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Boston Red Sox: Updated Chances That They Make the Playoffs

Well, this certainly isn’t the start anyone expected, right?

The Boston Red Sox now sit at 7-11, are in the cellar and are four games off the pace of the New York Yankees in the AL East race.

For the first week of the season, it was easy to be relaxed and beg those in “The Nation” to remain calm because it was still early. After the second week, even the optimistic became nervous.

Now, as the third full week of games wind down, shock has rippled across Boston Harbor, rolled over the turnpike and settled over Fenway Park like a dark ominous cloud that promises nothing short of doom and gloom.

The Red Sox have 144 games left on their schedule. When you consider that, it tells you that it’s still possible that they could turn this thing around in a hurry. The question, though, isn’t about possibility. It’s now about probability.

Let’s say the club wins half of its games for the rest of the season. They’d finish with 79 wins. That would be nowhere near enough to win this division.

What if they played at the pace the Yankees have opened the season, and ran a .625 winning percentage the rest of the way? They’d finish with 97 wins. Of course, if the Yankees continue that pace themselves, they’d finish with over 100 wins.

Neither team may finish with that sort of a winning percentage, however. While both clubs have ran that sort of record in the past decade, with the Yankees doing it semi-frequently, it’s common that no team in baseball finishes over .600 in any given year.

The Sox have a pretty big hill to climb, especially with so many other teams in much better position to capture the Wild Card early on.

To win the division, the Sox would probably have to play .625 ball the rest of the way (97 wins) with the Yankees playing no better than .590 ball (96 wins) and the Rays playing worse than .610 ball (96 wins).

This is nowhere near the impossible thresh hold yet. The Yankees pitching is a real weakness, and the Red Sox can’t stay this bad. If both teams regress to the mean of their abilities, the Sox are still in this. They’ll need to run off some nice five-to-seven game win streaks to make the hill easier to climb down the stretch, which won’t be easy.

They’ve won two in a row, and six of their last 10. Now would be the time to rip off that big winning streak.

So, no, it’s not impossible.

However, if this weekend is another disaster, I’d start putting my hope into the New England Patriots playing this season if I’m a Boston sports fan who wants to expend energy into hope.

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MLB Playoff Expansion: Why One-Game Wild Card Playoff Isn’t MLB’s Best Move

Playoff expansion has its pros and cons.

I think it is obvious that including more teams (within reason) would be beneficial for the game. The more teams that make the playoffs, the more revenue there would be for teams and more baseball for fans.

But it’s equally obvious that there are pitfalls, such as extending play deeper into the cold and rainy months of October and November.

If we look at this subject on a deeper level, baseball would have to consider either a one-game, winner-take-all approach or another series, likely a best-of-three.

The latter scenario not only adds more days to the schedule but more travel. It would likely be set up as a home-away-home format for the team with the better record (or for the winner of a coin toss, if records are identical). There would also have to be an off-day stuck in there, so we’re talking potentially four extra days and three travel days for at least one of the teams involved.

This could be avoided if baseball trims games off the regular season schedule, a highly unlikely scenario. For all these reasons a one-game playoff now becomes the best option for avoiding an extended wait for the World Series.

I feel that adding the wild card was great for the game, mostly because I don’t like divisions. We’ve seen wild-card teams with superior records to those of division winners. We’ve also seen teams with better records than division winners miss out because another team in their league got the sole wild-card spot.

For that reason, adding a second wild-card team would be a good thing; it would reduce the chances of deserving teams missing out because they play in tougher divisions.

Does a one-game playoff reward these playoff teams fairly though, and achieve the goals of baseball the business?

The Yankees won the American League Wild Card last season with a record of 95-67 in an extremely tough AL East. Had this new format been in place, the Red Sox would have been the second wild card, with a record of 89-73.

Hold the cries of agony about another Yanks-Sox game for a moment and consider that the Rangers won five fewer games than the Yankees (90) in a weak AL West. It wouldn’t be a shock if the Sox snuck out of New York winning that one game playoff.

While some will be quick to point out that this proposal aims to ensure playoff berths for both Boston and New York, thereby boosting television revenues, it could easily backfire were that even true.

