Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
July 21, 2000
BASEBALL: Ranking The AL Contenders

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website

The next three weeks or so should be decisive in the pennant races. The close races are decided in September, often in head-to-head games, and to some extent they can turn on freak happenings, bad bounces and the like. But itís the stretch after the All-Star break that decides which races will be close and who drops out of the pack. Plus, the trading deadline is less than two weeks away.

Itís a tough time of year, if you're a ballplayer. By late July, many pitchers have been saddled with a bunch of losses, guys who started hot have slumped, a lot of players know that this won't be a great year for them, and nearly every team has lost some big guys to injury. The three-day vacation is over, the last interleague matchups are gone with the All-Star hype, even if the All-Star Game itself has turned into a cross between the Pro Bowl and the lowest levels of Little League ("But Joe, little Johnny will cry if he doesn't get to play!"). Days off get few and far between from here to September. Even fans can have it tough if vacations mean being out of radio or TV range of hometown baseball coverage.

With the AL race shaping up, itís time to rate the contenders. Astonishingly, only two AL teams (the White Sox and Mariners, no less) are on a pace to win 90 games, and only one (love those Devil Rays!) is on track for 95 losses. Baseballís economic/structural problems haven?t been magically solved in four months, but predictions that the standings would remain static throughout the new millennium, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, seem a bit overwrought at the moment. Things always change.

I ranked the eight contenders in the AL position-by-position. I would have left out the Angels, who I just can't see as serious contenders with their pitching, but right now they are second in the wild card race and just percentage points behind the Yankees, so I had to include them.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:43 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 13, 2000
BASEBALL: Remembering 1986

(Originally posted 7/13/00 on the Boston Sports Guy website; reposted here with a link to a Bill Simmons column on Bill Buckner)

WARNING: DO NOT CONTINUE IF A COLUMN BY A METS FAN ON THE 1986 WORLD SERIES WILL BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR PHYSICAL OR MENTAL HEALTH! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

In preparing for this weekís Mets-Red Sox matchup -- subtitled, "Who Wants To Be Knocked Out Of The Pennant Race In July?" -- I happened to mention that I could write a column on the 86 World Series in my sleep if Sports Guy Nation could handle it. Strangely, my host on this website actually encouraged this. I think heís trying to get me killed. Still, knowing when to keep my mouth shut has never been one of my virtues.

One other note: Upon beginning this column, I promise not to mention B___ B_______. Here we go...

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
July 7, 2000
BASEBALL: The NL Outfielders

Originally posted on the Boston Sports Guy website.

I was going to do a column with my NL All-Star team picks to follow up on last week, but frankly a lot of the NL roster is uncontroversial (the only bona fide head-scratcher is Darryl Kile), and the major controversy (second base) is one where I am not certain I can be impartial. There are very few active players whom I have watched play more baseball games than Edgardo Alfonzo and Jeff Kent, and no matter what the evidence (which is a close call) says, I find it impossible to conceive of Kent as a better player.

The one position that interested me was the outfield. The NL has a remarkably balanced mixed bag of outfielders, and ranking them is really an intriguing endeavor. I set out to rank the top ten, regardless of who they play for.

Let's look at the 2000 hitting stats of the top 11 outfielders in the league. To keep this manageable, I left a number of guys out here because they are having seasons out of context (Klesko), are not established players (Hidalgo), have been hurt too much (Larry Walker), or are just playing at very high altitude (Hammonds):

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:14 PM | Baseball Columns | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)