One tiresome and mundane quip columnists and pundits often trot out when this issue is foregrounded every couple of years is that Major League Baseball needs to be more like the NFL. I take this to mean crappier uniforms, roughly 12 minutes of action per game, a less meaningful regular season and inscrutable financial schema. But what the talking heads really mean is more competitive balance. Smarter people than I have cut this argument to ribbons, but I would like to point out that what passes for noble egalitarianism in the NFL is really just structural distinction. By that I mean, the NFL has a players union that’s weaker than sun-toasted Bud Light, and they play 16-game schedule, from which they award 12 playoff spots. MLB, of course, plays a 162-game slate, which much more ruthlessly divides wheat and chaff, and doles out only eight playoff spots. With those differences in mind, let’s see how the MLB would’ve fared over the last five seasons–the reputed dark age of competitive balance–had they been playing by the NFL’s rules.
The Angels overspent for Garret Anderson. The Cubs hope Matt Clement can shake his early-season struggles. The Brewers will use Junior Spivey as trade bait. These and other news and notes out of Anaheim, Chicago and Milwaukee in this edition of Prospectus Triple Play.
Today’s column was supposed to be a game report from yesterday’s Rangers/Angels tilt in Anaheim. Due to a series of events that, had they been filmed, would have been Oscar-worthy, my ticket went unused. I’m disappointed not only because I haven’t been to a game yet this year, but because I would have enjoyed the company. I was invited by Stephen Roney, who is the president of the Allan Roth chapter–the L.A. area chapter–of the Society for American Baseball Research. SABR might be one of the most misunderstood organizations in the country, associated as it is primarily with baseball’s statistics. Sabermetrics is much more than this; performance analysis is just a subset of the field, and any time spent with the historians and biographers and researchers of SABR shows you just how broad a knowledge base is represented in the group.
The Indians dodged a bullet Thursday when an MRI showed C.C. Sabathia had only some bicipital tendonitis. Sabathia is someone I’ve predicted would break down for years now, but he continues to defy me, proving once again that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to injury prediction. The soreness in his arm doesn’t appear to be serious and that it happened while throwing a changeup is likely a red herring. While the irony of having Jeff D’Amico step in when someone is injured isn’t lost on me, Sabathia should be able to make his next start.
Kerry Wood may not have been praying for rain, but he’ll be the biggest beneficiary of Thursday’s rainout. The postponement will push his start back to Saturday, giving him two additional days of rest following his 130 pitch workload last time out. While recovery is still a poorly understood area of pitching, there are no negatives to this for Wood.
Joe Kerrigan has more work to do with Brett Myers. After missing a start to work on mechanics, Myers continued to struggle Thursday night. While I admittedly did not see the game beyond the highlights (dominated by the Gonzalez/Pratt face-off), Myers was clearly still off mechanically. His elbow was way ahead of his shoulder, much like Pedro Martinez in the middle of last season. If Myers cannot quickly correct the problem, the Phillies will have to consider some of their options in the minors.
Two weeks in, the sample sizes are still small but nearly 1/10th of the season is in the bag and some undeniable trends have emerged. The race now belongs to the quick, to those teams that spot their problems early and attacks them aggressively. As the iconic GM Branch Rickey said, “A man who isn’t alert is usually in the second division, and that’s where he belongs.” Have at it, boys.