American and National leagues are split East and West:
AL EAST STANDINGS: 1-Yankees 2-Red Sox 3-Tigers 4-Rays 5-Blue Jays 6-Indians 7-Orioles (all seven are in the Eastern Time Zone)
AL WEST STANDINGS: 1-Angels 2-Rangers 3-Mariners 4-Twins 5-White Sox 6-A’s 7-Royals (four in Central Time Zone and three in Western)
NL EAST STANDINGS: 1-Phillies 2-Braves 3-Marlins 4-Astros 5-Reds 6-Mets 7-Pirates 8-Nationals (seven in Eastern Time Zone and one in Central)
NL WEST STANDINGS: 1-Dodgers 2-Cardinals 3-Rockies 4-Giants 5-Cubs 6-Brewers 7-Padres 8-Diamondbacks (three teams in Central Time Zone, one in Mountain and four in Western)
NEW POST-SEASON PLAYOFF FORMAT
(if season ended today):
AL First place Yankees and Angels both get bye
NL First place Phillies and Dodgers both get bye
ROUND 1: Second place in East and West each host wild-card best of three series in their home park starting two days after the season and played on consecutive days. The two league wild-cards are the next two best records. They can come from the same division. Best second place record plays worst wild-card record.
October 6-8 (best of three)
Mariners at Red Sox
Tigers at Rangers
Giants at Cardinals
Rockies at Braves
ROUND 2: Top seeded first place team hosts Games 1-2-5 in a best-of-five vs. lowest ranked winner of wild-card Round 1:
October 10-15 (best of five)
ALCS and NLCS (best of seven)
October 27-November 4
On to the mailbag.
Q: Read your piece on Johnny Mac - wonderful read! I hope Cito read it too and does give him the start in that last home game; the fans deserve that pleasure as much as McDonald himself. I have two related questions for you. Where do you see McDonald landing next year? Is there a team out there that appears to fit for him more than another? Secondly, while it seems obvious (and positive!) that the Jays will try to resign Marco Scutaro, who do see them turning to in the event that he signs elsewhere? The only name that comes to mind immediately is Orlando Cabrera, someone I know they expressed interest in last year. Thanks, as always!
Jon Empringham, Woodstock, Ont.
A: Obviously McDonald is going to play a more important role down the stretch with the plantar fasciitis (foot) injury to Marco Scutaro. It’s ironic to check the quote in the column from Johnny Mac about his playing time relying on the health of Scutaro and Hill and that thankfully they have both been healthy.
As for where he might play next year, he can play anywhere he wants. The great thing about his situation is that this contract with the Jays at $1.9 million for each of 2008 and ‘09 was the most money he had ever earned in a season. That is extremely affordable for a backup infielder with his mind-blowing defensive skill-set. It was suggested to Mac that his talents would seem to fit better on a National League bench. He pointed out his entire career has been in the AL.
Family is very important to him. He comes from Connecticut and lives in the Cleveland area and so I think the top four five potential employers for McDonald would be 1-Indians; 2-Red Sox; 3-Yankees; 4-Jays; 5-Mets.
The pickings are slim at shortstop on the upcoming free agent market. Realistically at the Jays’ affordability level might try Scutaro, Johnny Mac, Cabrera, Bobby Crosby or Khalil Greene. The best bet is Scutaro who will find that nobody wants to sign him and give up two draft picks to the Jays. He is worth more to Toronto than anywhere else. How about two years for $13 million plus an option for 2012? Justin Jackson is still three or four years away, which would fit in nicely with the timing of a Scutaro deal.
Q: Hi Richard:
In your last mailbag, Sept 16, you said the Jays should field their best defensive team. Given the errors, missed cutoff men and missed defensive opportunities generally I could not agree with you more. In listing the lineup that would provide that defence you placed Lind at DH and Snider in left field. Shouldn't that be reversed? Snider is consistently missing cutoffs and sometimes seems shaky out there. (A ball went off his glove on what should have been a catch this past week.) Isn't Lind currently a better defensive option? This would also allow Snider to focus on how to deal with big league pitching. Keep up the great work!
Tim Rorke, Timmins, Ont.
A: I still believe that for the sake of a) the young pitchers; b) Roy Halladay; c) the fans and d) Cito Gaston’s mental health that playing the best defensive baseball currently on hand is a key for making the Jays interesting in the final two weeks. That means Barajas or Chavez; Lyle Overbay every day (no Millar); Hill; Johnny Mac; Vernon and Jose Bautista in right (who has been amazingly solid). Of course with the injury to Scutaro, Edwin Encarnacion must play every day at third. Besides if you ever want to trade him in the off-season, he needs to be treated with respect as if he’s the Jays’ starter for 2009-10. That leaves left field.
Both Snider and Lind are below average, however, despite the rookie brain farts of throwing to nobody in particular, missing cutoff men, throwing to the wrong base and forgetting how many outs there are, Snider is the better option. Lind is slower, gets worse reads and jumps and is important for his healthy RBI bat. Not ringing endorsements for either man, but maybe if Lind was eventually moved to first base that would allow the Jays to reach out for another RBI bat at DH or in right.
