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This week, Around the Horn has your quick updates on the crumbling Padres, the streaking Yankees, playoff vaccine mandates and more.
Things have been trending in this direction for the San Diego Padres most of the second half of the season. A decimated rotation. An overworked bullpen. An offense that was average at best turning into one of the worst units in baseball.
Now, a team that entered the season with World Series aspirations is three games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second NL wild-card spot. And after being swept by the Cardinals in a series that manager Jayce Tingler called a “must-win,” the Padres will have to deal with the fallout from a public shouting match between Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, with Machado telling the star shortstop to “go play baseball” and “it’s not fucking about you” after Tatis struck out looking in the top of the fifth inning on Saturday night.
Confrontations like these are normal in a major-league clubhouse. It is not normal, however, for them to occur and be captured on video. And it underscored the leadership void on this Padres team, as first reported by The Athletic, something that revealed itself during their latest stretch of 24 losses in 34 games.
Speaking of the Padres…
If the Padres miss the playoffs, which is an increasingly likely scenario, changes will likely soon follow. And the most obvious candidate to be replaced is Tingler, who is only in his second season as manager.
The finger-pointing inside the Padres organization began when they fired pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Aug. 23. It has only grown in recent weeks, especially after this latest skid that has their playoff odds at a mere 5.3 percent in a season that began as World Series or bust, and Tinger’s job status is the talk among executives around the league.
If Tingler is indeed fired, a name to watch could be Bruce Bochy, who managed the Padres from 1995-2006 before managing the San Francisco Giants from 2007-2019.
Cardinals have found their magic
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Devil Magic has arrived — and it has them on the verge of securing the second NL wild-card spot.
Who could have seen this coming? On Aug. 10, they were 8.5 games out of postseason contention. Jack Flaherty went on the IL. Alex Reyes, their All-Star closer, was struggling. The offense remained inconsistent. The rotation was relying on 40-year-old Adam Wainwright, with president of baseball operations John Mozeliak bringing in aging veterans Jon Lester and J.A. Happ at the trade deadline to provide depth to get through the rest of the season without completely taxing the bullpen.
Instead, Paul Goldschmidt has been among the best hitters in baseball, hitting .324/.299/.588 with 13 home runs in the second half. Tyler O’Neill has emerged as a star. Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson have stepped up.
The rotation, headlined by Wainwright, has stepped up and the Cardinals’ No. 1 rated defense has helped Lester and Happ pitch deep into games.
As recently as two weeks ago, few saw the Cardinals getting to this point. Now, they pose a serious threat to either the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants in a one-game wild-card matchup.
Yankees can’t stop streaking
The New York Yankees might be the most streaky team in baseball. Take a look at this.
First 15 games: 5-10.
Next 32 games: 23-9.
Next 18 games: 5-13.
Next 9 games: 7-2.
Next 8 games: 1-7.
Next 46 games: 35-11.
Next 13 games: 2-11.
Last 6 games: 4-2.
The moral of the story: when the Yankees are good, they are good. When the Yankees are bad, they are bad.
Entering Monday, the Yankees are 1.5 games out of the AL wild-card spot. Their playoff odds are 25.3 percent. Their final three series come against the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays. All three are AL East contenders and seven of those 10 games come on the road. That’s tough. I don’t think the Yankees make the playoffs.
Predicting the wild card spots
In the National League, I’ll go with the Dodgers and Cardinals. In the American League, I’ll go with the Blue Jays and Red Sox.
Max Scherzer against Adam Wainwright. Robbie Ray, who is firmly in the AL Cy Young discussion, against … Chris Sale? He is an obvious choice, but after he went on the COVID IL for the second time and revealed that he is not vaccinated, his availability comes into question moving forward. Which leads me into my final point…
Major League Baseball will require non-playing personnel (managers, coaches, athletic trainers, etc.) to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to gain field access and to other restricted areas in the postseason.
As Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported, one manager on a contending team remains unvaccinated. The manager, however, assured Heyman that he will be vaccinated to be with his team in the postseason. But other team personnel will be forced to make that same decision in the coming days and weeks, adding another wrinkle to this year’s postseason.