It all now comes down to this ?

It all now comes down to this ?

In what has amounted to be one of the more scandalous seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) , the year`s schedule is now entering the home stretch , with a number of divisional races still up for grabs. Eagerly fought with a great deal of competitiveness throughout much of the season , it must be said that over the next three weeks the managerial acumen of the managers and their staffs will be severely tested . And a number of them are likely to come up short in failing to accomplish their desired goals.

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Slideshow .

Of the races said to offer the most intrigue and suspense, perhaps the NL Central`s long-standing battle between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St Louis Cardinals offers the biggest surprise and the best drama overall. Who would have guessed that this off all seasons, would be the one were Clint Hurdle`s players would be the ones to offer the best story-lines to be found all season long ? Granted the exploits of the Los Angeles Dodgers` rookie sensation Yasiel Puig are still being discussed as a water cooler topic, as fans and analysts alike , are trying to make a case that Puig is now the best young talent in the game. That might well be a valuable debate and discussion that could be dealt with at a later date. As of now, while the Cardinals and Pirates match wits against each other, as both teams seek to walk away with their reputations wits intact, while seeking raise to raise the news-worthiness of the division and the teams therein.

If Yasiel Puig is said to be the catalyst behind the Dodgers` successful season so far in 2013, then Andrew McCutchen has proven to be as equally adept in grabbing all of the major headlined success attained by the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. Should the Pirates slugger and infielder lead the team to divisional honors, it could quite possibly lead to McCutchen being named the NL MVP for this season. Most certainly, his seasonal statistics are good enough to bear this out, as he ranks in the top-ten in a number of offensive categories within the National League for 2013. What could prove to be pivotal within the NL Central for these two teams will be their finals series` meeting of the season, which will be a three-game series at Busch Stadium , in St Louis Missouri , beginning on the Friday 6th September . With less than a half-game separating the clubs at the top of the division (NL Central), neither side would want to be the odd man left out, having to then to play in a one game elimination decider, as part of the wildcard round of e playoffs . So tight, is the race amongst the top NL wildcard aspirants , that things are now far too close to call.

St Louis Cardinals` manager Mike Matheny would like nothing better than to seal this series with an outright victory in all three games, but that would be predicated upon his team overcoming their recent inconsistencies, with some unwanted losses .

In NL West , where the Los Angeles Dodgers are now running away with the division under a full head of steam , the question now surrounding manager Don Mattingly is how best to reincorporate the now healthy players coming off the team`s disabled list. It is a great situation for a manager to have and whose team is said to have one of the deepest rosters in all of baseball . The pitching rotation, led by Clayton Kershaw , who is having an astonishing season , leading the Majors with a league-low ERA of 1.89 , and the question now becomes, can the pitcher lower that statistic any further ? Certainly, if Kershaw continues to pitch with the consistency that he has shown, then there is no reason to believe why he could not make that a reality. As the Dodgers forge ahead looking to increase their twelve-game lead within the division and looking to make it insurmountable. It remains to be seen how good this team can be over the remainder of their schedule . In losing the first contest of a three-game series against Cincinnati Reds , the Dodgers will now look to close out that contest by taking the remaining two games of the series, before starting a six-game home stretch of games against the Arizona Diamondbacks and reigning World Series champions the San Francisco Giants .

For much of the year, the NL East has remained a one-horse race, with the Atlanta Braves seeing little challenge if any, from their divisional rivals. So dominant have been the Braves, that team manager Fredi Gonzalez has started to assess his roster , as he seeks not only the best possible starting lineup , but also to see if any of the younger prospects looking for a late season call-up will be able to contribute to what has already been a highly successful season for the organization. Team President, John Scheurholz and GM Frank Wren have simply made available to the managerial staff the best possible players needed to make the season an outright success. Shrewd player personnel moves by way of free agent acquisitions and a policy of drafting technically sound players and then overseeing their gradual progress through their farm system has borne fruit for the organization.

What has stood out for the Atlanta Braves has been the consistency of the offense and the pitching , as well as the defensive capabilities of the team as a whole . Coming off a minor slip-up in a 2-1 road loss to the lowly Philadelphia Phillies , this past Friday , the team will resume that series , looking to avenge the defeat on Saturday and then seeking to take the series with a victory on Sunday afternoon . Standout players for the Braves this season, have been Chris Johnson , Freddie Freeman , Justin Upton , Brian McCann , B J Upton , Dan Uggla , Evan Gattis , Luis Avilan , Mike Minor , Kris Medlen , Paul Maholm and Craig Kimbrel . I would certainly like to think that the aforementioned players, are likely to be a part of the Braves` postseason roster and contributing to the ongoing success of the organization . For the moment however, it is the immediacy of controlling the obstacles in front of the team , overcoming them and moving on from there , that will clearly define what is likely to be achieved by these players.

