Drawn-out postseason schedule requires shortening
There's nothing better than epic, must-see postseason baseball.Too bad we didn't witness a whole lot of that this October.
We would love to believe that this disappointing Octoberfest was one of those things, just some freak occurrence we could file under "Stuff Happens." But we're not so sure of that.
|• Alex Rodriguez to the Marlins? One prominent baseball man who speaks frequently with Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria used this pointed adjective to describe that never-ending rumor: "Comical." If the Marlins had their new ballpark deal in place, that would be one thing. But think this through. How could a team sign A-Rod for $300 million, then turn around and tell those Florida politicians it couldn't possibly fund the $30-million stadium-funding gap that has stalled this project for years? Can't happen. • A-Rod to the Dodgers because Joe Torre is there? Sorry. Not buying that theory, either. Torre did his best to paint happy faces on their relationship at his introductory news conference. But one friend of A-Rod says: "Not only do I not think Joe would make him want to play there, I actually think he won't go there because of Joe." • A-Rod to the Angels? Well, they're clearly interested. And they make the most sense if you're just looking at the on-field end of it. But one baseball buddy of owner Arte Moreno insists the only way the Angels can make it work financially is if A-Rod's salary were closer to $20 million a year than $30 million. "The Angels are a perfect fit. Just not at $30 million," Moreno's friend said. "They just don't have the revenue streams to support that unless Arte is willing to reach into his own pocket. But I don't know why he'd do that. And if he's not, where would the money come from? They don't have a (regional sports network). Their TV rights are locked in with Fox. They're already a luxury-tax payer. And they're practically selling out now. So I don't see where they find the money to get this done, unless the price comes down." • A-Rod to the Mets? One rival NL executive predicts that the Mets will sign a Boras client, all right. But not that one. His pick: Kyle Lohse. For more from Stark on A-Rod and why the Yankees have decided not to pursue him, read his latest blog .|
We're now into Year 13 of the stretched-out, three-tiered postseason. But this year, thanks to accommodations to chasing ratings and Fox's prime-time needs, baseball went to new lengths to wriggle its October showcase into super-stretch mode.So how's that working out? Is "disaster" too strong a word? And the problems started long before this October gave us the special magic that only five sweeps out of seven total series can produce. Let's take a look.
- • Since the postseason went to three rounds in 1995, only three World Series have reached a Game 7, and fewer than half of those 13 World Series (six, to be exact) have even made it to Game 6.
• Now contrast that to the olden days of division play, when the postseason lasted only two rounds. In the 25 years under that format, 64 percent of all World Series (16 of 25) lasted at least six games. And 40 percent (10 of 25) went seven.
• Meanwhile, we've already had more World Series sweeps (five) in 13 years of three-tiered Octobers than we had in 25 years of two-tiered Octobers (three).
- • In the 25 years of the two-round division-play era, there were only five World Series in which at least one team had five days off or more before the Series started.
• But in the 13 postseasons since the expansion to three rounds, we've already had seven years in which at least one team had to wait around for five days or more for the World Series to begin.
Do I worry about the competitive nature of the World Series? Of course I do. But I think there are a myriad of factors. And many of those factors we can't do anything about.
--commissioner Bud Selig
|You won't be shocked to learn that Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds rank 1-2 on the "Most Homers in the '00s" list. But who's No. 3? (Answer later.)|
The Rumble in the Offseason Jungle• Now that A-Rod has positioned himself as the poster boy for greed, what America needs is a free agent to latch on to as the anti-A-Rod. So here's our nominee: Todd Jones, a guy who is demanding a one-year contract, even though he has saved more games (115) in the past three years than Mariano Rivera, Billy Wagner or Francisco Cordero.
