NEW YORK — Major League Baseball has joined the Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan group of businesses pushing for higher voter turnout.
MLB also announced Wednesday that it has committed to a business-led initiative to help ensure employees have access to information about early voting or vote-by-mail options. Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office will give employees the day off on Election Day, and MLB will focus on mobilizing fans and club personnel to further civic engagement beyond the general election.
Teams throughout the majors have launched or will launch sites dedicated to voter education, and some ballparks are set to be used as voting centers for the election.
“The right to vote is a pillar of American democracy, a privilege that we should all appreciate and exercise,” Manfred said in a statement. “I’m proud of our sport’s role in encouraging baseball fans and communities throughout the country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process.”
Atlanta Braves activate Pablo Sandoval for bench role
The Atlanta Braves activated Pablo Sandoval on Sunday, the final day of the regular season.
He will be playing third base in Sunday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.
Sandoval is being prepped for a bench role in the postseason for the NL East champions. The Braves have a lot of right-handed options on their bench and Sandoval is a switch-hitter.
He joined the Braves on a minor league deal earlier this month after he was released by the San Francisco Giants.
Sandoval was hitting .220 with one home run and six RBIs this season for the Giants — his second stint with the team.
Breaking down all the MLB playoff scenarios on the regular season’s final (?) day
Welcome to the most potentially chaotic day in baseball history. It’s easy to fall prey to the moment and hyperbolize, but, no, what Sunday has in store is legitimately mad. When Major League Baseball laid out its 60-game season and expanded its postseason to eight teams per league, even this — an afternoon in which the playoff fates of 12 teams hang in the balance — would have seemed far-fetched.
A five-way tie for four playoff spots? It could happen.
A team that can secure the No. 2 seed in its league … or drop all the way to the No. 7 seed? Yup. That’s possible, too.
Enough small talk. You’re here because you want to mainline the anarchy of it all. We’ll start with the American League because if this were to begin with the National League, you might run away. With all 44 permutations of what could happen, there is a lot to handle on an empty stomach.
Let’s first establish the postseason format in 2020.
• There are eight playoff spots in each league.
• The division winners receive the Nos. 1-3 seeds, based on their records and tiebreakers.
• The second-place teams from each division receive the Nos. 4-6 seeds, again in order of record.
• The two best teams in the league that did not finish in first or second place receive the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds, even if their records were superior to the second-place teams from other divisions.
• The Nos. 1-4 seeds will host best-of-three wild-card series at home. The winners will advance to quasi-bubble settings. The winners of the 1-8 and 4-5 matchups in the AL will play at Petco Park in San Diego and the 2-7/3-6 winners face off at Dodger Stadium. In the NL, the 1-8/4-5 series is at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and the 2-7/3-6 series is at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. The AL winners will face off in San Diego and the NL victors in Arlington, where the World Series also will be held.
In the AL, the only locked-in seeds with one day left in the season are Tampa Bay at No. 1, because it owns the league’s best record, and Houston at No. 6, because it is guaranteed to be the worst second-place team. While it’s been relatively clear for upward of a month who the eight AL playoff teams would be, the craziness with seeding — and all the different matchups it could mean — lends Sunday much of its intrigue.
• If the Yankees win Sunday, they lock in the No. 5 seed.
• If the Yankees lose Sunday and Toronto loses, New York still is the No. 5 seed.
• If the Yankees lose and Toronto wins Sunday, New York drops to the No. 8 seed and the Blue Jays leapfrog from eighth to fifth.
Yes, the possibility of a Yankees-Rays wild-card series is extremely real. That can’t be terribly appealing to New York, which is 2-8 against Tampa Bay this year. Nevertheless, the Yankees are turning to rookie Clarke Schmidt in his first major league start Sunday. He’ll face the Miami Marlins and veteran Jose Urena. (Much more on Miami later.) The Blue Jays are going against the fading Baltimore Orioles, with veteran Tanner Roark, who has a 7.01 ERA this season, starting for Toronto.
The four remaining AL teams — Minnesota, Oakland, Chicago and Cleveland — will settle into the Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 7 slots. The Twins need to contend with a very motivated Cincinnati team, the A’s are facing the crafty Marco Gonzales with Seattle, the White Sox are trying to prevent a precipitous free fall from the top seed a week ago to seventh and the Indians are just aiming to play at home. Here’s what can happen.