It has been a considerably long time since the Atlanta Braves tasted the success of having won a World Series title. The year was 1995 to be exact, when the Braves and their World Series MVP, pitcher , Tom Glavine, got by the Cleveland Indians , taking the series 4-2 for the franchise’s only title in their current guise as the Atlanta Braves. While there was perpetual success under former team manager Bobby Cox , winning an unprecedented fourteen straight divisional titles , 5 NL Pennants and a World Series during a two-decade managerial tenure with the ball-club. Cox will be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2014, undoubtedly joining a list of noted Braves` luminaries under the Atlanta Braves` banner within that hallowed edifice.

Now for the remainder of the Braves` season , I am looking to seeing how this team acquits itself, as they seek another divisional title . Monday gives us a final opportunity to see the team in action , in the final game of their season long series against the Miami Marlins , in a contest to be played at Marlins Ballpark in Miami , Florida On the mound for Atlanta will be Kris Medlin (12-12) facing off against Miami`s Henderson Alvarez (3-3, 3.95 ERA). Composure , accountability, camaraderie and teamwork will be assessed by Fredi Gonzalez and his staff in these final contests , as that will give him some type mindset as to the frame of mind of his players , before they embark on postseason play.

In the AL East , we know this to be a division where you either play hard or you will simply just fade and die. In the past few weeks the Tampa Bay Rays have gone from being atop of the division to now fighting for their very survival and a playoff berth. Joe Maddon and his staff are seemingly at odds with the fans` perception of what is actually going on and the manager`s nonchalant attitude as to the team`s continued failings and inconsistency. Not so long ago, a patron of this site and I had a brief discussion as to whether or not , the then fourth placed New York Yankees were still capable of making the postseason in spite of their off field issues and the continued disdain of Alex Rodriguez . He stated no , merely because of clubhouse issues, lack of productivity coming from the Yankees` offense and the inconsistency of their pitching . Well, three weeks later , here we are and it is the Bronx Bombers now bringing the pain and a great deal of pressure to bear upon both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles , as to who is likely to finish second within the division and claim one of the two coveted AL wildcard berths guaranteeing a trip into the postseason .

What was once a six-game lead that the Rays had over the Yankees has now been whittled down to a mere 2 ½ games, with neither Maddon , his players or even the most vociferous of Rays` fans being able to explain the reasons why, for the team`s failings and just pointing to the fact that they are still in playoff contention . Personally, I feel that the concentration of this Rays` team should be placed on winning the division, because in a one-game playoff eliminater , the Tampa Bay Rays are likely to come up exceedingly short and on the wrong side of a heartbreaking defeat ! Coming off their still ongoing issues with another loss (6-2) , this time to the lowly Seattle Mariners , whose season has been exceptionally morbid , there is not a great deal that can be said about the team , where Felix Fernandez’s talents continue to be wasted , because the front office and board of directors are too damn cheap to spend money to put a winning product on the field and where the coaching staff have not developed any meaningful talent within the organization over the past two seasons .

The Rays will once again face the Mariners on Sunday at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington , where Matt Moore will take on Erasmo Ramirez of Seattle . Tampa can ill-afford to have too many game losses , let alone series` losses , as it comes down the final stretch of the season. The team also has four very important series coming up against the Boston Red Sox , Texas Rangers , Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees during the final month of their schedule. Those series could very well determine whether or not the Rays are part of the postseason fare . Rays` GM Andrew Friedman as been able to work miracles this season in terms the personnel moves made , but repeatedly having to do that has become tedious and all too boring . With little incoming resources by way of any major corporate endorsers, this organization becomes all the more reliant on the good graces of baseball`s hierarchy to lend it a helping hand to assist in their payroll obligations . Andrew Friedman will have to weigh up the feasibility in bringing back players such as James Loney and David Price , two experienced veterans who have contributed to the team’s success in 2013. Both are free agents in 2014 and are likely to be highly sought after by teams in need of a former Cy Young winner and a productive first baseman . Can they afford to pay either the going rate for players at those positions or will it be more of the penny-pinching that this organization has become known for in recent seasons ?

