Don't Let The Offseason Get Ahead Of The Postseason
Today, we issue a gentle reminder to enjoy the present as the postseason approaches and we also look at how some new blood in Atlanta has positioned the Braves for the playoffs.
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Did you know…
. . . The St. Louis Cardinals’ playoff odds were at a mere 2.8% on September 7. They entered play yesterday at 98% playoff odds, according to FanGraphs. FanGraphs playoffs odds go back to 2014 and in that span, only one team has made the playoffs after having single-digit postseason odds at any point in September: the 2019 Brewers with a 5.6% chance on September 5.
. . . There’s a lot of things to talk about regarding Shohei Ohtani’s historic 2021 season. How about this one: this year, he became one of just eight pitchers in history with 20+ stolen bases and 100+ strikeouts in one season. The others are Ed Daily (1890), Adonis Terry (1887 and 1890), Bob Caruthers (1886 and 1888), Guy Hecker (1886), Tony Mullane (1886 and 1889), George Van Haltren (1888), and Matt Kilroy (1886).
. . . Talk about another hot player, Juan Soto is having quite the season and is making a strong case for MVP in the National League. He has seven games this season where he tallied three-plus hits, one-plus home run, and one-plus walk. The record in a season is nine by Babe Ruth in 1923 and 1931. Lou Gehrig (1931) and Reggie Jackson (1969) both did it eight times, and Soto is tied with Barry Bonds (2001) and Giancarlo Stantion (2017) with seven.
Let’s Try To Enjoy The Postseason
By Ray Kuhn
“You don’t what you’ve got till it’s gone”.
Joni Mitchell’s words ring true for a variety of situations, and in our case, the paradise that we are worried about potentially being paved over is the game we all know and love, and the 2022 baseball season more specifically.
No one became a baseball fan (all right maybe there are one or two stragglers or outliers) for the love of collective bargaining, legal agreements, and learning about legal agreements and their application to professional baseball.
We want to debate which starting pitcher is better, which outfielder to trade for, and the legitimacy of advanced metrics, not luxury tax provisions and when players should become eligible for arbitration. We might really be grasping at straws, but seven inning doubleheaders are preferable to discussing whether there will be a spending floor in 2022 for teams’ payrolls.
The problem though is that we do not have that luxury. With the CBA slated to expire on December 1, there is the potential for an ugly, long, and protracted winter. Unless things change, an agreement probably will not be reached by that point and a lockout will go into effect as baseball will be without a new CBA.
There will be a push to potentially complete some offseason business and player transactions prior to that point, but it is unclear how motivated owners will be to move forward under such uncertainty.
Therefore, instead of having daily Hot Stove updates, we will have daily CBA updates, and we all know which is more exciting. Debating where Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, and Corey Seager will sign and for now much is way more exciting than trying to determine whether or not there will be a hard salary cap.
At this point, especially given the current state of the country and after how the 2020 season transpired, both sides simply have too much to lose if they do not reach an agreement to have as normal an offseason as possible and start the 2022 season on time.
We should live in the present, though. Instead of worrying about the paradise that could potentially be paved over in a few months, and if the season ultimately starts on time does anyone really care in the end, let us simply endeavor to enjoy said paradise in the here and now.
There is still a week left in the regular season with playoff spots and fantasy titles still be to determined and sorted out, so let’s make sure we get as much enjoyment out of that as possible. That will be followed by a month of what will almost certainly prove to be exciting playoff action. Maybe the best news from that is that we will no longer have to worry about seven inning doubleheaders and the free baserunner in extra innings.
Enjoy everything about it, because regardless of whether or not we think that Rob Manfred actually hates baseball, we are still talking about the action we are seeing on the field. For all its warts, especially on the business side, baseball is still a great game with lots to offer its fans.
It obviously will not be ideal if there are delays to the usual rhythm of the off-season, but if it ultimately benefits the game in the end, it will be worth it.
However, for the next month-plus, that is not our concern. So, push all of that CBA and off-season consternation out of your mind, and soak up as much of the pennant chase and playoff action as you can. There will be plenty of time in November and December to catch up on sleep and anything else you may have neglected in the weeks prior when you hopefully watched your favorite team lift a championship trophy.
Ray Kuhn can be found writing on Fantasy Alarm and podcasting at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Reach him on Twitter at @ray_kuhn_28 or via email at email@example.com as he is always interested in talking or writing about our great game.
In Atlanta, New Faces Help Win Division Races
By Dan Schlossberg
As the Atlanta Braves attempt to put the wraps on their fourth consecutive crown in the National League East, the new guys deserve much of the credit.
After the team lost sluggers Marcell Ozuna in May and Ronald Acuna, Jr. in July, general manager Alex Anthopoulos rebuilt his outfield with a flurry of pre-deadline deals that seemed like stopgaps at the time.
Adam Duvall, brought back after a half-year exile the Miami Marlins, may do what Ozuna did last year: lead the National League in home runs and runs batted in.
Jorge Soler, two years after hitting a league-best 48 home runs for the Kansas City Royals, has also been red-hot since going from also-ran to contender.
Joc Pederson, coming off a solid postseason with the 2020 World Champion Dodgers, has also made some notable contributions since coming south from Chicago.
And Eddie Rosario, acquired only for overweight Pablo Sandoval, has jumped from the Cleveland injured list to a vital spot in Brian Snitker’s lineup.
Rosario even managed to do something never achieved by Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Dale Murphy, or other greats of Braves history: last weekend, he hit for the cycle. Not only that but he did it within the space of five pitches: single, double, triple, and a home run.
Nobody can make up for the production of Ozuna and Acuna, of course, but collectively, the new guys are trying. Duvall has already reached a career peak in home runs and RBI, as have teammates Austin Riley, Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson.
Freddie Freeman, the defending National League MVP, moved back into the number two spot in the lineup Monday and responded with a three-hit game that hiked his average over .300. He’s in the MVP conversation again, along with Duvall, Riley, and Albies, a little second baseman enjoying a big season (he’s just achieved his first 100-RBI campaign).
If Swanson emerges from a weeks-long skid, the Braves could have four infielders with 30-plus homers – a major-league first.
Even if he doesn’t, the new guys have all prospered since joining the team. Atlanta went on a tear in August, overtaking the New York Mets, and has maintained its grip on first place ever since arriving there.
Much could be determined next week when the Braves finish the season with a seven-game sprint against the Phillies and Mets. New York could be toast before that, however.
Looking ahead to 2022, Acuna will be absent at the start as he recovers from his torn ACL. But Duvall is certain to return, probably with a new multi-year contract, and the Braves will try to keep Soler, a free agent this fall, and Rosario. The jury is still out on Pederson, who has a $10 million option that might be too rich for a guy who doesn’t play every day.
Also in the outfield picture for next year is Cristian Pache, a centerfielder widely regarded as the best defensive player in the minors. After failing to hit in Atlanta this season, he went back to Gwinnett and tore up the Triple-A circuit over the second half. If anyone gets hurt, he’ll be the first guy up.
Ozuna may get his legal charges dismissed but likely faces a suspension from Major League Baseball for an alleged domestic violence incident against his wife Genesis. So he can’t be counted on.
But Acuna, Jr. will return by June at the latest, making a crowded outfield even more over-populated. Perhaps the return of the DH to the National League would help, as Soler handled that role with the Royals. Duvall’s defense is good and he deserves to be the right man in left field, though Rosario has played there too. Duvall can also handle center and right.
For Brian Snitker, it’s a good problem to have. Too much of a good thing can’t hurt.
Former AP newsman Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for Latino Sports, forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Ball Nine, and Here’s The Pitch, among others. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.