Does baseball really want to risk having the Yankees bounced by a small market team like the Twins or Indians in a one-game format? In this scenario, is the potential addition of the Red Sox worth the potential premature bouncing of the Yanks?

A one-game format could actually cost baseball money and incur the wrath of fans. As a fan myself, I’d love to see a team like the Twins sneak in and make a run all the way to the Commissioner’s Trophy.

I don’t think small market ratings, however, are what baseball will have in mind when they decide on this.

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Steroids in Baseball: Did They Actually Save the Sport in the 1990s?

A sport bruised by work stoppages. Millionaires fighting with billionaires. Fans showed their displeasure the best way they knew how. They stopped going to games.

Things picked back up in the late 1990s, with more fans piling into more parks than ever before.

There was some thought that fans came back because of the sudden surge of offense via the most exciting thing in the game, the home run.

Things really picked up in 1998 when Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr. and Greg Vaughn all finished with 50 or more home runs, with McGwire and Sosa both eclipsing the record set by Roger Maris in 1961. Nine other players slugged over 40 homers.

A whole bunch of failed drug tests, grand jury indictments and 13 years later left people connecting the dots between that power surge and the use of performance enhancing drugs. Most notable of course being steroids.

So while saying home runs saved baseball was cliche at the time, there is now a thought that the very thing so many of us are upset about is what saved baseball.

I’m not so sure about that.

In the early 1980s, baseball had two short work stoppages. Eight days in 1980 and two days in 1985. Sandwiched between those was a 50-day dispute in 1981. Still, attendance stayed north of 20,000 per game league-wide, eventually rising to over 25,000 for the National League and nearly 30,000 for the American League.

Just as things were starting to get better, they got uglier.

The 32-day lockout in 1990 was nothing compared to the 232-day strike launched by the players in 1994 that wiped out the World Series for the first time.

After attendance averages had reached as high as nearly 37,000 for the senior circuit in 1993, the fans seemingly had enough.

Then came the aforementioned power surge and fans flowed back through the turnstiles as if they had turned the other cheek or decided to give their national pastime another chance.

Attendance rocketed into the 32,000 range for the AL and north of 38,000 for the NL where McGwire and Sosa were putting on the fireworks show.

With reasonable regression expected after the home run record chases, attendance league wide dropped to an average of around 30,000 per game in 2000. Throughout the next decade, we’d see a spike as high as 32,694 in 2007 with the low being around 28,000 during a small hiccup in 2002.

The league isn’t seeing the attendance it did in the late ’90s, but it’s not seeing the lows of the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s either.

With relative labor peace in baseball compared to the nasty fight with the NFL, and the one expected with the NBA, things have been smooth.

A sport once marred by strikes, lockouts, bickering and fighting has seen nothing but immense growth over the past 16 years thanks to revenue sharing, media and merchandising booms and more.

Did steroids save baseball?

I don’t think so.

Baseball, in all its beauty and glory, saved baseball. Just by showing up.



Alex Carson is a Mariners and MLB writer and blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @AlexCarson

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Seattle Mariners Opening Night: 10 Unique Ways to Enjoy the Game

It’s Opening Day, which means it’s time to put the spreadsheets away and head out to the ballpark for pampered grass, the smell of garlic fries and a rousing nine innings of pure bliss.

What better way to enjoy this event than sharpening your pencil and getting lost in a baseball game by keeping score?

That may not be for everyone. Perhaps you’re more into chatting, watching the Hydro Races and anticipating the start of The Wave.

Each fan has a unique way of enjoying a ballgame. We all have our own special love for the game. Some refuse to miss a pitch or leave early, and some just want to hang out and beat the traffic in the eight inning.

So for those of you who want to try something new this season at Safeco Field, this slideshow is for you. From food to views to people. This your guide to enjoying a unique experience at the House That Griffey Built.

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Seattle Mariners vs. Texas Rangers: Michael Pineda Gets Rough Loss in MLB Debut

The Mariners sent Michael Pineda, their rookie right-hander, to the mound and got all they had hoped for from the young horse.

Unfortunately, as has become all too common, they didn’t get what they wanted from their offense.

Pineda looked sharp early, sitting in the mid-90’s with his fastball, occasionally reaching 97.

