Odds and ends number 71

Since it’s Super Bowl Sunday and the better part of my audience is going to be tuned into the game because the hometown Ravens are playing, I thought it a good time to clean out my e-mail box and join the celebration. (As a Lions and Browns fan, I’m watching for the commercials. Maybe someday I can have a rooting interest.)

Last week those of us in Maryland were subjected to the State of the State address by Governor O’Malley. In the footnoted version, it’s 14 pages of bilge and big government. The “official” Republican response by Delegate Andrew Serafini (the last 15 minutes here) seemed awfully tepid, so you knew others might have both barrels blazing.

Enter Change Maryland head Larry Hogan, who skewered O’Malley’s speech with a rhetorical spit:

Governor O’Malley’s slogan used to be ‘believe’ but that speech was pure make believe. The Governor continues to misuse facts to portray a false narrative of his administration’s legacy. Only Martin O’Malley could actually call a 30 percent increase in spending and a budget he has increased by $9 billion as making government smaller…The governor said he cut $8.3 billion but that’s just not true. He has increased spending every single year since he has been governor, a total of more than $9 billion. So his math is off by more than $17 billion.

He talked of making tough choices, but after 24 consecutive tax and fee hikes, the only tough choice he has to make is what can we possibly tax next?

Governor O’Malley said we have the worst traffic congestion in the nation. On this we agree. But he failed to tell you that he is the reason we are in this predicament because he diverted funds from the transportation trust fund to pay for other things, and then of what was left in the transportation budget, he only allocated a tiny amount to roads.

He talked about what he inherited. I was a cabinet secretary in the previous administration, and I can tell you that when we turned the keys over to the O’Malley administration, we had a billion dollar cash surplus in the bank, and the state was in the best fiscal shape it had been in decades.

Just six years later and by any objective measure, by any objective group, the state is in far worse shape than ever before. Businesses, jobs and taxpayers are fleeing our state in record numbers. We have fallen behind all the states in our region and most states across the country in nearly every economic indicator.

But Larry saved the best for last:

Unfortunately he checked out of this job some time ago, and is focused on his next one. His entire focus is about his national political aspirations and not about the needs of average hard-working Marylanders who continue to struggle.

I guess he means O’Malley’s future job as a consultant? Sure, he may run for the 2016 Presidential nomination and maybe try again four years later. But Maryland’s getting tired of his one-trick act.

While Hogan may or may not be running for governor, we know David Craig is. His reaction, in part:

Today Governor O’Malley offered a narrative about better choices in his State of the State Address. I share the Governor’s passion for better choices and a better Maryland. The Governor’s choices; however, have resulted in a higher tax burden for Maryland families and businesses, increased regulation, and a myriad of unfunded mandates passed on to local governments.

I would like to offer an alternative vision. We need to strive for the “Best Maryland”. The Best Maryland begins by government allowing individuals and business to lead in partnership with the State. We need to continue to improve our state, but not at the expense of the taxpayer.

We need to make pragmatic choices that balance our priorities and encourage private-sector growth and investment. The “Best Maryland” begins with an approach where our state is not dominated by one set of ideas and one set of leaders.

Is there really anything to that statement? Honestly, who wrote that?

At least with Delegates Susan Aumann and Kathy Szeliga, you have the scripted banter of a rebuttal. It’s worth pointing out that the wind turbines would be in the Atlantic Ocean, not Chesapeake Bay.

But the reaction to one portion of the State of the State address will be seen this coming Wednesday as Second Amendment supporters gather in Annapolis to protest the gun grabbing bill sponsored by Martin O’Malley. Those coming from the lower Eastern Shore to protest have an additional travel option. From the Wicomico Society of Patriots:

Things are heating up in Annapolis with two important hearings occurring on February 6th.  The gun hearing will be held before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee at 1:00 p.m. and Mike McDermott’s repeal (HB106) of the 2012 septic bill hearing will be held before the Environmental Matters Committee (House of Delegates) at 1:00 p.m.

If you would like to attend to testify on either of these issues or to protest, then you can drive up yourself or you can sign up to ride on a bus with other patriots.

Bus Option #1:  Worcester Tea Party and Stop Agenda 21 are sponsoring a bus to go to Annapolis on Feb. 6th.  The bus will leave WOC Park & Ride at 7:30am and Boscov’s in Salisbury at 8:15 am.  Call 410 251 3585 or 410 430 7282 to reserve your seat.  Also, you can email:  www.worcestercountyteaparty.com  or stopagenda21maryland.org for more information.  Cost is $10.

Bus Option #2:  Jamie Wink at Wink’s Gun Shop in Princess Anne is also sponsoring a bus to go to Annapolis.  Please call Jamie at 443 783 3993 for more information about this bus trip.  Cost is $20.

I think Jamie Wink would be a great monoblogue advertiser, how about you?

One important note about the proceedings:

If you are testifying: Please arrive as early as possible to sign in, the committee will take sign ins until about noon. You will be given 3 minutes to speak.

If you are submitting written testimony you must bring a copy for each of the Senators who sit on the committee (11 copies) and submit them to Committee staff before noon so they can make sure all of the Senators have the materials on their desks.

There are various parking garages in Annapolis, or you can park at the Naval Academy Stadium and ride the Annapolis Shuttle/Trolley to Lawyers Mall – The Senate Building is right across the Street.

Be prepared to spend the whole day here, whether you testify or not, what is important is that we are there in numbers to stand in opposition. We need thousands of gun owners.

They have all night. However, a little organization may be in order as those who rode the bus (and may have to return by a set time) should speak first. Also be aware that the committee chairs (Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Maggie McIntosh) are probably going to be more of a stickler for rules and time limits from the pro-liberty side than from those wanting gun restrictions and more oppressive government.

More on SB281 from the National Association for Gun Rights:

Senate Bill 281 drastically broadens the definition of an assault weapon and constitutes one of the most outrageous assault weapon bans proposed in the country.

This bill classifies 15 different types of semi-automatic pistols as “assault weapons” as well as certain types of shotguns and rifles.

This means that if Senate Bill 281 passes these guns will be illegal to purchase or bring into the State of Maryland.

This 38-page bill also bans high-capacity magazines limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

If this bill becomes law, it criminalizes all citizens owning newly banned weapons unless they immediately register their guns with the State of Maryland.

Gun owners who don’t register their “banned” weapons would face up to 3 years in jail or a $5,000 dollar fine under O’Malley’s Gun Grab Bill.

Current law governing carry permits in Maryland makes it almost impossible to carry, yet this bill will make it even harder by requiring a new 16-hour handgun training course.

