Posted: Thursday September 21, 2006 1:45AM; Updated: Thursday September 21, 2006 11:36AM
Do you foresee the Indians bouncing back next year to contend for the playoffs, or were their struggles this year indicative of deeper structural problems that will take some sort of minor overhaul to correct? -- Dale C., Brunswick, Ohio
I see the Indians with a big bounce-back season. They were my preseason pick to be the AL's most disappointing team this year, but only because I believe that one of the most difficult things to do as a young team is win when people expect you to win -- and that's what people extrapolated from their 2005 season. But their core of young talent is legit, and assuming they address their bullpen issues this winter, they'll be right in the thick of things next year.
Is Jason Isringhausen's injury the death knell to the Cardinals' playoff future? Is there any reason to expect the Cards not to flame out in the postseason yet again? -- S. Greenberg, St. Louis
Any team with Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen has a shot, but I don't see the Cards measuring up to the Mets in a series of any length. Isringhausen was having a tough season before he went down, but trying to get through three rounds of postseason without an established closer is too difficult if you don't have two or three shutdown starting pitchers who continually give you depth.
It appears that the Twins and the Tigers will be in the playoffs. Should they push to win the division title or get players rest and their rotations set and forget about winning the division? -- Rod Wall, Clutier, Iowa
I don't think it's an either/or scenario. You try to balance both agendas. I guess that's a way of saying you don't keep the pedal to the metal, but the idea is to just get in the playoffs. A few years ago the Yankees pushed to get the best record in the league, but they never got to the ALCS and said after the fact it was a mistake to keep pushing.
Can you now admit Trevor Hoffman isn't and has never been the best closer in baseball? Mariano Rivera would never give up three HRs like Hoffman did against the Dodgers. Mo is the best ever, plain and simple. -- Mark, Clinton, Texas
Hey, I've been saying for a while now that Rivera is the best there ever was. His postseason record and his ability to shut down games in the eighth and ninth innings is what separates him from Hoffman and all modern closers. But don't sell Hoffman short, either. He's the specialists' specialist, and has a great Hall of Fame case.
I have been a baseball fan for some time and I honestly cannot understand the contempt that N.Y. fans and players seem to have toward Alex Rodriguez. I am not an A-Rod fan in particular, but as a baseball fan this guy is gold. Is there any way that he can turn the tide (strong play is not enough)? It appears that only a monster postseason will do the trick.
Also, what is the deal with Jason Giambi? I am not sure how one of the biggest cheats ever in baseball can have such a negative outlook on A-Rod, given the unbelievable support he has been given. When a guy like Giambi is worshipped and a guy like A-Rod is stomped down, I can only assume that A-Rod really has no chance in N.Y. (too bad about the contract, as there are several other markets that would love to have this guy). -- Jacyn, Edmonton
A-Rod will be fine. I don't know if he'll ever truly be embraced as a Yankee -- four rings, maybe? -- but he'll still put up his numbers and go down as one of the all-time greats. Look at Frank Thomas. Never truly loved in that White Sox clubhouse, which was exposed mostly after he left, but he still put up monster numbers.