The Phillies look like a prohibitive World Series favorite. But that guarantees nothing, of course.
The Braves of the 1990s had the same sort of starting pitching that made folks assume they'd win many titles throughout the decade. Yet, that presumed dynasty only won one World Series, in the strike-shortened year of 1995.
While the playoffs aren't really a crap shoot, as some suggest, almost anything can and will happen. Anyone who makes it has a legitimate shot, and that includes the Diamondbacks, who may be baseball's best story this season. While one talent evaluator opined that the D-backs are "playing over their heads,'' another picked them as the possible surprise World Series winner, pointing to their youth and late runs.
That said, with the playoff spots all but settled, here is a rundown of the eight very likely playoff entrants (should the Giants, White Sox, Indians or Cardinals stage a monster rally, I'll adjust later).
• The Mets-owning Wilpons and Saul Katz broke off talks with David Einhorn, who had agreed to buy a minority stake in the team, after his keen interest in getting pre-approval from MLB to take majority control in five years became a concern for them that that was actually his main goal. The Wilpons and Katz eventually concluded that Einhorn was banking on the Wilpons running out of cash to remain in control. That is not the basis for a solid partnership. Einhorn told reporters in a conference call that he had obtained pre-approval from MLB to take over the team should it come to that, but the current Mets owners claim that isn't even allowed. In any case, Einhorn's fixation over this issue made clear to them what his real objective was. Wilpon and Katz want to keep the team in family hands. Einhorn complained in a statement he issued that Wilpons/Katz changed the deal along the way. The Mets have recapitalized their team by adding money from other entities and are said to be on solid financial ground into next season. Their new plan to get more money is to find many smaller limited partners who will invest perhaps $20 million apiece.
• Nobody is better at making something unpleasant sound as palatable as Mets GM Sandy Alderson. "The feeling is, even at $100 million or $110 million, we're still in the upper echelon of payrolls,'' Alderson told Adam Rubin of ESPN New York. Previously, Alderson expressed surprise when Fred Wilpon told SI's Tom Verducci that the team's payroll may fall to $100 million from about $140 million this year. Alderson surely has a way with words.
• Perhaps the biggest pickup at the Aug. 31 deadline was the Rangers adding lefty reliever Mike Gonzalez, who allowed no runs and one walk over his last 12 1/3 innings, with 15 strikeouts. Getting backup catcher Matt Treanor, solid backstop and husband of volleyball legend Misty May-Treanor, can't hurt, either. Rangers president Nolan Ryan is a better pitcher than predictor. After saying he wasn't expecting the team to do anything, they did maybe more than anyone. Ryan also previously denied a note here that the team had interest in Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez by suggesting on his friend Randy Galloway's radio show that they did not have interest in either of those two players, even giving specific reasons they made no sense. As it turned out, the Rangers tried extremely hard to land Beltran before the Giants acquired him.
• Angels wunderkind Mike Trout is 10 for 28 with four home runs since his re-call. It seems odd that Eddie Bane was fired as scouting director since tabbing Trout, who turned 20 last month, as a late first-round pick in 2009. That may have been the best single pick by anyone over the last decade. Bane now works for the Tigers. Baseball's other wunderkind, Bryce Harper 19, told Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com that he plans to play for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.
• Andy MacPhail does seem likely to leave the Orioles, as
• Japanese League pitching star Yu Darvish has been reported as likely to come to the U.S. to pitch in the majors next year. Teams that have shown interest include the Yankees, Rangers, Nationals, Orioles, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Rays, according to
• The Angels set a deadline for Jered Weaver to accept their $85 million five-year offer, telling him they'd trade him if he didn't accept. His love for the Angels won out, and he accepted.
• The Mariners rewarded GM Jack Zduriencik, whose contract was about to expire, with a multi-year deal. Zduriencik and scouting director Tom McNamara have engineered three productive drafts, and the Mariners' future looks sound, especially with a potential rotation of Felix Hernandez, Danny Hultzen, Michael Pineda and perhaps James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. They could use a bit of hitting, however.
• Jesus Montero is perhaps the most ballyhooed Sept. 1 call-up. He appears to be in much better shape than he had been in at spring training. Reds catching prospect Devin Mesoraco may be the call-up that is most universally beloved by baseball scouts, however.
• The closer market is going to be saturated, as MLB Trade Rumors points out. The Tigers will pick up Jose Valverde's $8 million option, but free agents still include Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, Ryan Madson, Matt Capps, Jason Isinghausen, Brad Lidge and Jonathan Broxton. Team options are held on Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, Jon Rauch and Kyle Farnsworth.
• White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen needs to cease discussing his contract situation during a pennant race, particularly since no real contract situation exists. Guillen has a White Sox contract for 2012, so this shouldn't be a pressing issue. But apparently it is to him. Considering his performance this year, the White Sox should reconsider a trade with the Marlins, who seem to love him.
• Jack McKeon and the Marlins have decided someone else will manage the team in 2012. McKeon, 80, took over as interim manager in June and has a lifetime contract to work for the Marlins. Their manager field is wide open.
• Marlon Byrd told
• Word is, Davey Johnson can manage the Nationals again next year if he so chooses.
• The three-way trade a couple winters ago involving the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks is a beauty. Curtis Granderson is an MVP candidate for the Yankees (he's the pick here) but the Diamondbacks may have done as well or even better in that deal, as Ian Kennedy is a Cy Young candidate for them, and Daniel Hudson, who was acquired for Edwin Jackson, is their second-best pitcher. The Tigers, who got Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, are also likely playoff-bound. Good job all around.