The Cubs were going to celebrate at Wrigley last Friday, no matter what happened. After dominating the NL Central for the entire season, the Cubs became the first team in the Majors to clinch their division last Thursday. But it happened in pretty anticlimactic fashion, following a 5-4 loss to the Brewers and having to wait for the Cardinals to also lose in San Francisco later that night. So Miguel Montero’s 10th inning walk-off homer on Friday was just icing on the cake. Now the celebration could look organic. And they could destroy their new, state-of-the-art clubhouse with champagne, knowing they’d earned it.
But there were still 15 regular-season games left to play. And unlike in years past, just making it to the playoffs isn’t going to cut it this time around. This time, the Cubs have expectations.
Maybe Saturday’s 11-3 loss to Milwaukee was just a bad hangover. But losing 3-of-4 to the shit-ass Brewers initially made me wonder if it’s better to rest and relax the rest of the way or to stay sharp, even at the risk of injury. If you look over at Boston, the Red Sox started September two games back of the Blue Jays in the AL East. And since then, they’ve braved the Clusterfuck Death Match, going 14-5 so far this month and 10-3 against division rivals. And now they look like THE team to beat coming out of the American League. The Red Sox took the ‘stay sharp’ route and it’s worked out pretty well for them. Not that they had any choice.
Joe Maddon says he still wants 100 wins and home field advantage against the rest of the National League (going 3-7 would accomplish both). But you also have to remember that this is a team whose worst stretch was going 9-15 in that grueling 24-games-in-24-days run before the All-Star break. And their best run was probably going 17-5 in April, following a lazy 11-18 Spring Training. I prefer the latter. And so does Joe. So rest up, boys. Let’s pretend it’s springtime. This goddamned curse isn’t gonna reverse itself.
The AL East
The Red Sox have won seven games in a row, which hardly seems fair. That 4-game sweep of the Yankees effectively murdered the Baby Bombers’ season. And it looks like they might do the same thing to the Orioles before they leave Baltimore. Hanley Ramirez is the hottest hitter in the American League. David Ortiz is the the third-hottest hitter in the league. And almost everything is clicking for them as a team right now. They’re doing so well, that seemly every bone-headed sportswriter in America wants to throw postseason awards at every player on the team. All week long I heard that Mookie Betts was the front runner for the MVP and that Rick Porcello was leading the pack for the the AL Cy Young. At least that means they’re shutting the fuck up about Zach Britton winning the Cy for the time being, but still. How MVP-y and Cy Young-ish are Betts and Porcello right now? First, let’s look at the MVP race’s most-probables.
AL MVP WAR wOBA
Mike Trout 8.7 .418
Josh Donaldson 6.9 .402
Jose Altuve 6.5 .392
Mookie Betts 7.3 .379
Since the award is for the entire year, I’m giving you their stats for the entire year. And based off of those stats, alone, you can clearly see that Trout has had the best season. But Mike Trout happens to play for the Los Angeles Angels, who are tied for last place in the AL West. And that hurts everyone’s brains because they don’t understand how baseball works.
You: But how can Trout be the best player if his team stinks?
Me: A) I’m showing you actual concrete stats that should already answer that, but B) It’s not Mike Trout’s fault the Angels are bad. They’d be much, much worse without him in the lineup. Just like any team would be better with him. But there are 8 other guys on the field with him at all times, 8 other guys in the batting order and 24 other guys were on the roster the whole year. There’s plenty of opportunities for everyone else on the Angels (not named ‘Mike Trout’) to suck.
If you look at the Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Dustin Pedoria are also top 10 overall players in the league this season. David Ortiz has also been the best hitter in the league. Hanley has been top 15 in hitting. Xander Bogaerts has had a good season too. On the other hand, the Angels’ next best player after Trout is Kole Calhoun. That’s not Ruth-Gehrig as much as it is Ruth-Kole Calhoun. And since I also know that you’re about to argue that Rick Porcello should be the Cy Young winner, it makes even less sense that Betts would be more valuable to his team than the three gentlemen actually having better seasons.
You: But Trout is playing meaningless games. Mookie Betts is in a pennant race and his games mean more.
