Don't let that ugly weekend double-double against the Sawx fool you. The Yanks are still just stretching out before their postseason run. Gary Sheffield could be playing by this time next week, closer Mariano Rivera just started warming up his strained elbow for the first time in two weeks ... honestly, nobody wants to play these guys in October.
What about the Mets? I mean, it's a nice record and all. They own the National League, for whatever that's worth. Whenever they've been really challenged -- which hasn't been often -- they've responded. But then Pedro goes all weepy on us and the Pirates sweep them and they suddenly act like they're allergic to clinching. So they're out of practice. I understand.
The Francisco Liriano thing was a blow, granted, but Brad Radke says he's feeling better now, or at least not as bad, and he could be ready to rejoin the Twins' rotation. All right, so maybe it's not the same thing. OK, it's definitely not. But the way this team is playing -- the only game they didn't win last weekend was the one Johan Santana started -- does it really matter?
In the biggest, slobberiest, in-your-face raspberry given by a player to his ex-team in years, DH Frank Thomas went deep twice and drove in seven runs in the final two games of Oakland's three-game sweep of the ChiSox. Watching Big Hurt run -- if that's what you want to call it -- is painful, but his swing is a thing of beauty. Unless, that is, you're the White Sox.
When a team picks up Matt Stairs for the pennant run ... well, doesn't that reek of desperation? The Tigers got by the Rangers and the O's last week, but these next seven road games against the ChiSox and the Royals (with one in Baltimore for fun) will tell us whether the Tigers hold on to the AL Central lead or end up with their elbow over the front seat of this jalopy, backing into the playoffs in a puff of smoke.
Mathematics and their '05 run prevent me from calling the Sox DOA just yet. They have six more games against the teams in front of them (three against the Tigers starting Monday). Jon Garland has been great lately. Jose Contreras has been good. But ... "This is agonizing," GM Kenny Williams said. And that was before Frank Thomas spit all over him.
The Padres made two points over the weekend: 1) L.A.'s NL team doesn't faze them a bit. After winning two of three in Chavez Ravine, San Diego is 13-4 against the Dodgers heading into Monday's season finale. 2) They're not settling for the wild card. The Padres took over first in the NL West with their win Sunday. With that pitching, they can win this thing. And then some.
Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright will be the team's Band-Aid closers now that Jason Isringhausen's bad hip has shelved him for the season (and maybe longer). What's that mean to the Cardinals, who have finally pretty much sealed up the Central? Well, with a rotation as shaky as any NL contender, it's not good. At least they're used to bad news in St. Louis.
You can blame the Dodgers' September stumble (7-9) on a lot of people. Nomar (.224). Wilson Betemit (.214). Julio Lugo (.211). Andre Ethier (.139). But don't blame GM Ned Colletti's big offseason splurge, shortstop Rafael Furcal (.393), who after offseason knee surgery is having the best statistical year of his career. If Furcal ever stumbles, the Dodgers fall. And fast.
The Angels might not have packed up for the offseason just yet. But they've pulled the suitcases out of the closet. Saturday night, the worst defensive team that baseball ever has seen (they're really bad) booted five balls in an embarrassing loss to Texas. Talk about all those games left with the A's, but if you can't pick up the ball, you can't go to the playoffs.