McAdam at the World Series: Rangers-Giants demonstrate baseball's parity

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McAdam at the World Series: Rangers-Giants demonstrate baseball's parity

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Executives at Fox might bemoan the absence of ratings titans such as the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies from the World Series, which begins Wednesday night, but for Major League Baseball the matchup between the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants couldn't be more perfect.

Baseball is less than 14 months out from an expiring collective bargaining agreement, the highlight of which has been increased revenue sharing and consequently, improved parity.

The elimination of the Yankees last Friday night at the hands of the Rangers means that baseball will once again not have a repeat champion. (The Yankees themselves were the last team to win back-to-back titles, in 1999-2000.) And because the Rangers have never won a championship and the Giants haven't won since moving West to San Francisco in 1958, baseball is assured of having its ninth different team win the Series in the last 10 years.

This World Series, in fact, is evidence of how the game has shifted away from dominance by a handful of teams. If one begins the current decade with the 2001 season, 14 different teams -- or, one team shy of exactly half of the 30 clubs which make up MLB -- have reached the World Series.

An additional five teams have gone so far as to reach the League Championship Series, meaning almost two-thirds have either reached the pinnacle series or fallen just a win or two short.

And tellingly, the three teams which reached the NLCS but couldn't clear the final hurdle to get to the World Series represent the National League's three biggest markets: New York (Mets), Chicago (Cubs) and Los Angeles (Dodgers). That would seem to indicate that while resources are a useful tool, they do not guarantee dominance in the sport, as some have alleged.

The presence of the Giants and Rangers also means that of the last six series, 11 different teams have claimed the 12 available spots; only the Phillies have been to the Series more than once (winning in 2008 and losing in 2009).

(In contrast, the NFL, whose supporters like to claim that the league offers more parity and opportunity because of its salary cap, has not had a Super Bowl in any of its last seven seasons which hasn't featured either the Patriots, Indianapolis Colts or Pittsburgh Steelers. Ditto, the NBA, which, with few recent exceptions, is dominated by the Celtics or Los Angeles.)

Part of the rotating cast of champions (or participants) surely can be attributed to the demanding nature of its postseason. Teams must survive three rounds and win 11 games over a postseason, which now lasts more than a month.

While some general managers such as Billy Beane and Theo Epstein often cite the "randomness'' of playoff results, the truth is, baseball's postseason, by dint of its demands and length, following an already draining 162-game season, is nearly immune to fluky champions. World Series titles are earned, not lucked into.

Moreover, baseball is said to be considering an expanded postseason format after the current CBA expires at the end of 2011, one which could expand the current Division Series format from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven, and requiring 12 wins instead of 11.

Then again, the presence of the Rangers and Giants could be nothing more than yet one more example of the importance of pitching. Had the Yankees' starting rotation performed as well it did a year ago, they surely would have provided a more formidable opponent for the Rangers.

As it is, Game One will feature a dream matchup of Tim Lincecum, winner of the last two National League Cy Young awards, and Cliff Lee, who is merely establishing himself as the most dominant October mound force since Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax.

Either way, regardless of the outcome, baseball will welcome relative newbies to its biggest stage. And while Fox frets about declining numbers and the absence of bigger brand names, baseball can puff out its chest and point to a playing field than has never seemed more level.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Red Sox claim RHP Doug Fister off waivers, sign INF Jhonny Peralta

Red Sox claim RHP Doug Fister off waivers, sign INF Jhonny Peralta

 

BOSTON — They have the right idea, if not yet the right personnel.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has brought on a pair of former Tigers in an effort to help the Red Sox’ depth.

It’s hard to expect much from righty Doug Fister — who mostly throws in the 80s these days and is to start Sunday — or from Jhonny Peralta, who’s going to play some third base at Triple-A Pawtucket. Fister was claimed off waivers from the Angels, who coincidentally started a three-game series with the Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park. Peralta, meanwhile, was signed as a free agent to a minor league deal.

Neither may prove much help. Fister could move to the bullpen when Eduardo Rodriguez is ready to return, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. The Sox hope E-Rod is back in time for the All-Star break.

That’s assuming Fister is pitching well enough that the Sox want to keep him.

But at least the Sox are being proactive looking for help, and it’s not like either Peralta or Fister is high-risk.

Fister, 33, threw 180 1/3 innings last year with the Astros, posting a 4.64 ERA. He hasn’t been in the big leagues yet this season.

Said one American League talent evaluator earlier this year about Fister’s 2016: “Had a nice first half. Then struggled vs. left-handed hitters and with finishing hitters. No real putaway pitch. Has ability to pitch around the zone, reliable dude.”

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

Does uncertainty for Carson Smith mean Red Sox need bullpen help?

BOSTON — Tyler Thornburg’s gone for the season and there’s really no telling when the other set-up man the Sox expected to help in 2017, Carson Smith, will be back.

The Sox have already made inroads, if minor ones, in bolstering their third-base situation and rotation. Smith’s situation leaves a question of whether the Sox will need to pursue help in the bullpen as well.

There's not an easy answer to settle on at this point.

For one, the timetable with the right-hander Smith — whose shoulder has bothered him on the way back from Tommy John surgery — isn’t clear.

“He's in a no-throw [time] through the weekend,” Sox manager John Farrell said Friday afternoon at Fenway Park. “He'll be reevaluated on Monday to hopefully initiate a throwing program. He's responding favorably to the treatment. He continues to rehab as he's been. We have not closed the book in a sense on anything Carson can contribute this year.”

What does this year mean, though? Will they be able to know by July, by the trade deadline?

“Still too early to tell,” Farrell said. “We thought he was days from starting his rehab assignment after his last live BP session in New York [on June 6]. Unfortunately, that was put on hold for the time being. To get into any kind of timeframes, timetables, I don't know that any of us can predict that right now.”

The Sox relievers have done extraordinarily well without either Thornburg or Smith. Can that continue without reinforcements? The bullpen’s ERA entering Friday was 2.94, the second best mark in the majors. Its innings total, 217, was the second. lowest in the majors. 

So it’s not like the entire group is about to collapse from fatigue. But a guy like Joe Kelly, for example, isn’t someone the Sox want to use back to back.

It’s a young group and ultimately an inexperienced group. But Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has already fallen into the trap of trading for premium set-up men twice, and that’s a dangerous road to pursue again. Perhaps a smaller trade makes more sense.

“Well, at this point, we’re open minded to help,” Dombrowski said when asked if he was targeting either third-base or relief help. “I’m not going to get into specifics at this time on what else we’re looking for. Keep an open mind on a lot of ways on which we can improve. We have guys coming back and both the spots, I think Carson Smith is very important to us and our bullpen has pitched great. The other day, we struggled but that was one of the few times we really struggled all year. 

“I think Carson still has a chance to come back and help us this year.”