Epstein: Who is your favorite national baseball columnist? Similarly, who is your go-to local personality?
Hemingway: George Will is my favorite national baseball columnist. Tom Boswell has absolutely owned the story of the Nationals this year. And while he’s not based in St. Louis, my favorite guy to follow for all things Redbirds is Will Leitch.
Housley: My favorite baseball guys are Peter Gammons and Barry Bloom.
Travers: I enjoy Jayson Stark’s columns — they can be enjoyed by a diehard or the person who just tuned in during a winning streak or the playoffs. Plus he’s from Philadelphia so his columns on the Phillies over the past few seasons have been fun to read — he understands the mentality of the fan base better than any national baseball writer.
Epstein: If you could make just one tweak to the game, what would it be?
Hemingway: Assuming we all agree about getting rid of the DH, I’d get rid of the wild card. My own team wouldn’t be in the postseason, but I still oppose it. A pennant race used to mean something. If you can’t get the job done in 162 games, you shouldn’t get extra chances. And with this change leading to two wild cards, the situation is worse. The Braves, for instance came very close to winning the NL East but now they could be eliminated by the Cardinals, a team that has no business even being in a position to eliminate them.
Klein: I used to love the infield-fly rule for its gentlemanly spirit; now I loathe it and want it repealed.
Why should you be rewarded with the guarantee of only one out if you hit a fly ball, with two or three runners on base, that doesn’t even leave the infield? You’re not similarly rewarded if you hit a sharp ground ball or a rocket of a line drive that leaves the defense a chance of turning two.
Think of the extra action if the runner has to go a quarter or half way — a game of chicken on the basepaths while the infielder decides whether to risk letting a sure out drop on the grass.
[Note: Immediately following the Cardinals–Braves wild-card game, in which the controversial application of the infield-fly rule in the bottom of the eighth inning hurt Atlanta’s chances of a comeback, I asked Klein for a follow-up comment. His response: “P.S. Braves fans, I rest my case.”]
Housley: I’d also make a few tweaks. I would be to ensure interleague play doesn’t expand any more than it already has . . . there’s something special about the separate leagues.
I would allow the A’s to build a stadium in San Jose. I’d also consider allowing the Rays to move to Brooklyn if they don’t get a new stadium in Tampa. I’d love to see three teams in New York again and I think it would spread the money out a bit.
Epstein: So which two teams make this year’s World Series?
Klein: I’m not making World Series predictions. I just won’t fall for that trap.
Hemingway: I’ll go with Tigers/Nats.
Travers: Giants/Yankees. Even with other teams surging, these two teams can figure out ways to win. Both teams beat my Phillies in recent playoff series so I know that firsthand the hard way. I’ll go with Yankees in six.
Krauthammer: No one has any idea. With all due respect, predictions will be 90 percent luck this time around. This is the price of parity. The NFL has had it for years. Baseball is finally getting some approximation of it, as teams are discovering that minimum salary spent on very young players — Oakland’s starting rotation is 80 percent rookie — is an infinitely better investment. The old money powerhouses — Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs — are loaded down with huge contracts (the Red Sox are beginning to shed some) are now being outmatched by upstarts like the Nationals, A’s, and Orioles. And the Yankees are getting old. This may be their last year before a rebuilding.
But that means that of the ten teams in the postseason, the differences between them are much smaller than the norm. Any of them has a chance in the roulette process that yields the World Series.
Whatever advantage there is lies with starting pitching. Probably the best are San Francisco and Washington. If Strasburg were pitching for Washington, they would be the National League pennant favorites. Without him, it’s a shootout. Cincinnati has formidable hitters, Atlanta is balanced. St. Louis is the most problematic.
Given that the top four teams have each a roughly equal shot, I’ll go with the Nationals for sentimental reasons.
American League: Yankees probably have a marginal advantage.
Yanks over Nats in six.
Epstein: Thank you to everyone for taking time out to participate. Enjoy the postseason! (In other words, don’t work too hard.
— Jason Epstein is president of Southfive Strategies, LLC, and a contributor to Right Field.