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As the numbers in the chart show, the Rays, Angels, Cubs are mortal locks for the postseason, and it would take a bizarre cascade of disasters for Milwaukee to miss out. The Red Sox are also in a good position, but their lead in the AL wild-card race isn't an overwhelming one. The races to watch, meanwhile, are the AL Central, AL wild card, NL East, and NL West.

In the AL Central, the good news for Chicago is that Scott Linebrink and his 2.31 ERA are back from the disabled list, and that gives the Sox another quality arm in the bullpen. It may come down to the three-game set in Minnesota that starts Sept. 23. It would behoove manager Ozzie Guillen to arrange his rotation so that he's got his best three starters in line to go against the Twins. The Sox also have a modestly tougher schedule going forward, so consider that an edge for the Twins.

The AL wild card will in all likelihood come down to Boston and the second-place team in the Central. Of Boston's final 26 games, 16 come against teams with winning records (including six against the Rays), so it's not going to be an easy road. They've got the lead, but their remaining schedule is much tougher than Chicago's or Minnesota's.

The NL East, once again, comes down to the Mets and Phillies. Speaking of which, no team stands to benefit more from the expanded rosters than the Mets. Their bullpen, sans Billy Wagner, is overworked and not very good (they were recently forced to use Brian Stokes in five consecutive games), and having more arms at their disposal is just what they need. Consider the Mets the favorite.

The gathering of mediocrities that is the NL West might also provide some September drama. The Dodgers' remaining schedule is embarrassingly easy, so they could make things interesting. They'll host the Diamondbacks for the upcoming weekend series, and the Dodgers, at minimum, need to take two out of three. How bad is this division? The Rockies are on pace for 86 losses this season, but they're just six games off the pace.

Insofar as home-field advantage in the playoffs is concerned, the Cubs have a comfortable hold on the best record in the NL, but things are much tighter in the AL. The Rays presently hold a slim lead over the Angels, but Tampa's road ahead is much tougher.

The Hardware

If history is any guide, this round of awards voting will once again prove that the writers don't know what they're doing. They'll vote for the storyline, or pay too much attention to flawed statistics like RBI and pitcher wins and losses, or in the MVP balloting they'll penalize the best players for having the misfortune of playing on non-contending teams. The concept is simple: Give the award to the best player. It's shocking how often that doesn't happen.

Anyhow, in the NL Albert Pujols is without question the MVP. He leads the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, and he's got 87 walks against just 47 strikeouts. To boot, he's been devastatingly clutch (as always), and he's excellent with the glove and on the bases. There's no argument in the NL.

In the AL, though, things are less clear. Josh Hamilton doesn't deserve the award, but his lofty RBI total in tandem with his personal back-story may be enough to sway voters. Among position players, Grady Sizemore is probably most worthy, but the voters will penalize him for having bad teammates. If the White Sox win the Central, then Carlos Quentin will get a serious look. However, if the Twins take it, then Justin Morneau might win the award for the second time in his young career (although he didn't deserve it the first time around). Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia might split the Red Sox vote, so it seems unlikely that a Boston player will take it. Of course, if they manage to come back and win the East, then Pedroia might be the guy.

The NL Cy Young voting is going to be interesting. CC Sabathia, who's been otherworldly since joining the Brewers, is enjoying a groundswell of support. And if he keeps racking up wins and notching complete games, then the voters will notice. With that said, Tim Lincecum has been the best pitcher in the NL, and right now he should win the Cy. If you're looking for a darkhorse candidate, then keep Ryan Dempster in mind.

In the AL, Cliff Lee (narrowly) deserves to win it, and the voters seem to agree. Roy Halladay's also had an excellent season, but he hasn't been quite as good as Lee. As well, Cleveland's September schedule is measurably easier than Toronto's, so that's another edge for Lee. It's even possible that Lee, should he get to 25 wins, might join the MVP discussion.

As far as Rookie of the Year goes, both are easy calls: Geovany Soto in the NL and Evan Longoria in the AL.

The Jobs

Struggles yield pink slips, and this year will be no exception. Managers who might be fighting for their employment lives in September include Jim Riggleman in Seattle and Bud Black in San Diego. As well, if the Mets win the division, then Jerry Manuel almost certainly sees the "interim" dropped from in front of his name. If they fall to the Phillies again? Manuel might not be back.

As for the general managers, J.P. Ricciardi of the Blue Jays may be running out of time, and Brian Cashman and Omar Minaya are both on shaky footing in New York. Ditto for Jim Bowden in D.C. Ned Colletti of the Dodgers might also be in trouble if his team's efforts come to grief.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 2, 2008

Toronto Blue Jays News

News » Pitchers will decide fate of contenders


Pitchers will decide fate of contenders


Pitchers will decide fate of contenders
It's September. And it's time.

It's time to sort out pennant races, christen heroes and goats, save and lose jobs, and figure out who's getting the hardware. In other words, it's time for baseball at its finest. Stretch Drive '08 is here, and we're breaking it down ...

The Races

At this writing, 11 teams are within five games of playoff position, and that means a wonderfully crowded field of contenders. To get a better idea of each team's current straits, Take a look at the playoff odds report, courtesy of CoolStandings.com

Chances of winning

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