You asked, we answered
"The Bullpen" and I would like to thank everyone who answered the call and submitted questions. Talk about an overwhelming response! We picked a handful of questions and, because of our lengthy answers, we decided to split it up into two parts. Enjoy...
(TT = Tim Thompson; TB = The Bullpen)
Q: With September on the horizon, which 10 teams do you see in the playoffs? Who wins the World Series? Even with the additional wild card slot, if the season were to end today, not a single team from the 2011 NL field would return to the playoffs. The AL would have familiar faces, but no Tampa Bay. What are your thoughts on the addition of another wild card? Big spenders like the Angels and Tigers, along with small market teams like the Pirates, seem to be OK with it. (submitted by Kenny_Powers)
TT: For those who may not know, this year a second wild card team was added in each league. The two teams in each league will have a one-game playoff to determine who advances to their respective Division Championship Series.
One need only look at the brown tuxedo I will wear during my upcoming nuptials to realize I like things the way they were before I even was. One of the most amazing things about baseball, at least until that silly DH rule came along in the 1970s, is that the game largely has remained very similar to the game that was first played professionally in the mid-19th century. The bases always have been 90 feet apart and the pitching rubber has always stood 60-feet-6-inches from home plate. Think about it – what if the original game used 89-foot base paths? How would that affect the number of double plays, or how would it affect batting averages? A foot in either direction and the game is dramatically different than the one we know today.
As a Brewers fan, I love the wild card. It gives us (and other small-market teams) an extra chance at the postseason. The 2008 season was an amazing time to be a Brewers fan, but it doesn’t happen without the wild card. If I were born in 1957 instead of 1977, I’m sure the wild card would make me cringe. Perhaps not, because that silly DH slippery slope would have prepared me for change, but who knows? Now we have instant replay (also to be expanded), three divisions in each league and it’s a fact of life that all things change, baseball included.
If you are going to use a wild-card system, I believe two slots almost are necessary and I’m somewhat surprised it took this long to implement. The most obvious reason to add a second wild card, from MLB’s perspective, is the additional revenue. But, from a fan’s perspective, this system provides an additional playoff slot and, from a competitive standpoint, gives the division winners a guaranteed playoff spot. Imagine the Brewers have the wild card locked up going into the final weekend, but trail the Cubs by one game for the division lead. In the past the Crew would have nothing to play for, as they were assured a spot in the five-game LDS as either the division winner or wild card. Under the new format, only the division winners are assured a spot in the LDS; the wild card teams must compete for the other spot, loser goes home.
As for this year’s playoff teams, mine is nothing if not an educated guess. As I’ve said before, I follow the Crew as if they are one of my children, but outside of them and my fantasy players, I only know what I know. If it’s not the Crew, seeing the Reds or the Pirates win the whole stinking thing would be tolerable. Other than that, I think the Cardinals showed last year that the only reason to guess the World Series winner at this point is to show how much you don’t know, which I can admit without guessing wrong. The Bullpen is much more data-oriented than I; perhaps he has an educated guess.
TB: You’d think that the guy with a bum stick who has spent his summer sitting on the couch would be completely tuned in to what is happening in MLB, right? Wrong. There have been plenty of things around to distract my attention, especially with 24/7 coverage of the Olympics over the past month. But, I like to think I know my stuff, so let’s make these picks now and see how the final 50 games play out.
Let’s start with AL division winners. I don’t think anyone will catch the Yankees in the East; I believe the Tigers will finally put it all together this month and overtake the White Sox in the Central; and I think Texas continues to run away with the West. As far as the AL wild cards, pencil Tampa Bay and LA, who I believe will put figure it out and finish strong. LA beats the Rays in the wild card game, setting up the division series. I see Texas and the Yankees advancing to the ALCS, with Texas heading to the World Series.
In the NL, the Nationals will continue to dominate the East while Cincinnati outlasts Pittsburgh and St. Louis in the Central; the West will be a two-horse race between the Dodgers and Giants until the final week of the season, with San Fran winning out and LA taking a wild card spot. The other wild card will go to the Braves, who will take out the Dodgers to advance to the NLDCS. (Sorry Pirates fans – I think 2013 will be your year, though.) I foresee Washington and SF in the LCS, with Washington whipped into a fury by a World Series appearance right before the presidential election.
As for the World Series winner, my crystal ball tells me Washington will make the DC area forget about RGIII this fall. Of course, that’s the easy pick right now. Watch the Nationals shot down Strasburg, Gonzalez and Zimmerman and make me look like a royal fool …
Q: Here is a random question that tickles my fingertips: Why is it that they put braille dots on drive-up ATM machines? (submitted by hg)
TT: Braille dots is redundant, but otherwise it is a good question.
TB: ATM machine is redundant, as well.
TT: One I’ve pondered myself, in fact. I would like to think it’s because there are people out there who know way more than you or me. And, they either know about (a) a miracle eye-replacement procedure coming in the future that will help the blind see; or (b) they know about a "super car" that will drive one to where they need to go all by voice and allowing the vision impaired the option to get behind the wheel again.
TT: I did not know that. You truly are a scholar among men, sir. The reality, however, is this isn’t "The X-Files" or the year 2050. Without contacting anyone who makes the ATM (I still like to call them TYME machines) my guess is that whoever manufactures the machines has no idea if will be placed at the drive-up lane or inside your local grocery store. The cost of production would go up if that manufacturer did know and took the time to make specific machines for specific locations, which then would cost the bank more to buy and, ultimately, cost you more to use. I hope this makes your future TYME machine visits a little less thought-filled
Stay tuned for the second installment of our inaugural "mailbag" post. It should be posted by week's end, pending The Bullpen's polishing pace!