Over the next ten days we should get to know a great deal about the mindset of this Rays’ organization as they embark on the final three weeks of the regular season . Chances are that, they will either sink or swim , based upon their play over that time-span. Should the team miss the postseason , then there will be a number of questions being asked not only of the coaching staff , but of the players themselves and most certainly of the front office , led by owner Stuart Sternberg . Beyond the ongoing saga of the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium issue the fans still have to deal with the very fact that this team has been poorly supported over its entire existence with a hardcore fan-base averaging no more than 15,000 people , but yet, baseball`s hierarchy would have us believe that with average home gate attendance of just over 18,000 , all is well within this organization. From the outside looking in, that may well be the case , but if you were to dig deeper, then you would begin to see, that is most definitely not the case.

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Picture gallery .

What if anything , are you hoping to see as the regular season begins to wind down within baseball ? Which teams do you believe to be the most capable of representing the AL and NL in the World Series ? By all means, do leave a comment on this and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter and thanks as always for the continued support of this site, as it greatly appreciated !

Picture and slideshow details below .

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(1) Los Angeles Angels’ Grant Green , right, scores as the throw to Texas Rangers catcher Geovany Soto goes wide right on a two-run double by Angels’ Andrew Romine in the fourth inning during a baseball game , Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif. AP Photo/Alex Gallardo …

(2) Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning during a baseball game , Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, in Cincinnati. AP Photo/David Kohl ….

(3) St Louis Cardinals` Matt Carpenter (13) is safe at second with an RBI double on the call by umpire Brian Gorman , as the Pittsburgh Pirates` Neil Walker can`t make the tag in time during the second inning of a baseball game between played on Sunday at Busch Stadium , St Louis, Missouri , on the 8th September , 2013. AP Photo / Phil Boyce …..

(4) Yasiel Puig (66) 99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers strikes out in the fourth inning giving starting pitcher Homer Bailey (34) of the Cincinnati Reds the seventh of his nine strike outs at Great American Ball Park on September 8, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Los Angeles 3-2 to sweep the series . Getty Images North America / Jamie Squire ….

(5) Evan Gattis (24) of the Atlanta Braves congratulates Alex Wood (58) after Wood scored a run in the third inning of the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on September 7, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Getty Images / Brian Garfinkel ….

(6) Seattle Mariners catcher Henry Blanco tags out Tampa Bay Rays` Chris Giminez ,right, at the plate during the ninth inning of a baseball game on Sunday , 8th September , 2013 played at Safeco Field in Seattle , Washington . AP Photo / Ted S Warren ….

(7) Atlanta Braves GM Frank Wren , left , is seen here with outfielder B J Upton and team manager Fredi Gonzalez . Upton was signed as a free agent in the off-season and has provided some leadership on the Braves’ roster that also includes younger sibling Justin Upton . B J Upton hopes to provide the team with added productivity during what is hopefully a deep run during the playoffs . Courtesy of USA Today / AP Photos / Greg Jarrett ….

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😉

tophatal …………… 09/08/2013

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MLB news and archived stories

MLB transactions

MLB schedule 9th September 2013

MLB results 6th September to 8th September

MLB probable pitchers 9th September

MLB standings and wildcard standings

MLB standings one year ago today : Divisional standings and wildcard standings

This week in MLB history

This day in MLB history (9th September)

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Atlanta Braves` news and team`s remaining regular season schedule

Tampa Bay Rays` news and remaining games on their schedule

Tampa Bay Rays` head to head meetings in 2013 and their results .

Miscellaneous stats 2013 season (Attendance) , comparisons between 2012 and 2013

24 thoughts on “It all now comes down to this ?

  1. Well the Braves are likely to win their division (NL East) with considerable ease leaving Fredi Gonzalez now considering his postseason roster and which players are likely to give him the best chance to succeed during the playoffs . The NL Central remains a pick ’em between the Cardinals and Pirates . As to who the o two NL wildcard entrants will be , that is now down to three or four teams .

    The AL wildcard race is not as clear as some might believe it to be with both the Orioles and Rays making a case why they`re like to be one and done in the .. wildcard playoff eliminator . Simply look both teams` recent records and the very fact that in close run games they are not that impressive .

    If there is currently a better pitcher in baseball than Clayton Kershaw this season , then I have yet to see that player in either the AL or NL at all .

    tophatal ……………………..

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  2. The Phillies swept the braves. The only reason I know this was listening to the Eagles flag ship station. MLB is not my thing anymore. I hope the Rays make it.

