Recently unearthed tweets from several players suggest that baseball still has a large problem with racism and homophobia.
Virtually every contender is at least a little bit stronger in the wake of Tuesday’s non-waivers trade deadline, having picked the carcasses of several teams who have long since given up.
With that in mind, here’s a ranking of the top eight World Series contenders after the flurry of Tuesday’s activity subsides:
What they did: Got Manny Machado early and Brian Dozier late, giving them a power-packed infield flanked by Justin Turner and Max Muncy. All four players, by the way, did not start the season on their active roster. John Axford gives them one more fungible arm for the bullpen.
What they didn’t do: Augment the starting rotation. Ross Stripling is leaking oil, but the Dodgers figure to attack the rest of the season and the postseason with a multitude of arms in a variety of roles. Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood will head the rotation; when it comes playoff time, expect brief bursts from the likes of Stripling, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and the powerful Walker Buehler, be it in abbreviated starts or multi-inning relief appearances.
Why they could win it all: They hit more home runs than anybody and that’s before adding Dozier, who has 16 this season and hit a career-best 42 in 2016. Nobody is deeper.
Why they could fall short: Beyond Kenley Jansen, the reliever group is relatively ordinary and Axford won’t vastly change that. Have they found the one out they needed in Game 2 that cost them the 2017 World Series?
Consensus: The best thing the Dodgers have going for them is their National League citizenship; they should pull away from the West and be aligned to overwhelm the NL field. They are not better than the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros or Indians – but they only have to worry about beating one of them.
What they did: Added suspended closer Roberto Osuna and shipped off deposed closer Ken Giles. Acquired catcher Martin Maldonado from the Angels.
What they didn’t do: Add to infield depth in the wake of injuries to Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Correa is set to begin a rehab assignment soon; he’s been out since June 25 with a back ailment.
Why they could win it all: Perhaps no team is more complete, and no team can bring it with a starting four of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton. They can cover innings one through nine almost every night with power arms.
Why they could fall short: Just a few weeks ago a repeat looked in the cards; now, the controversial acquisition of Osuna – who faces a Wednesday court date in Toronto on an assault charge – has the clubhouse scratching its head. Osuna’s domestic violence suspension ends Aug. 5; less certain is whether his addition will create bad mojo as the Astros aim to fend off Seattle.
Consensus: Houston is bound for its third playoff berth in four years and could avoid the Yankees or Red Sox until the ALCS. That bodes particularly well for survival.
3. Red Sox
What they did: Added starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and second baseman Ian Kinsler.
What they didn’t do: Add a lefty reliever – or any reliever – to a bullpen that’s been solid but approaching overuse.
Why they could win it all: They aren’t flirting with a .700 winning percentage by accident – the Red Sox are an at times spectacular team that will flourish in October should ace Chris Sale hold serve early. If Eovaldi isn’t needed in the playoff rotation, he will be a dangerous multi-inning relief threat.
Why they could fall short: Can Matt Barnes, Tyler Thornburg and Joe Kelly bridge the gap to Craig Kimbrel in October? Can lefty starters Drew Pomeranz and Brian Johnson contribute as relievers? They’ll need all hands on deck, unless David Price suddenly morphs into Sandy Koufax.
Consensus: Had they won the Zach Britton sweepstakes, the Red Sox might be atop this list. Instead, they are dangerous but imperfect. Assuming they can avoid the wild card game and have something in the tank should they meet the Yankees in the Division Series, an epic ALCS could await.
What they did: Added lefty starter Cole Hamels and reliever Brandon Kintzler.
What they didn’t do: Dig deep for a longer-term rotation solution such as Chris Archer.
Why they could win it all: They’ve won 18 of their last 27 and should pitch the ball better than the Brewers, who lurk just a game back. If Jon Lester’s revival extends to October, they may have a playoff stopper.
Why they could fall short: How bad is Kris Bryant’s left shoulder? He’s on the DL for a second time and the club must wait until he’s confident he won’t aggravate it again. His OPS was already nearly 100 points off his 2017 mark; a diminished or absent Bryant would make the Cubs a lot easier to pitch to come playoff time.
Consensus: After all the hubbub of 2016, it’s odd to view the Cubs as sleepers, but that’s where they are. Whether they slide up or down this list in two months will largely depend on Yu Darvish’s health and whether Hamels gets the expected bump of pitching in Wrigley Field rather than Arlington, Texas.
What they did: Added relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber and outfielder Leonys Martin.
What they didn’t do: Trade for Manny Machado or add to the starting rotation.
Why they could win it all: Jose Ramirez is having an MVP-caliber season, Michael Brantley is an All-Star yet again and the bullpen is once again vaunted thanks to the deal with the Padres to land Hand and Cimber.
Why they could fall short: Corey Kluber being something less than a Klubot. Certainly, Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger are striking out a batter an inning and could play quite well in October. But Kluber’s precipitous drop in strikeout rate – from 11.7 to 8.6 per nine innings – and rise in Fielding Independent Pitching (2.50 to 3.45) are concerning.
Consensus: Like the Cubs, the Indians are old news, but should not be underestimated. They’ll have all September to fine-tune – they already have an eight-game lead and will come nowhere near contending for the best record. Tight races throughout the rest of the AL might be their best ally.
What they did: Added reliever Zach Britton and starters J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn.
What they didn’t do: Gaze into a crystal ball to realize Aaron Judge was going to miss a few weeks with a wrist injury. No worries: They still have plenty of outfield firepower.
Why they could win it all: Bullpens rule in October. And landing Britton will give the Yankees the most fearsome relief corps come playoff time.
Why they could fall short: Will new starters Lynn and Happ be more reliable than prior import Sonny Gray? That may determine their survival beyond one game.
Consensus: Great moves by GM Brian Cashman, but they may come too late to catch the Red Sox. Can the Yankees piece together a wild-card win and have enough in the tank to topple Boston or Houston? If so, rookie manager Aaron Boone might be wearing a ring.
What they did: Traded for catcher Wilson Ramos, infielder Asdrubal Cabrera and reliever Aaron Loup.
What they didn’t do: Add rotation depth for a starting quintet that may run out of gas.
Why they could win it all: A winnable division, a legitimate playoff ace in Aaron Nola and power arms in the bullpen. On paper, the Phillies don’t match up with the Dodgers or Cubs. But should they avoid the wild card, it’s easy to imagine Nola toppling a Clayton Kershaw or Jon Lester and immediately shifting the tenor of the playoffs.
Why they could fall short: Are they ahead of schedule? While Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta add World Series gravitas, the Phillies are young and untested in many spots, particularly the bullpen.
Consensus: They will have to hold off an aggressive Braves club and a not-quitting Nationals squad down the stretch. But if Nola is rested and ready for a Game 1, they could make a lot of noise.
What they did: Traded for infielders Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop and reliever Joakim Soria.
What they didn’t do: Replace injured starter Brent Suter, who is headed for Tommy John surgery.
Why they could win it all: Power – at the plate and in the bullpen. Moustakas and Schoop add considerable pop to an already good lineup, while the back end of Corey Knebel, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader and Soria shortens games better than anyone this side of the Bronx – and can allow manager Craig Counsell considerable creativity in a wild-card setting.
Why they could fall short: There’s a reason they need to shorten games – the rotation is rather pedestrian.
Consensus: The Brewers will be a good case study in how deadline aggression buoys a clubhouse. Milwaukee went above and beyond – now we’ll see if the lads respond.