Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

September 18, 1:00 PM ET
Chat with Jayson Stark

Jayson Stark
  (1:03 PM)

Well, we've got two weeks to go. Anybody think the identity of the eight postseason participants is in doubt? Let me know. And let's get rolling.

Kevin (Ohio)

Your pick for NL Manager of the Year and why?

Jayson Stark
  (1:05 PM)

I actually have a vote for NL manager of the year. And to me, it's a very tough call -- Jim Tracy or Tony La Russa. Tony could practically win this every year. But it's tough to overlook the historic U-turn the Rockies took under Tracy. So he'd be my pick. And I'll explain why Monday, in a long look at Tracy and how all this has turned around.

Brian (Richmond, VA)

Jayson... make your bold prediction here... 2009 World Series Champions are, the ____________..?

Jayson Stark
  (1:05 PM)

New York Yankees. Best team in baseball. Period.

Eric (DC )

I understand the Mauer over Cabrera for MVP, but Jeter over Cabrera? How is that even possible?

Jayson Stark
  (1:08 PM)

Look, Miguel Cabrera has had a tremendous year. But I think there's a tendency to minimize Jeter's achievements because he's a Yankee and he plays with other great players. Well, what makes Derek Jeter the cinch Hall of Famer he is, is that he makes the players around him better. And this is up there with his greatest seasons ever. I just said they're the best team in baseball. So would they be the same team without him? I'd say no. A loud no, in fact.

jim (sf)

yanks might be the best team in baseball in the regular season, but are they really the best in october considering CC gets tired and arod panics? all very scientific, i know...

Jayson Stark
  (1:10 PM)

I'm not saying they're unbeatable. The team with the best record hasn't won the World Series since '98 if I'm not mistaken. And obviously, there are rotation questions beyond CC, whose postseason issues are being way overblown. But that doesn't mean the Yankees aren't the clear-cut team to beat -- and by a wide margin.

jason (va)

Who will be the AL mvp and why

Jayson Stark
  (1:12 PM)

It's still Joe Mauer for me. I'm writing more about this in today's Sandwich Awards blog. But I don't use the standard that other voters do -- that a team HAS to make the playoffs for a guy to win the MVP. What I look for is whether that player's numbers were compiled in meaningful games, in the context of a race. And last I looked, the Twins were still very much alive, with Mauer compiling a historic year. So he's the man right now. If anybody wants to try to convince me otherwise, be my guest.

David (NYC)

Who will have the better career, Felix, Lincecum, or Grienke?

Jayson Stark
  (1:15 PM)

Boy, what a fun question. I'm going with Lincecum, just because I sat there in A T

James (Charlotte)

Are CC's playoff issues really way overblown? 7.7 ERA, 33 hits and 22 walks in 25 innings...I know it's a small sample size, but it hasn't been a good trend so far. Plus you know the NY media will be asking him about his playoff struggles 24/7 before his 1st start.

Jayson Stark
  (1:17 PM)

You said it yourself. It's a small sample size. And especially the last two years, his teams rode him incredibly hard down the stretch. And it showed. Remember, that start against the Phillies last year was his fourth consecutive start on short rest. So if he blows up again this year, get back to me. But I'll take the larger body of work over a subjective slice of negativity.

James (Detroit)

With Justin M. out for the year, should the Tigers literally walk Mauer every at bat for this big weekend series?

Jayson Stark
  (1:19 PM)

I'll deal with this in today's Sandwich Awards, too, actually. Michael Cuddyer has been sensational since Morneau went down. So while I'd be very careful with Mauer if I were the Tigers, the Twins keep finding ways to get this done. They're amazing.

Cole Hamels (Philadelphia)

How did I go from being so bad earlier in the season to being so good in the past month or so?

Jayson Stark
  (1:21 PM)

A couple of reasons, Cole. One is, you hit rock bottom a few starts ago and said, "Screw it. Why am I putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect?" And the second is, your pitch selection seems as if it's been much less predictable over the last five starts. Too many fastballs in fastball counts before that. Make sense?

Daniel (San Francisco)

After each of the candidates' most recent starts, is Lincecum the NL Cy favorite?

Jayson Stark
  (1:22 PM)

He is for me. But this is so close, among him, Carpenter and Wainwright, it will still come down to their last three starts. Might be the most fun race going!

Jeff (Bordentown, NJ)

Give me one reason not named Brad Lidge the Phillies won't win the World Series again?

Jayson Stark
  (1:23 PM)

OK, way too dependent on the home run. If you only score when the ball leaves the park and you're in danger of starting the postseason in Dodger Stadium, that's trouble.

Jason (St Louis)

How much will Joel Pinero get overpaid this offseason? I think whoever signs him will regret it more than the Mets and Ollie Perez.

Jayson Stark
  (1:24 PM)

I just did a Rumblings column two weeks ago on the free-agent starter market. And teams are mostly lukewarm on Pineiro. But it's a very mediocre group. So the law of supply and demand will make sure he gets paid -- or, more likely, overpaid.

Brian (Chico)

Hi Jayson - do you think the Giants are out of the wild card chase now? That game Wednesday night might have been their season, no?

