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September 24, 2007
Baseball Today: Monday, September 24
SLIDING IN: The Red Sox this morning sit exactly where they sat when we last spoke three mornings ago: On top of the A.L. East, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees with a one-game lead in the loss column. But one difference is that there are three fewer games left to play, which is big at this time of year. Another, far more important, difference is that they've clinched a spot in the postseason, thanks to Saturday night's win against the Devil Rays. (projo.com) So now, says Sean McAdam, comes the balancing act they'll have to perform in the season's final week: Prepare for the grind of the postseason while still attempting to win enough games to finish ahead of the Yankees for first place in the A.L. East, and finish ahead of the Indians and Angels for best record in the A.L. They took a step backward in both races yesterday -- despite another stolen base from Jacoby Ellsbury (above, AP Photo) -- with a 5-4 loss in the series finale at Tampa Bay, as Tim Wakefield continued his worrisome stumble to the finish line. (projo.com)
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WANT AND NEED: That's how the Boston Herald's Steve Buckley describes the Sox' quest for the A.L. East title: Yes, they'd like it, but they don't need it . . . and they certainly don't need it if it means hurting their chances in the postseason.
WHO CARES WHAT I NEED? THIS IS WHAT I WANT!! If Terry Francona was listening to his fan base, winning the division would be a bigger priority. (Boston Herald)
BUT AT WHAT COST? Optimally, the Sox would have their full lineup available for the final week and beyond. But there's still no real return date for either Manny Ramirez or Kevin Youkilis. (projo.com)
PASSING THE AUDITION: September callup Bryan Corey may be pitching his way onto the postseason roster. (Boston Globe)
WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE! The youngest members of the Devil Rays hate it when Red Sox and Yankee fans take over Tropicana Field when their teams come to visit. (St. Petersburg Times)
THE LEGEND OF JOBA: Joba Chamberlain continues to pitch his way into the hearts of the denizens of Yankee Universe. Yesterday he recorded his first save as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays. (New York Daily News)
RULES, SCHMULES: When playoff time comes, Mike Mussina says the Joba Rules have got to go. (New York Post)
STILL ON THE PAD: The ailing Roger Clemens (hamstring) has been pushed back another day in the rotation, meaning Andy Pettitte will start tonight against Toronto. (New York Post)
LAY OFF HIM: Joe Torre's bullpen usage has attracted criticism from many quarters -- including this one -- but he has a defender in SI.com's Tom Verducci.
CAN YOU SPELL T-A-M-P-E-R-I-N-G? Alex Rodriguez and his agent, Scott Boras, claim to know nothing about a New York magazine report that Boras has already spoken with the prospective new owners of the Cubs about a 10-year, $300 million contract for potential free-agent-to-be A-Rod, a deal that includes eventual ownership stake in the franchise. (Newsday) To read the magazine piece (written by Deadspin.com's Wil Leitch), click here.
A.L. RACES: The traditional races are over, as the Angels clinched the West by finally beating the Mariners (Riverside Press-Enterprise) and the Indians clinched the Central by beating the A's (Akron Beacon-Journal). The newer race, for the wild card, is virtually over, though the Tigers' heart is still beating -- barely -- after they beat the Royals yesterday. (Detroit Free Press) The hidden race, for playoff seeding, will rage on all week; at the moment, the Red Sox, Indians and Angels are separated by a half-game with the Yankees lurking on the outside.
N.L. RACES: It's an alternate universe in the National League. No one is in, and seven teams remain within 3 1/2 games of a playoff spot. The Mets are breathing easier in the East; they beat the Marlins yesterday (New York Post) and now head back to New York for the final week of the season with a 2 1/2-game lead because the Phillies lost to the Nationals in Washington. (Philadelphia Inquirer) The Phils are still only a half-game out in the wild-card scrum because the Padres lost their third straight to the Rockies yesterday (San Diego Union-Tribune), which pulled Colorado to within 1 1/2 games in that same wild-card race. (Denver Post) And the Braves are still alive, as well, as they moved to 3 1/2 back of San Diego by beating the Brewers. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) It was a loss Milwaukee manager Ned Yost blamed on the umpires (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel), which could be frustration talking . . . and that could be because the Cubs won yesterday, increasing their lead over the Brewers to 3 1/2 and dropping their magic number for clinching the Central to four. (Chicago Sun-Times) In the West, meanwhile, the Diamondbacks couldn't take advantage of the Padres' stumble as they lost to the Dodgers (Arizona Republic), keeping their lead at 2 1/2.
