For those of you who don’t believe that the Wild Card tilts are truly playoff games, your field of eight is set. I don’t know who is going to win and I was dead wrong on both play-in games, but I can at least tell you which series will be the most fun to watch in order and why.
It will be interesting to see if any player can top Brian Dozier when it comes to locker room celebrations. This is his third straight season reaching the playoffs, all with three different teams, all of whom are participating in division series this week. That’s baseball.
Brian Dozier and the Nats celebrate clinching a spot in the playoffs 🕺
— ESPN (@espn) September 25, 2019
- Twins vs. Yankees – Don’t believe the conspiracy rumors that Commissioner Rob Manfred has suddenly switched to “regular” baseballs for the postseason. This one should be an offensive explosion of sorts as neither team really has a lock-down starter in their rotation. And whether the “irregular” baseballs are used or not, Minnesota and New York may set a record for most taters in a division series. I’m hoping Nelson Cruz has a standout series and advances, but I’m not opposed to seeing the Yankees win a series just because its no longer a regular thing.
- Nationals vs. Dodgers – You’re likely to see a marquee pitching matchup in every game except Game 2. The series kicks off with Patrick Corbin battling Walker Buehler and the rotations of each team features certain Hall of Famers Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw. I expect Max Muncy to have a big series and it looks like Juan Soto is ready to show the world just how great he is.
- Cardinals vs. Braves – The Braves remind me a lot of the 2016 Cubs: Underrated starting pitching combined with a youthful lineup that is still discovering that they can dominate opposing teams. I don’t know which Cardinals team will show up, but if Atlanta can get into the Redbirds bullpen it’s going to get ugly for St. Louis pretty quickly. By the way, I’ve officially removed Dexter Fowler from my list of favorite ex-Cubs in baseball.
- Rays vs. Astros – Sorry, Tampa Bay fans, but this one probably ends in four, and I don’t think any of those wins are going to come against Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. Even if a fourth starter such as Wade Miley seems possibly beatable, it’s improbable that anybody on the Rays staff can shut down that Astros offense.
Cubs News & Notes
- Joe Girardi is shamelessly championing an ex-Cubs catcher to replace Joe Maddon in the dugout next season, and his first choice is not David Ross.
- Theo Epstein says that deciding who will manage the team next year and beyond is a “nuanced” process.
- If anybody is to blame for the Cubs falling into a “winner’s trap,” it’s Epstein, or so says David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
- The best breakdown of the Cubs’ failure to make the playoffs, and what they’ll do next, comes from Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic, but you’ll need a paid subscription to read it.
- If you think trading Kris Bryant should be part of the offseason revamp, our own Evan Altman thinks you should curb those thoughts. The Cubs let Jake Arrieta play out his contract, and I suspect they’ll do the same with their highly-decorated third baseman.
- And, since I’m busy promoting some of the best-known baseball writers in Chicago, Tom Loxas sat down for beers with Gordon Wittenmyer of the Sun-Times in a piece for CI to discuss what’s next for the Cubs, including the futures of Bryant and Nick Castellanos.
- Back-to-back end-of-season collapses for the Chicago Cubs resulted in final 2019 TV ratings declining to a 4.13 local share from 4.38 in 2018, representing a 5.7 percent decline year-over-year in Chicago viewership, Nielsen media numbers show.
Yandy Díaz was a one-man wrecking crew last night, hitting solo homers to nearly the exact same spot in right-center in his first two at-bats and leading the Rays to a 5-1 victory over the A’s in last night’s Wild Card game. Though Oakland hosted the affair, they decided to play in their road greens for some reason. Perhaps they were trying to reverse an eight-game losing streak in win-or-go-home games, but that obviously failed.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 3, 2019
- The Indians are going to exercise their option on Corey Kluber, but seem intent to let second baseman Jason Kipnis enter free agency.
- The expectation in New York is that Zack Wheeler won’t be back with the Mets, according to SNY’s Andy Martino. Mid-season extension talks between with Wheeler’s agent didn’t go anywhere and it is expected the Mets will extend the qualifying offer to Wheeler.
- Both catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Mike Moustakas have mutual options with the Brewers for 2020, but those were more of an accounting matter than an expectation of being exercised by either side. It’s very likely both players will hit free agency at the end of this month.
- The Reds appear to be highly interested in Grandal.
- The Astros may “make a run” at keeping Cole beyond this season.
- Managers Gabe Kapler of the Phillies and Mickey Callaway of the Mets remain in limbo after end-of-season meetings with their respective front offices.
Don’t be so quick to trade Kyle Schwarber. He steadily improved all season and compares favorably with some of baseball’s best.
Kyle Schwarber finished the second half of 2019 with a 151 wRC+, 18th in MLB. That number was tied with Mookie Betts. It was better than:
Xander Bogaerts, Josh Donaldson, JD Martinez, Starling Marte, Aaron Judge, Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, Nick Castellanos (cont)
— FullCountTommy (@FullCountTommy) October 3, 2019
I’ll post daily columns through Sunday when I leave for Dublin. I’ll be back on October 13 to resume my column with another edition of The Rundown that will include Sunday Baseball Notes. Sláinte!
Apropos of Nothing
They Said It
- “If you like baseball, you love Wrigley Field, no matter who you are. I loved going to games there as a boy, I loved going there when I was in college and I loved going there as a player. It’s just a great place. I know this is an important decision for the organization, and I’m sure they’re going to do their due diligence in their search.” – Joe Girardi
- “Managing is cyclical. If you have a peace and love dude manager, the next one will be a tougher guy. That’s the just the way it is. The perfect guy for the win now approach is Joe Girardi. Four series wins. Jim Hendry didn’t have the guts for the hire. Let’s see about Theo and Tom [Ricketts]” – Steve Stone
Different Drum by The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronsdtadt. Oh that Steve Stone, still trying to stir the Cubs’ pot. Maybe we can get some insight from the Hawkeroo as well. By the way, Mike Nesmith of the Monkees wrote this song if you are not aware.