Some teams have playoff dreams, others just dreaming
Posted: Monday July 21, 2003 9:58 PM
The return of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson to the D'backs' rotation is no small upgrade. AP
By Dan George, SI.com
Ah, the wild card.
Ten weeks left in the 2003 season and, thanks to Bud Selig's 1994 decision to reward the best of the second best, more than half of the major leagues' 30 teams still harbor hopes of postseason play.
Some of those hopes are more valid than others, of course. Let's take a look at the contenders and pretenders for the eight playoff spots, and their chances of playing beyond the final regular-season games on Sept. 28.
80 percent -- Seattle Mariners. They've looked pretty ordinary lately, they could use another bat and this is Bob Melvin's first year as manager. But that pitching can be awfully good.
70 percent -- Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals. The wild-card safety net and a favorable schedule down the stretch should help the Sox. Being in the same division with the listless Twins and White Sox should help the Royals.
60 percent -- Oakland A's, Philadelphia Phillies. The A's have GM Billy Beane and a recent history of strong finishes on their side. It's wild card or nothing for the Phils, but you have to like their chances if Pat Burrell can figure things out.
10 percent -- Colorado Rockies. They're fourth in the NL West, eighth in the wild-card race. Hmmm ... we may be overestimating things.
SI.com's Power Rankings
Atlanta Braves As good as they've played, Gary Sheffield says, "You haven't seen the real Braves team yet. Only the most jaded cynic would reply, "Yeah, those guys don't show up until October."
New York Yankees Armando Benitez, meet your new teammate David Wells. What's that? Why, yes, he is the same guy who in his autobiography called you "about as reliable as a schizophrenic on crack."
San Francisco Giants They're 16-5 in one-run games, 5-1 in extra innings and 13-3 in games decided in the last at-bat. Of course, at 61-37 overall, they're not too shaky in the rest of them, either.
Seattle Mariners Reliever Shigetoshi Hasegawa had a great time at the All-Star Game until he gave up four runs in a third of an inning. Then? "I was thinking, 'Maybe playing golf for three days would be a better way to spend the All-Star break."
Boston Red Sox What does Nomar Garciaparra have in common with Roger Maris? He has the same number of intentional walks as Maris did in his 61-home run season of 1961 -- zero. Maris had Mickey Mantle hitting behind him, Nomar has Manny Ramirez.
Oakland Athletics After being bumped from the All-Star Game, Barry Zito spent his off day working out under the tutelage of Angels pitching coach Bud Black. "Yeah," said Zito, "Bud was like, 'Get your fastball up and make your curveball flat.'"
Kansas City Royals They can become the first team to lose 100 games one year and win a division title the next. Or only the third team in the last 50 years to not win after reaching the All-Star break with at least a seven-game lead. No pressure, though.
Arizona Diamondbacks With four games in San Francisco this week, they have a chance to make a move. But will it be forward or backward? So far this season, the D'backs are 2-6 against the Giants.
Houston Astros Craig Biggio's single Sunday gave him 2,402 hits -- three shy of tying Stuffy McInnis for 95th place on the career list. OK, you caught us. We just like typing the words "Stuffy McInnis."
Los Angeles Dodgers Rickey Henderson is wearing No. 25 because his usual No. 24 was retired in 1977 in honor of Walter Alston. He was a Dodger manager, Rickey. Hall of Famer. Yep. Won a bunch of games.
Toronto Blue Jays They're shopping veteran right-hander Cory Lidle (10-8), but he hasn't won since June 20 and has given up 28 runs in his last 23 2/3 innings. A little help here, Cory!
Anaheim Angels OK, here's the deal: When you win the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game MVP award on back-to-back nights, as Garret Anderson did, you can never again be called baseball's most obscure superstar.
Florida Marlins So here they are, 15 ½ games behind the Braves and six games out of the wild card, and they give up three prospects for Ugueth Urbina. If he's the answer, what the heck is the question?
St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols needs one more home run to become only the fourth player to hit 100 homers in his first three seasons. The others: Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Eddie Mathews and Ralph Kiner. So back off, Barry, OK?
Montreal Expos When Marlins phenom Dontrelle Willis pitched last week at Olympic Stadium, 16,084 fans showed up. The night before, a $5 ticket and $1 hot dog promotion drew 28,170. There is, as we all know, no substitute for cheap processed meat products.
Chicago Cubs Hey, the wind's not blowing out at Wrigley -- it's just Jose Hernandez. After finishing one shy of Bobby Bonds' season strikeout record of 189 in 2002, Hernandez already has 120 K's this season, which puts him on pace for 205.
Colorado Rockies Clint Hurdle was pulling out of Coors Field's parking lot when he noticed closer Justin Speier clinging to his car bumper and riding a skateboard. "He wanted me to pull him through the parking lot," Hurdle said. "I said, 'You can't do this. You have to let go.'" Yep, it's always fun until someone wheelie outs.
Minnesota Twins They insist they're not worried about the Royals. "There's plenty of time," said Brad Radke. "We have a weak division," Uh huh. Welcome to the Hubris H. Humphrey Metrodome.
Chicago White Sox The rumors about Jerry Manuel being fired are starting up again. But tell us when it actually happens, all right? So far, to borrow a phrase, he's had more lives than Shirley MacLaine.
Baltimore Orioles They're 8-1 against the defending World Series champion Angels this season. Of course, that would have been a lot more impressive in 2002.
Cincinnati Reds Yes, Ken Griffey Jr. gave them the hometown discount. But after yet another season-ending injury, Junior's $12.5 million salary is going down harder than a plate of day-old Skyline.
Cleveland Indians With 11 rookies on their 25-man roster, they've learned to be patient. But ultimately Brandon Phillips's .210 batting average was just too much. Or too little. The former Expos phenom is back in the minors.
Texas Rangers Rafael Palmeiro is batting .241 -- 50 points below his career average -- and some observers say it's because he's trying to pull every pitch in his quest for 600 career homers. Hey, only 89 to go.
New York Mets GM Jim Duquette got eight prospects in trades for Robbie Alomar, Jeromy Burnitz and Armando Benitez. He thinks the Mets can copy the Cubs' rebuilding plans. Well, except with some World Series rings.
Milwaukee Brewers Their fourth and fifth starters are a combined 7-27. Yep, take that away and they're right in the thick of things for that No. 8 spot in the wild-card scramble.
San Diego Padres Rondell White grounded out in his lone All-Star Game at-bat, but he insisted it will still be a moment to remember: "I got to hear them say, 'Now batting for Barry Bonds ... Rondell White.' Wow!"
Tampa Bay Devil Rays One of the majors' youngest teams, they've already used 45 players this season, and more promotions are expected. Nice knowing you, Al Martin.
Detroit Tigers The good news is that Eric Munson has 14 home runs this season. The bad news -- and there's always bad news, isn't there? -- is that 10 of them have come with the bases empty. Ergo, his 39 RBIs.