Pennant races, HR Derby and some early playoff thoughts @ MLBRT 6/29


This week’s questions… (all statistics and records are of Monday morning, 6/19.)

1) Giancarlo Stanton recently told ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, that participating, and defending his title, in the 2017 Home Run Derby during the All-Star break “will be fun” especially since it will be at his home ballfield.

Giancarlo Stanton

It is probably not an exaggeration to say for most baseball fans, casual or serious, the HR Derby is not usually must watch TV. However, this year two rookie players, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger, have been both been hitting HRs far, long and often… both lead their respective leagues in HRs as of Monday morning.

Considering the press both rookies have gotten, especially considering their frequent and awesome power displays when hitting their HRs, and then considering Stanton has a reputation of being a powerful HR slugger himself (he hit the 10 longest blasts in last year’s derby), if one or the other or both rookies take part in the HR Derby, would you then think that many more fans than ever will be more inclined to watch the HR exhibition presentation? 

Cody Bellinger

Archie: I’m still at the “who gives a crap” mentality. The HR Derby and ASG has become a waste of time IMO. The fact that the two rookies mentioned are from the two clubs that spend the most money then I would think that more fans WILL watch, I just will not be one of them. I personally feel that MLB will have to change format of voting/electing the AS players before I will ever gain interest again. I am tired of seeing “less than deserving” getting named as starters just because they are from certain teams or fan bases.

Joe: I’m not a real big fan of the All-Star game. In fact, going back to when I first started watching MLB in a serious manner (yeah, I’m sorta elderly,… it was the late 50’s) I wasn’t even that big a fan of the All-Star game then, either. Although I would watch the game more than I do most years now. As far as the HR Derby… I have watched it on occasion, only because I was bored and had nothing else to do.

Aaron Judge

Having said all that IF Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger and Giancarlo Stanton are in the HR Derby this year I will probably be watching.  

Steve: I’ve always liked the HR derby, and any time that the Yankees or Dodgers are playing, I find my self glued to the TV to watch Aaron Judge or Cody Bellinger bat.

If, either of these two, along side Stanton decides to participate, and they will barring any nagging injuries, this may very well be the HR derby for the ages.

2) Discounting the Houston Astros who are playing at a .675 win/loss pace, all have AL teams have records (as of Monday morning) that stand at no better than .548 and no worse. 432. And, if it were not for Houston, all three divisions would be playing in hotly contended pennant races as no team (other than Houston) would be ahead of any other team by more than 7 games. 

As it stands right now, there are 10 AL teams in contention for the two AL wild card spots in MLB’s post-season tournament that are separated by no more than 3.5 games.  

Is this MLB’s version of NFL’s parity between the teams and is it good or bad? Does it mean MLB is more exciting and competitive or is it a detriment to MLB and will turn off more fans than attract them? 

Archie: I think the parity is good for baseball and I think it will make for an exciting post-season playoff run. I also think this year’s trade deadline will see much action as teams try to get that “one last piece of the puzzle.”

Joe: I’m not sure.

On one hand I think it is and that’s why there are so many close pennant races and usually I see that as a good thing for fans of teams in other areas. Then, I say, naw… the problem is there are too many teams and the talent level is too spread out and there are too many Triple A players on MLB on major league teams because they need to fill out all the rosters./

Flip a coin is all I can do. Heads… yeah, its the MLB version of parity, and tails… its the talent being watered down because there are too many teams.

Now, to answer the real question… either way, if the games are being competitive and more teams have more chances to be in the playoffs, then more people will be watching on TV and going to the games. And, that is good for the sport and the business of MLB.

Steve: Not at all, the more excitement you have in each division, the more people are going to be attracted to what is going on. No one is watching the AL West right now, because it is wrapped up. No one is really watching the NL East either because the Nationals all but have that wrapped up. You see every day on ESPN the standings for the AL and NL Central, and the AL East. The NL West seems to be getting locked up by the Dodgers, but don’t count out those Rockies or Diamondbacks. I love it, and if it keeps up; more fans will come.

3) With a sub .500 record (34-40; .459) the St. Louis Cardinals are still within striking distance in the NL Central. They trial the division leading Milwaukee Brewers by 5 games. However, if they don’t win the division, their chances for a playoff spot look very bleak as they are 11 games out of wild card spot… the tight NL West with three teams all playing over .600 ball and fighting for first hurts a lot NL team’s chances in the NL wild card race. 

