1. If the White Sox don't win the AL Central, will it be the worst collapse ever?
There isn't a precedent for what the White Sox are doing. On Aug. 1, they had a 15-game lead with 58 to play. No one has ever fallen that far and missed the postseason. So yes, the White Sox could have the worst fall. And for the first time they seem to accept that this is possible. Manager Ozzie Guillen has said that if his team wins 95 or 96 games and fails to make the playoffs he could live with that outcome. His players are starting to say the same thing. That, of course, assumes the White Sox split their last 10 games, which seems unlikely the way they are playing now.
In any case, with a lead down to 1 1/2 games with 10 to play, the fall might not be as bad as the 1964 Phillies, who blew a 6 1/2-game lead with 15 to play and finished in third behind St. Louis and Cincinnati. The 1951 Dodgers lost a 4 1/2 game lead over the Giants with 10 games left and wound up losing in a playoff on Bobby Thomson's home run.
At least the White Sox, whose decline has been more steady, won't have collapsed that badly.
2. Do the Padres have a chance in the postseason?
As far as underdogs go, San Diego might be the biggest. It's not even the record -- which could well be sub-.500. After all, the Padres have not used some of their better players at times in hopes of resting everybody for the playoffs. This probably cost them some games but they knew there was no way they were going into October as anything other the third-best division winner.
The bigger problem is their starting pitching. They have little of it. Any team that is looking at starting Pedro Astacio and Chan Ho Park in the postseason has pitching problems. Therefore their best hopes come down to Jake Peavy. The only problem with Peavy is that he is recovering from a shoulder problem and has lost several miles per hour off his fastball. That said, he won the other night in his return to the mound, leaving just a glimmer of hope for the Padres that he could start twice in a short series.
And who knows?
3. Does Barry Bonds make the Giants favorites in the NL West next year?
Had he returned sooner, San Francisco might be leading the division, given how bad it was this season. But Bonds' four home runs in a little more than a week serves notice that he is indeed back to his old form. And with that swing comes the fear. When the Nationals walked him to get to Moises Alou the other night, it was just like the old days. And Alou became an immediate beneficiary as Livan Hernandez grooved a fastball that Bonds hammered over the fence.
Start spreading Bonds' intentional walks over a year and the hitters before and after him will become empowered.
"Since Barry came back, it's really made this team a lot better," Alou told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's a whole different game. Hopefully we can keep playing the way we are playing and I think we will."
Given what we've seen in the last week, it's impossible not to imagine the Giants picking up right where they left off before Bonds was hurt, winning games simply because opponents don't know what to do with him. And in a National League West that has been dreadful that might be all it takes.
4. Could the Cardinals have clinched too soon?
St. Louis finished off the rest of the National League Central with two weeks to play, which puts them in an interesting quandary. They want to be able to rest players for the postseason, letting some like first baseman Albert Pujols take time to let his ailing heel feel better, but they worry about losing something -- an edge that comes from fighting for the playoffs.
"What were we supposed to do? Lose on purpose so we can clinch later?" Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa said the other day.
Instead they are left to try and win games that really don't matter. They should have home field advantage locked up all the way through the playoffs and are really left with only one goal -- 100 wins.
LaRussa says his players are professionals and will not let these last two weeks affect their postseason play. And if Pujols's reaction to the suggestion he sit some this next week is any indication, the manager might be right. When approached about the possibility of sitting, Pujols looked shock and then declared that he gets paid to play not sit.
5. Will Kenny Rogers pitch for the Rangers after this year?
Probably not. In fact, he might not even pitch in Texas again this season. His attack on two television cameramen has not been forgotten by the organization and he has not pitched well enough at the end of the season for Texas to seriously consider bringing him back.
He is 3-3 with a 5.04 ERA since the all-star break -- a shaky performance that could also be attributed to the turmoil surrounding his cameraman incident. But in the last two seasons, Rogers is 22-7 with a 3.39 ERA before the break and 9-9 with a 5.28 ERA after it. At 40 years old, with the Rangers also suspecting he complained about a sore left hand to get out of pitching against the Angels and Red Sox, he will probably not find much of a market in free agency this year.