Wild cards are starting to get interesting as the season heads into the home stretch… and… there lots of other interesting baseball questions for the crew to mull over…
So, pull up that stool and join in at the Round Table for talking some baseball.
1) The Yankees’ rookie catcher Gary Sanchez has been steamrolling over MLB pitchers during his short major league career. So much so that in a game last Wednesday (8/24) Scott Servais, the Mariners’ manager, told his pitchers to intentionally walk him twice. When players talk about his hot start to his MLB career, they invariably invoke the name Babe Ruth… not Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron or any other relatively modern day player.
The question… Is Babe Ruth still the yardstick by which all players, at least offensively, are still compared?
Dan: I think he is. Babe Ruth is the greatest hitter to ever grace the presence of the MLB and every hitter wants to be better than him. He’s the one to look up to.
I don’t think comparing Gary Sanchez to Babe Ruth is acceptable just yet, but, Sanchez has had a record-like start to his career. I’ve been incredibly impressed.
Earl: The Babe was such a mythical figure in baseball that it does feel right to compare players to his Ruthian standard. Especially a Yankee. To compare a Yankee to some other non-Yankee great would feel wrong from me, and I say that as a Mets and Blue Jays fan. I should have no reason to respect Ruth or the Yankees but because of what both player and club has achieved in Major League Baseball history it would be wrong for me to disrespect them.
So, yes it is absolutely correct and fair to make Babe Ruth the yardstick.
Joe: I think it’s interesting that the Ruth comparison is still one being used today. I guess he has such a reputation… his historical connection to the game and the fact that he dominated offensively and surpassed anything anyone else was doing at the time. He truly became bigger than life.
He is also someone almost everyone knows. Say Babe Ruth and most non sports people will probably say “The baseball guy?”
Steve: When it comes to the Yankees, I think that Babe Ruth is still the one players are compared to. He is far and away the most notorious Yankee that ever lived.
As for the rest of the league, I think more and more teams are starting to compare their own players to some of their own legends. However, Ruth is always going to be a mainstay when it comes to competing and comparing numbers.
2) Not many people picked Daniel Murphy as a possible MVP candidate heading into the season. But, he is having one of the best offensive seasons ever for a second baseman… as of 8/29, he leads the NL in doubles (37) and slugging percentage (.607), and, is either in the top ten or very near the top ten in triple (5), HRs (25) RBIs (98), batting average (.343) and on base percentage (.387).
Obviously the Mets missed the bus in letting him go as free agent, but, if, you were the Mets GM… based on his past history in MLB…. Instead of just a qualifying offer ($15 million) would you have offered him at least the same contract, or better, than the Nationals gave him (3 years @ $37.5 million) or would you have also let him walk?
Dan: I probably would’ve gave him a 3-year contract at $40 million. It’s less per year than the qualifying offer and a nice reward for being a valuable member of the team. While his career numbers don’t equate anywhere near what he’s put up this season, I think, it still would’ve been a nice reward for what he has contributed to the Mets’ offense and organization over the past 7 seasons.
Hindsight is 20/20 though and an outbreak like this wasn’t anticipated. But, based on statistics before this season, and not taking this season into account, I would’ve gave him a better contract on initial numbers than what Washington gave Murphy.
Earl: Letting Murphy walk in hindsight is a horrible decision especially considering the Mets hitting woes, but at the time it made sense. You had no real clue that Murphy was going to repeat what he did last season and not only has Murphy repeated it but he surpassed it. However, I am tired of the Mets owners acting like their team is not in a major market. You have to pony up to players and missing the mark on Murphy by being cheap doesn’t help.
Joe: Nothing he ever did ever pointed to him being this dominate. After his postseason when he first showed any indication he could be an offensive force, I believe, the Mets thought he is going to ask for the moon and we aren’t willing to pay him what he wants, especially for any amount of years.
Still, considering the contract that he did sign with Washington… ya think, $40 million over a three stretch would have kept him in Mets uniform?
Steve: We saw just how talented Daniel Murphy was during the National League Championship series last year against the Chicago Cubs. With that performance alone, I think if I was a GM, I would have given him a decent sized contract.
Let’s face it, 3 years at $37 million for a quality players is nothing to most of these teams. There is no way I let him walk, especially to a division rival like the Nationals.
3) The AL 2nd wild card is becoming quite a battle with 6 teams in a fight for that last playoff spot in the AL. As of 8/29, the Orioles have the 2nd WC spot… followed by the Tigers (2 games behind); Astros, Royals and Mariners (all 3 games behind) and then the Yankees (3.5 games behind.)
Who is your favorite/the pick to get that 2nd AL WC spot?
Dan: While I really think Baltimore has a great offense and can definitely win the second Wild Card spot in the American League, I don’t think they will. When it comes down to it, their starting pitching (and pitching overall) will come to haunt them. They are in the bottom half of the entire MLB in pitching and Yovani Gallardo isn’t helping their cause at all.
