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

Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

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Quotes, notes and stars: Betts has first career five-hit night

BOSTON - Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals

QUOTES:

"We continually do a great job in creating opportunities and I'm confident that (the struggles with men in scoring position) will turn.'' - John Farrell

"When you start off with a five-run spot in the first, that's a tough deficit to overcome.'' - Steven Wright.

"That's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes, we score when we're not expecting to and then when we need to score, sometimes it doesn't happen.'' - Mookie Betts on the team going 4-for-15 with RISP.

 

NOTES:

* The loss was just the third in the last 13 series openers for the Red Sox.

* The game marked the first time in 20 home games in which the Sox never led.

* Boston was 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

* The first four hitters in the order were 13-for-19 (.684). The fifth-through-nine hitters, however, were just 2-for-21 (.095).

* Mookie Betts (five hits) leads the majors with 55 multi-hit games.

* Dustin Pedroia has reached base in each of his last eight plate appearances.

* David Ortiz's double was the 625th of his career, passing Hank Aaron to move into 10 place in MLB history.

* Ortiz leads the A.L. in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (72).

 

STARS:

1) Eric Hosmer

Hosmer cranked a three-run homer into the Monster Seats four batters into the game, and the Royals were off and running with a five-run inning.

2) Ian Kennedy

The Royals starter wasn't dominant, allowing nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, but he bailed himself out of a number of jams and limited the Sox to just two runs.

3) Mookie Betts

Betts had his first career five-hit night and knocked in two of the three Red Sox runs, though he also got himself picked off first base.

 

First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

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First impressions: Royals' five-run first inning dooms Red Sox in 6-3 loss

First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-3 loss to the Kansas City Royals:

 

Steven Wright recovered nicely after the first inning, but the damage was done.

Wright's last five innings featured just three hits allowed -- one in the infield. But the first inning did the Red Sox in -- two walks followed by a three-run homer, then a single and a two-run homer.

Whether this was a matter of rust for Wright -- who last pitched three weeks ago Friday night -- or an early inability to command his knuckleball is uncertain.

The fact is, Wright dug an early hole for his teammates, and he had the misfortune to do so against a team with the best bullpen in baseball.

To his credit, Wright kept the game somewhat within reach thereafter, but the five-run head start proved too much of a jump.

 

It's time to worry a little about Jackie Bradley.

Bradley was just 7-for-40 in the just-completed road trip, and things didn't get any better on the first night of the homestand.

In the first, he came up with two on and two out and struck out swinging to strand both baserunners. In the third, he came to the plate with runners on the corners and, again, struck out swinging.

We're seeing the same kind of slump that Bradley fell into in previous seasons, where even contact is hard to find, with nine strikeouts in the last 16 at-bats.

Problem is, with Andrew Benitendi on the DL, there aren't a lot of options for John Farrell with the Red Sox outfield.

 

Trying to get Fernando Abad and Junichi Tazawa back on track in low- leverage mop-up didn't work.

Tazawa had a perfect seventh, but gave up a monster shot into the center field bleachers to Lorenzo Cain to start the eighth.

Abad entered, and while he did record a couple of strikeouts, also gave up a single, a walk and threw a wild pitches before he could complete the inning.

Getting some work for the two was the right idea, given that the Sox were down by three runs at the time. A good outing might help either regain some confidence and turn the corner.

But not even that could be accomplished Friday night.