By Josh Cook
Hello there, and welcome (back) to Drake University! The beginning of a new school year always brings the climax of Major League Baseball, so what a time it is. There’s a few storylines I’d like to highlight here in the first issue that I’ll follow for the rest of the season.
Some of the more interesting stories this year have been the Machado Pursuit (ending with him in a Dodgers uniform), the AL West race (which has seen the Mariners, Athletics and Astros all look like World Series favorites at times), the Yankees and Red Sox returns to great baseball and reviving the rivalry and the roller coaster race for the NL Central.
The Machado situation played out reasonably after consuming the rumor cycle for months on end. The Dodgers got a great borrow player they can hopefully keep around for a few more years, though it should be interesting to see how the Dodgers manage all of their infield talent which includes Machado, Tucker, Bellinger, Seager, Muncy, Taylor and recently acquired Brian Dozer.
Normally a franchise should be worried about all that potential money not playing every day, but thankfully they’re the Dodgers and in my opinion, that’s the foundational wastefulness they’ve built their team on. Luckily for them they’ve gotten incredible production from Matt Kemp this year on a low-ball contract he signed – it feels delightfully like 2013 to have Matt Kemp raking again.
From the NL West Dodgers to the AL West race, it has been fun to watch baseball this year. As mentioned before, the Mariners, Astros and Athletics have all been playing great baseball this year. It seems like whoever is on a win streak at the time is leading the division so look for the last 20 games of the season to decide the playoff fate of those three teams.
The Athletics have been doing what they always do – over perform. They’re 15-6 since they last lost a series to the Rockies way back in July. They’ve been scratching back and forth with the Astros for first place. As recently as last week they were in first in the west before dropping two games in a row on a series turn.
If Khris Davis keeps hitting home runs with the best of them, the A’s may be able to make a playoff push. However, the fact they don’t have a single hitter batting over .275 on the year is concerning when it will inevitably come to hitting playoff-pitching.
My guess is as good as yours, but in case you’re wondering I think the Astros will win the division again and the A’s will lose in the Wildcard. Sadly, I think the Mariners will miss the playoffs with 90+ wins, which stinks because they’re a quality ball club.
The Red Sox have been the best team in the MLB all year without question. They’re on pace to win 110+ games and, barring a string of injuries, they should do so easily on their way to home-field advantage.
Speaking of home-field advantage, the Sox will be glad to have it when/if they run into the Yankees for a post-season rivalry series. Despite the Red Sox being baseball’s best team by
nearly ten games, it is more fun when both them and the Yankees are in the upper echelon of teams.
I saved my favorite topic for last; the Cubs. They have the best record in the NL, but they’ve made some big moves recently. One of the moves has looked like a genius move at this point, getting Cole Hamels from the Rangers. Hamels is 4-0 in his first five starts in a Cubs uniform with a complete game, four quality starts and a 0.79 ERA. BIG Cole Hamel guy. With Yu Darvish officially shut down now, Theo Epstein again is making moves that inspire in me a fatherly love for him.
The other big move the Cubs made was trading for Daniel Murphy with the Nationals after the trade deadline. With Addison Russell on the DL and Kris Bryant gingerly returning from shoulder issues, Murphy should be able to play second most days. This is a typical Cubs move over recent years, as it returns the utility role to Ben Zobrist where he excels.
Murphy went 2-5 with an RBI and a run in his Cubs debut, following it up with a home-run the day after. Epstein and Joe Maddon have both commented on the quality of at-bats Murphy regularly has, so look for him to have a big role in a playoff run. The MLB has been full of surprises and crazy plays to say the least. Stay tuned as we push deeper into the season and into the playoffs.