To purchase or rent a handgun, citizens will now have to pay roughly $400 dollars in fees, background checks, training courses, and finger-printing.

How many criminals will this make out of otherwise law-abiding citizens? Registration can be the first step toward confiscation.

I can almost guarantee you that a vote on SB281 (whether a floor vote or committee vote) will be part of the 2013 monoblogue Accountability Project.

But let’s not forget the federal level. I received this note from Heritage Action for America, which alerted me that they are “…looking to build a movement of conservative activists in these areas to hold Congress accountable.” I think I have enough readers all across the Shore who can fit the bill.

These readers (and many others) owe it to themselves to consider a piece by Bradlee Dean at The Brenner Brief. You probably remember Bradlee from his visit last October to the Wicomico Society of Patriots meeting, but in this case he’s speaking more about the idea of obedience to the state rather than to God, and how to reconcile the two.

Finally, the question on everyone’s mind: who will win the big game, the Ravens or 49ers? For the Move America Forward group and their troop care package competition, it’s a razor-thin margin after the 49ers jumped out to an early lead. We’ll see if the real Super Bowl follows the same pattern.

My prediction: Ravens, 30-28. Not that I much like it, but Baltimore’s shown a history of winning games they had no business winning – just ask Cleveland, Kansas City, San Diego, Denver, and New England (arguably Dallas, too.) A little karma the other way and they may have been 8-8.

But at the end I’m going to say what I have said for many years, beginning with ex-wife #1:

Me: Well, the Super Bowl is over, so you know what that means…

Spousal unit: What?

Me: (in a rising voice): Only seven days until PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!! (Nine for Orioles fans.)

Bring on the baseball season, baby. My Tigers have some unfinished business to take care of. (Sorry, Orioles. Your time will come.)

Another baseball season closes

It’s another reason to hate the wild card, the designated hitter rule, and the idea that home field advantage in the World Series is based on the league which wins the All-Star Game.

St. Louis had the worst record of any of the eight teams entering the post-season but managed to make the playoffs and get hot – beating teams that finished well ahead of them in the standings. But because they happened to have the home field advantage in the World Series, it may have been enough to catapult them to a world championship. Granted, Texas couldn’t pitch their way out of a paper bag in the last two games but perhaps the result would have been different had they been at home for games six and seven.

(Not that the designated hitter would have made much of a difference, but it is a slight advantage to National League teams when American League pitchers have to hit. I just would prefer pitchers get to hit in the American League.)

But I like the NBA and NHL models, where the better team gets home-court or home-ice advantage throughout. I wouldn’t even mind a model where a team with a better record only has to break even to advance (say, win two of four or three of six.) Back in the old days it was the best team in each league, based on their performance during an entire 162-game season, that played for the title. On the other hand, St. Louis has won their last two titles based on pedestrian regular-season performances but getting hot at the right time. Can’t take it away from them, but sometimes rewards should go to those who did best in the long run.

We’ll see how things go in 2012. Yet one thing we learned is that each game, each inning, each strike really matters. Just ask Texas; if they had one more strike – twice – they would be celebrating their first title. But they couldn’t get it.

But even earlier, events during the season added up. I went to one big league game this year, when I saw my Tigers play in Baltimore. This was the one game that Doug Fister lost as a member of the Tigers as the Orioles won that day 8-5. But the impact turned out to be huge, as a Tiger win that day would have changed the following:

  • Instead of the Tigers playing the Yankees and Texas against Tampa Bay, the opponents would have been reversed: Texas vs. New York and Detroit vs. Tampa Bay.
  • And instead of the Rangers having home field in the playoffs based on a better record, the Tigers would have had home field based on winning the tiebreaker – they were 6-3 against Texas in the regular season.

Everything counts. Orioles fans celebrated a day of otherwise playing out the string on the last day of the season as if they won the World Series because they rallied in the last inning to beat Boston, knocking them out of playoff contention because Tampa Bay came back from 7-0 down to beat the Yankees. Of course, New York had already salted away a division title so the game didn’t much matter to them.

I guess I’m a traditionalist at heart, and seeing a team that couldn’t even win its division based on a lengthy 162 game schedule get the whole ball of wax irks me. Yankee fans brag about their 27 world championships, but how many were won back in the period before playoffs began? There’s a pretty good chance they would have been knocked out of contention in many of those seasons had the rules of today been in effect.

So next year my Tigers have a little unfinished business to attend to – get the home field advantage and keep it all the way to a world championship. By the way, the Yankees won 20 titles in the pre-playoff era.

On the O’s: guarded optimism

As spring training begins for the local hometown teams, it appears fans are cautiously optimistic about the Orioles’ chances – at least that’s how they polled here.

Let’s do a quick review: since losing the 1997 ALCS to Cleveland, the Orioles have been among the most mediocre of franchises as they’ve endured 13 straight losing seasons – in fact, the 70-win mark has eluded them the last four. But the majority of those responding thought the revamped Orioles, who have added power bats like Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, and perhaps Vladimir Guerrero (assuming he passes a physical) would eclipse that number and maybe – just maybe – break that string of losing seasons.

But the optimism stopped there, as no one expected the team to win 90 games or make the playoffs. Perhaps that’s more due to the reputation of the American League East than actual talent level.

And there were a few who chose to be pessimistic, as 1/6 of those voting foresaw the moves blowing up in Andy McPhail’s face. They figured a 100-loss season wasn’t out of the question, and if neither Derrek Lee nor Mark Reynolds adjusts well to the American League, Vladimir is indeed in the coda of his career, and the pitching fails us it could happen. But I fall into the camp of thinking 81 or more wins is indeed possible. (Over 80% believed Baltimore should win at least 75 games.)

With the season now just around the corner, optimism is king and all 30 teams might fancy themselves World Series contenders. (Okay, maybe not the woeful – as in 57-105 last season – Pittsburgh Pirates. They’ve actually gone nearly two decades without a winning season, which is too bad because they play in a nice ballpark. And to think these two franchises tangled for a World Series crown twice back in the 1970’s – I remember the ’79 Series well although O’s fans might prefer to forget.)

Hopefully an improved major league teams pays dividends down the chain as well since the Shorebirds fans are overdue for a playoff team. I’ve seen one playoff game in six seasons here so consider me one who thinks it’s time!

The Orioles’ season starts on April 1 at Tampa Bay, with the home opener April 4 against Detroit. (Sorry about that home opening sweep by the Tigers; things will look up from there.)