In the first inning, it almost looked too easy for Pineda as he retired Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton in order with Kinsler and Hamilton going down via strikeout.

Things got a little dicey in the second as the Rangers got on the board with Nelson Cruz scoring on a Mitch Moreland triple that center fielder Michael Saunders misjudged. Saunders scaled the wall preparing to snare a home run ball back, only to see the ball ping off the wall as he twisted and turned.

The damage was limited to that one run, though, as Pineda kept the Mariners stagnant offense in the game as he cruised through the fifth inning with his pitch count only reaching 59 pitches.

In the sixth inning, Pineda started to run out of gas despite the low pitch count. He began to miss spots by wide margins, leaving balls up with catcher Miguel Olivo spotting his glove low.

In that frame, Kinsler lead off with a single to left that grazed the top of a jumping Jack Wilson’s glove. After Elvis Andrus moved Kinsler over to second with a sacrifice bunt, Hamilton drove him in with a double. Two batters later, Michael Young drove a double of his own to score Hamilton to push the score to 3-0.

The bleeding finally stopped after a Nelson Cruz flyout that would end up being Pineda’s final pitch of the night.

Rangers starter Alexi Ogando also exited the game after six innings due to a blister on his pitching hand, which opened the door for a potential Mariners comeback.

With former Mariner Mark Lowe on the mound for Texas, the Mariners were finally able to get something going offensively in the seventh inning. Miguel Olivo and Adam Kennedy reached base, followed by back-to-back RBI singles from Jack Wilson and Michael Saunders that put the Mariners in position to get Pineda off the hook.

Ichiro reached base on an error by Kinsler at second base, loading the bases with one out. However, a sharp lineout by Chone Figgins and a flyout by Milton Bradley ended the rally.

The final six batters of the game for the Mariners were retired in order, securing a tough loss for Pineda in his big league debut.

Pineda did face a heavily right-handed Rangers lineup he could succeed against. However, when the Texas bats struck, they struck for extra base hits with men on base.

If you’re the Mariners, you have to be pleased with this performance, though.

While there are many out there who thought Pineda’s secondary stuff needed more seasoning in the minors, the rookie looked like a grizzled veteran fighting for six mostly strong innings.

Michael Pineda clearly belongs.


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2011 MLB Draft: 10 Best Options for Mariners With No. 2 Overall Pick

The Mariners have the second overall pick in the draft. This means they can get almost any player they want.

The Pirates, on the hand, can literally get any player they want. While third baseman Anthony Rendon appears to be the consensus overall pick, the Pirates might find pitching a bigger need and go after Gerrit Cole.

We’ll see what the Pirates do, but the Mariners are sure to know who their second pick would be should their first fall off the board.

Here’s a look at the top 10 players that could help them. Although, I’d bank on the final three being the players Jack Zduriencik and his team scout want the most.

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Seattle Mariners Opening Day 2011: Top 10 Keys to the Team’s Success

Happy opening day!

The long winter is over. All of the speculation and talk can come to an end and baseball can once again be played on grass and dirt instead of paper.

Unlike the expectations of a season ago, these Mariners enter the 2011 campaign with low expectations. No one expects them to contend, and perhaps that will play in their favor. Not in that they’ll actually contend, but that they can relax and work to get better without a microscope on their every move.

I’ve had them penciled in for 70 wins as an official prediction, but that number will likely sway one way or the other depending on several factors that play out during the season. If they have several players have career years, maybe that number balloons closer to 80. If they have another season filled with under-performance, well, let’s not speculate on that.

One thing we can take from last season, if you’re into that whole glass-half-full mentality, is that things can’t get worse. With so many players having wretched seasons, you almost are forced to expect regression to the mean and improvement.

The chances of this team shocking the world are incredibly low. If they’re going to do it, though, these are the keys to achieving that success.

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Felix Hernandez: A Retort To Talk of Trading the Seattle Mariners Ace

Felix Hernandez in pinstripes is something that a lot of people still see as a possibility, even as early as this season.

A lot has been ballyhooed about the reigning Cy Young’s status with the Mariners, his no-trade clause and whether or not the Mariners should consider shipping off their ace for a true king’s ransom.

