I come bearing bad news for fans of the Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals, Rockies, and great September pennant races. Barring a comeback of historic proportions, the eight playoff berths are virtually locked up with the exception of the NL wild card.
The Yankees, Rays, Twins, Rangers, Braves, Reds and Padres all began September holding a playoff position by a lead of at least four games (including a fallback wild-card lead for Atlanta). That doesn't sound like much of a lock, until you understand some of the history of the 14 full seasons (1996-2009) under the six-division, wild card format:
There is an old theory that you best keep within one game of a playoff spot for every week left in the season. But even that doesn't sound urgent enough given such a history.
(Disclaimer Department: You might recall the 2007 Phillies trailed the Mets by seven games with 17 to play and won their division. True enough. But this is only a Sept. 1 snapshot to help you understand what defines a big last-month comeback. The 2007 Phillies were two games back on Sept. 1.)
Today, the White Sox trail the Twins by three in the loss column and still play Minnesota three more times -- at home. So yes, Chicago still has a fighting chance (coolstandings.com gives the Sox a 17.4 percent chance at reaching the postseason), but the point is that it would take the kind of September comeback that almost never happens.
If the pattern holds up, the AL will have only one September comeback among its last 16 playoff teams since 2007 (the 2009 Twins), and baseball will have no team from the Chicago and Los Angeles markets (including the Angels) in the postseason for the first time since 2001.
The Dodgers are better off having given away
As hard as it may be to believe, the Dodgers are a better club with
And when he does play, he is no longer a power threat. He becomes a six-inning player if his team has the lead, and running in the outfield and on the bases puts him at risk of another leg injury. There is no reliability with Ramirez if he has to play the outfield. His days as a National League player, short as they were, are history. So the Dodgers, who have been a bad team for the equivalent of half a year (37-44), are wise to put the money toward
The good news for the White Sox is that Ramirez, despite his loss of power, can still hit, and hitting is what they need. More good news: he doesn't have to play the outfield, they're getting him in a short dose, and he is playing for a contract. It's exactly as you would prefer to have Ramirez: no glove, no guarantees, no commitment.
Indeed, Ramirez better make the most of this chance if he wants to extend his career. At best, he is this winter's version of what
A better comp might be
The elbow injury to
Admittedly, that's an anecdotal list, but what if we ranked the best young strikeout pitchers by strikeouts per nine innings and see what happened to them after their big debuts?
So here's the list: the 10 starting pitchers with the best strikeout rates in their debut season (min.: 12 starts):
So there you have it. No Hall of Famers. Four losing records. Only one guy with a winning record with at least 100 wins. It's fun to watch, but maybe it's not such a promising thing to be blowing away hitters as soon as you get to the majors at such a young age.