Minnesota Twins (36-23 record)
Potential seeds: 2, 3 or 4
• If they win (or if they lose, the White Sox lose and the A’s lose): No. 2 seed
• If they lose, the White Sox lose and the A’s win: No. 3 seed
• If they lose and the White Sox win: No. 4 seed
Oakland Athletics (35-24)
Potential seeds: 2 or 3
• If they win, the Twins lose and the White Sox lose: No. 2 seed
• All other scenarios: No. 3 seed
Chicago White Sox (35-24)
Potential seeds: 2, 3, 4 or 7
• If they win, the Twins lose and the A’s lose: No. 2 seed
• If they win, the Twins lose and the A’s win: No. 3 seed
• If they win and the Twins win: No. 4 seed
• If they lose and Cleveland loses: No. 4 seed
• If they lose and Cleveland wins: No. 7 seed
Cleveland Indians (34-25)
Potential seeds: 4 or 7
• If they win and the White Sox lose: No. 4 seed
• All other scenarios: No. 7 seed
Got all that? Good. Because here comes the fun stuff. Remember that talk about the five-way tie. Well, if the Milwaukee Brewers beat the St. Louis Cardinals, the Miami Marlins and Cincinnati Reds lose, and the San Francisco Giants win, all five of them are exactly .500. The Marlins already are in the playoffs because they’re the second-best team in the NL East. The Reds have secured a spot because they’re in a strong position with tiebreakers.
And the Cardinals, who will end Sunday with 58 games played because of their COVID-shortened schedule, would have to fly to Detroit to play at least one and maybe both of their makeup games because they could have an impact on playoff positions — and theoretically knock St. Louis out of the postseason altogether.
Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned the Philadelphia Phillies, who sneak into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed in four of the 44 possible permutations for the rest of the NL season.
Only 30 of the possible scenarios will play out on Sunday. The remaining ones tease the possibility that St. Louis will go to Detroit to play the Tigers. If the Cardinals are to do that and win the first game of their doubleheader, they’ll stop playing right there. It will lock them into the playoffs. If the Cardinals lose the first game but win the second, they’re still in. There are only seven of 44 scenarios in which they do not make the playoffs
St. Louis Cardinals (29-28)
Potential seeds: 5, 6, 7, 8 or out
• If they win: No. 5 seed (by percentage points)
• If they lose to the Brewers, the Giants win, the Reds lose, the Marlins lose and they win Game 1 of a potential doubleheader Monday: No. 5 seed
• If they lose, the Giants win, the Reds lose, the Marlins win and they win Game 1 Monday: No. 6 seed
• If they lose, the Giants win, the Reds win, the Marlins win and they win Game 1 Monday: No. 7 seed
• If they lose, the Giants win, the Reds lose, the Marlins lose, and they lose Game 1 but win Game 2 of the doubleheader: No. 8 seed
• If they lose, the Giants win, the Reds lose, the Marlins win and they lose Game 1 but win Game 2: No. 8 seed
• If they lose, the Giants win, the Reds win, the Marlins win and they lose Game 1 but win Game 2: No. 8 seed
• If they lose and the Giants lose: No. 8 seed
• If they lose, the Giants win and they lose twice Monday: Out
In other words: The Cardinals are rooting hard against San Francisco. Speaking of.
San Francisco Giants (29-30)
Potential seeds: 8 or out
• If they win and the Brewers lose: No. 8 seed
• If they win and the Cardinals lose Sunday and twice Monday: No. 8 seed
• All other scenarios: Out
Philadelphia Phillies (28-31)
Potential seeds: 8 or out
• If they win and the Giants and Brewers lose: No. 8 seed
• All other scenarios: Out
Milwaukee Brewers (29-30)
Potential seeds: 7, 8 or out
• If they beat the Cardinals, the Giants lose and the Reds lose: No. 7 seed
• If they win, the Giants win and the Cardinals lose Game 1 of the doubleheader Monday: No. 7 seed.
