1 Reason You Should Still Watch Each MLB Non-Contender Down the Stretch
The 2012 MLB season has been particularly painful for a dozen, non-contending teams.
Their front offices are already focused on the future, but that doesn't mean fans need to follow suit. Even clubs with unrealistic odds of clinching a playoff berth can excite audiences down the stretch.
Players have other goals to work towards once they accept that a World Series championship will elude them this fall. Many of these secondary pursuits are worth monitoring.
Don't be deterred by losing records—watching baseball's least successful in the coming weeks will be anything but dull.
Chicago Cubs: Franchise History in the Making?
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Anthony Rizzo has gone cold, as have every one of his teammates.
The Chicago Cubs will begin a four-game set against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday night as victims of eight straight defeats.
Don't hold your breath for reinforcements.
Rather, Theo Epstein's staff could be depleting the roster this August. They will definitely receive calls about outfielders David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano.
Stay tuned because they may match the franchise record of 14 in a row.
Cleveland Indians: Final Looks at Former Heroes Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore
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Since 2004, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore have been fixtures in the Cleveland Indians lineup...when healthy.
Both are currently injured, but optimistic about mending before the summer expires.
The pair guided the Tribe to the American League Championship Series in 2007. That team finished just a single win short of the Fall Classic.
Before Hafner's 2013 option is declined and Sizemore seeks employment elsewhere, make an effort to see them together one final time.
Colorado Rockies: Success/Failure of the 4-Man Rotation
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Poor pitching doomed the 2012 Colorado Rockies from the get-go.
However, the organization wasn't willing to sit idly by.
Management began experimenting with a four-man rotation in mid-June. GM Dan O'Dowd booted Jeremy Guthrie to the bullpen, put his remaining starters on strict pitch limits and hoped for a turnaround.
The team's earned run average has actually worsened in the interim!
Colorado's new strategy is pretty unorthodox and it'll be interesting to monitor the situation. If it pays dividends from here on out, others may emulate it.
Houston Astros: Opportunity to Spoil Competitive NL Central Race
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Major League Baseball's least competitive franchise could be mathematically eliminated from the postseason later this month.
But that's besides the point. Regardless of Houston's deficit in the standings, the Astros will be playing meaningful games in September.
Three fellow members of the National League Central—the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals—aspire to extend their seasons through October. It's very unlikely that all of them will qualify for the playoffs.
The September schedule pins these contenders against Houston on 17 occasions (two series each). That will give this cellar-dweller an opportunity to crush their dreams.
Kansas City Royals: Wil Myers Will Make an Instant Impact
Wil Myers has been deemed "big league ready" by Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (ESPN access required). Goldstein goes on to suggest that he may be "the best offensive prospect" without MLB experience.
Kansas City Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur is quietly having an awful year (triple-slash line: .244/.283/.382). Before winter, we may see Myers supplant him at that position.
Even if the 21-year-old's transition into an everyday player is gradual, there's no doubt that he'll be called up soon.
Watching him finally utilize his tools at the highest level should be a treat.
Miami Marlins: Jose Reyes Is in Top Form
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After three months of less-than-stellar performances, Jose Reyes has caught fire.
His 26-game hitting streak that ended August 9 was easily the longest one of 2012. He flashed some power during it, too (five HR, .602 SLG).
Since close buddy Hanley Ramirez was dealt from the Miami Marlins, Reyes has been inserted into the third spot of the batting order. His numbers from the 14 games since that change are especially gaudy.
The Fish aren't poised for a miraculous playoff run, but who cares? Their superstar shortstop is doing plenty to keep viewers captivated.
Milwaukee Brewers: Mike Fiers and Jean Segura Have Arrived
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Though amid a rebuilding process, the Milwaukee Brewers are much closer to contention then their aforementioned rivals in the NL Central. Their future All-Stars—notably starting pitcher Mike Fiers and shortstop Jean Segura—have broken through onto the 25-man roster.
Despite underwhelming velocity, Fiers has emerged as a Rookie of the Year candidate. He's also among baseball's hottest players (5-2, 1.03 ERA, 0.90 WHIP since June 16). You won't believe how incredible his control is.
Jean Segura, the Brew Crew hopes, will solidify their middle infield for the next decade. "The best-case scenario," according to ESPN.com's Keith Law, "is that Segura becomes a solid, average defender at short who can hit .300" (again, ESPN access is required).
How these two perform over the final eight weeks of the regular season could determine if they have the ability to be franchise cornerstones.
Minnesota Twins: Assessing What's Left of Justin Morneau, Carl Pavano
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Because the Minnesota Twins aren't a rich team, they must be careful when dealing with expensive, older players.
Decisions must be made about Justin Morneau, who's due $14 million in 2013, and impending free-agent Carl Pavano.
The former has partially rebounded from an injury-riddled 2011 campaign, but his dramatic platoon splits are a concern. Minnesota will actively shop the first baseman in the offseason if he doesn't improve against lefties (currently .205/.244/.299).
Then there's Pavano, who hasn't started for the Twins since June 1. His rehab assignment is underway, though, so he's on pace to return with several weeks to spare.
The futures of Morneau and Pavano depend on what they can contribute over the team's final 51 games.
New York Mets: R.A. Dickey's Knuckleball "Dances"
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New York Mets ace R.A. Dickey is in the NL Cy Young discussion thanks to his knuckleball. (regarded by many as the world's filthiest pitch).
Anything that "dances" on its journey to home plate must be difficult for batters to track.
Upcoming opponents like the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers haven't faced him so far this season. Their helpless hacks ought to be entertaining.
Philadelphia Phillies: Domonic Brown Has Realized His Potential
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On July 28, 2010, highly-touted hitter Domonic Brown began his MLB career.
Two-plus years have passed and he's still trying to establish himself.
The Philadelphia Phillies blew up their entire outfield prior to last week's non-waiver trade deadline. By default, Brown was promoted.
The front office refrained from dealing him as he developed. We're about to find out if their patience was worthwhile.
San Diego Padres: New Ownership May Mean More Contract Extensions
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The San Diego Padres are pleased with several of their veteran players. This sentiment was confirmed by the contract extensions they completed with Carlos Quentin and Huston Street in July.
More long-term commitments should be expected.
Pending MLB approval, a group led by Peter O'Malley and Phil Mickelson will purchase the club for about $800 million, writes Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press.
A new 30-year, $1.2 billion television agreement with FOX Sports may result in a payroll expansion.
Don't be surprised if third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Clayton Richard are locked up.
Seattle Mariners: Get Acquainted with the New Guys, Carter Capps and Eric Thames
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The American League's youngest club is the doormat of a strong division.
Still, I believe the Seattle Mariners were a winner of the 2012 MLB trade deadline.
The M's addressed their surplus of relievers by sending away Steve Delabar and Brandon League. In the process, they bolstered the farm system and added outfield depth.
Those recent transactions created openings for Carter Capps and Eric Thames, each of whom will be under team control for many years.
Immediately, they've been thrown into the fire and dared to perform.