"My agent probably wants to kill me for saying this," Jones told Rumblings. "But I couldn't look an organization in the eye and sign a deal I'm not sure I can finish." Jones turns 40 next April, and you wouldn't exactly describe him as a fireballer anymore. Nevertheless, if Mike Stanton could get a two-year deal last winter at age 39, why couldn't Jones get two years (or more) this winter? "I couldn't do that," he said. "I really think players need to think about that more. Chivalry is good." Yep. And rare.• The most popular Yankees trade rumor of the week -- Johnny Damon for Joe Crede -- looks like complete bunk. According to teams that have spoken with the Yankees, they wouldn't make a deal like that for several reasons: (1) uncertainty about the health of Crede's back, (2) Crede is a year away from free agency, and (3) he's represented by Scott Boras, who (shockingly) doesn't appear to be their favorite agent these days. • Did the Astros get enough for Brad Lidge? Early returns from baseball men we've surveyed were all on the same wavelength: NO. "I don't know why they did it so early in the game," one AL executive said. "They could have waited to see who lost out on [Francisco] Cordero. And once Mo [Rivera] goes back to the Yankees, that takes him out of the equation. So I'm not sure why they'd have done this now, without hitting a home run."
Center fielder Michael Bourn has off-the-charts speed. But the rest of his game is so limited, said one scouting director, that as an everyday player, "I think you'll always be looking for a little more."Third-base prospect Mike Costanzo has "easy power, but he'll need to get better as a hitter to get to it," said the same scouting director. "And he's not a real good third baseman. For me, he'd probably have to move to first." And the scouting report on reliever Geoff Geary is he's "just another middle reliever." The best you can say for the Astros' end of this deal is that, if Bourn and Costanzo realize their potential, the Astros would get to hang on to them for a combined 11 years, compared to one year before Lidge hit free agency. But this basically boils down to "quantity for quality," the AL executive said. "They get three pieces -- none of them significant -- for a guy with the potential to be a quality closer." • Meanwhile, this also might seem to be a puzzling deal from the Phillies' end, at least from this standpoint: They just traded away a center fielder, in Bourn, at a time when they're almost certainly going to lose their starting center fielder, Aaron Rowand, via the free-agent express. But we'd been hearing from multiple clubs that the Phillies have been aggressively talking about deals involving both Bourn and Shane Victorino for the past few weeks. So they were already trying to add an outfielder, either in center or in right field, to create enough depth to make one of those deals.
• Incidentally, the Phillies have just about given up on the idea of trading Pat Burrell, who continues to give them no indication he'd waive his no-trade clause to go anywhere.• More and more, we hear officials of other clubs saying the Red Sox have replaced the Yankees as the model for how large-dollar teams ought to operate. But not only off the field. On the field. "Unlike the Yankees, even when they had their great teams, the big thing with the Red Sox is, they let their emotions come out," one NL executive said. "They have fun. They're loose. The manager lets them play. And it works."
• When Andy MacPhail agreed to take a job with the Orioles, very few people envisioned he would wind up as the de facto GM. But it's now clear that even though MacPhail hasn't assumed that title, he's running the baseball operation from top to bottom.Not only did MacPhail take total charge of the Orioles' recent organizational meetings, the previous de facto GM, Mike Flanagan, wasn't even in attendance. Asked to describe Flanagan's current role, one longtime baseball man replied: "Are you familiar with the word, 'G-H-O-S-T'?"
|Here they come, the top three home run hitters in the '00s: A-Rod 370, Bonds 317 and the correct answer to our question, Jim Thome 311.|
Stat of the WeekFinally, among the many fascinating tidbits you can find in the new Bill James Handbook, which hit stores this month, are baserunning stats of all kinds. We sorted through those numbers to determine the players who did the best -- and worst -- jobs of scoring runs after they reached base this season. Here goes:
OF TIMES ON BASE
|1.||Kaz Matsui||47 percent|
|2.||Curtis Granderson||42 percent|
|3.||Jimmy Rollins||41 percent|
|4.||Ryan Freel||40 percent|
|(minimum: 100 times on base)|
OF TIMES ON BASE
|1.||Bengie Molina||13 percent|
|(minimum: 100 times on base)|
OK, let's all sing along to the most stunning number in that whole list: "13 percent?"Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History," has been published by Triumph Books and is now available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy.