Baseball

The start of the season continues to slog on as the Cubs continue to suck offensively and lose by multiple runs, just like the old days. The games are honestly hard to watch when other sports are going on — the Hawks were winning this week and there was even a no-hitter across town. But here we are with the summary of the games, in case you didn’t catch them, or if you did catch them and you wanted to relive it all.

Besides pitchers being sick or in COVID protocols, this was the Willson Contreras series, as the hit by pitch saga hopefully ends with his home run to win the game. There aren’t a lot of positives to take out of this series, but that’s one. Additionally, Justin Steele and Pedro Strop made their season debuts and looked pretty good — Strop even got the win on Tuesday. Let’s break down each game.

April 12, 2021
Cubs 3, Brewers 6
WP: Peralta (2-0) LP: Alzolay (0-2)
Box Score

Things don’t get any easier for the Cubs since their atrocious last series, as Jason Adam, Dan Winkler, and Brandon Workman got placed on the COVID-19-related injured list because the Cubs’ bullpen coach Chris Young received a positive test. This didn’t stop Adbert Alzolay from starting, however, trying his best to redeem himself after his horrendous first start that put him at a 7.20 ERA. Although he did get some contact on his pitches early, the Cubs defense behind him was able to field it so there were no hits through the 1st inning.

The Cubs, surprise surprise, got on the board first with a solo homer by Kris Bryant. Bryant leads the team in slugging percentage and OPS, and he came out of this game 2nd on the team with a .233 batting average and a .361 OBP. These numbers are all about average or below average compared to all MLB players last season, which just shows you how much the Cubs offense is currently suffering.

Alzolay seemed to feel more comfortable as the game went on, surprisingly, as he continued to keep the Brewers from staying on the board for the first five innings of the game. By the 6th, however, Alzolay abruptly unraveled, as he gave up two singles and a walk. Rossy replaced him with Andrew Chafin in a bases loaded situation, and on his first pitch Luis Urias immediately hit a double that scored three runners. Then Chafin threw a wild pitch and another runner scored. Then the Brewers tripled and hit another single and suddenly, after just 12 pitches, the score became 6-1 Brewers.

So now’s as good as time as any to bring out Justin Steele on his MLB debut. Justin Steele was able to throw three strikes to finish the inning. This was just the 2nd inning in 2 games in which the Cubs have given up 6 runs, an accomplishment that encompasses the true meaning of the Cubbie Way. Steele continued through the 7th inning to try his very best: strikeout, single, groundout, strikeout, walk, HBP, and groundout was the extent of his inning. (Brad Wieck also made his season debut, in which his fastball is now hitting 93 mph instead of 91 mph like last season. He was able to get the three outs eventually.)

Meanwhile, the Cubs decided that finally, during the 9th inning, they’d try to generate offense. Bryant singled, Pederson walked, a wild pitch sent them to 2nd and 3rd base, Baez doubled to score them both, and then Josh Hader was put into the game to end it quickly and mercilessly.

April 13, 2021
Cubs 3, Brewers 2
WP: Strop (1-0) LP: Suter (0-1)
Box Score

Now that one of the Cubs’ bullpen coaches has COVID-19, the story continued to evolve when we learned that Kyle Hendricks wasn’t going to start this game because he was exhibiting symptoms of congestion, which is a symptom of COVID-19, but also just the regular cold or flu. Although he ended up testing negative, they put him out of the lineup just to be safe and he was able to drive home to Chicago.

In his place they put Alec Mills, who came up on short notice and pitched four innings this game and gave up a glorious two runs, one of them being a home run that scored the two Brewers runs of the night. By the 5th inning, it was time to head to the bullpen, where faces new and old threw some innings for the Cubs.

First, Ryan Tepera came out in the 5th and had a pretty good inning. He walked a pitcher but the defense behind him was able to get him a double play after a ground ball hit. He then closed the inning by throwing behind Brandon Woodruff after Woodruff hit Willson Contreras by yet another pitch the inning before. Woodruff was understandably angry, and it seemed to get in his head because Tepera was able to strike him out — his only strikeout of the inning. Rex Brothers came in the inning after that and was able to record a strikeout of his own.

Kris Bryant, although he did not record a hit this game, had the sacrifice fly in the 4th to score Willson Contreras after he got hit. Bryant now leads the team in batting average and OPS at .243 and .936, respectively. Rizzo also had two hits on the game, leading the team, although he was stranded on base for both of them. His batting average is still a very abysmal .162, which only gives the Rickettses more of a reason to gear up to let him walk.

Pedro Strop made his season debut, and although he recorded a walk and was the only bullpen pitcher to allow a hit, he also got the win for the day. He threw four different kinds of pitches: slider, cutter, sinker and fastball. His slider especially was his most popular pitch and had the highest whiff percentage of any of his pitches at 66.7%. That’s the same number as last year, and it’s definitely been his best pitch over time. I’m sure we’ll see more of it later this season.

The Cubs barely eeked out enough offense in this game to win it, but Willson Contreras was the hero of this game. Having three hit by pitches so far this year and after getting fined by the league for starting the bases-clearing brawl last series because of the COVID-19 protections in place, his home run at the top of the 8th that also scored Happ was what shut the Brewers up for good.

Since this is the first time in four games that the Cubs actually had a lead heading into the last few innings of the game, it was time to bring out Craig Kimbrel to get the save with one out to go in the 8th inning. And because Kimbrel seems to be back to his elite form, he didn’t disappoint. He walked only one batter and only had one strikeout. Even though the other three batters he faced made contact, the defense behind him was solid to win the game.

April 14, 2021
Cubs 0, Brewers 7
WP: Burnes (1-1) LP: Arrieta (2-1)
Box Score

Does anyone actually want to talk about this game? What a disaster, and a game that was a disaster early.

Compared to the previous game, the Brewers struck out 12 of the Cubs batters as opposed to 10. 10 of those 12 strikeouts came from their starter, Corbin Burnes, who currently has a 0.49 ERA after splitting his two starts. Burnes only allowed 2 hits and didn’t walk any batters.

Because Kyle Hendricks is still sick, Jake Arrieta took over the starter’s role. He allowed four hits, three runs, one home run, one walk, and 5 strikeouts for an ERA of 3.18. If the Cubs had any hitting ability at all they would’ve been able to overcome Arrieta’s completely average performance to at least be in this game, but that’s not what happened at all. After five innings, he was pulled for Shelby Miller for his season debut and that’s when things really went off the rails.