• If they win and the Giants lose: No. 8 seed
• If they win, the Giants win and the Cardinals win Game 1 Monday: No. 8 seed
• If they lose, the Giants lose and the Phillies lose: No. 8 seed
• All other scenarios: Out
All in all, from the 44 scenarios, here is the breakdown that illustrates what strong favorites the Cardinals and Brewers are to give the NL Central half of the league’s playoff field (joining the Cubs and Reds):
• In 37 of 44 scenarios, St. Louis is in
• In 33 of 44 scenarios, Milwaukee is in
• In 14 of 44 scenarios, San Francisco is in
• In 4 of 44 scenarios, Philadelphia is in
Cincinnati Reds (30-29)
Potential seeds: 5, 6 or 7
• If they win, the Marlins lose and the Cardinals lose: No. 5 seed
• If they win, the Marlins win and the Cardinals lose: No. 6 seed
• If they lose, the Cardinals lose and the Giants lose: No. 6 seed
• If they lose, the Cardinals lose, the Giants win and the Cardinals lose both doubleheader games: No. 6 seed
• All other scenarios: No. 7 seed
Miami Marlins (30-29)
Potential seeds: 5 or 6
• If they win and the Cardinals lose: No. 5 seed
• If they lose, the Reds lose, the Giants lose and the Cardinals lose: No. 5 seed
• If they lose, the Reds lose, the Giants win, the Cardinals lose Sunday and the Cardinals lose Game 1 Monday: No. 5 seed
• All other scenarios: No. 6 seed
In total, of the 44 permutations, the seeding breaks down as follows:
• Miami: No. 5 seed (22 times), No. 6 seed (22)
• St. Louis: No. 5 seed (17), No. 6 seed (2), No. 7 seed (5), No. 8 seed (13)
• Cincinnati: No. 5 seed (5), No. 6 seed (20), No. 7 seed (19)
• Milwaukee: No. 7 seed (20), No. 8 seed (13)
• San Francisco: No. 8 (14)
• Philadelphia: No. 8 (4)
On a day of such madness, it’s nice to have some guarantees. And thankfully, amid the chaos, they do exist and bring at least a little bit of balance to a day where all you want to know is what this all means. For the following teams …
• If the Cardinals win, they’re in and the NL No. 5 seed.
• If the Yankees win, they’re the AL No. 5 seed.
• If the Twins win, they’re the AL No. 2 seed.
• If the Brewers win, they’re in.
The Giants and Phillies need some help to get where they want to be. Same with Cleveland, Miami, Cincinnati, Oakland, Toronto and the White Sox as they try to claw up the standings.
First pitch for Yankees-Marlins is 3:05 p.m. ET. Over the next 10 minutes, 13 other games — 11 with a playoff team or a team with a shot at the postseason — will begin. It will be a mad dash to season’s end, to this unfamiliar playoff format, to a month of baseball plenty of people thought would never happen.
The postseason is almost here. But first comes Sept. 27, 2020: baseball bedlam.
Francisco Lindor’s uncertain future with the Cleveland Indians — and his greatest victory
Picking the second-best day of Francisco Lindor‘s tenure with the Cleveland Indians is a daunting task. Maybe it was the night in 2017 when Lindor slammed a double to extend Cleveland’s winning streak to 22 games, or perhaps it was the day when he hit the home run against the Boston Red Sox in the 2016 playoffs, a grin covering his face as he circled the bases. Maybe it was the moment when he first stepped into the Indians’ dugout for his first game in the big leagues, with manager Terry Francona.
Lindor is only 26 years old and he has already built so much history in Cleveland, with three top-10 finishes in the AL MVP voting, a couple of Gold Gloves, four All-Star appearances. But Lindor is nearing the end of his time with the Indians — it’s within the realm of possibility that he’ll play his last game in a Cleveland uniform on Wednesday or Thursday if the Indians don’t survive their wild-card series. It’s also possible that with the American League’s best pitcher and position player in the 2020 season — Shane Bieber and Jose Ramirez, respectively — Cleveland could play well into October, as it did in 2016. It might turn out that Lindor’s second-best moment with Cleveland occurs in the American League Championship Series in 2020, or the World Series; maybe Lindor will share in the first championship dogpile by an Indians team since 1948.
The best moment of Lindor’s time with the Indians? Well, that’s easy. Nothing surpasses what happened on Nov. 2, 2016, the day the Chicago Cubs beat Cleveland in the extra inning of World Series Game 7.
The word in elementary school was that the young Francisco Lindor talked too much in class. Like a water hose you couldn’t turn off, the words pouring out. His energy, his joy, was irrepressible, not to be constrained by any supposed rules about who was allowed to talk at any given moment.
“We called him Pacquito,” said Legna, his oldest sibling, smiling. “We’d ask him, ‘Can you please zip it for five minutes. We only ask you five minutes. OK, how about two minutes?’ It was like that around friends at school. It’s been like that everywhere. He loves to talk.”
