MLB Writer: We Already Know AL Playoffs Teams

USA Today's Bob Nightengale weighed in on several teams, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Nationals

JRSportBrief
July 05, 2018 - 11:53 am
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Bob Nightengale, MLB Writer for USA Today, joined CBS Sports Radio's Ferrall on the Bench to discuss the dominance of the American League, the Astros' success, and the Nationals lack of it, among other topics. 

Scott Ferrall said the playoff race looks like its over in the American League – so much so that it reminds him of the Western Conference in the NBA. 

"You're absolutely right," Nightengale said, laughing. "It's almost like the NCAA champion in the AL vs. the NIT champion in the NL. ... Here we are, we're not even at the All-Star break, and we already know the five teams that are going to be in the American League playoffs. We don't know the seeding because of the Yankees and Red Sox, but otherwise, everything is set."

The Yankees (56-28) are tied for their fourth most wins before the All-Star break in their history. The last time this happened, they won the World Series. Ferrall asked if Nightengale thought New York is a World Series team. 

"I think they've got to go get another starter. I don't think they're a World Series team unless they do that," Nightengale explained. "They're a starter short, just like the Red Sox could use one more reliever. I still think when you talk about the best teams in baseball, Boston's right there. You can flip a coin between the two of them, and Houston certainly has a better rotation. I still think Houston's the team to beat."

Ferrall added that Seattle was only one game behind Houston.

"I can't see that lasting," Nightengale said. "I can't. Houston is just so, so good. Seattle's playing well. . . . They would have to collapse not to make the playoffs. But there's no way in the world I can see them overtaking the Astros. The Astros are too powerful."

Another team that's made news in the MLB has been the Nationals-- but for a different reason. 

"You're talking about the most underachieving team in all of baseball," Nightengale said. "Here's a team that fired Dusty Baker last year after winning 97 games and back-to-back division titles. They said, 'Well, that's not enough. We want to get the World Series.' You better make the playoffs first, and right now, they're in a big hole. They've got to play .600 ball in the second half just to have a chance."

Ferrall asked if he thought it was possible to play that .600 ball with the team they've watched up to this point. 

"No, not so far. Something's missing," Nightengale said. "Yeah, they've had injuries, but so has everybody else in baseball. Again, nobody's really carrying that offense. Harper's really struggling. Murphy hasn't been the same guy since he came back. Zimmerman's out. So, on and on."

Regardless of facing a season plagued with injuries, the Dodgers are in a good spot and look like a threat. Ferrall wondered if Nightengale thought it was possible that they catch the Diamondbacks and win the West.

"They're coming on real strong, and they're going to keep making moves," Nightengale said. "They got a reliever today from Cincinnati. They still want to get another starter. They're after Michael Fulmer from Detroit, and they're the favorite for Manny Machado of Baltimore. I think the only way here that Arizona can hold them off is if they get Machado instead. Otherwise, I think it's the Dodgers again. The Diamondbacks had a chance to put them away and didn't. And now I think they're going to pay the price."

Alongside the Machado rumors, there have also been rumors about the Dodgers going after Scooter Gennett. 

"I don't know about Scooter," Nightengale said. "He makes a lot of money. They could, but why bother with Scooter Gennett when you have a chance to get Machado. .. Nothing against Gennett, but Machado is an MVP-type candidate. Last year, they blew it. They had a chance to get Justin Verlander, ...Instead, they went the cheap route and got Yu Darvish and it cost them. They would've won the World Series if they got Justin Verlander. And I think you go get Machado, you get a great chance to at least get to the World Series."