1. Is this the end of Joe Torre's run as Yankees manager?
Torre has weathered rumors of his imminent demise for much of the past decade but this has been his most trying season. A World Series appearance was expected when the $200 million roster was put together, but too many of the multi-millionaires broke down. He has two years and $13 million left coming his way but there seems to be an understanding that if the Yankees don't find a way to squeeze into the playoffs he will likely be gone.
"If that's so I don't know what I'd do differently," Torre recently told reporters. "I honestly don't know the difference between saving your job and trying to win a game. You don't manage to make it acceptable to other people. Even if you're going to get fired you do the things you think you should do."
Torre has called eight team meetings this year and has also faced a barrage of dramatic statements released by Owner George Steinbrenner that are usually mockingly read on New York sports radio with military music blaring in the background.
Torre probably deserves a lifetime pass with the Yankees for all he has put up with over the years but most of those seasons he had a dependable core of players who knew how to win. This latest collection of superstars has never developed the same cohesion and Torre seems lost as to how to make it come together -- if that's even possible to do.
2. Could Mike Hampton's career be over?
Chances are he will pitch again but it might not be for a long time and it might not be with the Braves. Just when Atlanta was hoping he could make it back for the playoffs, it appears that the pain he has been feeling in his arm is severe elbow damage that might require surgery that could sideline him all of next year.
"I can't see me getting back this year," Hampton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before he got a second opinion on the Braves' diagnosis that he would need the surgery. "Mentally and physically, I'm just spent."
The second opinion confirmed the first. It's not like the Hampton news is deadly to the Braves' October chances, after all he was just 1-2 with a 13.06 ERA since June and only threw 10 innings. But it confirms that Atlanta will have to start one and maybe two pitchers in the playoffs who have never pitched an inning in the postseason -- Horacio Ramirez, Jorge Sosa or Kyle Davies. Another option, John Thomson, has one-third of a playoff inning.
3. Can the Marlins ride Josh Beckett to the playoffs?
Once again it is the end of the year, which means Josh Beckett is pitching splendidly. And it might just be enough to push Florida past the rest of the teams clumped together in the wild-card race. Beckett is barely more than an average pitcher in the first five months of the year, going 29-29 2ith a 3.80 ERA in that time over his career. After Sept. 1, he becomes Roger Clemens with a 13-7 record and a 2.37 ERA. Remember he pitched that final Game 6 victory in the 2003 World Series in Yankee Stadium.
In the last three years, he has allowed two earned runs or less 13 times in 19 post-Sept. 1 starts.
By the way, Florida Manager Jack McKeon has stacked the rotation so that Beckett would be pitching on Oct. 3 if there is a one-game playoff for the NL wild card. Otherwise, he would be ready to start the first game of a division series.
4. Could this be Carlos Delgado's only year with the Marlins?
It seems preposterous given the way Florida fought to sign him last winter, but Delgado has $48 million left on his contract and there is no way to keep the current Marlins together. Operating on a minimal budget as stadium issues continue to be a problem, Florida would need to spend $90 million to bring back the same club next season, but payroll is likely to be no more than $70 million.
And since Florida seems unable to dump Mike Lowell and the $18 million it still owes him, the most likely candidate to be sent packing is Delgado, who cannot block a trade. He will be owed $13.5 million next season.
When this possibility was first reported by ESPN's Peter Gammons, team executive David Samson told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the scenario was absurd, but the Marlins will have to cut someplace and Delgado could be available in trade.
5. What is the best reason the White Sox will completely collapse?
The Indians are playing so well right now that outfielder Coco Crisp won the American League Player of the Week award by beating out two teammates -- Scott Elarton and Cliff Lee. Cleveland has made up 10 games on Chicago in the last month and a half and now the race for the American League Central could well lie in the schedule. The White Sox have six games left with Cleveland, including a three-game series that begins Monday in Chicago. But it's the other games that might be Chicago's undoing.
The Indians have seven games left with Kansas City and three with Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, Chicago has seven games with Minnesota and four with Detroit. Not that there is a big difference between Detroit, Kansas City and Tampa Bay. But the seven games Chicago has with Minnesota could be deadly to holding onto a division they thought they had wrapped up.
That said, the White Sox are 10-3 against Cleveland and in that lies their best hope for a title clinching.