Archive for Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Wild Card

October 9, 2008

Congratulations to the Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays for achieving something the Kansas City Royals haven’t done since 1985: making postseason play.

The Brewers made the postseason for the first time since 1982, and the Rays made the postseason for the first time in their franchise’s 10-year history.

The Brewers won 90 games and finished second in their division behind the Chicago Cubs.

Milwaukee’s 90 wins earned them a wild card berth, or a fourth seed in the National League playoff picture. The Brewers got the lost seed despite winning six more games than the Los Angeles Dodgers who won their division and were seeded higher than Milwaukee.

Seeding aside, the Brewers made the postseason for the first time in 26 years because they had good starting pitching, some power bats in the lineup and some speed to go with it.

On the mound, two All-Star pitchers led the Brewers this season, one of them was homegrown (Ben Sheets) and the other (C.C. Sabathia) was acquired by trade from the Cleveland Indians.

Sheets went 13-9 and had a 3.09 ERA this season. Sheets missed the postseason, however, because of an injury. Sabathia shined in his 17 starts with the Brewers this year. He went 11-2 and had a sparkling 1.65 ERA. Sabathia, though, got rocked in his only start of the postseason.

At the plate, outfielder and second-year player Ryan Braun led the Brewers. Bryan hit 37 home runs and drove in 106 RBIs. First baseman Prince Fielder hit 34 home runs, which was 16 less than he hit last year. And on the bases, the Brewers had for players steal 14 or more bases.

The Rays, meanwhile, won the American League East by tossing the mighty New York Yankees aside and holding off a late charge by the Boston Red Sox.

The Rays made the playoffs much in the same way the Brewers did.

The Rays starting pitching wasn’t the greatest. Two starters had 14 wins and the other starters all had at least 10 wins. First baseman Carlos Pena hit 31 home runs and rookie third baseman Evan Longoria hit 27 home runs. Budding star B.J. Upton stole 44 bases this season, and Carl Crawford stole 25 but would have had more had he not missed about 60 games because of injury.

The Royals can learn from the success of the Brewers and the Rays. The Royals should model themselves after them and continue to develop their own core of players, such as Zack Greinke and Alex Gordon.

But the Royals need more punch in the lineup and more speed on the bases. Jose Guillen led the team with 20 home runs and 97 RBIs and backup outfielder Joey Gathright led the team with 21 steals.

For the Royals to reach the postseason, the current roster will have to be changed. Some fan favorites such as David DeJesus, John Buck and Mark Teahen all could be trade bait this winter.

And that’s not a bad thing, when considering the Red Sox and Rays will play Friday night in Game One of the ALCS.

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