Major League Baseball might never have another season like this, in which you felt inclined to turn your newspaper upside down to see if you were gleaning the standings correctly.
The "have-nots" are having. And some of the "haves" aren't.
Oakland, Baltimore, Washington and even Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox all finished under .500 last season. As the weekend began, all five would comprise half this year's potential playoff field.
Using the payroll barometer, Oakland (29), Washington (20), Baltimore (19), Cincinnati (17) and Atlanta (16) all are in the bottom half of payroll among the 30 major league teams. That quintet also would encompass half the playoff field. In the meantime, Boston and Miami, which rank third and seventh in payroll, seem likely to finish in last place.
"One thing I keep talking about is parity," commissioner Bud Selig told the Post-Dispatch on Friday. "I don't think people quite understand how much parity we have actually."
If Baltimore, which will have its first winning season in 15 years, can reach the playoffs for the first time since 1997 and if Washington reaches the playoffs for the first time since its predecessor, Montreal, did so in 1981, 25 of the 30 franchises will have been in the postseason since 2005.Only the Kansas City Royals, whose last appearance was in 1985; Pittsburgh (1992), Toronto (1993), Seattle (2001) and Florida/Miami (2003) will have missed the playoffs in the last seven years.
With regard to Oakland and Baltimore, which Selig said are in a "dead heat," for most surprising team, the advent of a second wild card in each league expedites their chances of making the playoffs. Oakland's drought (2006) is not as long as Baltimore's.
Selig, who is in his 20th season as commissioner, takes pride that baseball still has only one-third of its teams (10 of 30) in the postseason compared to 12 of 32 in the NFL and 16 teams each in the NHL and NBA.
"Ten of 30 is the right number," he said. "We didn't cheapen it in any way."
But he added, "We're done."
DID YOU KNOW ...
That Tampa Bay reliever Chris Archer is believed to be the first pitcher in the designated hitter era to bat for a position player and then stay in to pitch?
It happened Thursday after manager Joe Maddon moved DH Evan Longoria into the field at third base, thus placing the pitcher in the batting order. When second baseman Ryan Roberts fouled a pitch off his left foot and couldn't continue his at-bat in the 11th, Maddon called on Archer, who was warming up in the bullpen, and summoned had him pinch-hit with two outs, two strikes and nobody on.
With strict orders not to swing, Archer ran the count to 3-2 before striking out. He also fanned the next time up and ultimately was the losing pitcher.
• That the young Pittsburgh Pirates have collapsed almost as badly as in 2011? From Aug. 1 to the end of last season, the Pirates, who were contending for a division title, went 18-38. From Aug. 1 of this year through Friday, the Pirates, fading almost out of the wild-card race, were 13-27 and only one game over .500 overall as they fought to save their first winning season in 20 years.
• That former Parkway Central High and Missouri pitcher Max Scherzer is averaging more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings for Detroit, best for a starter since the Cubs' Kerry Wood averaged 12.6 in 2003 — and that Scherzer is 10-1 in his last 14 starts?
• That Toronto third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who hit his 40th homer on Thursday, was outrighted by the Blue Jays two years ago and then sold to Oakland after the 2010 season before the Blue Jays resigned him?
• That the time of games is up nearly three minutes this year, to 2 hours 55 minutes per nine innings. "I'm not happy about that," Selig said. "But if that's the only negative we have this year, then we did all right."