Q: Hi Richard,
I have followed the Jays now pretty closely for several years and read your mailbag with much intrigue. To me the Jays are really not that far off being a contender. We have two great power hitters in Hill and Lind. We have an under-performing star who I believe will no doubt bounce back in Wells. The Jays have a core group of good players. Except for the important win-loss column we are not terribly behind in overall stats with our big spending friends south of the border.
This is a big if, but IF we are able to spend a little more (Paul Beeston suggested we could see a roster worth $120 million given the right business plan) could we not put together a winning team next year? If you had the additional 55-odd million available to spend for next year, what would you do to get us over this bump? Am I in lala land here in thinking this is even possible?
Bryan Freeman, Oakville
A: I was watching Vernon Wells in batting practice on Monday and Tuesday and the ball is jumping off his bat again. He is loose and confident in his swing. That’s good and bad. Does that mean he can only perform at his best when his team has fallen out of contention or does that mean that he has finally got his groove back and we can look forward to him carrying it into next season? It’s up to Vernon.
Here’s some suggestions on how to spend the Jays’ money. Make an intelligent trade for Roy Halladay, sign Chone Figgins of the Angels to play third base and re-sign Marco Scutaro. Either re-sign Rod Barajas for a reasonable two-year salary, or else find another decent catcher (there’s tons of them out there), get a healthy Shaun Marcum back and take a chance on a reasonably priced Rich Harden as a free agent. Move Adam Lind to first base and let ‘er rip in 2010. That would not even take the Jays up to your $120 million if they could find deals to trade away Overbay and Encarnacion.
Top of the Lineup: Figgins; Scutaro; Hill; Lind; Wells etc. etc.
Rotation: Marcum; Romero; Harden; Halladay trade; Rzepczynki or Cecil.
I truly believe that Scott Downs has not been the same pitcher since his first injury. This guy needs to stay anchored to the top of the mound and never leave. Every time he ventures down the hill he strains something – including our credulity.
Into the Valley of Death rode the Jays’ closer … But when he was completely healthy at the time B.J. hit the road, Downs had closer-ability. I would suggest Jason Frasor could do it on a regular basis except he takes so damn long between pitches it’s painful.
Q: Hi Richard,
Question I've been wondering for quite some time now. In pucks, players get paid less in the minors and more in the majors (two way contracts and all that); on the same note, how much do minor league players get paid when they get called up? Pro-rated version of the league minimum? And the same thing with guys who are signed and sent down; do they get their regular major league stipend or the minor league stuff? I tried figuring it out but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Let me know!
Nicholas Hung, London
A: Guys that get called up earn pro-rated major league minimum of $400,000 which is paid out basically over six months. So if a player comes up in September he pretty much earns one-sixth of the minimum. All young organization players on the 40-man are on two-way deals. If they are on the 40-man roster and are sent out at the end of spring training, they earn their minor-league money. If they’re called up they earn their major-league agreement. Veterans and top-tier free agents usually sign guaranteed deals that pay them major-league money even if they are sent to the minors. However there are so many free agents out there now that fringe veteran players don’t have any bargaining power and the major-league guarantees are fewer and further between.
Q: Hi there.
Why isn’t Cito Gaston playing Randy Ruiz on a more constant basis? The season has been over for months now and this is a great time to see what he’s got. From what I've seen, this guy seems to hit a bomb every three or four games. Why isn’t he in the lineup everyday? Ruiz could be in the starting nine next year with the type of power he’s showing.
Dave Roberts, Brantford
A: The choice for Gaston came down to playing Ruiz or Jose Bautista in the starting lineup. When Lind is in the lineup he either is the DH or must play LF. In the case of left field Travis Snider is in right, which means Wells must cover an area the size of Algonquin Park. Bautista has become their best bet defensively in right field. He’s better even if Joe Inglett gets healthy again. If Lind moves to first base over the winter there would be room for Ruiz as a platoon DH and bench player as an emergency outfielder or Millar-like first baseman.
Q: Hi Richard,
Let's say in a wildly altruistic move, Vernon Wells decides to option out of his contract so he can play for a team in the playoff hunt, or close to home or just wants to get rid of the criticism. Would the player's union allow him to do that? At the least, wouldn't they advise him not to opt out? I know their concern is for their players to make top dollar.
Kevin Layman, St. John's
A:You never know. Vernon said that peace of mind and personal happiness are worth more than any amount of money. If he has two bad years between now and 2011 there would be no market for him as a free agent but, on the other hand, by that time his life at the Rogers Centre may be so miserable he might want out no matter what. If he has two great years, he may want a fresh start and may feel like he can still get a pretty good deal somewhere close to home or with a contender. It is possible he could opt out. I don’t think any of us mortals would given the amount of money he would be leaving on the table.
The players’ union would surely advise him not to opt out. Their concern is not so much for Vernon making top dollar as it is for future players earning top dollar and if one of their marquee contracts is torn up and replaced just because a player wants to be happy, what kind of a precedent does that set? Choosing happiness over money? What ever happened to the “American way?”
At much lower numbers, catcher Darrin Fletcher was always hearing about it from the Players Association because he took deals with the Expos and then the Jays that he was happy with when the union said he could earn more. But they didn’t block his decision. They just didn’t like it.
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