3 up, 3 down: Brewers stay hot; Angels and Cubs are not
A look at who’s hot and who’s not in the majors this week:
1) The Milwaukee Brewers were not in playoff position Sept. 10, when reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich fouled a ball off his right knee, fracturing the kneecap and ending his season. Yelich led the major leagues in OPS, but the Brewers nonetheless won 12 of their next 14 games to clinch a second consecutive postseason appearance, a feat Milwaukee last accomplished in 1981-82. Owner Mark Attanasio flew Yelich to Cincinnati so he could join in the clubhouse celebration. The Brewers entered the weekend with a September record of 20-4, including two seven-game winning streaks.
2) Felix Hernandez would have been forgiven for leaving Seattle and taking his AL Cy Young Award with him. In his first eight seasons, the Mariners finished last six times. But he twice signed extensions during that span, rather than try free agency. The last three years have been painful, medically and statistically, and he finished this year with a 6.40 ERA. Fans never forgot his loyalty, though, and the ovation was so heartfelt in his last game that he teared up, put his Mariners cap across his heart, and bowed to the crowd. Afterward, he shook hands with fans and posed for pictures. He started 418 games and, of the five pitchers with more starts and no postseason appearances, three are in the Hall of Fame: Ferguson Jenkins, Jim Bunning and Ted Lyons.
3) The Detroit Tigers played their final game at beloved Tiger Stadium 20 years ago this week. (Trivia: The last out was recorded by Brad Ausmus, then the Tigers catcher and now the Angels manager.) It’s a reminder of how fortunate L.A. fans are. The Dodgers, under several owners, could have moved to a new downtown stadium and made a fortune by selling the Dodger Stadium site. In a sport full of skyline views, the Dodgers have preserved their classic mountain view, and Guggenheim Baseball will have invested about $300 million into stadium upgrades by the time the Dodgers host the All-Star Game next year.
1) The Angels never lost more than 88 games in Mike Scioscia’s 19 years as manager; they could in their first year without him. Could he return in San Diego? In his five-plus years as the Padres’ GM, A.J. Preller has yet to deliver a team with a winning record. His managerial choices have not inspired confidence: He fired Bud Black, who went on to lead the Colorado Rockies to back-to-back playoff appearances; he did not even interview Dave Roberts, whom the Dodgers hired off Preller’s coaching staff; he just fired the manager he did hire, Andy Green. If ownership influences Preller’s hire, keep in mind that the Padres’ lead investor is Peter Seidler, nephew of former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley. Scioscia played and coached for the Dodgers during the O’Malley years.
In the age of launch angle and defensive shifts, the Angels’ Albert Pujols laments that batting .300 lifetime is becoming obsolete even as his own average dips.
2) After four consecutive playoff appearances, the Chicago Cubs were eliminated Wednesday, done in part by a bullpen with a save percentage that ranked 12th in the NL. Intended closer Brandon Morrow, handed a $21-million contract despite an injury-riddled career, sat out this season after elbow surgery. The Cubs waited until June to sign seven-time All-Star Craig Kimbrel, who posted a 6.53 ERA, and President Theo Epstein said the late start to Kimbrel’s season was the “single biggest factor” in his struggles. The Cubs could have signed Kimbrel any time before the June draft, but they did not want to give up the 64th pick. They might have missed the playoffs because of it.
3) The Cleveland Indians won more games this season than they did last year, but they were eliminated Friday, after three consecutive AL Central titles. They won by 13 games last year and 17 the year before, so they figured they could improve their weak outfield at the July trading deadline if need be. They might have missed the playoffs because of it. Yasiel Puig hit two home runs in two months in Cleveland. In all, the division champion Minnesota Twins had 94 homers from their outfielders through Friday; the Indians had 58.
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