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DODGERS THREATEN GIANTS’ 2016 PLACE

By Murray Chass

August 28, 2016

The Los Angeles Dodgers apparently didn’t get the memo. The one to all major league teams reminding them that as an even-numbered year this one belongs to the San Francisco Giants and everybody stay out of their way. Ignoring reality, the Dodgers have plopped themselves in the Giants’ way in their quest to position themselves for a fourth World Series championship in seven years.

Once eight games ahead of the Dodgers, the Giants plunged three games behind them last week before shaving their deficit to two games by beating the Dodgers in the final game of their three-game series. The teams entered Sunday’s games with two games separating them.

This is supposed to be the Giants’ year to win the World Series because they won it in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Of course, they don’t have to finish ahead of the Dodgers in the National League West to be in position to win the 2016 World Series. They can qualify for the post-season as a wild card, as they did in 2014.

That year the Giants finished six games behind the Dodgers in the division but tied Pittsburgh for the best wild-card record. They beat the Pirates in the wild-card game, then knocked off Washington in the division series, St. Louis in the league championship series and Kansas City in the seven-game World Series.

The Giants began play Sunday two games behind the Dodgers but ahead of the other contenders in the wild-card standings.

The way the first 90 games of the season went it didn’t seem as if the Giants would have difficulty winning the N.L. West title. They reached the All-Star break with the best record in the majors, 57-33, six and a half games ahead of the second-place Dodgers. They had held first place for all but 13 days of that 90-game segment of the season.

However, the Dodgers’ 51-40 record was respectable and kept them close enough to challenge the Giants post-All-Star break. From the resumption of the season through Saturday night, the Dodgers had a 21-17 record. Again, respectable but not good enough to overcome the Giants unless the Giants helped.

The Giants more than helped. Playing as if their “win” switch had been turned off, the Giants lost 25 of their first 36 games after the break, dropping out of first place and falling three games behind the Dodgers. Just in time, though, before their season completely spiraled out of control, Manager Bruce Bochy relocated the “win” switch and the Giants rallied for a pair of victories before the weekend and sliced their deficit to one game.

Because this is 2016, it is not surprising that …

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EVER HEARD OF TED WILLIAMS?

By Murray Chass

August 25, 2016

It’s not that I collect pet peeves; they just appear and join the ones I already have. Take, for example, the sentence I read Tuesday in an otherwise fine article on ESPN.com. It just leaped off the computer screen and slammed me in the face.

Written by Wallace Matthews, the article was about baseball’s increasing use of defensive shifts and their effect on the game. A worthwhile piece, I thought as I read it, and well explained. Then came this paragraph:

“Since 2006, the number of runs scored in Major League Baseball has plummeted from 23,599 to 19,761, and among the insiders” (talk about pet peeves; I deplore that word and what it is intended to mean) “ESPN.com spoke to for this story, there is the belief that it is partly due to base hits being taken away by the shift. In fact, one Yankees executive predicted baseball would never see another .400 hitter because of the shift.”

How could any baseball executive say that, and how could any baseball writer write it without …

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HAPP + ESTRADA > PRICE

By Murray Chass

August 21, 2016

In an unusual burst of front-office activity in the past year, major league clubs hired a dozen new general managers and hired or promoted three general managers to positions as heads of their baseball operations.

Some of those newly positioned people have had early success in turning their teams’ fortunes around while others are still struggling to achieve that status.

It should be noted, however, that the best off-season acquisition was made by an assistant general manager, Tony LaCava of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Last Nov. 27, six days before the Blue Jays named Ross Atkins their new general manager, LaCava signed free-agent pitcher J.A. Happ to a 3-year, $36 million contract. The 33-year-old left-hander has turned into a big bargain, enjoying the performance of his career with a 17-3 record, best in the majors.

The Blue Jays left negotiations to LaCava because Alex Anthoupolos had resigned as general manager a month earlier, rejecting a contract extension and an invitation to stay under the new club president, Mark Shapiro.

Several years earlier LaCava had rejected an opportunity to become …

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