MLB Clubs Undermine Own Chances at Title

by Moonlight Graham

In 2003, in an attempt to regenerate fan interest just a year after a lack of available pitchers forced MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to declare the All Star Game a tie, Baseball’s hierarchy decreed that the Mid-Summer Classic would now determine home field advantage in the World Series. It wasn’t already bad enough that the rosters were watered down by the requirement that each team, no matter how bad, must be represented; now, a player from a second division club could have a hand in deciding the outcome of the sport’s premier event months in advance.

While the move was and is opposed by many, I never really had a problem with it.  Not because I agree with the concept; it’s completely ridiculous to think I’m staying up that late to watch Garrett Jones of the Pittsburgh Pirates face Kansas City Royals’ closer Joakim Soria because I’d like the Mets to have home field if they get that far.  However, because the old system of alternating the privilege was also completely without merit, I figured, “Who cares?”  Until I realized that the new policy actually gives mindless fans the opportunity to hurt their team’s shot at a championship; often at the prompting of it’s own front office. We’ve all been to the ballpark in the early part of the season and heard the huge pitch to vote for the hometown boys.  Actually, you don’t even have to attend a game anymore, as on-line balloting has given everyone a voice.  “Send Joe Blow to Los Angeles for the All Star Game”, blare the ads.  “Forget the stats, vote for our guys!”  On the surface, a nice marketing strategy, but one that could prove fatal to a championship run. 

The Philadelphia Phillies have won two consecutive National League pennants and, despite being ravaged by injuries, are still within striking distance in the NL East. There aren’t many Phillies fans that aren’t expecting a third straight World Series appearance.  Yet, right down to the last week, fan balloting had 3B Placido Polanco, SS Jimmy Rollins and 2B Chase Utley in the starting lineup.  Polanco, hiting .318 with 4 HR and 27 RBI, is a far cry from New York Mets’ third sacker David Wright or Scott Rolen of the Cincinnati Reds; two Gold Glovers also boasting BA over .300 while sitting near the top of the league’s RBI standings.  Rollins has missed all but twenty games this season while Utley is going through the worst campaign of his career.  How does a Philadelphia baseball fan better the National League’s chances of winning the game by voting for any of them?  Rest assured, however, that if Charlie Manuel’s boys open the Series on the road, every cheese steak moron that backed “J-Roll” will be whining for all he’s worth.   And not a soul in the Phillies’ front office will realize that their ad campaign was probably a bad idea.

Fantasy News and Notes

Although there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since Carl Yazstremski in 1967, there may actually be a three man race for the honor in the AL this year.  Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera leads the loop in HR and RBI and is fifth in BA.  Rangers’ OF Josh Hamilton is fourth in the batting race while sitting just 4 HR and 5 RBI back of Cabrera while, in Minnesota, Justin Morneau has as many dingers as Hamilton and is third in BA.  He’ll have to pick up the RBI, though, as he’s more than 10 behind the top spot… Don’t be too quick to write off the first half of Blue Jays’ OF/3B Jose Bautista.  THe HR may have tailed off and his BA was never stellar, but his 49 BB indicate he’s still got a plan at the dish…Hank Blalock was released by the Rays to make room for Gabe Kapler.  Guess it’s really over when a team wants Kapler instead of anyone… Let me get this straight.  The Seattle Mariners, dead last in the AL West, may be looking to move Cliff Lee but gave up prospects for Russell Branyan?

Buy Low

- Is anyone still paying attention to the Baltimore Orioles?  If your league isn’t, call the guy that owns Adam Jones and make a deal.  After a miserable start, Jones used a hot June to raise his BA to .274 and now has 13 HR…This may be your last chance to grab Moonlight’s favorite sleeper, Jason Kubel.  His bat has warmed with the weather in Minnesota, his BA s climbing and he’s on pace for 90+ RBI.

Sell High

- After a dugout confrontation for not hustling in Tampa, B.J. Upton was out of the lineup with, what was called,  a hamstring issue.  I’m not buying. This is a guy that melted last year when Joe Maddon dropped him in the order.  Expect the same dropoff if he’s feuding with teammates… Angels’ RHP Joel Pineiro has won five straight.  A solid pitcher, he’s never been dominant and you won’t miss him too much; especially if you can use his hot streak to secure a big bat.

Grab Bag

- Cincinnati Reds’ rookie Travis Wood debuted yesterday with seven strong innings.  Not a big K guy, he’s been an ERA and WHIP monster all through the Minor Leagues.  If he stays in Dusty Baker’s rotation, grab him.

Drop Zone

- If you haven’t shed yourself of Rockies’ 1B Todd Helton, do so, now.  Having never struck out more than 80 times in any of the last seven seasons, he’s now at 50 and complaining of a bad back.

Sick Bay

-  Had to share this one. In the Hausier’s Krowedum Rotisserie League, Jack Sullivan’s Big Steins have been bitten by the injury bug; often with comical results.  The laughter from the rest of the league had not yet died down after Kendry Morales was lost for the season while celebrating a HR when Luke Scott, another Big Stein, pulled a hammy rounding first after going deep.  The way I figure, if Jack’s guys keeping hitting dingers, he’s got no chance to win.

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