Miller immediately allowed the Brewers to load the bases after throwing just two strikes. Then he walked two batters to make it 5-0 Brewers. He didn’t even finish the inning after walking three batters total, allowing two hits, four of the seven Brewers runs, and recording no strikeouts at all.

Time for Justin Steele to come back out again, perhaps because Ross knew there was no getting out of this game with a win thanks with our .163 collective team batting average. Steele gave up a single immediately, scoring the 6th runner for Milwaukee, but at this point all hope was lost and nothing mattered anymore. He was able to strikeout the top of the Brewers’ batting order in Jackie Bradley Jr. and Daniel Robertson, so all in all he put on a pretty good performance and seemed to improve on Monday’s appearance.

The Cubs have a bad habit of leaving runners on base in scoring position. Joc Pederson was at 3rd base with one out in the 2nd inning, but David Bote struck out and Austin Romine flied out after him. In the 9th inning, Rizzo also found himself in scoring position after getting one of the very few Cubs hits this game, but David Bote once again was not able to deliver offensively, unceremoniously grounding out to end the game.

The Cubs have been too reliant on their home runs. Home runs are grand and all, but singles, doubles and triples are just fine too. Again, so is batting in those RISP. I have no idea how, or even if, this offense will ever get fixed. This team just seems completely broken on this end, putting in numbers that are far and away the ugliest in baseball. At this point, I’m fine blowing this all up and starting over, but can the Rickettses even be trusted to shell out money for exciting, offensively-talented players? I don’t think so.

The Cubs have a day off today, and then they will take on a three-game series against the Atlanta Braves, who have also struggled to live up to their preseason expectations. The Braves are 4-8, last in the NL East. They are also the 25th-ranked MLB team offensively. Don’t get excited, though — that puts them three spots ahead of the Brewers, who just crushed us offensively for most of this series, so take with that what you will.

Onward.

Baseball

During the ensuing clown show that was the Cubs offseason, the front office acknowledged they needed to sign a new pitcher to fill out their rotation. Wouldn’t it be good if they could placate the angry fans after trading away Yu Darvish for a bunch of question mark young players and letting two pieces of the 2016 World Series team in Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber walk? Killing two birds with one stone, the Cubs front office was able to calm the angry Twitter mob as best they could by signing Jake Arrieta to a 1-year deal worth a whole $6 million.

Jake Arrieta is a Cubs legend and a 2015 Cy Young Award winner – a season in which he posted a crazy 22 wins of 33 starts, a 1.77 ERA, four complete games and three shutouts, one of which a no-hitter. In three postseason appearances in 2015, he won two of those games, one of them a complete game shutout.

In 2016, Arrieta had 18 wins out of 31 starts, a 3.10 ERA and another no-hitter. These weren’t his 2015 numbers, but they still weren’t awful. Although his pitching was slightly underwhelming in the NLDS and NLCS of this year, he was able to come in clutch in two World Series starts, winning both of them and coming out of it with a total 2.38 ERA.

But if you’re reading this, you probably know all of these stats and remember them quite fondly. Here’s what Arrieta has been since then, however, since he left and went to the Phillies for three seasons. His ERA has been steadily declining with each year (3.96, 4.64, and 5.08 since 2018). He has pretty much split wins and losses in his starts and has thrown no complete games or shutouts since 2016. His 2020 stats were definitely not stellar, but it seems like Arrieta is hoping, like many players around the league, that last season would be an anomaly.

It is definitely fun to see Arrieta back with the club, and he will almost certainly be slotting in the starting rotation alongside Kyle Hendricks and Zach Davies. Arrieta is also in the twilight of his career at age 35, and it’s safe to say his pitching decline is among us. However, I am cautiously optimistic that Arrieta improves some on his 2020 stats and throws a few good games for the Cubs as our third or fourth starter, especially if he’s behind a nails defense.

Is he Yu Darvish? No, but few are in this league. Especially if the Cubs are able to get their offense going this season, I think Arrieta at this price isn’t too bad of a signing.

Baseball

VS

Records: Sox 33-17/Reds 25-26

Start Times: Fri 6:10/Sun 12:10

TV: NBCSN/FOX/NBCSN

Redreporter.com

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Friday: Tyler Mahle (1-2, 4.31 ERA) vs. Jonathan Stiever (0-0, 2.45 ERA)

Saturday: Tejay Antone (0-2, 2.76 ERA)vs. Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 2.19 ERA)

Sunday: Trevor Bauer (4-3, 1.71 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (5-2, 3.20 ERA)

PLAYOFFS, BABY!

The First Place White Sox travel to Cincinnati this weekend having clinched the first playoff berth the franchise has seen since 2008. TWELVE YEARS! Much has changed…

The team clinched an overuse of the term “Soxtober” by coming from behind to beat the hated MinneHOta Twins Thursday afternoon, securing postseason representation by taking three of four from their closest pursuant in the Division. Not much time for celebrations, though, as the team heads to the Queen city for three with the resurgent Reds, winners of five straight and thinking about a postseason trip of their own. The Reds have gone 7-3 in their last 10 to take over Second place in the NL Central and an automatic playoff berth – for now.

The exciting Sox bats weren’t exactly on full display against the Twins, but their 14 runs across the four game set were enough to buoy strong pitching performances from the pitching staff in the mid-week series. One would think they’d like to see more from the supporting cast around Jose Abreu and the timely Eloy Jimenez, and especially while visiting the notoriously hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. Sox hitters will look to do so against a few RH SP, none of which instill much fear outside of the polarizing Trevor Bauer. Bauer is hated by many, and rightfully has earned much of that hate, but us haters have to acknowledge the stellar campaign he’s put together in this most odd of seasons – 9 GS, 4-3, 1.71 ERA, 12.88 K/9, 2 CG shutouts, 2.1 WAR. The douche is making himself some money for his mercenary FA plan on the horizon and you can bet some time in the MLB playoff limelight would only improve his position, as would a dominant performance against the potent Sox lineup.

The Sox will also look to the bats to ease what looks to be an all-hands-on-deck type of weekend for the pitching staff. Jonathan Stiever takes his second, and possibly final, turn in the rotation and will look to go a bit further than the 3.2 innings he gave his team on Sunday against Detroilet. Dallas Keuchel makes his return from an IL stint on Saturday and the series wraps with escape artist Dylan Cease, so the bullpen is going to need to be as good as ever to hold down a surging Reds offense. That task is made even harder by the announcement of Setup Man Evan Marshall hitting the IL, with recent draftee Garrett Crochet getting the call to take his spot on the roster. He’ll almost assuredly make his MLB debut in relief this weekend, possibly in a big spot against the likes of veteran Joey Votto or powerful Jesse Winker. Votto boasts three homers in his last seven games, a stretch that’s seen the Reds go 6-1 while claiming sole possession of second place in the pillow fight that is the NL Central. Cincinnati finds itself a half game ahead of St. Louis and one ahead of Milwaukee as all three are under .500 overall.

