It seems like hours ago now — well, actually, it WAS hours ago, but it seems longer — but we did a group interview in the dugout this morning with Zach Lee and Scott Schebler, who had been named the Dodgers’ Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year, respectively. Amazing how different these two guys’ stories are.
Lee, 22, you may recall, was the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2010, and he was signed to a $5.25 million bonus literally MINUTES before the deadline for signing that year’s draft picks passed, spurning the scholarship to play football at Louisiana State University that just about everyone — but especially the LSU coaching staff — just assumed he was going to take. He went 10-10 with a 3.22 ERA at Double-A Chattanooga, his best minor league season, and he said his goal is to be in the majors sometimes in 2014.
Schebler, who will turn 23 next week, was a 26th-rounder. He hit .296, with 27 homers, 91 RBI and a .360 on-base percentage at Rancho Cucamonga, and he probably WON’T be in the bigs in 2014.
Lee is the golden boy. Schebler is, by necessity, a scrapper and an overachiever. Lee is looking forward to a relaxing offseason. Schebler is hoping the minor league staff can line him up a gig in the Mexican Winter League so he can continue to test himself against what probably is close to Triple-A caliber pitching, with a small number of major leaguers mixed in.
On another note, while I want to keep this blog 99.999999 percent about the Dodgers, I did have some interesting observations from the season-ending standings … which aren’t COMPLETELY wrapped up, because Tampa Bay and Texas have a Game 163 tomorrow in Arlington for the final American League wildcard spot.
One thing I always try to make note of, even though it doesn’t really mean anything, is which team finishes with baseball’s best record. This year, there is a tie between Boston and St. Louis, each of which went 97-65. The A.L. won the interleague race again this year, but it was a lot closer than I thought, just 154-146 — thanks to the lowly Miami Marlins three-game sweeping what might be the most talented team in the A.L., the Detroit Tigers, on this final weekend. The Tigers ran away with the A.L. Central, jumping out to something like an eight-game lead at one point in September, if I recall correctly. But it took them until the middle of last week to finally clinch, and they ended up winning the division by ONE game because of the Indians’ season-ending 10-game winning streak.
Cleveland hosts either the Rays or Rangers in the A.L. wildcard game on Wednesday, with the winner of THAT game going to Boston to begin the ALDS. Oakland hosts Texas to start the other ALDS.
The biggest margin of victory in any division was that of the Dodgers, who won the sad-sack N.L. West by 11 games. And the Dodgers are the THIRD seed to the N.L. side of the playoff bracket. That should tell you how bad this division really is. By the way, that is the Dodgers’ largest margin of victory EVER in a division race (divisional play began in 1969). The only bigger margin was that of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who won the N.L. pennant by 13 games in 1953 and 13 1/2 in 1955.
Finally, the jury is still out for me on the new format that was instituted last year, with the one-game wildcard play-in. I haven’t completely rejected it, and I may wholly embrace it at some point. But you have to admit, there is something very strange about the Pirates and Reds playing a completely meaningless game TODAY in Cincinnati, then the same two teams turning around two days later and playing a tense, one-game, all-the-marbles game in Pittsburgh. And you could argue that there is something even stranger about St. Louis having outlasted BOTH of these teams to win the N.L. Central by a comfortable, three-game margin, only to have to begin the postseason by surviving a tough, best-of-five NLDS against ONE OF THOSE SAME TEAMS.
Being an old guy, I really miss the old days, when there were four divisions, six teams in each of them, you had to win your division to make the playoffs, and when you did, you went straight to the League Championship Series. That was when they used that old 18-and-12 scheduling format, which guaranteed that when you got into the LCS, the team you were playing was one you hadn’t seen in a while, because under that format there was NO cross-divisional play after the Sunday before Labor Day.
I also used to walk 10 miles to school in the snow, uphill both days. Young people today and their fancy-schmancy wildcard games.
Dodgers are taking the day completely off tomorrow, and I plan to take it MOSTLY off. But I will post a time or two. I assume we’ll get start times for the Dodgers-Braves series early tomorrow. In fact, I kind of thought we would get them tonight, but so far, no dice.
So unless and until that happens, this is good night from me. Big week ahead, so get plenty of rest.