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Off the top of my head…

So, if you’re the third-base coach for Bellaire, Texas, I’d imagine you’re
pretty darn happy right now that George Steinbrenner is involved with the
Olympics and not Little League Baseball.

One of the things I want to look at in the next few months is whether there’s
a growing correlation between the quality of team’s bullpen and the
success the team has. It seems like there are more and more teams just
barely getting by with their rotation, yet contending based on great work
from the sixth through the ninth innings by the pen.

I have no evidence other than anecdotal. It’s just a thought.

While wild-card fans will point to the American League race as evidence of
its benefits, the National League race looks about as exciting as a
"Best of the Lifetime Network" retrospective.

For the record, I’m not a big fan of the three-division/wild-card setup. Put
very simply, it has eliminated any chance of a great race between two good
teams and replaced it with an increased chance of multiple-team races
between lesser teams. It’s also given us abominations like the 1996 NL West,
where the Padres and Dodgers were tied on the last day of the season,
playing each other…and treating the game like an exhibition.

I don’t expect things to change; I just think acknowledging the cost of the
post-1993 system needs to be a part of the discussion, rather than simply
getting all worked up about having five teams within 2 1/2 games of a
playoff spot.

For ten points, who’s the last place team in the National League Central?
For the first time in a long time, it’s not the Astros, who jumped into
fifth yesterday.

Houston isn’t going to be a factor at all in 2000, but it’s nice to see them
bounce back from a horrific start and all the injuries they’ve suffered.
They should return to the top of the division next season, although the
uptick in pitch counts for Scott Elarton is a concern.

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

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