We as fans get a glimpse as one of the “what could’ve been” scenarios when Nick Castellanos steps in to face Sox pitchers and patrols RF. I guess one of the positives of this truncated schedule is we haven’t been subjected to too many of the ones that got away in the offseason RF search, but it’s going to be hard not to focus on the Mazara/Castellanos comparisons all weekend. The Sox won’t be paying that situation much mind, though, and will need to show they’re focused on more than just this playoff berth as they have a chance to solidify their lead in their own Division and set up to clinch the AL Central next week in Cleveland. It’s easy to look ahead to that four game series and see Lucas Giolito on Monday and get excited, but the Reds are in a fight of their own and cannot be overlooked. My feeling is we’re going to see some high scoring games, likely with a lot of bullpen usage from the White Sox regardless.

The magic number for the Central Division crown is officially 7; the Sox have 10 games to play. This is entirely in the team’s control and a strong showing in Cincinnati while the Twins deal with the Cubs at Wrigley will give this fanbase even more to celebrate. Maybe even a whole ass AL PENNANT.

Don’t Stop Now Boys!

Baseball Everything Else

We all pretty much figured that MLB was going to do whatever it could to try and salvage as much of this season as humanly possible, and understandably so. Major League Baseball is a billion dollar business, and those folks don’t like to sit idly by and let that money go up in smoke if they have anything to say about it. So when Bob Nightengale posted this tweet earlier today my initial reaction was not one of surprise, other than at how long it took for some of these weird science ideas to start getting leaked to the press.

As far as creative thinking goes, this one fills the Corporate Bingo card for buzzwords. It’s MLB initiating a paradigm shift thinking outside the box while simultaneously sticking to their core competency (BINGO). Essentially the idea is that baseball will completely realign for a season, with the teams returning to their respective spring training homes in Florida and Arizona. The Florida teams will comprise the “Grapefruit League” while the Zona teams will form the “Cactus League.” Each league will be divided into three separate divisions based on their geographic location in those states. Now comes the point when you ask “Don’t the White Sox and Dodgers share a park, and would that put them in the same division?” The answer is twofold: Yes and Fuck. Here’s what the divisions would look like:

Cactus League:

Northeast Division – Cubs, Giants, Diamondbacks, A’s and Rockies

West Division – Dodgers, White Sox, Reds, Indians and Angels

Northwest Division – Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Rangers and Royals

 

Grapefruit League:

North Division – Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays, Tigers and Pirates

South Division – Red Sox, Twins, Braves, Rays and Orioles

East Division – Nationals, Astros, Mets, Cardinals and Marlins

 

Right off the bat you can see there is some disparity in the talent levels in different divisions. If this were to be how it shakes out division wise the Yankees may as well just get a bye on the regular season and start right in the first round of the playoffs. The Northwest division in the Cactus League is also pretty bereft of quality, as none of those teams other than the Brew Crew even sniffed the postseason last year (and they got in by the last hair on their asses) . Meanwhile the East division is hilariously loaded as it contains both World Series teams from 2019, the Cards (who are always good for 88 wins), the Mets (who despite being hilariously run have a pretty deep vein of talent to mine), and the Miami Derek Jeters.

If you go by ZiPS win projections the divisions stack out like this:

NE – 394

W – 434

NW – 376

N – 388

S – 415

E – 423

 

What does that mean for the baseball teams of Chicago? I’m glad you asked, I’ve been super bored these past few weeks. For the White Sox, this kinda sucks as they share a field with the unholy terror that is the Dodgers they’re plopped in the middle of the most difficult division in all the land. After the Dodgers the revamped Reds are there, plus our old friends the Tribe and the Angels, who have the greatest baseball player ever to play the game. Out of the entire division, not a single team is forecast for less than 81 wins (the Reds) and pretty much everyone expects them to outperform that. The silver lining for the Sox here is that getting to play out the season at the Camelback Ranch might help some of the pitchers control the long ball, as the dimensions there are larger then the bandbox that The Down Arrow has become.

For the Cubs, the new division alignment paints a much rosier picture for them. They get to ditch the two teams who are seemingly always nipping at their heels (Brewers and Cards),  and the exciting new club (Reds). Those get replaced with a couple teams the Cubs should easily be able to punch down upon, namely the Giants (69 projected wins) (nice), Rockies and Dbacks. The ZiPS model that projected a whopping 72 wins for the Rockies obviously didn’t take into account them not getting to play on their orbital platform for at least half the season so that’s definitely high. The only team that could give the Cubs fits would be the A’s, where the change of scenery moving from their cavernous stadium to a spring training field could bump the shit out of their hitter’s numbers.

What the article doesn’t really go into are the nitty gritty details of the plan, other than to say that the universal DH would be implemented (good) and the entire season would be played in Arizona and Florida. The World Series would be played at one of the domed stadiums in Florida in early November. It also doesn’t say anything about how the league will handle positive tests for the virus, as it wouldn’t take much for the season to fall apart with one or two infections among teams. It also doesn’t mention how the league would handle it if sanctions were suddenly lifted, allowing teams to return to their home parks.

Also, I don’t think the plan takes into account the average Arizona summer temperature of 489 degrees Kelvin. The Dbacks can make it work down there because their stadium has a roof and air conditioning. Camelback Ranch has neither of those two things, which might help kill the virus but also could take a few players with it. While watching Trevor Bauer spontaneously combust on the mound would be fun, having Yoan Moncada pass out from heat stroke is slightly less so.

Florida presents it’s own set of problems, as there is a reason both their stadiums are also indoors. Thunderstorms pop up at the drop of a hat down there, which leads to an increased chance of rainouts in an already condensed season. There’s also the issue of August-October being hurricane season in FL, which makes baseball hard to play when half your stadium and equipment have been blown into the Gulf of Mexico. Plus you know at some point alligators are going to run off with at least one member of the Mets pitching staff. Also factoring in is that their state is being run by a moron. Being able to shit on other state’s governors is nice for a change. I can’t tell you how weird it is to have the governor of Illinois on the news for doing a good job as opposed to being sentenced for 39 counts of fraud. I digress.

