The 2012 playoffs get underway today with the new Wild Card round, which is pretty exciting - two games, two winners, two teams go home. For those who hated the playoff changes this year, and were somehow unconvinced by the fact that the final two weeks of the season were as meaningful as any in recent memory (right there with 2011), hopefully today convinces you.
- That Wild Card round plays out entirely today, with two one-game shots to keep going in the playoffs. The Cardinals and Braves will square off at 5pm ET on TBS, and the Orioles and Rangers will go at 8:30pm ET, also on TBS. Kyle Lohse faces Kris Medlen in the NL game, with the Braves having won the last 23 games started by Medlen. Which, you know, means they'll probably lose. On the AL side, you've got Yu Darvish going for the Rangers and ... Joe Saunders? going for the Orioles. The Diamondbacks castoff has actually been rather effective in his seven starts for the Orioles (117 ERA+), and it's not like they've got an obvious couple of shutdown candidates from which to choose. The winner of the Braves/Cards game plays the Nationals, and the winner of the O's/Rangers game plays the Yankees.
- Grantland offers a preview of each game (AL and NL) if you're looking for some pre-game reading material.
- The inevitable happened, as the Boston Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine yesterday after just one (miserable) year managing the Sawx. There isn't much point in gloating, or noting how predestined his failure was, but there is a point in saying this: the Red Sox appear to have targeted former team pitching coach and current Blue Jays manager John Farrell, who is under contract through 2013. Since the Red Sox believe so firmly in receiving extraordinary amounts of compensation when employees leave for a promotion, surely they must agree that even more extraordinary amounts of compensation are due when employees leave for a lateral position. I expect they'll stand ready and willing to pony up a top prospect or two for Farrell. (Non-sarcastic comment: I wonder if they now regret the hard line they took about Theo Epstein, given that it netted them little more than they would have gotten in a more amicable, earlier agreement, and given that now they're the ones about to be squeezed.)
- The Marlins, too, are looking for a new manager, although they haven't yet officially fired Ozzie Guillen (for whom they gave up prospects last year, and whom they signed to a four-year, $10 million deal last year). It's possible that they'll let Guillen go only if they find a replacement they prefer. Kind of an awkward situation, though ...
- Rob Neyer digs in and discovers that Josh Hamilton may have had one of the worst 40+ homer, 120+ RBI seasons ever.
- Mark Grace and Daron Sutton are out as broadcasters in Arizona, which could impact Cubs or White Sox fans, with the Diamondbacks considering Bob Brenly (a "free agent") and Steve Stone (still under contract) as a possible color man replacement.
- With the A's doing it once again with a surprising roster, is it about time for Moneyball II?