If, they don’t turn their record around soon, should they be sellers or buyers by the July 31st trade deadline? Or, should they just stand pat and play the players that they have and hope for the best? After all, aren’t they the Cardinals who always seem to find a way to get into the playoffs? 

Cardinals… sellers or buyers in 2017?

Archie: When I look at their roster I don’t see a trade where they could help themselves make a run but there are a couple of players that contenders would love to add to their roster for the final leg of the season.  IMO the Cardinals can’t afford to get rid of their young guys and many of their older players probably don’t present much trade value. So all in all, I guess they should just stand pat for now.

Joe: The Cardinals always seem to surprise me somehow and are usually in the thick of things when playoff time rolls around.

Not, this time. If, hey aren’t winning a lot more games than they are right now by the All-Star game…which is right around the corner, July 11… then Cardinal management will likely say that its time to examine the trade market so they can restock up on young prospects.

Steve: I think the Cards are going to be in unfamiliar territory as I think they will start the process of “rebuilding.”

Yes, I said it Cardinal fans. They see what the Yankees have done to turn there franchise around after a couple of off years. The Cards have a good farm system, and it may be time to unload some contracts and develop some of these up and coming stars from the minors. Trade key players at the deadline to get yourself in a position for the future.

4) Turning back to the AL wild card races… in your opinion would it make more sense for MLB o do away with the pretense of pennant races in the three divisions in each league and just take the top eight teams and have 1 play 8, 2 play 7, etc… in a first round of playoff games of five games? Why or why not?

Archie: You’re killing me Smalls, you’re killing me.

Being a traditionalist I would oppose any scenario where the playoffs were a mixed bag of Interleague teams until the WS. That’s what makes the WS so great, the AL vs the NL; You know , the way God intended.  IT WOULD PISS ME OFF TO SEE the Yankees vs Red Sox in the WS. However, I would not be opposed to seeing the top four in each League settle things with a battle of the best. I do say this with the mindset that each division’s champ would be good enough to be among those four chosen. I HATE the one game play-in the way it is setup now. Let’s just do away with it and let the top four team get seated according to record and go at it best of 7 both series. (With of course not so many days off in between games).

Joe: Yes, I would like to see the playoffs redone but how that is done is really not something that I see as being easily done. Right now outside of the above format… which I’m not completely sold on…  (and of course the present format being used) I don’t know how else it could be redone.

NOW… As the editor of this column I get to see everyone’s answer prior to publication and I gotta say I do lie Archie’s’ idea.

Steve: No, I liked it when it was just one wild card winner, not two. It makes the regular season more exciting. Look at the NBA, no one cares about the regular season, it is all the playoffs. If, Baseball does something like that, I think it will produce less viewers during the regular season.

5) Are the Cubs ever going to turn things around and play to the level most of their fans, as well as many (if not most) baseball fans, expected of them? If they don’t, then as the trade deadline approaches, should they be buyers or sellers?

Cubs brain trust mulling things over for 2017? VP of baseball operations Theo Epstein and owner Tom Ricketts on the right.

Archie: The Cubbies are above .500. They are 6-4 for their last 10. I just feel folks should just relax a bit. I am not a believer in the Brewers at this point. I don’t see the Cubbies going thru the All-Star break without doing a “talent search” and making a meaningful trade deadline acquisition. They need some outfield help and there is plenty to be had through trade this year. The Phillies have Howie Kendrick for this season only and I can see where they will definitely shop him around with the year he is having. The Cubbies would do great to snatch him up before the deadline. In fact, they should be working that deal right now.

Joe: It sure as hell ain’t looking like they will turn things around.

However, they are in a division where the only team performing somewhat well is Milwaukee and if they falter and the Cubs get on a little hot streak… guess what? They will be in contention to win the NL central and once in the playoffs… anything can happen.

Steve: As a Cubs fan, I am beginning to hit the panic button. While I still think they will win the division almost by default, I can’t see this team doing much in the post season. Joe Maddon needs to stop experimenting with this lineup and figure out something that will stick. The Rizzo lead off experiment seems to be working, so stick with it. They need to unload some players to get another top tier pitcher. I suggest a package including Schwarber and another player… either Baez, or even Russell, for Chris Archer to the Rays. He could be that missing piece that could put them over the top. This experimenting stuff just has to stop!

Extra Innings…

No. 34 is unveiled on the right field upper deck, Friday, June 23, 2017, at Fenway Park in Boston, as the Boston Red Sox retired David Ortiz’s jersey number worn when he led the franchise to three World Series titles.


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