While humming the theme to WKRP in Cincinnati to myself the other day I asked myself, "Why are the Reds in first place in their division, while the Toronto Blue Jays are in last in the AL East?"
A year ago entering play on Aug. 10, the Reds had a 56-61 record and a plus-32 run differential. The Jays at the same point were 59-57 with a plus-13 differential.
Entering the weekend, Cincinnati is 66-46, even with a five-game losing streak with a plus-64 run differential and a 2 1/2 game lead over Pittsburgh in the National League Central.
The Jays are 53-58 with a minus-1 differential. Both teams have key players out with injuries. Joey Votto is probably a week to 10 days away as he battles back from knee surgery. Scott Rolen is in and out of the Cincy lineup with back issues.
The Jays have been hit much harder with a Major League leading 13 players on the disabled list including Morrow, Bautista and Lawrie.
Yet in terms of talent and payroll, there isn't much to choose between these two clubs. Cincinnati is paying out roughly $76.3 million this season. The Jays right behind them at just over $75 million.
The Reds don't play in a division as difficult as the American League East, especially when they have the chance to beat up on also-rans like the Cubs and Astros. The National League minus the DH isn't as tough on pitchers either.
If you look at the teams' stats side by side, there is one clear difference. Cincinnati's starting rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake hasn't missed a single start due to injury.
That quintette has a combined record of 45-30 with 67 quality starts. The Jays starters on the other hand - all 11 that have been used are (42-43) with just 53 quality starts.
Not trying to beat a dead horse, but if the Jays are going to be better next season, they must upgrade the starting rotation either through trade or free agency.
If Joey Votto doesn't have any further injury setbacks, he's right there in the running for National League MVP along with the Pirates' Andrew McCutcheon. But another player to watch down the stretch is Giants catcher Buster Posey. He's batting .329 with 18 homers and 73 RBIs - a remarkable comeback for someone who missed 75 percent of last season with a broken leg.
The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano has never really been the player most though he could be. Still, it's worth noting that along with Andre Dawson, he's the only player in the team's storied history to hit at least 20 homers in each of his first six seasons with the club and along with Albert Pujols and David Ortiz, the only other active player to slug at least 20 dingers 11 years running.
A gutsy decision by the Orioles to bring up rookie Manny Machado to start at third in the heat of a Wild card race.
I'll bet there are a lot of teams hoping Tampa Bay doesn't make the postseason. Evan Longoria is back and their pitching rotation has a 2.27 ERA since the All-Star break!
The Blue Jays have a very difficult home stand coming up - 10 games against the Yankees, White Sox and Rangers. They've dropped 15 of the last 19. If they're lucky, they could have Morrow, Lawrie and maybe Bautista back by next weekend against Texas.