Poll results:

  • 62.5% believe the Orioles could finish with a .500 season (81-81)
  • 20.83% foresee a 75-win season
  • 12.5% think they’ll lose 100 games
  • 4.17% believe they’ll only match the 66-96 mark last year’s team produced
  • No one saw the Orioles win 90 games, make the playoffs, or win the World Series

Labor Day standings report

My final look this season at some of my favorite teams (unless events warrant) as well as the local big league clubs. The Shorebirds will be covered separately in an article Thursday.

I have to start with the team doing the best, my hometown Toledo Mud Hens. They clinched their third consecutive IL West title on August 26th and will face the IL South champion Durham Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. It was Durham who knocked out the Mud Hens when they began this run of four IL West titles in six years back in 2002, so there’s a score to settle. With just today’s game against the last-place Columbus Clippers remaining, the Hens are 82-60 and have a chance to finish tied with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees for the loop’s best mark (SWB is 83-59). Toledo begins the IL playoffs Wednesday at Durham.

Talk about a collapse. At the beginning of August, Detroit led the AL Central by a game over the Cleveland Indians. But only playing .400 ball since (12-18) has set the Tigers back to second, 5 1/2 behind the Tribe and 3 in back of the Yankees for the wild card. So the Tigers are now 73-64 and if they play as badly in September will be lucky to break even.

What bothers me is this quote from Jim Leyland after the Tigers traded outfielder Craig Monroe to the Chicago Cubs:

“It was just a situation where we felt here that, this year, it wasn’t going to get better, and you have to start making decisions on what you want to do with people in the future,” Leyland said. “That’s basically why that was handled that way.”

(The Tigers designated Monroe for assignment, which meant they had 10 days to make a deal for him or allow his release.)

Now maybe Leyland was talking only about the struggling Monroe, but it also sounds like Detroit’s already bagged the season to me – and they’re playing like it. But if they do decide to suck it up, the schedulemaker made September pretty kind. They start with a long homestand against Chicago, wild card contender Seattle, and Texas with a makeup game against Toronto tossed in. Then their last 15 games are against AL Central foes as they travel to Minnesota and Cleveland, host Kansas City and the Twins to close out the home schedule and wrap up at Chicago.

Of course, two teams who bagged the season pretty much after the All-Star break are local favorites Baltimore and Washington.

Let’s see…in the last month Baltimore has allowed an AL record 30 runs in a game against Texas (a game they were up 3-0 after 3 innings, by the way), endured a 9 game losing steak that began with the 30-3 debacle, blew a 6-3 lead by giving up 11 runs in the 8th to lowly Tampa Bay and losing 15-8 in game number 7 of the losing streak, and were no-hit by Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholz on Saturday. I’m not sure if a team’s endured a worse month, even my 2003 Tigers didn’t have moments like that. As it is, the Orioles are 59-76 and now just four up on the last-place Devil Rays. Their elimination number is five so by the end of this week the demise will likely be official.

The minor-league kids sure to be brought up in waves by the O’s will have their first trip be a quickie to Tampa Bay before they return to Camden Yards to meet Boston and Los Angeles. The O’s final road trip of the season takes them to Toronto, New York, and Texas before they finish at home with a makeup game against Kansas City, 3 against Toronto, and 3 against New York where they could impact the playoff picture.

Oddly enough, Washington finds itself with almost the same record as Baltimore (the Nats are 60-77) but they’ve been much more quietly mediocre. They’re also fighting a Florida team to stay out of the cellar as they enter today’s game tied with the Marlins at the bottom of the National League East, 16 1/2 back of the New York Mets. It’s possible they could be out at week’s end as well, their elimination number is 10.

It’s all NL East foes remaining for Washington now after two long trips out west in August. They have 12 straight against the Marlins and Atlanta Braves followed by 13 games to wrap up the year against the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. The last game in RFK is scheduled for September 23 against Philadelphia.

Except for my Shorebirds coverage, this wraps up my standing reports for the 2007 season. Labor Day is traditionally when people begin getting interested in politics again and this year is likely not an exception because of the absurdly early primary season.

Standings report: early August

Yeah, I’m a few days late. I like to do this at the end of each month but you know that I like doubleheaders too. Since the Shorebirds had back-to-back ones this week, I didn’t get to the standings report until today.

Speaking of the Delmarva nine, going into tonight’s game against Asheville the Shorebirds are 18-23 for the half and buried in 7th place in the SAL North. Only the woeful Hagerstown Suns are holding them up at the moment. With 29 games remaining on the schedule, the trouble isn’t the seven game deficit they currently trail Hickory by, it’s the five teams that fall between Delmarva and the first-place Crawdads. Both Lake County and Lakewood rest 3 1/2 back, Greensboro is 5 1/2 out, meanwhile West Virginia and Lexington are 6 1/2 back and 1/2 game ahead of Delmarva with identical 19-23 marks. Aside from Hickory, the SAL North is the weaker of the two divisions.

Of the 29 games left, 15 are away from Perdue Stadium (trips to Greenville/Augusta and Lake County/Hagerstown) while 14 are within the friendly confines (3 more against Asheville, 4 against Lexington, 3 against Hagerstown and 4 to finish the campaign against Lake County.) To have a realistic chance at the second half title, Delmarva would have to win 21 or 22 of its remaining games. Hickory is on a pace to go 42-28 so they would need a bit of a collapse by the Crawdads as well.

The news is much, much better for the team representing my birthplace. As they go for a Governors’ Cup threepeat, the Toledo Mud Hens are now blowing out the rest of the IL West. They’ve opened up an 8 1/2 game lead on Indianapolis and sport the loop’s best record at 66-48. My only caution is that the 2003 Mud Hen squad started August similarly and finished on a 5-24 skid. Oh, do I remember that collapse. But aside from a handful of games against Norfolk, Durham, and Richmond (total of eight) they finish inside their division so they won’t have to watch the scoreboard – the Hens can take care of business on their own.

Now to the big leagues. It’s pretty much the diehards who are following the Orioles and Nationals now. And the team goal for both should be to not finish last in their division. Since the O’s are 10 games up on a terrible Tampa Bay squad that shouldn’t be difficult to achieve.

At 51-57 the O’s would need to finish 30-24 for a breakeven season. Since they’re 14 1/2 games back of the Red Sox and 10 out in the wildcard race, that’s really all the Orioles have left to play for. And after concluding this series underway with Tampa Bay, Baltimore plays three teams in the thick of the playoff chase, hosting Seattle and Boston before starting a roadtrip with the Yankees. After that, they play easier teams as they conclude that trip in Toronto and return home for a long homestand with Texas, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay again. Going into Labor Day weekend they hit September on a trip to Boston and Tampa Bay (yeah, they play the D-Rays a lot.)

