Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Who's In First?

As I write, the Giants, despite being 11 games below the .500 mark, are within 5 games of first place in the NL West. This means they, at the moment, are closer to a division title than the A's, the Yankees, the Braves, or the Tigers.

My only regret is that my esteemed colleague Steve Bitker is on vacation this week, so we can't have our regular argument about "bad" teams making the playoffs. Steve's position is a little hard for me to understand. It seems to be this: "good" teams have great win-loss records, while teams with poor win-loss records are "bad" teams.

Uh, well, maybe. Let's imagine a baseball race in which four or five teams are beating each other's brains out for weeks, leaving each with a .500 record. Are they all "bad" teams? No, they might all be really good teams at parity with each other.

This notion of determining the quality of a team without checking the standings is a fool's game. All that really matters is this: where are you in the standings?

Look, the Giants are flawed, with some glaring weaknesses (and some obvious strengths). But the Diamondbacks and Dodgers have holes, too (has anyone watched Kent and Garciaparra's vanishing range?). At the end of the day, one of these teams will win the NL West, perhaps with a .500 record, and since each has decent starting pitching, might well win a playoff series.

Would that team then be a "bad" team?

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