Phew. Got that?
If not, you can click here for the division standings and click here for the wild-card standings. (projo.com)
HERE'S WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN: FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal handicaps how things will shake down in the National League.
IT'S OVER: Even before the weekend began, SI.com's John Donovan said the Brewers were finished.
ROLL OUT THE BARREL: Fans in Milwaukee want the Brewers to bring back the mug that Bernie Brewer used to slide into to celebrate every home run by the home team. (New York Times)
WHEN THE GAMES GOT BIG, THEY CAME UP SMALL: FoxSports.com's Kevin Hench looks at the players who choked down the stretch.
A MAN OF PRINCIPLES: Felipe Alou works for the Giants, so he didn't think it was right to travel to nearby Miami to watch son Moises play the Marlins yesterday even though Moises was riding a hitting streak that he extended to 27 games and the Mets were battling for a division title. (New York Times) ''It’s kind of awkward when you’re working for another team, even if it’s your son,'' Felipe said.
LET THE BIDDING BEGIN: On Friday it was announced that Barry Bonds won't be returning to the Giants in 2008. (San Francisco Chronicle) The words had barely reached cyberspace when Rangers manager Ron Washington said he'd be interested in Bonds playing for Texas. (Dallas Morning News)
THE END? It's possible Andruw Jones played his last game in Atlanta yesterday. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
COOPERSTOWN, HERE I COME: The next time he whiffs, Ryan Howard will set the major-league record for strikeouts in a single season (Philadelphia Inquirer), a record set just three years ago by Adam Dunn. MLB.com notes the Howard put on a late charge to overtake Dunn; so far he's struck out 35 times in September.
NOTHING BUT BLUE SKIES DO I SEE: Joe Maddon thinks the Devil Rays are right on the cusp of not only being competitive, but of becoming a model franchise. (St. Petersburg Times)
AND HERE'S HOW THOSE SKIES ARE GOING TO TURN BLUE: By overpaying for many free agents, preferably clients of Scott Boras. At least that's the only road to success for the Rays that Boras can see. (St. Petersburg Times)
DO AS I SAY, NOT AS I DID: Astros interim manager (and former Red Sox first baseman) Cecil Cooper gets animated on the subject of walks -- specifically, his pitchers walking opposing batters -- because ''[we] can't defend if a guy walks . . . Walks fuel rallies.'' (Houston Chronicle) Interesting comments from a man whose lone weakness during a prominent big-league career was that he didn't walk enough, keeping his lifetime on-base percentage at a so-so .337 despite a sterling career batting average of .298.
TOBACCO ADDICTION: Terry Francona -- who lost Larry Lucchino's challenge to refrain from chewing tobacco this season -- and Curt Schilling are mentioned in this interesting story from the Newark Star-Ledger about how many players are addicted to snuff. Our own Steven Krasner did an award-winning series on the dangers of tobacco in baseball about 10 years ago.
QUICKLY: With the Tigers needing the miracle of miracles to overtake the Yankees and get into the playoffs, they've decided to play it safe with Jeremy Bonderman (Detroit News) . . . Mark Buerhle is also shutting it down for the season, and the Chicago Sun-Times says it's because he won a bet with the White Sox: If he nabbed a bear on a hunt with teammates Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski, he wouldn't have to pitch again. He did, and the Chisox kept their word . . . The Tigers may have interest in Miguel Tejada if the Orioles decide to move him (Detroit News) . . . The Pirates reportedly will name Neil Huntington as their new general manager (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) . . . C.J. Wilson is making his pitch to be the Rangers' closer (Dallas Morning News) . . . Jay Mariotti is proud that the Columbia Journalism Review detailed the kind of Bush administration-like smear campaign professional sports franchises (like the White Sox) administer against journalists (like him) (Chicago Sun-Times).
OLD FRIENDS: Ex-NESN announcer Debbie Wrobleski, now known as Debbie Taylor, will be back with the Nationals' television broadcast crew next season in the Tina Cervasio role. (Call of the Game blog)
-- ART MARTONE
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