All things being equal I think this idea has some merit to it, but as currently presented it’s a little too half baked to be workable. If Southern California were to become available along with the domed stadiums in Georgia and Texas I think you might have something to work with. I get that you want to keep travel to a minimum, but if you are having all these players in hotels for at least the first part of the season the risk for exposure isn’t going to be any more than a chartered airplane.

This is a good first effort for the MLB brain trust, however. I honestly feel that some form of an MLB season is within reach, and if this first attempt leads to better and better ideas down the road then more power to them. I think everyone wants to watch baseball in some form this season, and out of the Big 4 professional sports MLB has the best chance of making it work. Hockey, basketball and football are all too close contact right now to realistically have a chance at limiting the spread without some form of vaccine. There’s still a lot of hurdles to clear, but today was a step in the right direction.

 

 

Everything Else

We’ve reached the end of the position player portion of these previews and let me thank you, dear reader, for coming this far. The following list will include a few guys that might never see an at bat with the big club, but dang it the MLB added an extra roster spot and I wanna write about THE YERMINATOR. The 2020 team may finally resemble an actual Major League Baseball™ club, which means that guys like Adam Engel and Danny Mendick won’t need to try and make you stop hating them because they were forced into more playing time than they should’ve ever had. No, we finally get to see them in roles that they’re suited for, supplementing the roster, playing every few days and dare I say…maybe excelling at it???

Adam Engel

2019 Stats

.242/.304/.383, 6 HR 26 RBI 26 R

.296 wOBA 84 wRC+, 0.8 WAR +2 DRS 

LAST WEEK ON NITRO: Engel found his way into 89 contests last year and posted a mildly respectable 84 wRC+ in his 248 part-time at bats. He found himself part of a five-six headed OF monster as the Sox churned through Him, Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell to fill space and eat time until they would employ real MLB players in their positions with Engel pacing the field (not that there was much of a bar). His real value was realized, as always, in the field where he was one of few Sox to actually SAVE runs in 2019.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP)/YOU FUCKED UP!: So as I stated above, Engel should finally be in the role that best suits him – fourth outfielder. His defense in the OF is still the best on the team until Luis Robert proves it otherwise. He should not eclipse 75 at bats. He will see plenty of time as the late inning replacement for one of the corners, and for my money it’s Nomar Mazara being lifted. Maybe he’ll get some pinch running chances too and can boost his lackluster three SB from 2019. The only way Engel hurts the team is if he’s forced into another 250+ ABs somehow, and with Garcia the real super utility on the team I don’t see how that’s possible.

Danny Mendick

2019 Stats (AAA)

.279/.368/.444, 17 HR 64 RBI 75 R

.355 wOBA 109 wRC+, 0.2 WAR

LAST WEEK ON NITRO: Mendick put together a very fine season at Charlotte, earning himself a September call up and 40 plate appearances with the big club. The audition was successful enough to keep him on the 40-man and in the conversation for a bench spot, something that became a near lock when the team decided to non-tender all-around great human/fan and clubhouse favorite Yolmer Sanchez. Danny showed a keen batting eye, with a very respectable 66:96 K:BB ratio while displaying decent power in a .166 ISO. He’s also versatile in the field, capable of manning any INF position and doing it well (+1 DRS combined at 2B/SS/3B).

TOO SWEET (WHOOP)/YOU FUCKED UP!: Mendick is in a slightly different position than Engel in that he could see more playing time early, especially if the highly touted Nick Madrigal struggles to open the year. The way this Spring is going, no one has staked their claim on the 2B job and that means Mads is likely ticketed for Charlotte until May. Mendick will see more opportunities early since his main competition at 2B is Leury Garcia, and he’ll be spelling Robert/Mazara more than I think many want to believe. Mendick could keep Madrigal down for longer than anticipated with a hot start and some of that power he displayed in 2019; he could also see himself demoted to spelling Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson very infrequently if he’s terrible and Madrigal earns a promotion sooner than anticipated or Leury take the gig in full.

Yermin Mercedes

2019 Stats (AAA)

.317/.388/.581

23 HR 80 RBI 54 R, 153(!!!) wRC+

LAST WEEK ON NITRO: The Yerminator burst into Sox fans hearts with his towering moon shots straight out of BB&T Stadium in Charlotte. Mercedes has worked his way from the AAA phase of the 2017 Rule 5 draft into the conversation for a roster spot in Chicago via his ability to absolutely destroy pitches, something he’s never really struggled to do. The issue is that our pal Yermin here hasn’t really had a position to call home on the diamond, though Rick Hahn and Co. will tell you he’s REALLY worked on his receiving and if a totally capable backstop. Yermin himself would tell you he can handle 3B, too, but Yoan needn’t break out a different glove. If Yermin did enough in 2019 to secure a roster spot it’s to pinch hit and be the emergency catcher.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP)/YOU FUCKED UP!: Yermin finds glory in 2020 simply by making this team. Zack Collins is what he is and that isn’t changing IMO, but he’s wasted without regular playing time so he’s headed to Charlotte leaving Mercedes in pole position for the newly minted 26th spot. Say he clubs 8-10 dingers in 70ish at bats, a few of which come as walk offs and Yermin reaches Sox legend status. I don’t really see a scenario in which this goes south; he’s either good enough to make the team or he’s back putting on a show for the Knights faithful in AAA.

Nicky Delmonico

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LAST WEEK ON NITRO: Ol’ Nicky D would like for you to believe 2019 did not happen. He labored through an atrocious stretch to open the year in Chicago that lasted just 21 games, got demoted to Charlotte for another 17 forgettable contests and finally called mercy and had shoulder surgery before being released in June. The Sox brought their familiar face back on a minor league deal in December and have seen him work hard in Spring to throw his hat in the ring for that final 26th man spot.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP)/YOU FUCKED UP!: Keeping with the theme here, simply finding his way onto the MLB roster would be the top of the mountain for Delmonico. Returning to the MLB after the disastrous year and a half he spent with the Sox that preceded this Spring is enough, and he’d simply be asked to spell an OF here or there, maybe pinch hit a time or two. You fucked up if you’re actively rooting against him for some reason. Get a life.

PALKAMANIA

LOL, if Palka is somehow on this team, we’re all gonna be so fucking sad at what became of the 202o season that I’m not even going to entertain the idea of writing about it. He’ll always have #fromthe108 from 2018, I guess.

Prediction: Mengel will make up the main bench spots behind James McCann and Leury and I’m going to go ahead and anoint Yermin Mercedes the first ever White Sox 26th man. He can catch in a pinch, he can flat out hit, and he’s an absolute unit. TOUCH ‘EM ALL, YERMINATOR!

