff brackets:
AL: Boston (1) vs. Detroit (3), Texas (2) vs. Yankees (4).
NL: Philadelphia (1) vs. Arizona (3), Milwaukee (2) vs. Atlanta (4).
Thoughts: There's no way to sugarcoat this. Baseball could really get crushed in September. We've got three divisions in which the leader holds an advantage of six games or more. Both wild-card races are all but settled, and one of the three remaining close divisions, the AL East, fields merely a seeding battle between the Yankees and Red Sox.
Seeding battles don't pay the bills. In the realistic, best-case scenario, we could have both West divisions featuring neck-and-neck competitions, with the Giants trying to defend their World Series crown by upending the Diamondbacks and the Angels trying to prevent the Rangers from defending the AL pennant. Even that won't exactly compel the common fan to jump on the baseball train, though.
In the worst-case scenario, we've got absolutely nothing of merit going on, empty ballparks throughout the land and football dominating the yakosphere (trademark Neil Best).
The potential tradeoff is that we'd have what, on paper, would look like an exciting, competitive October, with the eight entries trouncing their regular-season competition. That's not a tradeoff MLB will gladly accept, however. The postseason is just too random to guarantee compelling storylines. Baseball would rather have a plethora of teams still in it until autumn gets here.
1) Yankees, Orioles and Irene. What a stupid mess, what with the two teams taking shots at each other regarding the rescheduling of this past weekend's games.
From reading both sides' take on the situation, I understand where both are coming from, and I get how that could lead to frustration. But really. Who does it benefit to engage in a public cat fight when most of the world could care less about it?
The Orioles tried to claim the moral high ground, invoking both Irene and the suicide of team icon Mike Flanagan, and normally, claiming the moral high ground gives me the willies. And maybe the O's should've opted for silence and let the Yankees - primarily Joe Girardi - let their own foolishness speak for itself.
But nah. The hurricane and Flanagan's death were emotional stuff for the Orioles. The rescheduling of a weekend series shouldn't have been as emotional for the Yankees.
"Public face" is not the most important facet of Girardi's job, but it is a facet. And he really is not very good at it. I think that's part of the reason why Brian Cashman has become more vocal these past few years. Not because he's ready to leave his job, as has been speculated, but because he's helping out Girardi - who seems to express rancor when he should be calm (this incident, the home rainout against Tampa Bay in July that impacted Derek Jeter's quest for 3,000 hits and his public questioning over why people like to read books about famous people) and is calm when he should be upset (Jorge Posada's one-day strike, anything involving A.J. Burnett).
2) Dominant Derek Jeter. And available, too. Oh my gawd, can you believe they broke up?!
Eh, I don't care too much about that. But hey, the man deserves his props. He sat out last night's Game 2 with a right knee injury, but since returning from the disabled list on July 4, his on-base percentage is .400, which means he's been doing just fine in the leadoff spot.
We'll see what the rest of the year brings, and remember - his pre-DL numbers were so awful that he's nowhere close to his awesome 2009 numbers. But with this surge, he has displayed that he can still bring something to the party, and he has offered hope to the Yankees that his three- or four-year contract won't be a complete disaster.
Jeter, BTW, has mentioned the work he did in Tampa (during his time on the DL) with Gary Denbo, his first minor-league manager and the Yankees' hitting coach in 2001. Denbo, with that history on his resume, seems to click exceptionally well with Jeter, who used to regularly consult Denbo wihle Chris Chambliss was the Yankees' major-league hitting coach.
3) Alex Rodriguez's Moment of Justice. It occurred Friday in Baltimore. I don't know precisely what happened, but if A-Rod was able to suppress laughter while speaking to MLB officials about his alleged gambling, knowing they couldn't touch him even if he started dealing cards at the table and announced a minimum bet of $50,000, then props to him.
4. Jose Reyes' Return. It's today, and there isn't much buzz, is there? You're not gonna get much when you're coming off your second disabled list stint of the season and your club is out of contention.
It would be better in the short term, for both Reyes and the Mets, if Reyes had maintained his MVP season and helped the Mets stay on the edge of contention, perhaps even holding onto Carlos Beltran (who, in our scenario, would have stayed healthy) in the process.
But Reyes' two injuries have managed to turn down the volume regarding his future. Suddenly, retaining him doesn't seem as imperative for the organization. If a team out there does get emotional this winter and commit six or seven years at huge dollars, perhaps more Mets fans will root for the Mets to not match the bid.
We've got just about a month for Reyes to turn the equation back in his favor. At the moment, though, it no longer feels like the Mets' future hinges on whether they can bring back Reyes.
5) Jim Thome's Transfer. The member of the 600-home run club went from Minnesota to Cleveland, his first club, when the Indians were awarded the claim on Thome and the two sides agreed to a trade.
No, it's not going to propel the Indians to the AL Central title; they're too far back, and Thome isn't that good anymore. But it's a nice, emotional reunion that probably puts a few more fannies in the Progressive Field seats and gives Thome a more relevant atmosphere in which to showcase himself for 2012, if he's interested in continuing his career.
And it speaks very highly of the Twins that they sold low on Thome rather than, say, holding onto him and perhaps recouping a compensatory draft pick if the DH signed elsewhere over the winter.
6) Barry Bonds' Verdict. Judge Susan Illston upheld a jury's verdict of obstruction of justice for Bonds, bringing Bonds closer to having a crime on his record resulting from his alleged usage of performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds will probably appeal this ruling, so the prosecution must jump through that hoop before finally making this victory in the books.
As a closet rabble rouser, I'm disappointed the verdict wasn't overturned, but I also concede I don't know the law well enough to opine on the judge's interpretation of the law.
As a by-the-book Hall of Fame voter, however, I do think that this verdict doesn't confirm what we all think Bonds did. All it confirms is that he was difficult during his grand-jury testimony about illegal PED usage. From a legal standpoint, using an innocent-until-proven-guilty approach it's a distant leap from there to "He obviously used 'roids!!!"
--Have a great day.