This Labor Day weekend we will watch the calendars flip over to September and on we go into the final month of the MLB regular season. Lots of news worthy stories have been fluttering around baseball all season. It has been a season with 3 perfect games, a possible PED stained batting title, major trades, and in the first season of the additional wild card spot we could see both the Nationals and Orioles in the postseason.
The 2012 season has been more packed with history than any season I can remember in recent past. Aside from the things I've already mentioned, we might have a rookie win both ROY and the MVP. Not since 2001 has anyone completed this feat and Mike Trout would be just the third player ever to do so. Heck, why not? Trout has already become the only player to achieve 20 HR/40 SB as a rookie among other "first player ever to" distinctions. And any time in baseball you are the first player to do something it is a pretty incredible feat. Lets just say there have been a few games played over the years and plenty opportunity for just about anything and everything to happen.
As we approach the coveted month of October it is interesting to experience the playoff races for the first time in the era of two wild card spots per league. Seems like there won't be as much panic for teams until the final couple weeks. There is a little more breathing room to make the playoffs. Although I will say that there is a clear advantage to being the division winner so don't look for the teams at the top to let off the gas at all.
Speaking of teams at the top. It is hard not to talk about the Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds. Both teams are leading the division and are practically tied for the best record in baseball as we go into the weekend. The Reds currently carry a 80-52 record while the Nationals have played less games and have a slightly better winning percentage with a 79-51 record. The Reds won the division in 2010 but had an early exit when they were swept by the Phillies in NLDS. The League's first franchise has not been to a LCS since 1995 and has not won a World Series since 1990.
The Nationals on the other hand have only one division title since there conception in 1969 as the Montreal Expos. That one division title came in 1981 and was not followed by a World Series win. The Nationals franchise currently feature a 0 in the World Series appearances column. They are in short company with the Mariners as the only 2 teams to have never reached a World Series. Compared to other franchises the Nationals barely show up in the MLB history books. This could be the year that they scratch the surface of historic relevancy. The big problem is their best player won't even be available in the postseason (supposedly). Stephen Strasburg will reportedly be shut down after 2 or 3 more starts. Hard to see why the organization would possibly squander a chance a ring but they are worried about the long term health of their ace and one of the best in the game.
I can see the logic but something could happen next year that is unforeseen and maybe the Nationals can't compete and all of a sudden Strasburg is playing in a different city down the road. Why waste the chance to win? Ask the Cubs about how often chances come around. It would be a huge mistake to keep Strasburg out of the postseason. Maybe the organization feels this team can't win one yet anyways. I tend to agree with that statement but I don't think it is a reason to throw in the towel by sitting Strasburg.
Either way I think it is great for baseball to see the Reds and the Nationals competing for the best record in baseball down the stretch. I think the Reds are a better team and I have them as favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. I could be wrong but I see a LDS exit for the Nationals even if they play Strasburg but I hope we get the chance to see him pitch in the postseason.
Chew On This
It is very likely that we have seen the last 300 game winner ever. In the day of 5 man rotations and extreme pampering of great pitchers we have reached the end of an era. Soon we will look back at 300 game winners as an ancient achievement that is simply not possible anymore. Kinda like hitting 70 home runs. With steroids gone we can forget about anyone ever getting close to that mark. I think seeing 60 again is a long shot at best.
With baseball evolving the way it is we can forget about 300 game winners. Check out this list of active wins leaders. After looking over the numbers you can see that the chances are grim if not impossible. If CC Sabathia can stay healthy and active for another 6-7 years then he has a small chance but he is the last one. Being a Yankee will always help a win total for a pitcher but in the end I don't see Sabathia reaching 300 wins. I think its time we have a funeral for the the 300 game winner. Things change but let this just be a reminder of how hard it is to win 300 games. Regardless of when a pitcher played.
300 Game Winners
Grover Cleveland Alexander
Written by: Craig Kibler