Jayson Stark
  (1:27 PM)

Their only hope now is for the Rockies to imitate the '07-08 Mets. But what are the odds of that? The Rockies have three in Arizona this weekend, then head home for a week and a half. Checked their home record lately? They're 45-27, and they've only lost one SERIES at home since the all-star break. In other words, unless the Giants run the table, they're done now.

Phil (PA)

how can a team be to dependent on the HR? It would be like a football team being to dependent on the touchdown. Only in baseball does a team having too many of THE BEST POSSIBLE OUTCOME, hurt their chances of winning. Also the Yankees have many more HRs then the phillies.

Jayson Stark
  (1:28 PM)

The Yankees might be too dependent on the home run, too. We'll find out, right? Look, I thought the Phillies were too dependent on the home run last year, too, and they won the World Series. But if you can't manufacture runs in October, you're asking for trouble. And I think they are.

D-Rath (Boston)

Given that the Rockies must face Haren on Sunday, then Carpenter, Wainwright, and Pineiro next weekend, and finish the season at LA, is it really that inconceivable that the Giants could still catch them?

Jayson Stark
  (1:30 PM)

You're making a good point. But they're facing those Cardinals pitchers at Coors, which is a big deal. They also might be facing them after the Cardinals have clinched, would could be another big deal. I just don't see the Rockies collapsing. Sorry.

Jon (IL)

what is the most complete NL team?

Jayson Stark
  (1:32 PM)

That's another fascinating question. I thought it was the Cardinals until the last week or so. But if Ryan Franklin has hit the wall, it reopens the discussion. The Phillies have the deepest lineup, best defense and deepest rotation. But can you call a team "complete" if it's blown 14 saves in the ninth inning? I'll still go Cardinals, barely, for now. But feel free to differ.

Stadium Garlic Fries (New York, NY)

Will Yankees be better off going 4 man rotation in 1st round?

Jayson Stark
  (1:33 PM)

No way they go with a four-man rotation in the first round. But if they don't, it does lead to one question if they advance: Are they going to be able to start Joba in Game 4 of the ALCS if he's been throwing like 50 pitches a start for the last three weeks, and then works out of the 'pen in the LDS?

Chris (MN)

Being too dependent in HRs is not analogous to being too dependent upon touchdowns. TDs are like runs (not just HRs). A HR is just one way to score runs. Being too dependent upon HRs would be more like being too dependent upon one wide receiver (or one running back). If you have one primary weapon for scoring, and that one weapon disappears for a few games, you're screwed.

Jayson Stark
  (1:35 PM)

Thanks, Chris. I wanted to make that point myself, but the last answer on this topic got too long. It's OK to be dependent on one primary way to score when you play most of your games in a park conducive to that way of scoring. But the Phillies might not have home-field advantage in any series in October. And if they had to go to, say, L.A. and then St. Louis and then Anaheim, that's not a good fit for their style. Is it?

Matt (Cambridge)

Not sure that I disagree with your Yankees pick, but look at the match-ups against the Sox: Lester v. Sabathia - slightly better numbers for Lester, but about a wash; Beckett v. Burnett - Beckett about .75-1 run better, not taking into account his fancy postseason resume; Joba v. Buchholz - close to even, not huge sample sizes, but Sox hitters have seen more of Joba than the Yanks have of Buchholz... Matsuzaka v. Pettitte - edge to NY, but the ALCS probably doesn't come down to 4th starters. If pitching wins championships in a 5-7 game series, don't the Sox have a great chance?

Jayson Stark
  (1:37 PM)

Just because I said the Yankees are the team to beat doesn't mean I think the Red Sox can't win it all. Any team that starts Beckett-Lester in either order in Games 1-2 of any series is a team capable of winning that, or any series. My one issue with your matchups is I don't think Lester starts Game 1, and I don't think Joba starts Game 3. But in general, you made a fine case.

Jeremy (Missouri)

Do you think the cards have a chance at resigning Holliday? He likes it here and I would think he will want to be at Busch on Opening Day to accept his WS ring.

Jayson Stark
  (1:39 PM)

Let's just see how this unfolds. I've discussed it in previous chats, and wrote about it in Rumblings. You need to remember that Holliday is a Scott Boras client who doesn't figure to give them any sort of discount. And if they have to pay him market dollars -- whether that's $20M or $18M or $16M a year -- and then turn around and give Albert $25-30M a year in his next deal, that's $40-50M tied up in two players. Very tough to do in a market like St. Louis, unless you don't mind saying goodbye to Carpenter and Wainwright.

Jon (Baltimore)

I think the Yanks should just move Joba to the pen for the playoffs and have a 3 man rotation. Have the starter pitch 5 strong, Joba and Phil split 3 innings and Mo pitches the 9th. Thoughts Jay?

Jayson Stark
  (1:40 PM)

That's what I would do, too, at least in the first two rounds. All they'd have to do is start CC in Game 4 of the ALCS on three days' rest, and everybody else could go on normal rest because of the extra off day. So they wouldn't need a fourth starter until Game 4 of the World Series. That would be my plan. Not that they've asked me.