Meanwhile, at the start of the season it appeared the Nationals could hit the century mark in losses. While they’re by no means the cream of the National League crop, they have rebounded into a halfway decent team and are battling the Florida Marlins to get out of the NL East basement. At 49-60 after a 9-25 start, the Nats have a real good shot at posting a respectable 75 wins. They’re actually closer to the NL East leader (New York) than Baltimore is to the Red Sox, 13 games back. The same goes for the NL wild card as they’re 9 1/2 out there.

Will the Nationals make a sensational playoff run? No, but as I noted they can finish with 75 to 80 wins this season and that’s not a bad base to build from as they open their new park next season. It might be difficult to keep momentum this month though as they wrap up their series with the Cardinals and embark on the first of two long West Coast trips this month (San Francisco/Arizona and Houston/Colorado/Los Angeles) that sandwich a short homestand with Philadelphia and New York. Going into Labor Day they face the Giants and continue that homestand with Florida.

I was a little bit pissed this morning when I checked the standings and found out the Tigers lost again to slip behind the Cleveland Indians. Not only have the slumping Tigers (losers of 8 of their last 10) fallen out of the division lead, now Seattle is nipping at their heels for the wild card lead as the Mariners are only 1/2 game back. At 61-47 the Tigers and Mariners are even in the loss column while the New York Yankees lurk 2 1/2 out.

The Tigers just opened a huge homestand with division rival Chicago, to be followed by Tampa Bay and Oakland. But the stretch between August 14-27 will likely determine their playoff fate. The Tigers play 13 straight games against the AL Central-leading Indians and the Yankees – the first 6 on the road, the last 7 at home. Then they head off to Kansas City and Oakland again as Labor Day passes.

So now you’re up to date on how my teams are doing. After Labor Day I’ll wrap up the minor league teams and take another look at how the bigs are doing. Hopefully Detroit will be firmly cemented back where they belong, in first place.

Standings report: All-Star break

I’m sorry to say that I find the home run derby pretty lame. It’s much more fun for me to be a prognosticator for the traditional second half of the season.

I’m going to do a very fast standings report on one team I follow as they are also at their league’s midseason break. Matching my Tigers in first place are my Toledo Mud Hens as they try for a third straight International League Governors’ Cup title. They already have another title this season as “the Roost” was recently picked as being the best seats in the minor leagues by ESPN.

As they stand at the moment, it’s a rerun of 2005 as the Mud Hens have surged to the IL’s top record at the break (52-39). Despite losing yesterday, they maintained a 3 game lead over Indianapolis in their effort to win another IL West crown. And the remainder of July is relatively kind schedule-wise to the Hens as they play mostly IL South foes with the exception of the mediocre Pawtucket Red Sox, who are 5th in the IL East. Their next division game isn’t until August 4th against instate rival Columbus.

Now it’s time to move up a level. As I’ve done for the last two seasons, I’ll go through each American League team in order highlighting their strength of schedule.

1. Boston (53-34). Leads AL East by 10 games over Toronto and New York.

Strength of schedule: 297 games under .500, easiest in the American League.

Key stretch: If all goes well, they may clinch around September 15, when the hated Yankees come to Fenway Park. Other than that, they have a nice homestand coming out of the All-Star break against three teams who are all under .500 – Toronto, Kansas City, and Chicago.

Prediction: They will win the AL East but probably not until after the Yankee series.

2. DETROIT (52-34). Leads AL Central by 1 game over Cleveland (2 in loss column.)

Strength of schedule: 50 games under .500, 3rd easiest.

Key stretch: They salvaged a winning homestand (7-5) coming into the All-Star break by sweeping Boston, but they’ll pay for it now as they play 18 of their next 21 games on the road, featuring trips to Seattle/Minnesota and Chicago/Los Angeles/Oakland. Of that group, only Chicago is under the break-even mark.

Prediction: Hard to say. They’re fairly likely to make the playoffs, but whether it will be as AL Central champion or wild-card is up in the air. Last year’s bullpen strength isn’t there this season due to injuries and defections.

3. Los Angeles (53-35). Leads AL West by 2.5 games over Seattle.

Strength of schedule: 104 games over .500, 7th easiest.

Key stretch: Around Labor Day weekend they enjoy a long homestand featuring Texas and contenders Oakland and Cleveland.

Prediction: They’ll fight with Seattle the rest of the way, playing the Mariners 10 times (6 in Seattle.) I think they’ll hold off the Mariners and go into the playoffs as they are now, the #3 seed.

4. Cleveland (52-36). 2nd in AL Central, 7 games ahead of Minnesota and leading wild card by 1.5 games over Seattle.

Strength of schedule: 1 game under .500, 4th easiest.

Key stretch: From September 17-27, they play contenders Detroit (home), Oakland (home), and Seattle (away) before finishing at Kansas City. One game in Seattle is the last remaining makeup of the snowed-out series back in April.

Prediction: I think they’re strong enough to either win the AL Central or emerge as the wild card.

5. Seattle (49-36). 2nd in AL West, 6.5 games ahead of Oakland.

Strength of schedule: 124 games over .500, 8th easiest.

Key stretch: From late August into September they have an eastern trip to Cleveland (for one makeup game), Toronto, New York, and Detroit. Because of that makeup they don’t get a day off at either end, just one between New York and Detroit.

Prediction: The Mariners probably don’t have quite enough to overtake the Angels or Indians. They’ll be a team that sits home while some NL team with a worse record plays on.

6. Minnesota (45-43). 3rd in AL Central, 5 games up on Chicago.

Strength of schedule: 353 games over .500, 12th easiest.

Key stretch: Right off the All-Star break they host contenders Oakland, Detroit, and Los Angeles. They’ll likely need about a 7-2 or 8-1 homestand to jumpstart their season.

Prediction: The schedule is probably too tough to make a late charge like they did last season. While they did make up 11 games over two good teams from this time last season I can’t see both Detroit and Cleveland collapsing like Detroit and Chicago did in 2006.

7. Oakland (44-44). 3rd in AL West, 6 games ahead of Texas.

Strength of schedule: 307 games over .500, 11th easiest.

Key stretch: They play a batch of teams who are currently under breakeven toward the end of August. That has to be the point where they make a move because the Athletics have the most difficult September schedule in the league.

Prediction: I don’t think they have the horses this year, I see them winning maybe 85 games at most.

8. Toronto (43-44). 2nd in AL East in a virtual tie with New York.

Strength of schedule: 26 games over .500, 6th easiest.

