Chat with Jayson Stark
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop in to chat about the MLB season.
Jayson Stark has been a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com since 2000. His regular contributions include the newsy Rumblings and Grumblings column and his tilted look inside baseball's numbers and quirks, the Useless Information Department.
Send your questions now and join Stark Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Jayson Stark (1:05 PM)
Hi everyone. I'm a little tight on time today, so I want to let everyone know at the top that I'll only be able to chat for a half-hour. So no trivia today. Sorry! Also, I'd love to get some reaction on my proposal in yesterday's Rumblings to add a second wild-card team to provide more incentive for teams to finish first during the season. Had some great emails on that topic. So let's get started.
Any word on Morneau's progress yet? Think he can make it back at all, or is this year a lost cause..
Jayson Stark (1:06 PM)
Talked to Bill Smith about this the other day. He's still hopeful, as is Morneau, but they're not going to play him until he's symptom-free. And that hasn't happened yet. The problem they run into if this goes on much longer is that he'll have gone so long without playing, and there won't be any minor-league teams still out there that he can do a rehab option with.
nestor (managua, nicaragua)
Jayson, the braves have 6 more home games than the phils for the stretch run and they have the best record in MLB at home, can they win the east or will it be wild card?
Jayson Stark (1:08 PM)
I keep reminding people in my home town that the season isn't over yet. The Braves have lost one series at home all season -- and that was in April. So the schedule is a big factor, I think. But the Braves are playing about as badly as they've played since early May. So they need to get their act together and get their pitching lined up again.
Eric (North Salem)
Jayson, wasn't Chris Nelson's steal of home a case of dumb play/great result? By breaking so early, Nelson was throwing the planned squeeze down the drain and his only chance of success was if Masset vapor locked--which he did. I bet Tracy's first reaction was to want to strangle Nelson when he saw him break.
Jayson Stark (1:10 PM)
Well, it's dumb if he gets thrown out, obviously. But as much as the Rockies low-keyed what they were up to, they'd noticed on video that Masset gets his glove up in front of his face with men on base and doesn't pay close enough attention to the runners. So this was clearly by design. The Rockies are one of the most prepared teams in baseball, and their video operation is one of the most advanced in baseball. So this play was no accident. Trust me.
I know one of the knocks on the Twins all year is that they do not have a true "ace" they can depend on if they make the post season. Rightfully so at the beginning of the season. But how much more do we need to see from Liriano to officially give hime the "ace" title? Pavano, Liriano, and Duensing right now look like a pretty formidable foe.
Jayson Stark (1:13 PM)
I never count the Twins out, ever. And the way Duensing has pitched changes the equation somewhat. But I still don't think they have That Guy who shuts down good lineups in October. Liriano has the stuff to do that. But teams that work the count on him and make him pitch, as the Yankees and Rays clearly would, can unnerve him. So he's the key to their whole postseason, I think.
I'm a huge baseball fan. My concern with the playoff expansion proposal(s) is that we are simply reacting in an effort to keep football from dominating August, September, & October. I don't think that that is possible (I think we need a shorter season). What is the driving force behind your idea, and do you really think that a baseball season going this long is going to avoid getting run over by the NFL?Love your work
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
My proposal had nothing to do with the NFL and everything to do with a flaw in the current system. My point is that here we have the two best teams in baseball -- the Rays and Yankees -- heading down the stretch in what should be the best race going. Instead, it's the most meaningless, because there's so little incentive to finish first. You get home field advantage in the first two rounds, but that's overrated. Teams with home field have won only half the time in those two rounds in the present format of the LDS and LCS. But if the wild card had to play an additional game or series, while the first-place team got to rest and set up its pitching, that's a major incentive to finish first. Is there even any argument with that?
What about shortening the season to 154 games (records are meaningless now anyways), then having the best of 3 with the two wild-card teams, then having a best of 7 LDS/LCS?
Jayson Stark (1:17 PM)
The schedule is the biggest obstacle. But I find no sentiment for shortening the season. It's one more reason I think the two wild cards should play a one-game October Madness survival game just to advance. It would add incredible drama. And because teams would have to burn their best starter in that game, it would make it tougher for them to steal the next series, too.
I think your idea would actually adress some of what holds baseball back in September. I actually think a three-game series would be fantastic viewing. How would feel about the team with the better record getting to be the home team for all three games in order to geth through the round faster?
Jayson Stark (1:19 PM)
I like that idea. Threw it out there in the column in fact. But I doubt that would get approved. The alternative I heard was to give the team with the best record two of three at home, and let that team choose: Play Games 1-2 at home or 2-3. Everyone would take 2-3 in that scenario, right? If you take 1-2 and lose that second game, and then have to get on the plane, it would feel like you'd already lost the series. Wouldn't it?
How is home field overrated? The results may be split, but you'd much rather be playing games 6 and 7 at home than on the road. I don't think it's overrated at all
Jayson Stark (1:20 PM)
It's something to play for. I agree with that. But history shows it hasn't meant that much, except in the World Series, when the teams are playing under different rules home and away. Again, the team WITHOUT home field advantage has won HALF the time in the LDS and LCS under the present format.