Stephen Meyer, who heads up the MLB content team here on Bleacher Report, put together a logical piece discussing Felix’s no-trade clause and why it doesn’t mean he couldn’t be traded to one of the listed teams.

Stephen made a lot of solid points. Often times, no-trade clauses are misconstrued as a player’s desire not to go to a specific team.

In reality, players of Felix’s ilk retain smart agents who make sure their client has leverage in any trade negotiation.

That said, there are some things with Stephen’s piece I disagree with. These issues aren’t something I’d use to claim he’s wrong per say, but rather to play devil’s advocate and point out some things that people who follow the Mariners more closely may be privy to.

Here are three major points to counter his argument that Felix could indeed be traded this season:


1. Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik and his front office are renowned around the league as a group that hold their cards extremely close to their vests. It was for that reason that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. approached Zduriencik at the winter meetings a year ago to discuss a potential Cliff Lee deal.

Ken Rosenthal, probably the most connected reporter in baseball, was finally able to sniff out some details, but the Mariners’ involvement remained a secret until the deal was virtually done.

What this all means is that the Mariners don’t talk about stuff—not their GM nor his employees.

When Zduriencik does talk, you can walk the check into the bank and cash it without issue. He’s tight-lipped, giving canned answers often, but has no problem being candid once a decision is made.

His continued insistence that Felix isn’t going anywhere shouldn’t be looked at as posturing. The depth of his insistence shows that he and ownership have no desire to trade Hernandez.


2. Felix has been up front about his desire to stay in Seattle. Of course, the no-trade clause doesn’t mean things can’t change, but usually players give canned responses like “This is where I am now, we’ll see what the future holds” if they aren’t sure or have other plans.

Sometimes, you can just read people.

The way Felix’s face lights up when he talks about Seattle, it doesn’t look like a guy who is sick of losing or wants to force his way out.


3. The team would need motivation to trade him.

Rosenthal and I exchanged some tweets about this. He believes that the time is now, while the return would be the greatest, for the Mariners to consider a deal.

He and others may believe that a full rebuild should be done at this point, considering the state of both the big league roster and farm system.

While I agree with that logic, Felix is in a special category. I think people forget that he still has to pay a surcharge to rent a car.

He’ll turn 25 in time for his third start of the season.

Furthermore, the hardest thing for any team to get is a bone fide No. 1 starter.

Of the names that people have mentioned that could come back from New York, there is no certainty any will yield the value Felix already has at a young age.

Look, I’m the first guy that is willing to let his emotional attachment to a player go if a deal makes sense. As a Mariners fan, I’ve become an expert at this as our superstars have fled the scene of the accident.

In this case, though, you have a player that is far too special to flip for some unproven prospects—each with their own potential issues.

Next season, the club will be another year removed from the mess that Bill Bavasi left. They’ll finally have some payroll flexibility to make roster moves that come from places other than the scrap heap and rehab room.

The Mariners don’t need to rebuild without Felix Hernandez. They need to build around him.

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2011 MLB Predictions: The 10 Most Compelling Stories of the Season

We’re just a couple short weeks away from meaningful baseball.

All the offseason moves, the talk from experts and promise of young prospects will come to a head and we’ll once again be reminded of why we not only love this game, but hate when it isn’t around.

The most compelling for me is Opening Day. I love it. I make the jaunt to Seattle every year to watch my Mariners embark on another campaign, even though I know the outcome may not make me do back flips.

On a national level, though, there are so many intriguing stories.

Of course, you end up with surprises like last year’s no hitters and (almost included) perfect games. You have milestones and injuries. Breakout stars and steady hands.

Let’s look at what we think, and hope, will be interesting this season.

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2011 MLB Predictions: The 5 Best Series We Can’t Wait to Watch in April

The fresh cut grass, smell of garlic fries and crack of the bat.

Soon, those things will be joined by real baseball. Baseball that counts and means more than just getting pitchers work.

One of the joys of baseball, for me, are the story lines: the drama that unfolds over a season or carried over from the previous one. For various reasons, I find myself drawn to see certain players who have changed teams or find out if all the moves by another team translates into success.

So let’s look at a few of those and speculate about why they’ll be fun to watch.

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