July 16, 2007 [LINK / comment]
Thinking about pennant races
Now that the second half of the season has begun, we can reasonably talk about the divisional races and wild card slots. The Cubs are the hottest team in baseball right now, closing in on the Brewers, while the Braves close in on the Mets, hoping to reclaim their "throne." Will the imminent return of Pedro Martinez regalvanize the Mets in time? One interesting fact about the current MLB standings is the relative evenness, with hardly any extremely good or extremely bad teams. [For most of July, all teams in the National League have had] winning percentage records of between .400 and .600, and [in the majors right] now only the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are below the .400 threshold. [My apologies for having had to make a correction.]
For the first time in over a month, the Yankees have won more games than they have lost. Unless they close in on the Red Sox in a hurry, however, the Yanks may have to settle for a wild card spot, and they may be excluded from the playoffs altogether. Can you imagine the Yankees trading away some of their top-notch players as the August 1 deadline approaches? No, I can't either. With A-Rod's contract about to expire, George Steinbrenner might be tempted to rethink his team's big-spending approach to acquiring talent. (Is Brian Cashman brave enough to make such a recommendation to The Boss?) That might be a healthy development for the sport as a whole.
The August 1 trading deadline means a lot more to also-ran teams like the Washington Nationals. I think they ought to spend just about whatever it takes to keep Cristian Guzman.
Nine-game World Series?
A few weeks ago, controversial baseball player agent Scott Boras made news by proposing to extend the World Series into a best-of-nine format, with the first two games to be played at a neutral site. See USA Today. I oppose almost anything that would extend the postseason schedule any later into October, and I think the current format is stretching things out too much as it is, though not as badly as the NBA or NFL. Some people think that Boras, who has represented Alex Rodriguez and other superstars, is "destroying the game of baseball" with his demands for mega-salaries. See laweekly.com. This proposal smacks of the same short-sighted obsession with generating revenue, at the expense of the spirit of the game. Just say no!
If any changes to the postseason schedule are made, I would modify the first two rounds, making the wild card slot contingent on at least one team having a higher winning percentage than one of the divisional champions. If not, then the divisional champion with the highest percentage gets a first-round "bye." Also, I would change the format of the first round so that home field advantage would be adjusted according to the differential between the two teams' regular season winning percentage. A big enough difference would mean the better team would get all games at home.
Web page fixups
All of the baseball stadium comparison pages (for example, Stadium statistics) have been reformatted slightly, for the sake of consistency and simplicity.