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    1. Yep , they took the series but the division itself is essentially the Braves . In the Phillies` case this has been a tremendously disappointing season , where more was expected from this team . And with that type of a payroll and roster , it is hard to see how they could have underperformed to such an extent . This off-season the team will have to be gutted and they will have start afresh with some of the younger players from their farm system .

      Can you give me directions to the mall ?

      tophatal …….

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        1. bobby gee

          They will bring in younger players , but I also believe that Philies’ GM Reuben Amaro should have been fired by the owners at the same time Charlie Manuel was also shown the door , because the duo were in essence, the architects behind such an abysmal season .

          Amaro & Charlie Manuel .

          🙂

          Bitch ! There`s no crying in baseball . Amaro is a disingenuous ba$tard . Blaming Manuel for your blunders shows you`re an @sshole . Giving Sandberg the position as the manager on an interim basis is a joke, as Ryne Sandberg deserves the position on a full-time basis . For the past two seasons Charlie Manuel has been asleep at the wheel .

          🙂

          tophatal ………

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            1. bobby

              I liken the Phillies` mess of a year to the continual incompetence shown by the Seattle Mariners and their majority ownership by the Nintendo Corporation . Both organizations have vast monetary resources but what they to show for it over the past three years ?

              :
              Phillies` existing contracts and payroll

              Mariners’ existing contracts and payroll


              MLB team salaries 2013
              . Anything in particular that stands out to you ?

              Hernandez of the Mariners

              Mariners’ pitcher Felix Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in the AL and one of the best overall in all of baseball , but he is playing on a team that is completely mediocre and in a division that they will never have a chance of winning, because on paper alone the likes of the Angels , Rangers and A`s are far better teams in just about every aspect of the game. . Never mind the fact that their general manager Jack Zduriencik has about as much eye for talent as Stevie Wonder would have , were he locked in a darkened room .

              The Mariners have not really drafted anyone of note in a number of years and the last real player that anyone within the organization really took any notice of was Ichiro Suzuki and he is now playing for the Yankees .

              tophatal ………..

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                1. I can understand that , but even there (EPL) , there are some troubling issues arising concerning a number of teams at present beyond their form , standing and the results .

                  Terrific result for the Eagles last night …… over the Redkins whose defense could not handle McCoy or Vick .

                  And the Chargers are an extremely bad team and that is not solely based on last night`s mediocre performance . Up 28-7 , the Chargers allowed the Texans to erase that deficit and win the game 31-28 .

                  tophatal ……

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                  1. that offense was fun to watch. The Texans are a tough out. Yes there is especially about non English players playing the EPL. if this quota system happens this will kill the league.

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  3. bobby gee

    The Chargers will be in for a long and tough season and based upon last night`s performance their defense was simply abysmal . They had a twenty-one point entering the third quarter but somehow found a way to cough up not only the lead but the game as well . The only legitimate contenders I see in the AFC West , are the Broncos and Chiefs , albeit that we`re only one week into a sixteen-game regular season schedule . I do not think that highly of either San Diego or Oakland in that division or even as a playoff contender within the AFC .

    The agreement upon the number of foreign nationals that a Premiership club could have on their roster was agreed to by the various members of not only the EPL , but also the various organizations that make up UEFA , an agreement that was voted upon and ratified by UEFA’s Executive Committee .

    I am not saying that it is not fair , but I believe the rule ultimately benefits the game of soccer .

    tophatal …………….

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  4. The Cardinals are one of the best run organizations in MLB. They must be laughing up a storm after saving themselves countless millions of dollars, by not re-signing an aging Albert Pujols. They are paying 1B Allen Craig a mere fraction of what they would have paid Pujols and are getting better production.

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    1. The issue between Albert Pujols and the Cardinals wasn`t age but more to do with the length of the contract sought and the fact that G M John Mozelliak did not believe he was worth that type of money , Yet in the same vein they gave Matt Holliday a contract (7 yrs $120 million) that he has failed to live up to . So explain that to me if you can ?

      What has Allan Craig achieved thus far in his career ?

      The Angels currently have a team of ill fitting pieces, where C J Wilson continues to struggle and where Mike Trout has been something of a non-factor for the majority of the year in 2013 for the Angels .

      In the case of Pujols , his frailty , in suffering from plantar fasciitis is not an uncommon occurrence and cannot be easily treated .

      AL West standings & NL Central standings .