Key stretch: 8 games to start the second half at division rivals Boston and New York. It’ll set the tone for the season and probably determine if Toronto is a buyer or seller at the trading deadline.

Prediction: Another disappointing campaign for Canada’s team. They’re not likely to finish out of third this season like they did in 2006.

9. New York (42-43). 3rd in AL East, 5 games clear of Baltimore.

Strength of schedule: 168 games under .500, 2nd easiest.

Key stretch: They do not play a team with a winning record the rest of July. That’s the good news; the bad news is their ancient pitching staff will have to deal with 19 full games plus the completion of a suspended game in Baltimore in 18 straight days after the All-Star break.

Prediction: The Boss ain’t gonna be happy this season. It’s not that the Yankees don’t have talent, but even if they win at a 2/3 pace the rest of the way, they finish 93-69. Cleveland, who’s fourth overall right now, is on track to win 96 games. So the Yankees need two good teams to falter and play well to make yet another playoff trip.

10. Chicago (39-47). 4th in AL Central, 2 games ahead of Kansas City.

Strength of schedule: 515 games over .500, toughest in baseball.

Key stretch: Are you kidding? They play in the AL Central. How about 32 games against Detroit (14), Cleveland (12), and Minnesota (6)?

Prediction: While the Sox have played better of late, they just might be sellers at the trading deadline. The killer schedule and hole they’ve dug for themselves show just how baseball is – the 2005 World Series clubs (White Sox and Houston) are a combined 77-97 this season. I’m seeing a team lucky to win 75 games this year but retrenching in 2008.

11. Baltimore (38-49). 4th in AL East, 4 games ahead of Tampa Bay.

Strength of schedule: 9 games over .500, 5th easiest.

Key stretch: Learning how to win against weak teams like Tampa Bay and Texas, who they face a combined 19 times.

Prediction: Happy crowds on four weekends the rest of the year as the Orioles play punching bag to the Red Sox and Yankees. Since on those weekends Boston and New York fans outnumber and outshout the hometown faithful, on balance the attendees will be pleased.

12. Kansas City (38-50). 5th in AL Central.

Strength of schedule: 224 games over .500, 10th easiest.

Key stretch: Except for a makeup game at Baltimore, their last 19 games are against AL Central foes. Just like last season in Detroit, the Royals can really play a spoilers’ role.

Prediction: No 100-loss season this year. It may be 63-99, but the Royals are showing some signs of becoming a respectable team.

13. Texas (38-50). 4th in AL West.

Strength of schedule: 214 games over .500, 9th easiest.

Key stretch: They can also play spoiler at seasons’ end, hosting Los Angeles and closing at Seattle.

Prediction: Look for a firesale come the end of the month.

14. Tampa Bay (34-53). 5th in AL East.

Strength of schedule: 366 games over .500, 13th easiest.

Key stretch: You’re a raw rookie, coming up to the bigs for the first time with a team rapidly closing in on 100 losses yet again. You look at the schedule and see your first big league roadtrip is a nice cross-country (and back) jaunt to Boston, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

Prediction: Like a clock that’s stopped, someday the conventional wisdom that Tampa Bay is loaded with young talent and is a team on the rise will pan out if they just keep repeating it. You would think a team that annually drafts toward the top would get a team full of good players – after all, they’ve now drafted that way 10 or 11 times! But until then, at least someone holds Baltimore up in the standings.

And for those of you who are National League fans, never fear. I also figured out the strength of schedule for each NL squad. In standings order:

  1. San Diego (49-38), 67 games under .500 collectively, 10th easiest.
  2. Milwaukee (49-39), 343 games under .500 total, 2nd easiest.
  3. New York (48-39), 241 games below .500, 4th easiest.
  4. Los Angeles (49-40), 158 games under .500 combined, 6th easiest.
  5. Atlanta (47-42), 288 games under .500 total, 3rd easiest.
  6. Arizona (47-43), 124 games over .500 collectively, toughest.
  7. Chicago (44-43), 395 games below .500, easiest.
  8. Colorado (44-44), 94 games above .500, 15th easiest (second toughest).
  9. Philadelphia (44-44), 58 games under .500 total, 11th easiest.
  10. Florida (42-47), 238 games below .500 combined, 5th easiest.
  11. St. Louis (40-45), 102 games under .500 aggregate, 7th easiest.
  12. Pittsburgh (40-48), 92 games under .500 total, 8th easiest.
  13. San Francisco (38-48), 82 games above .500 combined, 14th easiest.
  14. Houston (39-50), 10 games ahead of .500, 12th easiest.
  15. Cincinnati (36-52), 59 games over .500, 13th easiest.
  16. Washington (36-52), 69 games below .500, 9th easiest.

Surprisingly the Nats have a pretty tame schedule. So I’ll go out on a limb and do a quick breakdown.

16. Washington (36-52). 5th in NL East.

Key game: September 23 vs. Philadelphia. It’s scheduled to be their final game in RFK Stadium.

Prediction: They’ve actually played .500 ball since a dreadful start to the season (9-25 on May 9th.) So the Nats have a decent shot at winning 70 this year. It’s a start.


This was fun to write. I actually did more research into it but decided that doing all the numbers was a little too dry so I played baseball expert tonight. We’ll see how I do come September.

The next standings report will be more conventional and occur at the end of the month.

June standings report

It’s the start of another month, and time to do my little feature I call the standings update. So I’ll put a shout out and update the readers on my favorite teams and the other local ones too.

Let’s start in my adopted hometown with the Shorebirds. The good news is that they’re out of last place now. But the bad news is that they’re stuck in seventh with a 22-29 mark, 14 games in back of the pacesetting West Virginia Power. The Brewers affiliate looks like a pretty good bet to win the first half of the league schedule as they’re 7-1/2 games clear of the second-place Greensboro Grasshoppers. With the number of games both teams have remaining in the half, the “magic number” for the Power is now 9. Behind Greensboro, Lakewood is 9-1/2 back of the Power, Lake County 11-1/2 behind, Lexington 13-1/2 in arrears, and Hagerstown is just a couple percentage points ahead of the Shorebirds. Only Hickory trails us by 1 game. But the first half pennant race could be over for us as soon as tomorrow.

And if you like teams with “Lake” in the name, you’ll love the Shorebirds. After the Hagerstown series concludes Sunday, it’s a solid month of Lakewood and Lake County as opponents. The only other SAL team with a similar block of games is Lakewood, who can complain about only playing Maryland teams for a month as they alternate between Delmarva and Hagerstown.