Me: Mike Trout does this in pennant races too. Because this is what Mike Trout does every single year. And are the Mariners, Rangers and Blue Jays still in contention? Because that’s who the Angels have played in 16 of their 19 games in September. Trout’s hitting .310/.446/.500 in the month. Betts is hitting .289/.337/.382. Thank you for sharing. Now go put your head down.
AL Cy Young WAR FIP ERA
Corey Kluber 5.2 3.19 3.11
Rick Porcello 4.7 3.44 3.08
Masahiro Tanaka 4.7 3.50 3.07
Chris Sale 5.2 3.38 3.23
The Porcello argument looks a lot more legit than the Betts one. But it just bothers me that people are looking at Porcello’s 21-4 record as some sort of a tie-breaker against Kluber’s 18-9. But I can clearly look at those numbers I actually care about and say, with zero controversy, that Kluber has had a better season than Chris Sale. I cannot do the same as easily for Porcello.
Roger Clemens won the MVP and Cy Young for the Red Sox in 1986. Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Lonborg both took home the hardware in 1967. And Betts and Porcello may repeat the feat this year. Even though they shouldn’t. Also, Wade Boggs should have won the MVP in ’86. And Dean Chance should have won the CY in ’67. Wait. That Boggs line defeats my purpose, doesn’t it? Anyway, right now I’d give it to Trout and Kluber.
The AL Central
With a broken right hand for Carlos Carrasco and a flexor strain for Danny Salazar, the Cleveland Indians went from being dubbed, “This Year’s Mets” to actually resembling this year’s Mets (so maybe we could call them, “This Year’s This Year’s Mets”?). Salazar could come out of the bullpen for Cleveland in October, but their own beat writers think this thing won’t go past the ALDS.
I keep looking at the Wild Card standings and see the Tigers a game back of Toronto for the second spot. But every time I believe in the Tigers, they let me down. Maybe it’s lucky for Detroit that the Jays have only taken one series in September and all of their remaining games are against the Yankees, Orioles and Red Sox. The Tigers actually beat the Indians on Sunday (2-13, baby!) so maybe they can make something of their four remaining games against the Tribe with three of them NOT facing Kluber.
The AL West
The Rangers are going to clinch the division any day now. And they’re hitting, so who needs pitching, right? Right? Cole Hamels has a 9.88 in September. Yu Darvish hasn’t been much better (7.47). And actually, Martin Perez is their only starting pitcher with an ERA under 5 this month. Yuck.
The NL Wild Card
Jacob deGrom is done for the season. So that ‘easy’ Mets schedule going forward (7 against the Phillies, 3 against the Marlins) is a little deceiving. Especially since they’ve cooled off (swept by the Braves?) and Ender Inciarte is robbing their walk-offs. At this point in the season, the Mets’ rotation was supposed to be Syndergaard-deGrom-Harvey-Matz-Wheeler with Big Sexy coming out of the pen. Now Thor is the only one left standing, with everyone waiting on pins and needles to see if Steven Matz actually starts on Friday.
The Cardinals’ remaining games are with the Cubs, the Reds and the Pirates (who are back above .500). And those Reds and Pirates games are in St. Louis, where the Cardinals hate winning.
The fun part about the third team in the equation, the Giants, is that they have no reason to be optimistic either. Their bullpen still sucks. Johnny Cueto and Brandon Crawford just got hurt. They finish their season with three against the Dodgers (Kershaw-Hill-Maeda). And by that time, Madison Bumgarner could be in jail in San Diego because some Latino made eye contact with him while he was grouchy.
Yeah, I went there. I know MadBum and Yasiel Puig have a bit of a history. But this ‘Protector of the Game’ shit has gotten really old. Madison Bumgarner is a hillbilly from Hickory, North Carolina. He has a history of losing his derpy redneck cool whenever a black or brown player does, well, anything. And I’m pretty sure there’s a basket of deplorables he can go climb in to after the Giants’ epic collapse is complete. Stop looking at me, swan!
Okay. That’s gonna do it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check out “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. The Cubs’ Magic Number for home field is 3.