      MLB wildcard standings .

      Los Angeles Angels team payroll and St Louis Cardinals team payroll . MLB team payrolls for 2013 . Anything in particular that piques your interests ?

      tophatal …………………..

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      1. Matt Holliday’s 7 year / $120 million contract is much more reasonable than Pujols’ 10 year / $240 million contract. And Holliday’s numbers are better than Pujol’s the past few seasons. Plus Holliday’s contract is up in three years, where as Pujols’ contract is up in 2022.

        As for Allen Craig, he’s putting up good numbers, and more importantly his numbers are close enough to what Pujols would have given them for about $20 million less in pay.

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        1. Maurice ….

          Holliday’s numbers are average for a player of his supposed stature and by way of leadership , he is not viewed as a leader . That is most certainly David Freese . Craig is good but a few years in and while his play this season has been very good , his body of work is still lean . Look beyond the numbers and what these guys bring in terms of intangibles .

          John Mozelliak was prepared to pay Pujols $200 million but not as part of a ten year deal . Were you aware of that fact ?

          tophatal …………………

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          1. I was aware, but the ten years was the deal breaker. What kind of numbers will Pujols be putting up in 8 years when the Angels are paying him $30 million a year? Both Holliday and Craig will be long gone from the Cardinals by then, replaced by younger players.

            And the Cardinals had to make Pujols an offer, whether they really wanted to re-sign him or not. It was customary. But, they intentionally made him an offer that they knew other teams would top.

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            1. Maurice …

              Given the fanbase of the Cardinals they were getting Pujols relatively cheap . If GM John Mozeliak had any sense he would agreed to the deal with certain provisos and back loaded the contract . . It is not as if at any time over the past five years the organization has been placed in the position of having to pay the luxury tax .

              The Dodgers and Yankees at the end of this season combined will have to fork over to baseball’s hierarchy in excess of $35 million as part of incurring that insipid and asinine tax scheme/sham. How is that the Dodgers with a slightly less payroll will be paying almost twenty million dollars less than their AL counterpart ? Try figuring that one out ?

              Dodgers` payroll and Yankees` payroll

              MLB team payrolls

              tophatal ………

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    1. al clements

      If your Pirates win four more games it means they will have ended with a winning season for the first time in two decades . Problem is , with their slip-ups as of late , is making it extremely difficult for themselves in winning the NL Central divisional title . In doing so the Cardinals , now seem to have the upper hand , as we approach the final three weeks of the regular season . If they play hard enough they could still obtain one of the two NL wildcard berths for the postseason .

      tophatal ……………….

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  5. The Braves have struggled somewhat since losing Jason Heyward to injury as their lead off hitter. I still think the Dodgers have better starting pitching than the Braves, but it may not matter if Craig Kimbrel continues to dominate as their closer.

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  6. Maurice

    That has been a constant issue with Jayson Heyward all along , his staying healthy. Being in and out of the lineup also becomes somewhat disruptive , but I have a great deal of faith in the managerial acumen of Fredi Gonzalez , because he and his staff are better equipped for this all , than the Dodgers are in terms of their managerial staff .

    What has been impressive about Heyward when in the lineup was what he brought to the team by way of his offensive and defensive abilities in the outfield .

    An NL pennant match-up between these two teams would prove to be interesting , considering their regular season series in 2013 , where the Braves hold the upper hand .

    tophatal ……………………………

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  7. I’m really starting to worry about the Rays, Al, with good reason. What have they dropped, 12 of their last 19 now? There’s no excuses any more. This lineup has reverted back to what it once was. One of the anemic in the league.

    I wanna hear Joe Maddon get angry. He keeps waiting for something magical to happen. I have an idea, Joe. Why don’t you stick your magical foot up someone’s ass.

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    1. Chris Humpherys

      Only worry ? Over the past five weeks the Rays have become a damn train wreck in terms of their results . The team pitching and offense have been atrocious and there now seems to be no signs of life from anyone on the roster .

      Asking Joe Maddon to get mad and begin to chastise his players for their mediocre performances is like taking asking your grandfather to start cussing , just because you just want to hear him do so . It’s just not going to happen and that is why I stated to you originally that I believed the Rays could falter and the Yankees would find a way to quite possibly claim one of the two AL wildcard berths .

      Next up for the Rays is the final game of their series against the Red Sox , with Jake Peavy taking the mound against Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays .

      AL East standings

      Breakdown of the AL wildcard standings .

      tophatal …………………..

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