Baseball’s Caste System: Rigid as Ever

Baseball's trade deadline has come and gone. And nothing much has changed — as if you didn't know.

An analysis of the final standings of 2018 and the current standings of 2019 bear this out: Of 2018's 10 playoff teams, six would make the playoffs if the 2019 season ended today, and they would be joined by the Rays (who finished 90-72 a year ago) and the Cardinals (88-74 in 2018) both of whom would be in as wild cards in 2019 as things stand now, while the A's, a 2018 wild card team, trail Tampa Bay by just a half game.

So you see, we're talking a lot of "same old, same old" here.

But back to the trade deadline: Dan Schlossberg, who has written 38 books and more than 20,000 articles about baseball (!) weighed in on who the "winners" and the "losers" were — citing a dozen winners and only half a dozen losers (don't know how that's possible), with the winners list headed by the Astros, who acquired 2009 Cy Young award winner Zach Greinke in a five-player deal with the Diamondbacks. Greinke will join 2011 Cy Young laureate Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in the starting rotation, which could add up to a sweep of a best-of-five Division Series for Houston.

Four of Schlossberg's next five trade-deadline winners are the NL East-leading Braves, the AL wild card-leading Indians, and NL wild-card co-leading Nationals and Phillies. The Rays, Twins, and Cubs, also would-be playoff-makers as of now, grace the list.

Seems as if this is a case of the rich getting richer.

As for the losers: While it is true that the Yankees top that list, they can afford to be there, as they are playoff bound one way or another barring a '64 Phillies-style meltdown. The Dodgers came in at No. 2, but they have a 16-game lead in the NL West. The Red Sox made no moves at all, the wild card-leading Cardinals did next to nothing, sending third baseman Jedd Gyorko to the Dodgers for lefty reliever Tony Cingriani, the Diamondbacks mortgaged their future for a quick fix (something NFL teams typically do, not MLB teams) by trading promising young shortstop Jazz Chisholm to the Marlins for Zac Gallen, who will replace Greinke (Zac for Zach — oh, the symmetry of it all!), and the Rockies are non-contenders who also took a pass at the deadline.

If nothing changes over the next two months — and you can never bet against that being the case in baseball — the AL Central-leading Twins, who finished 78-84 and second in the division in 2018, will be the worst 2018 finisher to make the playoffs in 2019.

My my, that's some Cinderella story!

This is a big reason why baseball has fallen behind football as America's number one sport among fans, the cliche "national pastime" having long since become shopworn.

And no amount of attempts to "speed up the game" will change that.

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