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September 25, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

A Playoff Push?

by Joe Sheehan

I suppose one of the problems with baseball's current postseason format is that teams good enough to play very, very well down the stretch lock up playoff spots and remove themselves from the pack, leaving us with lesser lights battling to see who can suck the least.

A harsh assessment? Yeah, but it's Monday morning and I can't really believe that the Indians, Red Sox and Blue Jays all managed to lose two of three over the weekend to teams whose postseason hopes died during the Bill Bradley campaign.

The Sox are dead. The Jays should be, but they're lucky enough to have three games this weekend with the Indians, so they can't be considered out of it just yet. The Indians have fallen behind both the Mariners and A's, so now they're relying on the Angels and Rangers to get off the deck and win some games this week.

On the other hand, the AL West race is fairly interesting. The A's went into Safeco Field and took three of four games, moving into a virtual tie with the Mariners for first place in the division.

You'd like to think the A's success, along with that of the White Sox, will cause people to reconsider the importance of having "savvy veterans" who "know how to win". After all, if team experience was everything, the Mariners should have won five out of four. The A's have a lineup that's just slightly older than Nickelodeon's target audience and yet they won a huge series, on the road, against a team that has plenty of pennant race and postseason experience.

One other note on that series, and I know I'm treading dangerous ground here, but I have to comment on something ESPN's Harold Reynolds said on Sunday night's "Baseball Tonight". In discussing the fourth game of the series, Reynolds emphasized that the Mariners won because they played little ball and put runners in motion and made things happen offensively.

Uh-huh.

The Mariners, in order, scored two, three, two and three runs over the weekend. They allowed five, eight, eight and two. Anyone notice the outlier?

To say that they won the fourth game of the series because of what they did on offense is...well, I'm sure you all can pick adjectives at will, but I'm going to go with "silly". The Mariners won because John Halama gave them a good start and because Arthur Rhodes pitched well instead of imploding as he did on Saturday. Their offense was just as lousy as it had been all weekend. The pitching made it look good.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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