Integrity Issues: What Teams Should Do in Baseball's Final Weekend

Nino CollaSenior Writer ISeptember 26, 2008

Every year it seems like we debate with each other on what is right and what is wrong when it comes to playing out the season.

Not just in baseball, but in every sport or league that has to deal with teams who are out of the races, be it as a team who has already clinched or a team who has no chance to clinch. We aren't always fortunate to get matchups that pair teams still in the races that need to play to the finish.

There are a variety of categories and depending on a team’s situation, they have a right to play out the season the way they want to.

So, let me take a stab at clearing up all the ethical issues by placing teams in categories, because every team deserves a label.

Let me make it clear that this has everything to do with playing your starters and processing late-game situations as if they mean something. It has nothing to do with how the game is played in terms of effort or attitude. Players on the field should be playing hard and giving 100 percent not matter the situation.


In the Playoffs, Nothing to Play For

Teams in this position as of Friday are the following:

Los Angeles Angels, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers

The Angels need just one win or one Tampa Bay loss to clinch the best record; it’s inevitable, so we'll assume that they have nothing to play for. Chicago has clinched the best record in the National League, and the Dodgers have no control over whom they face in the next round.

Teams in this position have earned the right to play the final games as they please. If Joe Torre wants to take this weekend as an opportunity to line up his rotation, regardless of opponent, then he should do so.

The Cubs and the Angels don't owe it to anyone to start all their starters, despite their opponent. Their early success has afforded them the opportunity to set up their run to the postseason, so if Lou Piniella decides he wants to rest Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Derrek Lee on the same day, he can and shouldn't be criticized for it.

The two Los Angeles teams face ballclubs out of contention in Texas and San Francisco. The Cubs, however, deal with division rival Milwaukee, who is fighting for the wild-card spot.

Even though their performance has a direct impact on whom they play in the next round, Chicago needs not to cater to the New York Mets or the Philadelphia Phillies.

As long as they aren't intentionally "tanking" the game in order to get the Mets over the Brewers in the first round, there is nothing anyone can say to Chicago for playing the players they want to play.


In the Playoffs, Fighting for Positioning

Teams in this position as of Friday are the following:

Boston, Tampa Bay

This is situation dependent but really, it doesn't matter what these teams do, they are probably trying to win the games they play.

This year, neither team is playing another opponent that is fighting for anything, so they can take these games on as they wish. I'd say that if they were facing a team like Minnesota or Chicago, that they probably should play the games as if they were important.

Like I said, this is completely subjective in terms of what team they are facing, but typically these teams are probably playing until all is said and done and they can't improve or worsen their postseason status based on the games that need to be played.


Not in the Playoffs, Fighting for a Spot

Teams in this position as of Friday are the following:

Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, Philadelphia, New York Mets, Milwaukee

I think it's a given on what these teams need to do. Obviously, they need to heed Herman Edward's advice and they need to play to win the game.

All of these teams have no excuses if they don't win

If they do fall out of contention at some point, they need to be shuffled into the next category.


Not in the Playoffs, Nothing to Play For, Playing Contenders

Teams in this position as of Friday are the following:

Washington, New York Yankees, Florida, Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City

These teams should all put forth a great effort to play most of their starters. They don't have an obligation to risk a player that could be injured, but they should field a respectable team.

If a manager, like Fredi Gonzalez of the Marlins, decides to play his entire team as if it were a game that counted, even better.

But, if say the Royals wanted to get a closer look at Kila Ka'aihue at first base, then they have the right to do so, as long as they aren't fielding an entire infield of September call-ups.

A team like Cleveland is taking the approach that Chicago is going to be fighting for something come Sunday. So, even though he is battling a stiff neck, Cliff Lee is slated to start that game. If the Twins or White Sox were to have clinched before that game, Eric Wedge would start Bryan Bullington instead.

That's typically the attitude a team should take when presented with the challenge of facing a team in the race.

Getting a look at Michael Aubrey is quite all right if you ask me. Getting a look at Aubrey and five his of teammates, that isn't fair to the teams in competition with the one you’re facing.


Not in the Playoffs, Nothing to Play For, Playing Each Other

Teams in this position as of Friday are the following:

Toronto, Baltimore, Atlanta, Houston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Colorado, Arizona, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Oakland, Seattle

I think it’s fairly obvious what these teams have to do.

They have to play the game in a way that will benefit them for the following year. If that means playing your starters for some credibility and confidence with a better record, so be it.

If it’s playing a bunch of youngsters for experience, you should do that as well.

These teams have no obligation to anyone but themselves, obviously.


So there you have it. Those are the guidelines that teams should be following, as least from my point a view. However, I'd still hold every team accountable for playing as hard as they can, no matter who is out on the field. They at least owe it to the integrity of the game to do that much.