New format will make for drawn-out postseason
Posted: Tuesday September 11, 2007 12:28PM; Updated: Tuesday September 11, 2007 12:28PM
Get ready for an NBA-style postseason, with off days draining the momentum out of every series and rendering roster depth essentially meaningless. Consider this: If the 2006 Tigers had played under the 2007 playoff format, with the same length to their three postseason series, they would have had 16 days off and only 12 days on from the end of the season through the World Series.
"You might see somebody get by with three starting pitchers and two or three relievers," one GM said.
Why all the off days? FOX wants the World Series to start (and end, given a six- or seven-game series) midweek rather than on a weekend, when ratings are lower. So they began with a Wednesday Game 1 of the World Series and worked backward, causing all the open dates. It's the biggest change to the postseason since the three-tiered playoff.
Every team gets at least two days off after the season ends (two American League clubs will have three days off), which will help all teams line up their rotations. Every team gets a day off between Division Series games 4 and 5 and between LCS games 4 and 5 -- those are new off days.
And watch out for rust in the World Series if pennant winners should sweep the LCS. An NL champion that sweeps through the LCS will have eight days off before World Series Game 1. An AL champ coming off an LCS sweep will be idle for seven days.
The biggest beneficiary of the new format might be the Padres, given a healthy Jake Peavy and Chris Young, one of the best 1-2 combinations in the game. In one scenario, Young and Peavy could start 10 times in a 15-game postseason (four-game DS, six-game LCS, five-game World Series) -- including Games 1 and 2 of every round -- while making only one start on short rest.
"The worst news for the league is San Diego [with] homefield advantage," one GM observed, "because Chris Young just does not give up any runs in that ballpark." (Young has a 1.24 ERA at Petco Park and a 4.11 ERA on the road.)
The straight dope on PEDs
Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus and Jay Gibbons have been convicted of nothing, but reports that linked the ballplayers to delivery of performance-enhancing drugs -- in some cases, even after baseball began its punitive phase of drug testing -- are grim-but-necessary reminders for the rest of us. The age-old lessons are these: Don't put your faith in people you don't know (Gee, Martha, that Ankiel made for such a feel-good story) and assume that many athletes will cheat no matter what testing protocols are in place.
Even before those reports surfaced, I asked a veteran GM how many players he thought still use banned performance-enhancing drugs. His answer? "On average, I'd say about five per team."
You could say that's progress, given the hundreds of players doping in the decade before 2003 survey testing. But baseball never will have "eradicated" PEDs, the way commissioner Bud Selig would like us to believe.
Word on the baseball street is that HGH remains popular, and in some cases is used in conjunction with just enough steroids to remain under baseball's allowable testosterone-to-epitestosterone threshold.
HGH seems to be especially popular with players recovering from injury. Most players publicly connected to the drug thus far were dealing with injuries: Jason Grimsley, Jim Leyritz, David Segui, Ankiel, Glaus and Gibbons. Growth hormone stimulates the synthesis of collagen, which works to fortify cartilage, bones, tendons and ligaments -- and in some cases those joints and muscles may need fortification because they are stressed by steroid use.
More names will come out, of course, whether from the client list of Kirk Radomski, the former clubbie-turned-dealer, or the Mitchell Report or more busts of rogue doctors and pharmacies, and more ballplayers will continue to cheat, especially when the culture among them remains one of enablement and protection.
Surprise should no longer be in order, but that doesn't mean we should just get used to it. I, for one, don't want a game in which the team with the best chemist wins, nor a sporting world in which the needle is the inspiration for youth ballplayers.
Maybe what baseball needs is a PED czar, an expert medical professional dedicated to making certain the game is proactive on drug-related matters. If nothing else, it would be acknowledgement of the obvious: that no matter how much "closure" baseball wishes from the Mitchell Report, the PED issue is here to stay.
How rare is it for a visiting left-handed starter to win a 1-0 game at Fenway Park? Scott Kazmir of Tampa Bay became the first lefty in 17 years to do it (Chuck Finley) and just the fifth in the DH era (Jimmy Key, Mark Langston and Darold Knowles) when he blanked the Red Sox on Monday.
Forget the 1-0 score for a minute. Only three other lefties since 1957 beat the Sox at Fenway without allowing a run and striking out 10: Randy Johnson, Sam McDowell and Juan Pizarro.