(Feature Photo credit to @zsoxwood)

Baseball

Rick Hahn made it a point to call out Right Field as at or near the top of his shopping list for the 2019 off-season. It was well chronicled how historically awful the White Sox were in 2019 at the position, but if you’re unaware they were on pace for a worst-in-history 54 wRC+ before a couple big games in September saved them from immortality. So what was the solution as the team looks to turn the page on the down years of the rebuild and march toward the post-season? A post-hype, RHP mashing/LHP flailing Nomar Mazara. Hahn is eager to prove his club can unlock the untapped potential of the former mega-hype prospect from Texas…

2019 Stats

.268/.318/.469

6.0 BB% 23.0 K%

19 HR 66 RBI 69 R

.327 wOBA 94 wRC+ 0.5 WAR

-4 DRS

LAST WEEK ON NITRO: Mazara turned in his fourth MLB season in much the same fashion as the three that preceded it – by underwhelming. Nothing if not consistent, Mazara posted another season of mediocre production while crushing RHP to the tune of 13 HR/110 wRC+ in 302 ABs and bowing to the whims of LHP with just 6 HR/55 wRC+ in 127 ABs. Mazara seemingly is what he is at the plate at this point, with 64 of 79 career HR coming off RHP and a career 53 wRC+ against LHP that screams for a platoon. Mazara actually went backward in some ways in 2019 as he turned in the worst K/BB ratio of his career with a career high 23% K rate and 6% BB rate.

Mazara is also mediocre (at best) in the field, turning in a -4 DRS and keeping with a theme of being somewhere between -3 and -6 DRS for his career in RF. Nomar was slowed a bit by left oblique strain that kept him to only 116 games played, the lowest of his four full seasons in the bigs. No real speed to his game, Mazara appears to be a curious choice to end the RF woes all on his own.

TOO SWEET! TOO SWEET! (WHOOP WHOOP): Mazara, still just 25 as of late April, finally taps into the unrealized potential that scouts and industry prospect hounds drooled over as he assaulted the minors en route to Texas in 2016. The former top-25 prospect finally figures out how to crush all pitchers the way he’s been able to against RHP (for sizable stretches), allowing him to set a career high in games played and homers as he goes over 150 and 30 for the first time.

“So, sometimes, you need to lean a little more heavily on your scouts, sometimes need a little more heavily on the analytic side. And there’s some projection, especially with younger players involved.” Hahn is rewarded for acquiring such a young player that just never could seem to put it all together and helping him to realize all that potential. Mazara even turns in a passable RF defensively, aided by Luis Robert covering a nice big chunk of Right Center on a regular basis.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Mazara is, in fact, a bit worse than what he appears to be. Every once and a while he drives a mistake deep into the Chicago Summer night, but all too often it is he that is the mistake. LHP remains the bane of his existence, exploiting the holes in his swing so harshly that Mazara finds himself in a platoon with Leury Garcia (or Nicky Delmonico??) by June. The K/BB ratio gets even worse as he devolves to a 25%+ K rate and becomes an expensive LH power pinch hitting option off the bench in August and September as the Sox find more a defensively capable replacement at the trade deadline in their quest to reach the first post-season berth in over a decade.

Mazara is then non-tendered in the Winter and drifts through the majors on short term deals with whichever team’s GM convinces himself that his staff can solve this human puzzle. After ‘flirting’ with the top of the market in Mookie Betts and George Springer, Hahn inks Marcell Ozuna to a four-year, $65M deal a year after he probably could’ve had him for 5/70 instead of spending prospect capital on the allure of what Mazara could’ve been.

BAH GAWD, THAT’S MAZARA’S MUSIC!: I tend to think Nomar Mazara is what he is after over 2,000 Major League at bats and he’ll become Hahn’s most regrettable move of the 2019 Winter. Regrettable might not be the right choice of word, considering the cost of Steele Walker(Texas Ranger) probably has a ceiling for essentially what Mazara is right now. This just feels too much like the type of move you make when you’re a year or so out from contention, trying to catch lightening in a bottle and get a few years of cheap-ish quality labor out of a corner OF spot. The problem is that while the Sox may be a year out from REALLY contending, they went ahead and filled basically every other hole they needed to with what amounts to major upgrades, leaving a little more to be desired from the absolute pit that has been Right Field.

This is not Mazara’s fault, and maybe he does have something left to show us. I think it’s foolish to think he’ll give anything more than a .260/.315/.450 line and a wRC+ around 90 overall, and it’d have been a good idea to have a platoon to hit LHP and realize his best usage. Maybe that’s the real plan, that this is the way Garcia gets at bats after he’s moved off 2B for Madrigal in May or so. Garcia did turn in a 110 wRC+ in 183 ABs against LHP in 2019…so a combined 110 wRC+ between the two would be nearly 40 points higher than 2019 amalgamation of shit that was White Sox Right Fielders.

We’d all happily take that, especially if it’s part of a playoff formula.

 

 

Baseball

We open the outfield previews with the young goofball set to hit all the dingers, Eloy Jimenez. Hi Mom!

Eloy kicked off a trend of signing in the Spring so as to avoid being a victim of service time manipulation ensure a place in the starting lineup and Left Field to open the 2019 campaign. Eloy started slow, had trouble with the curve/anything breaking and seemed to be trying to hit 10-run homers the whole first month+ before injuring himself in the field (which would become his unfortunate recurring theme). Then around June something clicked and in the second half he become the baseball mashing monster we all hoped, while improving his on-base skills in the process.

Jimenez is primed for a true breakout in 2020, ready to build on his incredible final month of 2019 (1.093 OPS/184 wRC+). The Big Baby spent the offseason determined to improve his very sub-par defense and emphatically squash talk of moving to DH any time soon (“No, fuck that”).

2019 Stats

.267/.315/.513

6.0 BB% 26.6 K%

31 HR 79 RBI 69 R

.343 wOBA 114 wRC+ 1.9 WAR

-11 DRS

Last Week On Nitro: 2019 saw Jimenez open his MLB account and it was most definitely not the greatest of debuts, much to the chagrin of Sox fans. Eloy piled up ugly strikeouts and ugly routes in the outfield, telegraphing the pressure he felt as the rebuilds golden boy. Jimenez took his sweet time adjusting to Big League breaking balls, which were the bane of his existence for a good two months. These are the type of things you expect from rookie hitters, even the best of them, but the expectations were unfair and it clearly weighed on the young slugger. The good news is he was able to make adjustments and improve and excel as the season went on. He settled in, going on a tear through June after returning from his first IL stint in May to the tune of 11 HR/25 RBI in 36 games. July saw another rough stretch (and second IL trip), which coincided with the club as a whole hitting the proverbial wall, before the Big Baby compiled a strong final 50+ games to see his 2nd half numbers reach 35/15/41/.292/.328 with a 128 wRC+/.870 OPS. The overall numbers above in just 122 games make for a very encouraging overall debut, especially factoring the abysmal start.