Nate (St Louis)
Jayson what would have a greater indirect impact on Pujols' new contract, Ryan Howards deal he signed earlier this year or Jeter's new contract that he will sign with the Yankees?
Jayson Stark (1:22 PM)
Neither. The only comparable with Pujols is ARod's deal. I think Albert will be looking for $30M a year and the Cardinals won't have much choice but to go there. The big issue will be length. Tough to give him 8-10 years at this age.
You're right the one game playoff would be incredible drama, but lets try to be fair here too... the Rays could be a 100 win team this year, have a 15 game lead on the second wildcard team, then lose one game and they're done. That's not right. It has to be at least a best of 3
Jayson Stark (1:24 PM)
That's the counter-argument, and I get that. I went back and charted it, and we would have had two years where there was a double-digit difference in wins between the first wild card and the second. One of them was 2001, when the A's won 101 and the Twins won 85. I don't get the sense either players or teams would go for a one-game playoff, because it doesn't seem baseball-like enough. But it's funny. People accept it in the NCAA tournament, even though there are big differences in records there. And they accept it in the NFL. Just baseball is different, and I get that. But I'd still prefer the one-game format for many reasons.
Darren (Kitchener, ON)
I know it won't happen, but I have a playoff plan I think is better than yours. Expand to 32 teams, create NFL style divsions (East, West,North,South) in each league. 4 division winners and 2 WC teamsin each league. Top 2 Division winners get a buy in the 1st round, which will be best of 3 with the division winners hosting the entire series.
Jayson Stark (1:25 PM)
Good try, but nowhere to expand to. I don't see that one happening for a long, long time.
Why is it that people take credit form Cargo for playing at Coors, and yet no one give Ubaldo props for pitching there? Isn't that a double standard?
Jayson Stark (1:29 PM)
I've had a bunch of emails on this in the last week. I made a point of mentioning Ubaldo's great road numbers in Rumblings last week when I was handicapping the Cy Young. And I'll have another great note on that today in the Sandwich Awards blog. I also made a big point of defending Todd Helton's road numbers in my Stark Truth book. But in Gonzalez's case, he has a .300-point difference in slugging home/road, and his road OBP is only .310. So those are eye-popping differences, don't you think? I try my best to avoid penalizing the Rockies on all these awards. But it's still difficult for any voter to know the best way to factor in those dramatic splits.
Jason (St Louis)
I am so tired about hearing about the Rockies and Carlos Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez has been mediocre at best for the past 2 months.
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
You've gottas be kidding me, Jason. Just took a quick look at Ubaldo since July 8 -- his last 11 starts. Opponents are hitting .223 off him. He's faced 295 hitters and allowed two home runs -- neither of them at Coors. If that's mediocrity, sign me up for all the mediocrity he can provide.
if the goal of a new playoff system were to make the race between the Yanks and Rays interesting, why not go with the WC team only gets 1 home game the first round and that they can play a division opponent. The Yanks and Rays would have quite some incentive to have four home games versus one and every team would have an incentive to win their division rather than settle for the WC. Thanks!
Jayson Stark (1:32 PM)
That's another idea I'd be fine with. I understand the reason this hasn't happened -- that often the wild card team is a better team than many of the division winners. And that's certainly true this year. But the idea of all these proposals is to create more incentive to finish first, so these division races mean something again.
Will (Fort Worth)
I find it odd that the only time expanding the playoffs comes up is when the Yanks or Red Sox dont look like they are going to make it.
Jayson Stark (1:34 PM)
Will, you're off base on this one, pal. First off, I've been writing and talking about this for years, going back to that brutal Dodgers-Padres race in the '90s where they were tied going into the final game and the Dodgers played it like a spring-training game. Second, I never, ever factored in that the Red Sox might not make the postseason. I never mentioned it once in the entire column. So you can throw that particular conspiracy theory in the disposal. Thanks!
Why can't the #1 seed play the wildcard if they are in the same division? This is the most assinine thing I have ever scene or heard of.
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
I think that has to change, too. But here's the logic, as it was explained to me. You play six months to finish first. And over those six months you outplay that team, sometimes by a huge margin. And the thinking is that it isn't fair to throw the whole season out the window and let that team you just beat over six months get a chance to end your season in a best-of-five. But again, nobody blinks when it happens in the NFL or the other sports.
Jayson Stark (1:36 PM)
Hate to do this, gang. But I'm pressed for time today. So I only have time to take one more.
Jason (Long Island, NY)
Is this week series between Yanks/Rangers a playoff preview? If so, how does Texas matchup against NY?
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
It's going to be a fascinating weekend. If the postseason started tomorrow, those teams would play each other. So I'll be interested to see how healthy Cliff Lee appears and how he does Sunday. And I think CJ Wilson is one of the most underrated pitchers in the game. But he hasn't fared real well against the Yankees this season. (They got him out of the game after 5 1/3 last month, in the game where he pitched the best.) So tonight is an intriguing night, too. I think the Rangers would have a shot to beat the Yankees in October if they're healthy and their rotation comes up big. So is this a barometer? It is for me.
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
Thanks to everyone who checked in. Really enjoyed the give and take on the expanded playoffs. Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to continue that conversation. See you next week in Chat Land.