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Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Wood dominates Reds, Cubs alone in first. He combined with two relievers on a two-hit shutout, 6-0. The Cubs haven't been alone in first place this late in a season since 1989, the last time they won a division title. (Yahoo!)

Ten-run inning drops Astros out of first. The Giants lit up Wade Miller in the second. (Yahoo!)

John Lauck:
We have come to a point in the season which may remind you of the 1999 NL Central race. In that year, the Reds trailed the Astros by one game with five games left to play. Now, it's the Astros who trail by a game with five to play. Then, as now, Houston finished the season at home, perhaps the only advantage left to them. Tuesday's night's drubbing was disappointing, but it was not surprising, at least to me. I mentioned to the subscribers to Astroday Extra that the Astros looked whipped in the ninth inning Monday night--whipped as in "season over." I said I hoped I was wrong, and I still hope I am wrong, but Houston must have two things Wednesday afternoon: they must have a great game out of Roy Oswalt, and they must have a genuine, playoff-caliber performance by the offense. Only by getting those two things might they merit the third thing they need, which they cannot provide for themselves: a loss by the Chicago Cubs, which would keep alive Houston's hopes for the playoffs. But if Houston is to make the playoffs, it has to start playing--and hitting--like a playoff team again.
(Astros Daily)

Marlins win, wild-card lead now two. Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh, the Marlins exploded for five runs and beat the Phillies 5-4. (Yahoo!)

Dan Le Batard:
Baseball is our most quantifiable game, with numbers and formulas to measure every conceivable value, with boxscores and radar guns and detailed histories that reveal, for example, that Juan Encarnación entered Tuesday's game against Philadelphia with 19 career at-bats against Kevin Millwood and no hits.

But how do you measure weightless abstractions like attitude? The Marlins, by all accounts, are a relaxed team of innocents -- ''the most fun I've ever seen in one clubhouse,'' according to infielder Andy Fox. In a culture where silly fights sometimes start over the clubhouse music choices or clubhouse thermostat, the Marlins haven't had one incident of friction all season, which is rare in any work environment where people are around each other this much. The Phillies, by contrast, are perceived as a tightly wound bunch united only in their desire to strangle combustible Manager Larry Bowa, who leads the league in facial spasms.
(Miami Herald)

Red Sox get three in ninth, win in 10th. Down 5-2, bottom of the 9th, two on, two out, Todd Walker launched a 3-2 pitch into the right-field bullpen to tie the game. David Ortiz homered in the 10th to win it. (Yahoo!)

Peter May: "[Jorge] Julio cooperated nicely on the 3-and-2 pitch. We can only imagine how many TV sets were broken in the Mariners' clubhouse in Anaheim when he delivered exactly what Walker wanted -- a low fastball. Walker sent it on a line to right and the first thought was that it might not be high enough to make it over the low bullpen wall. But it did -- barely." (Boston Globe)

Angels 2, Mariners 1, 11 innings. Freddy Garcia pitched a terrific game, but it wasn't enough. Tim Salmon's home run won it for the Angels in the 11th. The Mariners now trail the Red Sox by 3 1/2 games in the wild-card race. (Yahoo!)

Derek Milhous Zumsteg compares the Mariners' ownership with the rest of MLB.
We forget something that makes the moral absolutist in me scream: while the Mariners have an insanely lucrative lease we gave them for no reason, and they're absconding with tens of millions of dollars with money while probably already trying to figure out how they can claim a loss this season, the Mariners ownership invests the money they think will keep the team competitive. There's something to be said for that.

The bad part about it is that if you believe that, as the M's have said, they're in the business of being competitive every season and not trying for the World Series, what would they do if they hired someone smart and saavy like (current Derek favorite example GM) Kim Ng, and she went out and assembled an ass-kicking super team (or a 1997 Marlins-style playoff-winning machine) on $80m?

Would they be happy the team played so well, and continue to invest? Or would they say "if we can win 95 games and go to the World Series on $80m, we should be able to get back to the comfortable 85-90 win level and only spend 65-70m, leaving us an extra $10-$15m."
(U.S.S. Mariner, September 24)

Yankees win sixth straight AL East title. Dog bites man, part I. (Yahoo!)

Twins repeat as AL Central champions. Part II. (Yahoo!)

A's win AL West for second straight year. Part III. (Yahoo!)

Prospectus Triple Play: Red Sox, Reds, Padres. "The cynics say the move is coming three years and several million dollars too late, but the Reds announced Monday that Barry Larkin has refused a one-year, $500,000 deal and will finish his career with a one-year stint with what his agent says will be a 'solid contender.' While few contenders seem to be in the market for an injury-prone shortstop years past his prime, he could take the Shawon Dunston role that Dusty Baker perennially keeps on his bench." (Baseball Prospectus)

Derek Zumsteg:
During a game last Wednesday, Tampa Bay Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella complained that the Boston Red Sox relievers were watching television in their bullpen, while his team's bullpen had no television. After talking to the umps, the umps made the Sox turn off the television. Piniella said a couple of things, but mostly that by having a TV, relievers could better see batters and their approach, which gave them an unfair advantage.

There are important issues at stake here. What if there are better-quality sunflower seeds available in one bullpen? Could one team stock a nasty flavor of Gatorade, like "Glacier Freeze," in the opposing team's bullpen in hopes of knocking them out of their routine? Make the bench itself uncomfortable and wobbly, promoting inter-bullpen arguments about who's rocking it?
(Baseball Prospectus)

The 2003 Aaron's Baseball Blog Awards: Cy Young.

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