Source: USA TODAY
Stunningly slow starts by three of baseball’s preseason favorites have led to inevitable speculation about managers’ futures and the wisdom of the front offices’ acquisitions.
But there’s really only one pertinent question for the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays: Is it already too late?
The Dodgers, at least, will be getting help. Marquee pitching acquisition Zack Greinke — one of nine Dodgers on the disabled list — could return as soon as Wednesday from a collarbone injury. Still, manager Don Mattingly couldn’t help but note a recent game that broke an eight-game losing streak was “a game you feel like you have to win.”
That’s reality for the last-place Dodgers (15-21), seven games behind the National League West-leading San Francisco Giants and 5½ games out of a wild-card spot.
Catching four teams won’t be easy, and the Dodgers have the majors’ worst intra-division mark (5-16).
The challenges facing the Angels and Blue Jays are tougher.
The 14-23 Angels are 10 games behind in the American League West. Texas is the division’s only team with a winning record. But if the Rangers merely go 63-62 the rest of the year, they would win 87 and force the Angels to go 73-52 to catch them. “We need to get our bullpen guys healthy,” Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto says, “and that will help.”
But there’s more urgency than that, especially for a team with sluggers Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton posting career lows in batting average, on-base and slugging percentage.
The 87 wins is a bench mark for anyone thinking playoffs. The Blue Jays must go 72-51 to get there, the Dodgers 72-54.
Over the last 10 years — even if baseball had been using the two wild-card system instituted last season — only once (2006 in the NL) could a team have earned a wild-card slot with less than 87 wins. The magic number’s been as high as 91, in 2004.
Playing catch-up in the AL East will be tough for Toronto. The Blue Jays are 8-15 against division rivals, and their 23 division games are the most by any AL East team. Toronto will have played 33 of its 76 division games by Memorial Day.