I’ll stay in the minor leagues for now and check up on my old hometown team, the Toledo Mud Hens. As they were at the end of April, they’re trailing the IL West leading Indianapolis Indians, now by 3 games. But at 29-25 they have the lead in the IL wild card race by a slim 1/2 game over the Rochester Red Wings. The schedule this month starts with a trip to IL East leading Buffalo. They also have trips to Syracuse, Ottawa, Durham, and Louisville in this month leading to the All-Star break, with return trips from Syracuse and Ottawa among the home games. Other teams the Hens host will be Baltimore farm club Norfolk along with 7 home games against their 3 IL West foes, including 4 with Indianapolis June 22-25.

Looking around the big leagues, it’s worth noting that Baltimore has crept back to the .500 mark with 6 straight wins. Granted, 3 were over the woeful Royals, but they all count the same in the standings. So the O’s hit the 1/3 pole with an even 27-27 mark and are actually second in the AL East. (Okay, they’re 10 behind Boston but they’re in second.) Leading up to the All-Star break, the O’s continue their West Coast trip in Los Angeles and Seattle before an interleague homestand with Colorado, Washington, and Arizona. Then it’s back out west to wrap up interleague play with a trip to San Diego and Arizona. Toward the end of the month the O’s host the Yankees and Angels before wrapping up the first half out in Chicago against the White Sox and at Texas.

Meanwhile, the Nats slog on in last place in the NL East, but they’ve improved enough to not be the NL’s worst team. At 22-32 at least they’re not on pace to lose 100. Empty RFK seats will greet the Padres and Pirates before the Nats hit the road, off to Minnesota, Baltimore, and Toronto. They then host Detroit (in a midweek series, dammit) and Cleveland to finish their interleague schedule. A trip to Atlanta and Pittsburgh and home games against the Cubs and Milwaukee wrap up the traditional first half. One thing I like about the Nats is that they’ve become a repository for ex-Tigers (Robert Fick, Nook Logan, and Dmitri Young play for the Nats now.)

Speaking of the defending AL champions, the end of May was as tough as I predicted. The Tigers have slid down somewhat but retain second place in the AL Central, trailing the archrival Indians by 3-1/2 games with a 30-23 record. They still lead the wild card by 2-1/2 over the Mariners and Twins though. (Baltimore is 3-1/2 out of the wild card, by the way. Start the playoff talk now?)

For the Detroit nine, 3 more games in Cleveland (after last night’s loss) await, then it’s off to Texas. But waiting at Comerica Park will be two current NL division leaders, the New York Mets and Milwaukee. Two other good NL East teams are visited on the subsequent roadtrip as they visit Philadelphia, Washington, and Atlanta. However, the Tigers will have an opportunity to make up ground as they host a season-high 12 game homestand heading into the midseason break. They’ll get to greet Texas, Minnesota, AL Central leader Cleveland, and AL East leader Boston – so they can immensely help their playoff hopes with a 10-2 or 11-1 homestand.

The next two standings reports will be split as I’ll do the Shorebirds at their All-Star break June 20 and the rest at the major league break in July. I’ll have an additional feature with both of these reports before the two are reunited (and it feels so good) at the end of July.

April standings report

Having just wrote up my pick for this week’s Shorebird of the Week (to come up at its usual Thursday night time slot), I’m in a baseball mood. So I’m taking a break from watching my Tigers play the Orioles (2-0 Orioles, get on it guys!) to update the standings as I do on a monthly or so basis.

I’ll start with our hometown Shorebirds. April was not a good month for them, nor was the first of May (since they’ve already completed today’s loss to Greensboro, their seventh straight.) Right now Delmarva is last in the SAL North with a sad 8-16 record. What makes it worse is that West Virginia has gotten off to a blazing 18-4 start so the Shorebirds are already 11 games in arrears at a point where this half is barely 1/3 completed. Possibly the only solace is that we trail cross-state rival Hagerstown by just 1/2 game (they’re 9-16) so we can put a little bit of daylight behind us by passing them this weekend as the Suns come to town. Current opponent Greensboro is second in the SAL North, trailing the WV Power by 4 1/2 games despite playing .600 ball so far (15-10). The rest of the North in standings order: Lake County, defending league champs Lakewood, Lexington, and Hickory in 6th, followed by the Suns and Shorebirds.

Their prospects in May might be a little better. When the preliminary schedule for this season came out at the tail end of 2006, the Shorebirds were slated to begin an almost half-season stretch of consecutive games this weekend with either Hagerstown, Lakewood, or Lake County. We got a slight reprieve in the revised schedule, as our next roadtrip which begins after Hagerstown departs this coming Sunday takes us to Hickory and a return series at Hagerstown. That series with the Suns begins what’s now 59 straight games against our three familiar division foes. For the rest of the month after being at Hagerstown, we host Lakewood and Lake County before a month-ending roadtrip to Hagerstown and Lakewood.

I’ll briefly mention the Shorebirds’ parent club, as the Orioles sit in 3rd in the AL East with a 12-14 mark. They got off to a pretty good start but have faded as their pitching has worsened, particularly in the walks department. They do have some opportunities to make up ground this month though. After tomorrow afternoon’s matinee at CoPa they head home to tangle with the AL Central leading Cleveland Indians before a midweek series next week against Tampa Bay. Then it’s off on a nine game roadtrip to Boston, Toronto, and Washington, followed by Camden Yards visits from Toronto and Oakland. For Memorial Day the Baltimore nine head out on a west coast swing – first stop Kansas City to face the Royals before going into June out in Anaheim against the LA Angels. That trip extends to Seattle before the Orioles head home June 7th.

It seems to me that my Toledo Mud Hens started out last season slowly as well. Right now they’re 11-13, third in the IL West behind Indianapolis (3 back) and Louisville (1/2 game behind the Bats.) But the two-time defending Governor’s Cup champions have several of the IL bottom-feeders on their docket this month, with the exception of IL East leader Rochester for a four game set. That series is the sandwich of a 10 game trip starting with 2 in Columbus and ending with 4 in Pawtucket. They’ll begin this roadtrip after wrapping up four with the Yankees’ new AAA affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Hens also close the month at Scranton, and have a home-and-home series with Columbus over Memorial Day weekend. Also featured in May will be a homestand with Louisville and Charlotte in mid-month after the swing east.