The real sore spot for Eloy’s rookie season, literally and figuratively, was his play in LF. Sox Machine’s Jim Margalus chronicled Jimenez’s season of OF gaffes in a twitter thread and it does not disappoint in all the worst ways. To his credit, Jimenez headed to Winter Ball in the Dominican with the sole purpose of working to improve his defense and stay in the field as long as he can. The Organization seems to think he’s making progress, given that they gave a three-year extension to the aging Jose Abreu, signed Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnacion and still employ plenty of other DH-adjacent bats like Zack Collins. Eloy is clearly averse to the idea and he’ll get the opportunity to prove his worth for the foreseeable future. He really doesn’t have anywhere to go but up from that -11 DRS metric, one that likely cost him a top three AL ROY finish.

TOO SWEET! (WHOOP WHOOP):  Eloy flies out of the gates in March, continuing his Sept/Oct 2019 assault on American League pitching, producing something like a .365 OBP/900+ OPS and swatting over 50 HR. The work in the field shows enough improvement to keep his DRS around -3-ish or better, helping him into the conversation for AL MVP on a White Sox team that threatens to crash the October party. He starts to pull the ball in the air more to LF, he keeps the K% closer to 20-22 and improves the BB% to 8-10 and the rest of the lineup benefits because of it. I party nearly every night.

Say Eloy improves his stat line to .310/.345/.540 and that’s still a marked improvement and a force. Combine this with what would be the baseline for the likes of Abreu, Grandal, Encarnacion, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson and you have a very, very dangerous lineup. Eloy could hit anywhere from the 3 hole to 7th, but ideally Ricky will spot him up somewhere and leave him so as not to mess with any improvements we’ve seen. This Spring he’s seen most of his time in the 5th spot, so we can assume that’s where he slots most of the year although you never really know with Ricky Renteria and his lineup blender.

There is some real speculation as to whether Jimenez will improve enough in the OF to get that DRS down so much, but he has put in the time and was much better later in the season (after he surely got a talking to for running himself into an elbow injury in July after karate kicking a wall earlier in they year). That and the addition of him making it a priority last Winter at least gives hope for a solid positive regression.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: The big numbers seen over the final two months were a mirage. Eloy slowly starts his season, forgetting the pitch recognition he picked up as 2019 wore on and yet again finds himself on the IL early because of a misplay in the field. He languishes through a sophomore slump, hits a paltry .240/.285/.460 and turns in an empty 25-30 HR along the way. He continues playing LF like the ungraceful elk he is while attempting to call off his CF often, who is now Luis Robert – a guy that will definitely hurt more running into that Charlie Tilson. I cry every night.

This scenario sees the fanbase and media start to question the long extension Jimenez inked in March 2019 and ponders if it’s really that great of business to dole out that kind of coin to players with no MLB ABs to their name (it still is). I do think that anything less than a slight improvement over Eloy’s final line from last season will be packaged as a disappointment from the media/fans and could hurt his mental development. This is a very tight knit core, though, one that has signed basically the entire lineup save RF for at least the next three seasons and has reinforcements in Andrew Vaughn (1B) and Nick Madrigal (2B) very close to being here for at least another six with everyone but Abreu and Grandal. Any adversity Jimenez or his teammates find will see the rest rally around them and that has to count for something.

BAH GAWD THAT’S JIMENEZ’S MUSIC!: I’m going to predict Eloy at .302/.341/.560 with 44 HR and a league leading 118 RBI. The lineup around him is vastly improved and so is his plate discipline, which leads to the breakout he’s capable of. He plays a slightly improved LF, enough so to stay out of Robert’s way and keep himself off the IL multiple times.

He could see time in a few different lineup spots, but it won’t be to his detriment as he finds cover no matter where he hits. Encarnacion dubs him his large adult son as Eloy edges him for the team lead in HRs. We all party.

https://streamable.com/j63tw

 

 

Baseball

Spring training used to be a time of relief and happiness. Even those of us stuck up in the north, under mud and snow (though not for much longer. Thank you Global Warming!) would gleefully check sports sites and Twitter just for a glimpse of the sunshine and players taking batting practice in it. There would be 743 stories per day about someone being in the best shape of his life (this will be roughly 10 less than the number about Seabrook come September. Prepare now). Soon games will be on TV, and you would have tuned in merely to watch the warmth. You’ll probably soon start swearing at your friends’ photos on FB from Arizona or Florida at some ballpark. This is a Sarah Spain Special (luv u, Sarah. It’s ok, we’re honestly friends. No, seriously, we are!).

These days however, the only thing coming out of every spring training site is a bunch of vitriol, angst, frustration, and veiled threats directed at one team, the Astros, or one man, Rob Manfred.

I want to join in on calling Manfred a total dope. But the thing is, the commissioner of just about every sport is supposed to be a dope. Baseball killed having a real commissioner when they knifed Fay Vincent in the back and installed one of their own as commish. Really, ever since then, the job of a commissioner has been to maximize the owners’ profits and nothing else. And that pretty much has gone from every sport. Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue (arguably) were actual commissioners. They gave way to the Ginger Doofus. David Stern to Adam Silver has been about as close to a clean transition as you can get, and both Silver and Stern have their issues. The NHL has always been run by an idiot, because it’s formed by idiots.

So Manfred is essentially unequipped to deal with this. His job is TV and internet deals and squeezing players for money. Any rule changes we’ve seen is only to cater to TV, or at least it is in their own mind. He doesn’t have any idea how to run the actual game, and whatever he handed down to the Astros is only meant to have the appearance of doing something. He doesn’t have any idea, because it’s not in the job description anymore.

Which sucks, and perhaps this will cause the players to try and change the Commissioner’s job or role in the next CBA. But I doubt it.

