Baseball finally gets its act together

September 03, 2002 11:08 AM
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They finally got it right. Both sides, owners and players, somehow managed to come to their senses and realized that a work stoppage would likely doom the sport of major league baseball as we know it. With last week’s last minute settlement the 2002 season will continue uninterrupted, crowning a World Series Champion in late October.

The story in baseball right now is the Oakland Athletics. Winners of a franchise record 18 straight games entering this week Oakland’s streak is the longest in nearly 50 years. The A’s have outstanding solid pitching which in and of itself strengthens the bullpen by not overworking the relief arms. Despite the off season loss of slugger Jason Giambi the As have unheralded offensive heroes in guys such as Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez.

Kudos to Larry Bowa and his Philadelphia Phillies. After struggling for most of the season and languishing in last place, by a margin, in the NL East the Phillies have played solid ball much of the second half of the season. They traded all star third baseman Scott Rolen and have managed to move into second place in their Division and begin this week three games over .500 for the season.

Overlooked over recent weeks has been the solid pitching performance of Randy Wolf and the rapid development of rookie pitcher Brett Myers. The Phillies will be a fashionable choice in the coming offseason to unseat Atlanta in the NF East in 2003.

But there’s still plenty of ball to be played in 2002. Atlanta has a 17 game lead over the Phillies in the NL East and have reclaimed baseball’s best record from Arizona. The Diamondbacks continue to lead the Dodgers in the NL West by a comfortable half dozen games with a shade over two dozen games remaining. San Francisco is two games further back. St Louis has a four game lead over Houston in the NL Central with Cincinnati now having fallen ten games out and the Reds are likely out of the Wild Card race as well.

Los Angeles has a two game lead over arch rival San Francisco in the NL Wild Card race with Houston seven games behind. Only one other National League team is above .500 as Labor Day dawns.

Here is the best of the weekend.

with Anahiem leading Seattle Astros at Dodgers: After losing the opener the Dodgers took the final two games of last week’s series on the strength of solid starting pitching from both Omar Daal and Hideo Nomo. Good pitching generally stops good hitting, as the old adage goes, and there are plenty of good pitchers on these teams. Games involving a combination of Daal, Nomo, or Odalis Perez of the Dodgers and Roy Oswalt or Wade Miller of the Astros can be played UNDER the total, even at a low number of 7. D’backs at Giants: San Francisco took the first two games of last weekend’s series before Arizona staged a frantic rally to take the finale, winning it in the bottom of the ninth. The Giants defeated both Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson but may not have to face either of them in this four game series that begins Thursday. Any underdog in this series getting at least +125 is worthy of play. The OVER is also worth consideration at totals of 9 or less.

A’s at Twins: The week begins with Oakland riding an 18 game winning streak the Minnesota almost ended twice last weekend. In fact, Minnesota nursed a 5-4 lead going to the bottom of the ninth on Sunday before Miguel Tejada hit a game winning three run dinger. He deserves serious consideration for MVP as he has quietly posted the kind of numbers a team leader should produce. Oakland’s outstanding starting pitching will likely have them favored throughout this series. Minnesota has the best home record in the AL and are worth playing throughout this series as underdogs. The Twins will be interested in making a statement.

M’s at Royals: Seattle has been struggling and those struggles were in evidence as the Mariners lost two of three to the Royals in Seattle last weekend. After being the top team in the AL West for much of the past three seasons Seattle is in danger of not making the playoffs. They trail Oakland by six games in the Division race and they trail Anaheim by two and a half games in the Wild Card race. The Royals are playing almost .500 baseball at home and are worth a look here if they are, as should be the case, underdogs in starts by Paul Byrd or Miguel Asencio. Best play in the series is the OVER, especially at totals of 9½ or less.