Their mom, Maria Serrano, worked hard, and as the oldest child at home, Legna watched over her siblings. She had felt an incredible bond with her little brother the first time she saw him, as an infant. “I felt that moment that I kind of like had a son,” she recalled. “Since then, I treat him like a son, more than like a brother. So I have been watching over him.”
For Francisco, any dictum from Legna was law. He might’ve debated with his mom, but when his big sister rendered a judgment, well, that was that. “She always looked out after us.” Francisco recalled. “She always made sure we were doing things the right way. It’s the way she is, and I just respect her a lot for that. … She’s always been the strongest one. She’s always been the role model.”
Early in the 2016 season, Legna was diagnosed with stage 2 cervical cancer, and when her doctors talked about immediate options, she had a condition: Before her treatment would begin, she said, she needed to fly to see her little brother. To tell him the news, in person. She flew to Cleveland, asked Francisco if they could go for a drive, and explained her diagnosis. He remembers not even being able to look at her, while Legna comforted him. “She was trying to make me feel a bit better.”
“I’m the brother, I’m the man, I gotta act strong,” Francisco recalled. “And she’s always been strong for me, since day one, so now I gotta be strong for her. How do I do this?”
As always, Legna had thoughts about this: Just play, she told him. Just keep playing. Just keep doing what do you. At the end of the drive, Francisco went to a bathroom and cried, fearful about his sister. “I was asking why — why was this happening to her, why was this happening to me?” he recalled.
Francisco already had a habit of praying for well-being, for himself, friends and family, and as he stood on the field in Cleveland shaken by his sister’s diagnosis, he felt like a hypocrite. Now was the time to believe, to have faith. “It was my turn to understand that it happens for a reason,” he recalled in an interview with E:60. “It was my turn to understand that I gotta be there, and I gotta be supportive. After that, it was like, ‘It’s all right, it’s OK. She’ll be fine, she’ll be fine, she’ll be fine.”
Legna went for treatment, and Francisco played, with a new purpose. He was named to the American League All-Star team for the first time, and unbeknownst to him, Legna got the OK from doctors to fly to San Diego to share in the experience — surprising her brother with a knock on the door.
The Indians would make the playoffs that year, first beating the Red Sox in the division series, then the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, to advance to face the Cubs in the World Series. Legna was unable to travel, remaining in Puerto Rico for treatment. “She was watching me on TV, and I was doing it for her,” he said.
The Indians won three of the first four games in the World Series, before losing Games 5 and 6, to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 in Cleveland. On his way to Progressive Field, Lindor got a phone call — Legna, calling with news. “I beat cancer,” she told him.
Francisco said, “I walked in that clubhouse, I’m good. I got my sister. I’m in the postseason, but I’m good. … If we win it, we did it for the city of Cleveland. If we didn’t win — I still won.”
In one of the best World Series games ever, the Indians mounted a comeback, punctuated by Rajai Davis’ home run off Aroldis Chapman. But after a rain delay, the Cubs scored a run in the 10th inning to clinch that franchise’s first championship in 108 years. After the game, Lindor was incredibly circumspect in speaking with reporters, talking about the experience of playing in the World Series. He had not yet spoken publicly about his sister.
Lindor went to a restaurant with a group of family and friends, and someone at the table was near tears over the Indians’ loss. Francisco stepped in with some perspective. “I’m like, ‘Why are you crying? We got Legna now — we good, we good. We’ll be in the World Series next season. Don’t worry, we’ll win the World Series at some point.”
The Indians made the playoffs in 2017 and 2018 and didn’t advance past the division series, and Cleveland has another chance to move through the postseason, before the front office must again assess what to do with Lindor before he simply becomes too expensive for them.
The Indians’ baseball operations department is regarded within the game as one of the best, a group that executes sound decisions for a franchise with far fewer resources than other clubs. They tried to sign Lindor early in his career, hoping to lock him down with relative gobs of guaranteed money when he was making relative pennies. This approach worked with Jose Ramirez, who signed a long-term deal. But Lindor’s choice was different: He effectively bet on himself by bypassing those early Indians proposals, and soon, he will cash in big time.
Within the Indians’ organization, there was respect and understanding for Lindor’s decision, and a coinciding realization that it meant the shortstop would leave Cleveland someday. For the Indians, who typically have a payroll in the range of $100 million to $120 million, there is too much risk in investing $25 million to $35 million annually in one player, and that’s the range in which Lindor will be paid when he signs the first multiyear deal of his career.