I think Detroit will end up grabbing the second Wild Card slot and make the playoffs. They have some solid pitching this season along with a nice offense as well. While they’re only a couple of games out, I do think they’ll be able to overcome the Orioles and make it.
If, they advance to the round after the Wild Card, that’s another discussion.
Earl: First off, let me say I have been a fool to write off the Yankees. The Baby Bombers have been very entertaining these past few weeks. Dropping A-Rod and going with a youth movement has absolutely paid off for them.
With that said, I like the Orioles to hold off all challengers for the 2nd wildcard. I can’t see a manager like Buck Showalter not pushing his guys to the finish line. I see no collapse from the O’s.
Joe: Lets get this out of the way first… The Orioles pitching will let them down when all is said and done.
Now as for the rest… it’s going to be very interesting. Every one of the teams have a shot at being the second wild card. However, I’m taking the homer pick an choosing the Yankees.
Why? At the season’s outset, I took the Yanks to win the division based on last years performances and I thought their pitchers would take a huge step forward. I was wrong on most accounts.
But now, after they changed directions in midstream and have gone with a youth movement, I see a reinvented team that is reinvigorated and they have a manager who from day one has always insisted that the Yanks are trying to make the playoffs.
Joe Girardi is the perfect man to manage these “kids.” Look back and see what he did in Miami once before. Is he the best manager in the world? Not by a long shot, but, I think, he does have the ability to work with young players better than many managers and he just never seems to ever give up in his thinking that “Yes, we can.”
So, the Yanks it is.
Steve: I really want to say the Astros here, because on paper they are one of the most talented teams. But, their pitching just has not come true to form and this is costing them down the stretch. The Yankees have a great shot as they finally seem to be playing on the same level with each other. The Tigers have always been a pretty good team and you can never count out the Royals, as they have been catching fire as of late.
When it is all said and done, I think the team who has been playing the most consistent baseball over the past two months will take the 2nd wild card spot: The Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have been hitting, and pitching well and seemingly find a way to win, no matter what the circumstances are. It may not be the most attractive pick, but, I think, Seattle will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Dan: Of course, everybody is going to select Kershaw, but, since he’s out, I’m going with one of two choices: Chris Sale or Jake Arrieta.
My choice is Jake Arrieta. What he did in the second half of last season into the first half of this season was absolutely incredible and one of the best stretches of pitching I’ve ever seen. He’s been one of the best pitchers all season and I think he’s probably the greatest pitcher currently in the MLB, only behind Kershaw.
Earl: Got to go with a homer pick and go with Syndergaard.
Thor is having a good season and he knows how to deliver the win when his team needs it.
But, based on his last couple of years… I’ll take Jake Arrieta.
Steve: Despite his recent struggles, I still have to go with Jake Arrieta.
He leads the National League currently in wins and has been finding was to win. He is also no easy out at the plate. I watched the game Monday night with the Pirates where he hit one of the longest foul balls I have ever seen, it wasn’t foul by much, and, he always pitches well enough to keep his team in the game.
5) Who is better Mike Trout or Bryce Harper? Or, is there another position player you would take over both of these players?
(Editor’s note; The question, as stated, is ambiguous as to whether its meant for the comparison to be for their careers or for just the season. Sorry.)
Dan: I assume that this is based off of this season so far and I’m going with Mike Trout.
While Bryce Harper is doing great, his batting average and on-base percentage are both significantly lower than Trout’s. Also, he’s losing to Trout on OPS+ by 43 points which is a ginormous difference. He does have a better walk-to-strikeout ratio (92/89 for Harper — 90/113 for Trout). Trout is leading the American League in walks while also leading the AL in OBP at .431. He has one more HR, 8 more RBI and he’s doing all of this on a way worse team.
Trout’s Angels have no chance at making the playoffs and have a great chance (unless a miracle happens) of finishing below .500. Bryce Harper is posting numbers below career average while playing for a team leading the NL East right now and are posting a 73-55 record and will compete with Chicago and LAD/SF for the World Series nod representing the National League.
Give me Trout.
Earl: Mike Trout all day. Bryce is a great player but when I look at Trout and I think of where his career can go, the sky is the limit. He’ll be a fantastic player and he might go down as one of the better players in history if everything pans out for him.
Joe: I think there are some players that may eventually be better than these guys but its still too early to there are right now. At least for one of them.
Mike Trout is the guy I take in an a landslide rout as far as I’m concerned. He is always a consideration for the MVP since he has been in the game and, simply put, he has the track record. As they say… You are what your record says you are and Trouts record says he is one of the top players… if not the best… in the game today.
Steve: I don’t know about anyone else, but, I am not taking either Harper or Trout, despite how great these two players are. I am taking Kris Bryant.
Bryant is absolutely crushing the ball, and he is multi-dimensional as you can play him in virtually 6 positions, and, he can play each of those positions well. Not only do I think he is the MVP on the best team in baseball, I think, right now, Kris Bryant is the best player in all of baseball and he is only going to get better with experience.
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