It’s tempting to pick against the Rays in Monday’s prelude to the wild-card game — the playoff to the playoff to get into the playoffs.
The Rays may have a reputation of small-market overachievers, but they’re not the latter. They missed the playoffs in 2012 when they should have made them, they underperformed by seven games from 2009-2012, according to baseball-reference.com’s Pythagorean formula, and they’ve lost 12 of the last 17 postseason games they’ve played.
Since reaching the World Series in 2008, the Rays haven’t achieved much. They’ve lost three straight postseason series — two to Texas, today’s opponent. Plus they’re at Texas, and had a long plane flight to get there.
Of course, that’s the rub. The Rangers’ postseason history is sorrier. They had the World Series within reach of Nelson Cruz’s glove in 2011 and didn’t extend, and managed to lose the wild-card game in 2012 to the Orioles, who hadn’t been in the playoffs in 15 years.
This is a postseason game that would be at home in the NFC East. But the Rays have David Price and they don’t need home-field advantage — they don’t have one anyway.
If the Rays lose, however, you have to wonder if they’ll regret having let rookie outfielder Wil Myers languish in Class AAA for 64 games this year. Myers didn’t debut in the majors until June 18; he hit .293 and slugged .476 from then on, a mite better than anything produced by Luke Scott, Sam Fuld, Shelly Duncan in their 483 at-bats.
Being a small-market team doesn’t excuse small-minded decisions.
The Giants didn’t have a very good season, winning just 76 games.
Their offseason isn’t starting any better, either. This weekend the Giants agreed to re-sign outfielder Hunter Pence for five years and $90 million, or about twice as much as he’s worth.
Maybe the Giants felt they couldn’t afford to lose Pence — he hit 27 homers and 35 doubles, batted .282, walked 52 times and stole 22 bases in 25 attempts — but they can’t afford to keep him at those prices.
Pence is a better-than-average outfielder who had about the best year of his career at age 30. He may not have it again, and he’s almost certain not to have five more of them.
This was Pence’s seventh full season, and his career WAR is 23.6. He’ll be 31 soon after Opening Day next year, and his production is likely to decline as his salary rises.
That’s not a winning formula.
Is it still a no-hitter if the opponents have no hitters in their lineup? Or only a few hitters? The Marlins’ Henderson Alvarez threw a final-day no-hitter against the Tigers, who played most of their regulars but sat Miguel Cabrera — anyone think Alvarez throws a no-hitter vs. the Tigers if Cabrera gets a few swings? — batted Don Kelly leadoff (0-for-4 predictably) and Justin Verlander ninth. Verlander went 0-for-2 and is now 0-for-26 lifetime. Between Kelly and Verlander, that’s more than 20 percent of the outs accounted for.
It was certainly nice for Marlins fans, who had little to cheer on days Jose Fernandez didn’t pitch. But they shouldn’t expect much from Alvarez next year. He’s a 23-year-old who came in the Jose Reyes trade which hurt both teams.
In his first 344.2 innings, Alvarez has averaged a strikeout every other inning and given up 370 hits, including none in the last nine, and a home run every nine.
That’s no more a winning formula than paying Hunter Pence $18 million per.
Matt Daley was the winning pitcher in the final game of the Yankees’ season (and, yes, there will be a next Yankees season even if it doesn’t include Mariano Rivera). It was Daley’s second major-league win — it counts as such, even if it was against the Astros — and first since 2009.
(The Astros’ 111 losses were the most since the Diamondbacks lost the same number in 2004; the last team to lose more was the Tigers in 2003, when they lost 119; Mike Maroth lost 21 and Jeremy Bonderman 19).
Daley is an oft-injured reliever from Bucknell University. Among pitchers from Bucknell, Daley’s win puts him only 371 behind the all-time leader, Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, who won 373.
There’s not too many in between, but Daley is no Weldon Wyckoff, who seems to be fourth among ex-Bison with 23 wins in a career from 1913-1918. Of course, Wyckoff also lost 34, including 22 in 1915, after Connie Mack sold off most of his 1914 AL pennant winners. Wyckoff went from 11-7 to 10-22, the A’s went from 99-53 to 43-109.
The Yankees won’t fall as far in 2014, though a Red Sox fan can only hope.