So there will almost certainly be a day when the Indians do what they did with CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee and Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger: They will take advantage of Lindor’s trade value, flipping him to a big-market team for younger, cheaper players — perhaps a club with a strong belief that it can sign Lindor to a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent, along the same lines that the Dodgers landed Mookie Betts. The Yankees seem to have a long-term need at shortstop, and have the wherewithal to make that kind of deal; so do the Mets.
The optimal conditions to deal Lindor might have come and gone, lost to the coronavirus pandemic. Rival executives had expected the Indians to listen intently to any offers for the All-Star shortstop in the midst of the 2020 season, after weighing proposals last winter, but in this truncated season that didn’t happen.
Through arbitration, Lindor will get an enormous bump in salary in 2021, from $17.5 million to something closer to $25 million, and with a lot of teams preparing major payroll cuts, the number of clubs willing to take on that kind of salary will be diminished. Additionally, there could be viable market alternatives to Lindor, in the winter before an unprecedented class of free-agent shortstops could hit the market: Beyond Lindor, Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and others are in line to become free agents next winter.
But Lindor will draw interest, and assuming that the Indians follow their longstanding history, they will deal him, whether it be this winter — and the offseason is a more suitable time to deal elite position players — or next summer.
Whenever that happens, Lindor’s time with the Indians will have been glorious, with nothing better than that beautiful Cleveland day in early November 2016 when Legna called with the best possible news.
News from around the major leagues
Trevor Bauer is omnipresent in social media, and for that reason alone, he can rub some peers the wrong way in a sport in which sharing opinions publicly will draw scrutiny. Baseball’s long-standing culture has been that players have an obligation to teammates to go about their work mostly in anonymity, and Bauer has never been and will never be fenced in by that kind of convention. In 2020 in particular, that is a good thing; in 2020, without fans in the stands, Bauer has been one of the best things about the sport, reminding everyone that this is supposed to be fun.
In his start against the Brewers the other day, Bauer pitched with extraordinary emotion, shouting excitedly after strikeouts, keeping his eyes on the hitters after he dominated them, strutting off the mound — and other than a couple of double-takes, the Milwaukee players seemed to react in stride, probably because Bauer had walked the talk. In his prior start, Tim Anderson had bested Bauer, getting to a high fastball and blasting a home run, and afterward, Bauer questioned on his Twitter feed why Anderson hadn’t celebrated more, why he hadn’t responded with a gaudy bat flip; he effectively encouraged Anderson and others to play with more outward emotion.
Generally, that can be a whole lot more fun for everyone — for most players, and definitely for fans locked down in the way they can watch sports this year. It’s as if Bauer has launched a one-man assault on baseball’s unwritten rules and in 2020, he’s winning — and is likely to win the NL Cy Young Award, as well.
• How the major award races look from here, on this (likely) last day of the regular season:
AL Cy Young Award: Bieber, who has the lowest ERA in the big leagues, the most strikeouts, and thrown the third-most innings. Right now, he holds the title of best pitcher on the planet. Think about this: The No. 1 hitters in opposing lineups have combined to score a total of one run in his 12 starts.
NL Cy Young Award: Bauer, whose separated himself from the pack with the dominant outing against Milwaukee. With runners in scoring position this season, opposing hitters are 3-for-35 with 15 strikeouts.
NL Most Valuable Player Award: Freddie Freeman. The Braves’ first baseman has an OPS of 1.105 OPS, with 43 walks and 37 strikeouts. If this had been a longer season, the Nationals’ Juan Soto might well have overtaken Freeman — Soto has 26 extra-base hits, 38 walks and 27 strikeouts. Given his understanding of the strike zone and how pitchers deploy breaking balls, he could be poised to win this award more than a couple of times over the next decade.
AL MVP: Like Bauer, Jose Ramirez has finished strong and overtaken the rest of the MVP field. Ramirez has built a substantive lead in WAR over the rest of the AL field, according to FanGraphs’ accounting.
AL Rookie of the Year: The Mariners’ Kyle Lewis, who has an excellent wRC+ of 132. Luis Robert seemed to be in a good position to win this award earlier in the season, but his offense has collapsed in September.
NL Rookie of the Year: If I had a vote — and I don’t — I’d take the Brewers’ Devin Williams, who has had unmatched dominance among first-year players, striking out 53 of the 100 batters he has faced this season, allowing just one earned run in 27 innings. No. 2: Jake Cronenworth of the Padres, who has a .370 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage.
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