And I think we all get it It does feel light that the only people to really pay for this were a manager or the GM. Perhaps in a just world, world class nincompoop Jim Crane would have to give up the team even for just his inattentiveness. But as we discussed when this came down, what are the logistics of suspending the players? You could justify suspending every single one on that 2017 team, either for participating or not speaking up. Look at what’s happening to Man City with UEFA right now (suck it, Hess). But then would the Astros have to play a couple weeks, a month, half a season, the whole thing with their AAA team? Formulate a team from what’s left on the free agent scrapheap? Maybe these are questions they should have had to answer and not have the commissioner do it for them, but here we are.

As far as stripping them of the title or give the rings back…does that really matter? Are the Dodgers going to have a parade now then? Do they get rings? Would they really want them? Do they feel like they “won” now? It feels good to say in the moment, but it doesn’t really do anything. I still remember the Fab Five, perhaps my favorite basketball team of all-time (only other contender were the Glove-Reign Man Era Sonics), going to the Final Four, even if the history books say they didn’t.

Still, it’s hard to believe that every player is blindsided by this. There’s footage of a couple pitchers in 2017 looking quizzically or worse at the Houston dugout in 2017 when they heard the song of the garbage can. Players move on, players talk. Where was the outrage then? Feels like this is all making up for something now.

Maybe it’s the hinting at the buzzers that’s really pissing players off, because that’s perceived as way over the line. As I wrote back when this broke, I don’t think the Astros themselves think this is a huge deal. You can steal signs from second base. You can from the dugout if the catcher drops them too low. You can study a pitcher tipping his pitches. You can see where just stealing them from the centerfield camera would be considered not that far from those, at least by some players. Although if a pitcher catches you stealing signs from second base, your friend at the plate is likely to end up with a Rawlings in his spine. So maybe it’s more of a no-no than I think.

Maybe it’s just because it’s the Astros, whom everyone hated before this anyway. And they are the hilt of new baseball thinking, that they’re the smartest guys in the room and they know better than you. It’s why they can cut huge numbers of staff and scouts because they have a “system” that you can’t conceive of. It’s why they can taunt female reporters about Roberto Osuna because they’re not bogged down by “ethics” or “morals” and happily so.

This is what happens when the business-bred hedge fund bros that have taken over MLB front offices over the past couple decades realize their true form. Because there’s no out of bounds where they come from. Mostly because those in charge are the same as they are and are only going to help them, which is what Rob Manfred is, isn’t he? There are no consequences, and they have too much money to face them anyway. Everything is fair as long as you win.

Perhaps this is where the wave breaks and rolls back. I hope it is, because baseball seems pretty sour these days. I don’t know how much more sour it can get before even more people stop caring, including those like me who used to really care. Baseball may never admit it due to the amount of money still in the game, but it would not be so hard for it to go the way of horse racing and boxing as sports of yore. It should be a time of boom, given the drop in participation in football and those athletes needing to go somewhere. But baseball is unmatched in fucking that up royally.

Baseball

We discussed this on the Desipio Podcast, but I wanted to delve into it a little more. It’s the actual aim of this proposed playoff system in MLB.

First off, it has to be said again that this leaking out of the idea, the trial balloon as it were, is almost certainly an attempt to get people talking about anything else than the Astros, or Jim Crane, or the Red Sox or Cubs simply raising a white flag. While baseball did hand out some contracts this winter and had some stories other than that, nothing has been as big as the sign-stealing scandal or the Betts trade, and as excited as Dodgers fans might be to have Mookie Betts, the optics of it still stink. This is some Wag The Dog tactics by MLB, I’m sure of it.

And we also know the real reason that MLB wants to expand the playoffs is more television money for more playoff games. I don’t know where the saturation point is for that, where people stop caring about playoff games because the number of them don’t make them special anymore. The NBA and NHL would be examples of MLB being a long way off from that, though that’s always been basketball’s and hockey’s system and maybe the perception or feeling is different when you’re changing to get to that. I guess we’ll find out one day.

The cover reason is to give more teams something to play for throughout the season. That’s what they’ll tell you, though. I would argue that the real reason is to give more teams more reason to just aim for 86 wins instead of 95.

That’s why, in hockey and baseball, you see front offices always pumping the idea, “You just have to get in.” With the Nationals being defending champs, it would appear that a champion can be somewhat random. Except that’s the exception. Look at recent history:

2018 – Red Sox: 108 wins

2017 – Astros: 101 wins (legitimate or not)

2016 – Cubs: 103 wins

2015 – Royals: 95 wins

2014 – Giants: Wildcard winners

2013 – Red Sox: 97 wins

So two of the last seven were “outside the box,” as it were. More than a quarter of the time, but still hardly anything like a 50-50 shot.

Now, perhaps with an expansion of middling teams getting a shot, you’d see more and more upset winners. Sheer numbers would tell you that, especially when the system isn’t really weighted to the better teams other than the top one, and they still would have three rounds to negotiate to win the World Series.

This is just an expansion of the “just get in,” theory, which really is just a justification for not putting in the work and resources to build a truly great team. What really is the reward under that system to build a team capable of winning 100 games when winning 88 only requires you to play three more games, and quite possibly all at home? And if more teams under this system come from the clouds to win a World Series, it would only justify staying in the middle more.

The counter to this is that the old, four-divisions-four-playoff teams left too many teams out of it by July and hurt interest and attendance. And I realize we’re never going back to that. But the landscape is so different now. For one, baseball teams aren’t nearly as beholden to their attendance figures for profit as they were. There’s far more avenues pouring into their coiffeurs now. Do they really care if they aren’t drawing that well in August?

Hell, right now we can safely say that Seattle, San Francisco, Colorado, Texas, Miami, Baltimore, Detroit, Kansas City, Pittsburgh have exactly dick to play for. That’s nearly a third of the league. You might be able to put Arizona and Cleveland on this list before a couple months in the season are played. So what’s an unacceptable number of teams not playing for anything? Hasn’t it always been this way? Do we think things would change there with four more playoff spots available? Curious.

But really what they want is not to be held to such a high standard. If you only allowed division winners into the postseason, then everyone would have to aim to get to Dodgers or Yankees or Astros-level (fairly or not). In order to sell excitement to your fans, you’d have to threaten that you’d actually threaten those teams one day soon.

I don’t know that I completely buy the idea that fans won’t show for a team that’s not going to the postseason completely. A good marketing a team along with at least a vision shown by a front office that had demonstrated a desire is enough for most fans to enjoy a day out at the park. It’s still baseball in the summer, isn’t it?

But that would require more work than these assholes are willing to put in. Why pay for a 100-win team when it’s easier to rig the system so you only have to pay for a 86-win one?

They’re all Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom.

