Washington won its 82nd game of the season, ensuring their first winning season since making DC their home in 2005. They also have a 6 ½-game lead over division foe Atlanta and the best winning percentage in all of baseball.
Nevertheless, all these wonderful things that are happening for this team don’t seem to matter much to baseball experts, as the only topic worthy of discussion seems to be Stephen Strasburg’s impending shutdown.
Ever since moving to D.C., this team has been the doormat of MLB. And now they’re winning games every night, could possibly finish the year with the best record in the league and all that matters is Strasburg’s innings pitched limit? This is ridiculous, and we, the media are to blame.
Even though Strasburg was a high draft pick and is dominating batters left and right, his innings pitched limit is garnering too much attention than it should be. As baseball writers, we should be ecstatic about how this franchise has turned it around so quickly – especially with the Strasburg issue being a constant question in the clubhouse and potentially a distraction – and by doing it the right way—not just by buying the best talent on the market at that time.
This club is young; they can compete with anyone on any day and give them a run for their money. Washington is now the top dog in the NL East; move over Philadelphia.
On Deck: Since the end of the All-Star break the Los Angeles Angels’ struggles began with their inability to overtake the Texas Rangers for the division. Their fall in the AL Wild Card standings had a majority of experts and fans writing the Angels off as a playoff team, but I’m not going to do that just yet. This September could be even crazier and more unpredictable than last year’s.
The Angels are only 3 ½ games out of the final Wild Card spot—since there are two this year, their chances are greater than the teams that upset last year.
On Sept. 4 of last season, the Boston Red Sox held an eight-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card, and Atlanta had a 7 ½-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals for the NL Wild Card. As most recall, both leaders fell apart in September and the team hot on their trail took the Wild Card crown on the final day of the regular season.
I will go out on a limb and predict that MLB will have another September collapse and the teams atop the Wild Card standings today will not be there come the start of the playoffs. Los Angeles and Tampa Bay will have to battle it out in the AL Wild Card. As for the NL, don’t count out Los Angeles’ other team in surging and taking that final playoff spot to go toe to toe with Atlanta.
In the Hole: Just as the Nationals should be praised for their success in holding on tight to the division, the same praise should be given to the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds’ best player – and at the time NL MVP candidate – Joey Votto had surgery because of damaged cartilage in his left knee and hasn’t played with the team since July 15.
Despite his offensive power being gone from the lineup for six weeks already, the Reds continue to win games, just like the Nationals. They have a comfortable 8 ½-game lead over the Cardinals and the second-best winning percentage in the league.
Votto has been making his rehab starts in the Reds’ farm system for about a week now, going 0-3 with a pair of strikeouts on Monday for Triple-A Louisville. But with Louisville’s season over on Monday, Votto’s next steps towards a return to the professional level remain in question even though he was activated from the DL Tuesday.
Votto will be an important piece of the Reds’ success in October and he will need to get his at-bats in before the playoffs start. But with the lead Cincinnati has now in a very winnable division and their ability to win without him thus far, there is no reason to rush him back until he looks like himself in the batter’s box.
Let him get his work in the batting cage and slowly ease him back onto the field until he returns to MVP form. As long as he is playing the final two weeks of the season on a regular basis and crushing the ball, the Reds could claim the NL Central as theirs again.
Follow on Twitter: @midwayMars