National League benefits greatly from mining AL rejects; more notes
Then, in perhaps the biggest league-switching eye-opener of all,
"Going from the AL to the NL, it's like oxygen," one AL general manager said.
"If I'm an NL GM," said another AL GM, "I'm taking every scrap heap player from the American League."
That actually does appear to be a strategy for some opportunistic NL GMs. Whether or not they intentionally focused on the AL-to-NL switch, the Cardinals, Rockies and Dodgers especially appear to have benefited by mining the superior league for talent. Not coincidentally, those three teams are in playoff positions as of today.
The Cardinals, whose rescue of
The Man-child became otherworldly when he went to the Dodgers in 2008 (although part of that could have been because of increased effort, as well), and so did
When O'Dowd was asked whether he considers a change of leagues in making deals, he answered honestly. "I do," he said, before adding that sometimes he also considers a change of scenery, as was the case with
O'Dowd said the difference in leagues has been obvious for a decade. He cited
The AL has won 11 straight All-Star decisions (assuming each team has a 50-50 chance in All-Star Games, the chances for the AL to win 11 straight would be 1 in 2,048), and has also won the interleague battle six straight years, with that tally being slightly more lopsided over the past four years. (The AL has won 55 percent of interleague games over the last six years but the percentage rises to 57 percent over the last four.)
However, it's still the individual examples that are most glaring. Holliday, a superstar with both the Rockies and now again with the Cardinals, had a rough three months with the A's before happily escaping a bad situation for one of baseball's better environments. Hitting .286 and slugging .454 with the A's, Holliday has gone on a tear since getting to St. Louis, where his batting average has jumped to .375 and his slugging percentage to .691 as he has helped to lead the Cardinals' surge that has all but wrapped up the NL Central Division.
Since the leagues draw talent from the same amateur and professional pools, it seems odd that one league would be so dominant. Theories abound, ranging from the DH in the American League to differing styles (the sac bunt is all but dead in the AL) to the high payrolls of the Yankees and Red Sox to increased competition based on trying to keep up with the teams at the top (usually those two juggernauts in the AL East).
"You can do nothing like the Houston Astros and still compete every season in the NL," one AL executive pointed out. (The Astros aren't exactly in the mix this year, though.) Another executive said he believed that the White Sox and Blue Jays, two AL teams with losing records this year, would contend in the NL.
Many baseball people believe that there is a psychological element as well, especially for pitchers who don't have to deal with a DH and thus face shorter, generally less-dangerous lineups. No team in the National League has a hitter as talented as
Patient lineups such as those for the Yankees and Red Sox wear down pitchers. And bigger ballparks provide a comfort zone for pitchers in the NL.
But many folks in the American League think the difference between the leagues is about something much more obvious.
"All the talent's here," one AL GM said. "It's a pretty [crummy] league over there."
• It's believed that the Yankees will treat
• Amazingly, in their mid-30s, Jeter, Rivera, Posada and
• Speaking of amazing,
• According to scout scuttlebutt, Holliday isn't automatic to stay in St. Louis. While he's thriving there, he could be pursued by the deeper-pocketed Yankees, Mets and maybe even the Red Sox (especially if Boston fails to sign
• One other possible explanation for some of the pitching turnarounds in St. Louis is pitching coach
• The Rockies plan to keep Huston Street out through the weekend. His biceps tendinitis is something that came on suddenly.
• The Yankees don't seem too worried about Rivera's groin issue. It was recently revealed to have been bothering him off-and-on all year.
• One competing GM said he could see the Cubs seeking to pay about half the $21 million remaining on
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