Well, no one said it would be easy. The AL Central is probably the most loaded division in baseball and this year it’s already a dogfight. My Tigers are 14-11 and 1 1/2 games back of Cleveland – but once again they’re leading the wild-card chase along with the 14-11 Twins. And this won’t be an easy month for the defending AL champions. They start out by finishing the Baltimore series, then a quick roadtrip to Kansas City. The Mariners provide a little better competition, but then the gauntlet begins as they travel to Minnesota and Boston before hosting a World Series rematch with St. Louis. After the Cardinals depart, the homestand continues with the LA Angels and Cleveland. At month’s end the Tigers start a grueling roadtrip to Tampa Bay, back north to Cleveland, then right back south to Texas.

And now the Tigers lead the O’s 3-2. Keep it up!! My next standings report will be at month’s end.

Thank us for the gift

Cardinal fans, you better be thanking whoever you thank because you didn’t win that series, the Tigers flat out gave it to you. You just happened to catch them playing like they did against the Royals on the last weekend of the season.

I look forward to a 2007 WS rematch with a much different result.

So the roar is pretty much restored, we just need to take one more step. It’ll be fun chewing up the Redbirds (or Mets, or Dodgers, or whoever wins the NL) next fall. Don’t expect the Tigers to be snakebit like they were in this year’s Series again.

Baseball playoff update 10-1 (last one!)

This is it, it’s all come down to Sunday, October 1st.

American League: New York is in as the #1 seed (homefield throughout) and Oakland is in as the #3 seed.

2. DETROIT (95-66, tied for A.L. Central lead with Minnesota). Honestly, you have to wonder just how far the Tigers will get in the playoffs if they can’t beat a team who already has 100 losses and that they’re playing at home just once out of two tries to win the title. On August 7th they were 76-36 and 10 games clear of Chicago. Since then they’re only 19-30 while Minnesota has gone 30-20. A full season at the Tigers’ post-August 7 pace would put them at 63-99. But they’ll press on regardless. Kansas City throws out Odalis Perez (6-8, 5.91 between the Dodgers and Royals) against Detroit’s Jeremy Bonderman (14-8, 3.99). It’s time for the Tigers to get pissed, this should’ve been wrapped up long ago.

4. Minnesota (95-66, tied for A.L. Central lead with Detroit). If not for the White Sox, the Twins would’ve won this as Detroit has about run out of gas to finish the year. Javier Vazquez (11-11, 4.77) closes out the campaign against Scott Baker (5-8, 6.37) for the Twins.

The postseason matchups will look like this: if Detroit wins OR Minnesota loses, it’s Minnesota vs. New York and Oakland vs. Detroit. A Detroit loss AND Minnesota win makes it Detroit vs. New York and Oakland vs. Minnesota.

National League:

New York is in as the #1 seed (homefield throughout).

2. San Diego (87-74, tied with Los Angeles for N.L. West lead). Both teams won today, eliminating the Phillies. The Padres wrap up the regular season in the season’s final scheduled game (timewise) and get set for the playoffs with Woody Williams (11-5, 3.57) on the hill facing Arizona’s ace Brandon Webb (16-7, 2.88). If San Diego wins they secure the #2 seed and home field in the first playoff round.

3. St. Louis (83-77, lead N.L. Central by 1 1/2 games over Houston). It’s quite simple, really. If the Cardinals lose tomorrow’s game while Houston wins, it’s a trip to St. Louis for the San Francisco Giants to make up a September 17 rainout. Then if the Cards lose that one, they’ll make the trek to Houston for a game on Tuesday to decide the N.L. Central winner. But St. Louis can avoid all of the hassle by beating Milwaukee tomorrow. The Brewers will start rookie Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 3.97) and the Cardinals counter with Chris Carpenter (15-8, 3.09).

4. Los Angeles (87-74, tied with San Diego for N.L. West lead). The Dodgers celebrated on the home field of their hated rival San Francisco Giants. But the Giants could banish the Dodgers to the wild card spot with a win tomorrow. Los Angeles pitches Derek Lowe (16-8, 3.63) and the Giants will start Jason Schmidt (11-9, 3.56).

5. Houston (82-79). They’re probably the farthest away from a chair when the music stops, but they could jump over the back and grab a spot with some help from the Brewers and Giants. Andy Pettitte (14-13, 4.30) gets the call for Houston and Atlanta counters with John Smoltz (15-9, 3.58) in a solid pitching matchup of two postseason veterans. Would Houston start Roger Clemens on three days’ rest in a playoff game with the Cardinals?

There are several possible matchups here, although the Houston/St. Louis survivor is locked in as the #3 seed which makes it a bit easier. If San Diego wins OR Los Angeles loses, it’s Los Angeles vs. New York and Hou/StL vs. San Diego. A San Diego loss AND Los Angeles win makes it San Diego vs. New York and Hou/StL vs. Los Angeles.

Postscript, American League: It ends up Detroit (95-67, A.L. wild card) against New York (97-65, A.L. East champion) and Oakland (93-69, A.L. West champion) against Minnesota (96-66, A.L. Central champion). Man does that hurt to write that last one but if you can’t beat a 100-loss team in 3 tries at home you may as well stay home yourself. Anyway, talk about nice evenly matched teams! Any of the four are worthy representatives.

Postscript, National League: Final standings place Los Angeles (88-74, N.L. wild card) against New York (97-65, N.L. East champion) and St. Louis (83-78, N.L. Central champion) against San Diego (88-74, N.L. West champion). The Mets dominated the regular season but sometimes that makes a team lose its edge. And Philadelphia fans are bemoaning the bad luck of being in the N.L. East instead of winning the N.L. Central – they finished 85-77 and would’ve won the Central with that record.

Baseball playoff update 9-30

As I predicted, this will get a lot shorter today as fewer games are meaningful. Tonight the Yankees locked up home field throughout the A.L. playoffs, thus the playoffs in both leagues go through the Big Apple. Also, Oakland’s loss to the Angels leaves them in the #3 seeded spot in the American League – thus all that’s left to decide is where the Tigers and Twins end up. They’re still tied as both lost tonight, the Tigers blowing a 5 run lead to the Royals.

But the National League stayed jumbled as Philadelphia won to stay alive while the Dodgers moved back into a tie for first in the N.L. West.

I’m writing this early in the A.M. and will bury this in the morning since there’s other stuff I’ll write on today.

American League:

1. New York (97-63, clinched A.L. East and home field throughout playoffs).

2. DETROIT (95-65, tied for A.L. Central lead with Minnesota). The Tigers will know how the Twins fared today because they have a 7:10 p.m. start while Minnesota plays a real matinee game, they have a 11:10 a.m. local start. Kansas City will again provide the opposition and they send out Ambiorix Burgos (4-5, 5.60) against Zach Miner (7-5, 4.37) of Detroit. The magic number for Detroit dropped to 2 with the Twins losing.