 

Baseball

I, much like you, made that sound that comes when you surprisingly belch up some vomit and have to swallow it back down when I saw the proposal for a new playoff system in MLB. It’s been obvious for a while that Rob Manfred doesn’t even like baseball, or if he does he doesn’t have any clue on how to make it better and more attractive to a new generation. So we’ll just turn it into The Bachelor or something? Who fucking knows. The more I think about it the more baseball is headed the way of horse racing, and it’ll be me and a bunch of altacockers watching it praying we can make it back to the car before shitting ourselves before too long.

When stuff like this comes out, and it’s been this way for longer than I’d care to think about, we all just dismiss it as “cash grab.” Because we know that’s Manfred’s job, to make the owners more and more money. And more playoff games mean more ratings for TV networks which means better ad rates and you know how the whole cycle goes. I mean, at some point there are so many playoff games they cease to be unique anymore and maybe ratings would flatten out but I guess we’re a long way off from that.

I don’t know if I’m getting my anarchist clothing on and preparing my bow but it does feel like the more we dismiss and acquiesce the more the things we love are altered or mutated beyond recognition and we’re the only ones who suffer. And yet it feels like there’s little we can do other than stop watching and/or caring, and again, we’re the only ones who get punished in that scenario. The owners and Manfred are unlikely to notice we’re gone. I doubt there will be a baseball revolution/uprising anytime soon. If there is, I have a whole list of people I’d sentence to death by exile.

Playoff expansion is all about keeping more fans of more teams interested throughout a regular season that feels too long at times. It’s here that many have pointed out you wouldn’t have so many teams drawing flies and the generally lost and bewildered only if you didn’t have so many bottoming out in a “rebuild,” most of which never actually top out either. Perhaps the introduction of a salary floor not all that far from the luxury tax would keep more teams competitive for the playoff spots you already have cut out? I guess I shouldn’t sit on a hot stove waiting for that to happen, though it feels like that should be one of the first bullet points from the MLBPA in new CBA negotiations. I guess the best I can hope for there is that Tony Clark can spell “salary floor.”

None of this fixes what’s really wrong with baseball, and even the playoff system. And I don’t know that there’s a solution to any of it. From where I sit, here are the problems:

  1. Wildcards are being competed for by teams with wildly different schedules, which isn’t fair.
  2. Baseball doesn’t really lend itself greatly to playoffs?

I’ll deal with the first and see if I’m even capable of dealing with the second later. Right now, a system that would be as near as perfect as you could get would just be the three division winners. Because they would really only be competing against teams playing the same schedule, and hence we get a fair idea of who was the “best” out of that. There’s no sliding records or whatever. Everyone in the Central played everyone else in the Central 19 times, and everyone else in the NL six or seven. Sure, there’s a little variance with these “natural interleague rivals” but I’m not going to kick a fuss over one or two games.

But even that wouldn’t completely work, if you were to give a bye to the team with the best record. Because they’ll have achieved that record playing a wildly different schedule than the other two teams, so we don’t have any idea how they compare really. And the six or seven games they had against each other wouldn’t be enough of a sample.

And of course, that wouldn’t be enough playoff teams to suit everyone. We’re not going back to four divisions and only the winners move on to the postseason, even if that makes the most sense.

I would say that expansion to 32 teams, which also seems inevitable somewhere around here, would allow for the opportunity for either eight divisions of four with only the winners moving on, or the truly revolutionary and close-to-my-heart tiered leagues of 16 teams with promotion and relegation. Fuck, in a vacuum, cutting the minor leagues loose and making them just lower league baseball could even add to this, where Des Moines and Charlotte could actually play their way into MLB II or whatever and compete with Pittsburgh and Detroit or whatever. But that’s about as galaxy-brained as it gets. Even though the Premier League’s popularity continues to grow and no one here is suggesting they change their ways.

But MLB won’t go for the eight-division look because someone will complain about the likelihood of one or two divisions being so much weaker than the others. This is what happened in the NHL. You’ll recall the current format was just supposed to be four divisions with no conferences, and four teams from each would make the playoff and then the four winners from there would be re-seeded for the semifinals. It sounded great, kept teams competing for things while playing the same schedule, and would have been at least unique. It was the players who balked, with the above reasoning. Which gave us this dumbass wildcard system.

What promotion/relegation fans are really trying to get at is keeping teams at every point in the standings competing for something. And I guess this is what this proposed MLB system takes a swipe at. Teams at the top are haggling over the bye, teams in the middle trying to get in. It doesn’t do anything for the bottom, which is the real problem, but I’ll let go of that dream. Right now, once the Dodgers get 10 games up on the Padres by what, May 1st, there really isn’t much for them to play for. Sure, the winner of the coin flip, which went excellently for them last year. But getting to miss a whole round probably has more advantage.

This always wades back into the meaning of the regular season, but that gets harder to define. When we had only four playoff teams, what did the regular season mean to teams in third through seventh? For every Braves-Giants ’92 epic, there were probably five pennant races that never actually developed as some 94-win team won by eight games and everyone knew it was over somewhere in August. Is that better? Maybe, I’m not sure either way.

If you’re like me and trying to figure out how to get the soccer model into American sports, essentially you need to keep in mind that along with avoiding relegation there’s “mid-card belts.” Like Champions League or Europa League places. As well as separate cup competitions. American sports simply don’t have these. Which is something the NBA is taking a look at, but the cup competitions don’t really work without the lower league teams competing. Now, let college teams and D-League teams take their shot and we might have something. Either way, it’s hard to juice the middle of the standings here. This is their attempt, as wrong as it may feel.

And really, we know that as dramatic as they can be, playoffs in baseball are weird. It’s kind of a different game than what we see in the regular season. Some sports lend themselves to that kind of thing or feel. I would say that hockey and basketball, but baseball and soccer don’t. It’s just the nature of the games. There’s no getting rid of them of course, but it’s not really the best way to determine a champion.

Baseball is all about how you negotiate so many damn games over six months and the accumulation of wins over that stretch. You can’t even use the same lineup every time, as you have to change pitchers. And then all of the sudden we flip a switch and one game matters over all, just over 0.5% of what you just played. It’s kind of injected drama and meaning.

Perhaps actual swift marketing men who loved the game could find a way to make the regular season more meaningful to people. Perhaps every sport could do more to make winning the regular season championship, the best test we have as flawed as it is, something to be celebrated. To separate it from the playoff champion. That’s beyond me, but until we do that, I don’t think anything is going to work perfectly.

This proposed system still sucks, though.