Just a few weeks ago, it was a forgone conclusion that the San Francisco Giants would trade pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray would be on their way out of Arizona, too, and the Washington Nationals would be dangling closer Sean Doolittle for prospects. Baseball's only trade deadline of the year is Wednesday, but now these teams are back in the race again, and may decide to hang on to their better players.
You can thank the Wild Card. The Giants and Diamondbacks are 14 and 15½ games respectively behind the Dodgers in the National League West. They won't win the division, but in the hunt to be one of the two teams that face each other in a win-or-go-home playoff game, San Francisco is only two games out, and Arizona is just four-and-a-half. The Nationals were 24-33 at the end of May, and the locals were calling for manager Dave Martinez' head on a platter. They would host the Cubs in the wild card if the season ended tonight (Monday).
Teams will make moves, no doubt about it, and already have, but will we see any blockbusters? If you are into this stuff, you might remember baseball's Winter Meetings in December. Reporters from ESPN, Fox, and MLB Network ended up doing goofy impressions on the set because no deals were going down. Hopefully that won't be the case here.
The Mets acquired a starting pitcher Sunday (Marcus Stroman), but then dealt another (Jason Vargas) today. They could also end up moving one or two more (Noah Syndergaard and/or Zack Wheeler) before the deadline. Everyone wants relievers, and the Dodgers could add one or two (or hopefully six). Milwaukee added a starting pitcher, Tampa Bay got some utility players, and the Cubs picked up lefty Derek Holland from the Giants.
And while the trade deadline helps 'the rich get richer' (the playoff contenders adding pieces that they hope will put them over the top), the so-called poor teams also get richer, but in terms of minor league prospects they hope will pay off down the road. Kansas City has already dealt two pitchers (both to Oakland in separate deals), but look for Detroit to dump closer Shane Greene and other players, while the Marlins (already traded Sergio Romo to Minnesota) and Orioles do the same. Pittsburgh has gone into a freefall lately, and many teams, including the Dodgers, are drooling over closer Felipe Vazquez.
But if you are the Giants, Diamondbacks, Reds, Padres, Angels, or Rangers what do you do? All of the those teams are within ten games of a wild card berth, with many even closer. Reports are the Giants are going to hang on to Bumgarner and closer Will Smith. One report out of Arizona has Ray being traded, but on the next page you read they'll likely keep Greinke. In San Diego, they are talking about adding Syndergaard from the Mets in a real baseball deal, that would send two major leaguers the other way. Will it happen?
Bumgarner may have said it (or not said it) best. When a reporter asked him after yesterday's game if he thought that was his last start as a Giant, he just shrugged his shoulders. The deadline is 1pm PDT Wednesday. We just have to wait and see.
Homer mania: You may remember the 'chicks dig the long ball' line from the old commercial, but this is ridiculous. Home runs are flying out of ball parks at a record rate, including four straight nights when a player hit three home runs in a game. The Minnesota Twins needed 103 games to hit 200 homers, which is a record, and, by count, 56 players have 20 or more homers this season, and we're not at the end of July yet (as I write this, six more players have 19)!
For the record: It should be stated for the record every time Hyun-Jin Ryu pitches, that the Dodgers didn't really want him before the season started. He was a free agent, and was extended a one-year qualifying offer, which most players turn down. Extending the offer meant the Dodgers would get a draft pick if Ryu went somewhere else, but he surprisingly took the offer, and now leads the majors in earned run average (1.74).
Them's the numbers: We thought the Baltimore Orioles would lose 120 games this year, but, surprisingly, they are only on pace to lose 109. Detroit, on the other hand, at 31-71, is on pace for 113 losses. The magic number to eliminate the Tigers in the AL Central is 28, which means they could officially be out of the race before the end of August.
Cool things: Albert Pujols hit his 650th career home run Sunday, becoming only the sixth players to ever reach that milestone (Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron, Babe Ruth, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays). Pujols also has 650 doubles in his career, becoming the only player ever with 650 in both categories.... The Giants were in San Diego this weekend for the final time this season, and the Padres honored Giants manager Bruce Bochy Friday night, and the fans cheered him loudly all three games. Bochy is retiring at the end of the year, and managed the Padres from 1995 to 2006.
Honestly, I thought writing about sports for the first time in a month would make me feel better, but it just seems dumb. A celebration of Kelly Keigwin's life will be held Wednesday evening in Vancouver, Washington, and I'm planning to attend. For those who grew up with Kelly in Palmdale, there are plans for a reception there later this year, around Christmas.