With roughly only 40 regular-season games left, it’s time to tick off playoff –possible teams. Except in the all-or-nothing NL East, five or fewer games behind in the wild card standings make our cut. By that measurement, a numerically impressive 16 teams are still in the hunt – nine in the AL, seven in the NL. The list (including division leaders): Yankees, Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, Royals, Tigers, Astros, Angels, Rangers; Mets, Nationals, Cardinals, Pirates, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants.
We give three teams on the list only outside chances of making the post-season: the Rays, Tigers and Mets. Why the first-place Mets? Because the healing-from-key-injuries Nationals can be expected to come on strong. And we know the Mets have been meltdown-prone in the homestretch ever since they were an inning away from the World Series in 2006. The Marlins hammered Tom Glavine in the final game of 2007, nudging them a game out of a first-place tie. They faded to three games out in 2008, owing to a depleted bullpen. In ensuring years they faded completely. Hard to believe some similar historic failings – hitting and/or bullpen – won’t undermine them this time around.
Would-be presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has a Metsian-like credibility challenge as he deals with the Dem team in his party’s nomination playoff. Vox scout Ezra Klein summed up Bernie’s problem in this single sentence: “Can Sanders convince Democrats he can win?”
The fact that Bernie will turn 74 early next month complicates his persuasion task. People in the national ballpark have never elected a Skipper as old as Sanders would be on taking office in 2017. The Dem team favorite – comparatively youthful Hillary Clinton (68 in January ’07) – has money as well as wide front office support working in her favor. What she doesn’t have is the elusive gift of “authenticity,” which WashPost’s E.J. Dionne says could be decisive. Here is how he puts it (without mentioning Hillary by name): “More voters than usual seem tired of carefully focus-grouped public statements, deftly cultivated public personas, and cautiously crafted political platforms that are designed to move just the right number of voters in precisely the right places to cast a half-hearted vote for a person or a party.”
A reason, perhaps, why mostly spontaneous Donald Trump has been successful as a Team GOP candidate so far.
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Lengthening Odds: It’s risky ever to rule out the Giants from overcoming competitive obstacles. But, after last night’s loss to the Pirates and the Cubs’ victory over the Braves, SF is eight games behind the Bucs and four behind Joe Maddon’s team in the wild card race. That leaves them one-on-one with the Dodgers for the playoff spot that goes with the NL West pennant. And the Giants must overtake an LAD team just strengthened by the addition of Chase Utley, while they must counter with newly obtained Marlon Byrd as the lone reinforcement for the absences of injured Hunter Pence and Angel Pagan. All that, and we’re not in an SF-blessed even year.
Lucky to be a Yankee (Fan): Brian Cashman deserves a GM-of-the-Year Award for (1) acquiring pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (13-2) from the Marlins in a pre-season deal; (2) holding on to pitcher Luis Severino and first baseman Greg Bird rather than possibly dealing them away before the July 31 deadline. With the addition of Severino, the Yanks have a solid rotation to go with a superior relief corps and a potent offense. If they don’t hold off the talent-top-heavy Blue Jays for the AL East title, the Yankees should win enough to give their fans post-season play as a wild card team..
More on the Mets: Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan suggests where the blame should rest if the Mets pull another fade, despite the much celebrated rental of Yoenis Cespedes: “(Cespedes) is not the sort to liberate New York from the sins of the Wilpons, the Mets’ owners who are being lauded for upgrading their team at the deadline. Here’s the truth: A New York team starting the season with a payroll below that of the Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds, among many, many others, is the sort of unforgiveable failing that makes this look promising only because where they started is such an embarrassment.”
(More of The Nub, a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey, can be found at perfectpitcher.org)