Jay (Hartford)

Not even a mention of the Dodgers as the best in the NL? They have the best record, you know - compiled against division foes that are the only two wild card possibilities. Defense and pitching is better than Phils, and defense and offense are better than Cards. They're in the conversation.

Jayson Stark
  (1:43 PM)

OK, hold on. I didn't mean to undersell the Dodgers. They can be very formidable. But while the stats might make their pitching look as if it's better than the Phillies, my eyeballs disagree. The Phillies clearly have the better rotation. The Dodgers have the better bullpen. And the Phillies play better defense than any team in this field, including the Dodgers. So I disagree with your entire assessment of that matchup.

Jason (St Louis)

Why do all the Red Sox fans think the Twins should hand over Joe Mauer because they think they can't afford him after 2010? In the last chat with Crasnick, someone asked if he could be had for an A and B prospect. For the best player in the AL! Its crazy.

Jayson Stark
  (1:46 PM)

First off, I don't see the Twins trading him. And I think there's an excellent chance they'll sign him. Consider the parts in this puzzle. They're opening a new park, built with taxpayer dollars. They're trying to hang onto a hometown hero who likes it there and, unlike Johan Santana, isn't dreaming of playing in a bigger market. How can this not happen? All the forces on both sides would seem to me to be driving this guy back to Minnesota.

Mike (Detroit)

Yes its a small sample size on CC but between the New York Media and potentially facing say Verlander twice, and Beckett twice, wouldnt you be worried about the pressure that he may need to not only turn it around but win 1-0, 2-1 type games.

Jayson Stark
  (1:49 PM)

I didn't say there wouldn't be pressure. Of course, there's pressure. But what evidence have you seen, at any point this year, that CC can't handle big-game pressure, New York pressure or big-matchup pressure? I sure haven't seen any. Again, if he tanks in October, get back to me. But this guy is too good and too tough to be considered an official October underperformer yet.

BK (Mpls)

How can a manager win MOY when he has the MVP and 2 of the 3 CY Young candidates are his pitchers?

Jayson Stark
  (1:50 PM)

OK, let me explain it to you. He started the season with no closer. He started the season with nobody imposing to hit in front of, or after, Albert. He had no third baseman. And his second baseman had never played there. And they've been the best team in the division from Day One. That's how.

Tyler (Atl)


Jayson Stark
  (1:53 PM)

Total free-for-all. J.A. Happ entered September as the favorite. But he's been out. And that has made this race even tighter. To me, it's practically a dead heat right now -- Happ, Tommy Hanson, Chris Coghlan. With Colby Rasmus, Andrew McCutchen and Garret Jones very much in this argument.

Ian (OK)

Would you be a bit saddened if Mauer did leave the Twins, like Santana?

Jayson Stark
  (1:54 PM)

I don't know if "saddened" is the right word. But to me, Joe Mauer belongs in Minnesota. And if he ends up somewhere else, because of dollar signs alone, that would be an ugly development for the entire sport, not just the Twins.

Paul (The Nati (Formerly Detroit))

AL Central Champs?

Jayson Stark
  (1:55 PM)

I'll still go Tigers, just because the Twins pretty much have to sweep this weekend to catch them. And I just don't think the Twins have reliable enough starting pitching to pull off, say, a 13-3 finish.

DJ (Cuse)

Who would you rather have Happ or Hanson? Seems that Hanson has been unhittable and the w-l record is a little of seeing the bullpen flat out blows?

Jayson Stark
  (1:57 PM)

Oh, I'd take Hanson. Bigger arm. More dominating stuff. But picking a rookie of the year isn't the same thing as buying stock. You're voting on what guys have done, not on what they might do. And these two guys have had incredibly similar years.

Craig (Reading)

Any chance the Phillies start Blanton or Pedro in Game 2 to break up the lefties and have them throw Games 1 and 3? Or do they just start their best guys in order?

Jayson Stark
  (1:59 PM)

I think they've kicked that around. But they have a lot of options right now, the way that rotation is pitching. And I don't think they have it settled yet. Game 3 is always a pivotal game, so it's worth debating. But would YOU have the courage to hold back either Hamels or Lee until Game 3? That's the pivotal question here, isn't it?

Jayson Stark
  (1:59 PM)

Well, we've reached that time of day again. Only time for one more.

Gilbert Juliet (Curacao, Neth. Antilles)

I would like your opinion on Jair Jurrjens. To me, despite his win-lose record, a very good year, but I don't see a lot written on him. Is he invisible? Does anybody notice his work?

Jayson Stark
  (2:02 PM)

One of the most underrated pitchers in baseball. I think he has definite top-of-the-rotation upside, and he's no worse than a No. 3. But there are bigger names in that rotation and on that roster, so it's only natural that they get most of the pub. That's how the media game works. But did I write enough good stuff about him to make you feel better? That's my aim -- to spread good cheer throughout the land in every chat!

Jayson Stark
  (2:02 PM)

Thanks to everybody who checked in. Seeya down the road in Chat Land.