3. Oakland (92-68, clinched A.L. West and will be #3 seed).

4. Minnesota (95-65, tied for A.L. Central lead with Detroit). The Twins will have to get up early for this one, the reason they play the 11:10 a.m. local start is because the Metrodome also hosts the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. And if there wasn’t enough rivalry between the Twins and Tigers, the Golden Gophers host the University of Michigan Wolverines for the Little Brown Jug trophy tomorrow night (go Blue!)

But the baseball game takes precedence, and the Chicago White Sox will start Jon Garland (17-7, 4.61); he’ll face Minnesota’s Matt Garza (3-5, 5.32).

National League:

1. New York (95-65, N.L. East champions and home field through N.L. playoffs).

2. San Diego (86-74, tied for N.L. West lead with Los Angeles). As with the Detroit/Minnesota situation in the A.L. the Padres win the tiebreaker because of a 13-5 season mark against the Dodgers. So if both teams win or the Phillies lose, this would be the order in the event San Diego and Los Angeles tie for first. First things first though – the Padres send out David Wells (2-5, 4.80 between Boston and San Diego) against Arizona’s Edgar Gonzalez (3-3, 3.86). Magic number for a division title stays at 3 for the Padres but their playoff magic number is now 1.

3. St. Louis (82-77, leads N.L. Central by 1 1/2 games over Houston and 2 1/2 games over Cincinnati). The Cards won tonight and with help from Atlanta beating Houston, their magic number dropped to 2. More importantly, it lessened the chance of playing a Monday makeup contest with San Francisco. Milwaukee provides today’s opposition for the Cards, the Brewers have slated Ben Sheets (6-7, 4.05) as their starter while the Cardinals tap Jeff Suppan (12-7, 4.18) as their pick.

4. Los Angeles (86-74, tied for N.L. West lead with San Diego, lead wild card by 2 games over Philadelphia). A LA win (or Phillies loss) puts Dodger blue in the postseason, but it could be Sunday before the order is determined. Tomorrow they send out veteran Greg Maddux (14-14, 4.26 with the Cubs and Dodgers) to face the barely half his age Matt Cain (13-11, 4.09) of the San Francisco Giants.

5. Philadelphia (84-76). Both the Padres and Dodgers could be in the playoffs before they start tomorrow as the Phillies play a 1:20 game in Florida. It’s Randy Wolf (4-0, 5.24) out to keep the Phillies alive, he goes up against Scott Olsen (12-9, 3.97) of the Marlins.

6. Houston (81-79). With the Rocket fizzling tonight, the Astros are now all but on the bubble as they continue play in Atlanta. Rookie Chris Sampson (2-0, 2,10) is listed as the Astros’ starter but Phil Garner’s been known to pull out all the stops in situations like this. The Braves are much more likely to give Lance Cormier (4-5, 5.00) his appointed turn.

7. Cincinnati (80-80). They held on tonight by beating Pittsburgh, but the situation comes down to needing 2 more wins and rooting for Atlanta and Milwaukee, plus a San Francisco treat on Monday. Heaven help us if all three of these N.L. Central teams finish 82-80, which is mathematically possible. What’s more likely though is Cincinnati’s Bronson Arroyo (14-10, 3.27) taking on Pittsburgh’s Marty McLeary (1-0, 3.38).

But it IS possible that this would be the last installment of this series and Sunday’s games rendered meaningless if the right combination of teams win. I’ll likely know this by about 10 p.m. tonight.

Baseball playoff update 9-29

Three days left in the regular season. Almost certainly this will be the last night that I’ll have to go through 11 games, as Cincinnati and Philadelphia are on the bubble tonight and Oakland could find itself locked into the #3 seed in the American League.

But thanks to a mistake on my part and then my damn server dropping on me for about 10 minutes, I only have time for the matchups and pitchers.

American League:

1. New York (96-63, won A.L. East). Toronto pitches Gustavo Chacin (9-3, 4.90) is at New York , who starts Mike Mussina (14-7, 3.57). Magic number for home field throughout is 3.

2. DETROIT (95-64, tied for A.L. Central lead with Minnesota). Kansas City will start Runelvys Hernandez (6-10, 6.38) in Detroit, the Tigers send out Wil Ledezma (3-3, 3.58). The Tigers’ magic number remains 3.

3. Oakland (92-67, won A.L. West) sends Esteban Loaiza (11-8, 4.84) to the mound in Los Angeles; the Angels counter with Ervin Santana (15-8, 4.43).

4. Minnesota (95-64, tied for A.L. Central lead with Detroit). The Twins host Chicago, pitching for the White Sox will be Freddy Garcia (16-9, 4.65) and he’ll square off with the Twins’ Boof Bonser (7-5, 4.15).

National League:

1. New York (94-65, won N.L. East and locked as #1 seed).

2. San Diego (86-73, leads N.L. West by 1 game over Los Angeles). In Arizona, the Padres turn to Clay Hensley (11-11, 3.73) to take on the D-backs’ Livan Hernandez (12-13, 4.95). San Diego’s magic number for the division title is 3; a Padres win or a loss by Philadelphia assures San Diego a playoff spot.

3. St. Louis (81-77, leads N.L. Central by 1/2 game over Houston and 2 1/2 over Cincinnati). Milwaukee is the Cardinals’ opponent tonight, they’ll start Chris Capuano (11-11, 3.87) against Jeff Weaver (7-14, 5.79 between the Angels and Cards) at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Cardinals’ magic number is 4.

4. Los Angeles (85-74, leads wild card by 2 games over Philadelphia) will pitch Hong-Chih Kuo (1-5, 4.12) at San Francisco; the Giants counter with Noah Lowry (7-10, 4.84). A win by the Dodgers and a Philadelphia loss will put the Dodgers in as at least a wild card.

5. Philadelphia (83-76). It’s all on the line for the Phillies tonight, they’ll place their season in the hands of Jamie Moyer (10-14, 4.36 between Seattle and Philadelphia) as he takes on Florida’s Brian Moehler (7-10, 6.22).

6. Houston (81-78). They’re only alive for the N.L. Central title, but they’re sending out the Rocket, Roger Clemens (7-5, 2.35) to face Atlanta; the Braves will counter with Chuck James (10-4, 3.94).

7. Cincinnati (79-80). Again a must-win for the Reds, a loss would end their playoff hopes if either St. Louis or Houston comes out on top in their games. Cincinnati will start Aaron Harang (15-11, 3.83) against Pittsburgh’s Zach Duke (10-14, 4.44) in PNC Park.

I’m thinking I’ll have about 9 teams to do tomorrow.