Things are getting hot in the National League in the final days of the season. After last night’s results, here’s how things stand: The Brewers lead the wild-card race and are a half-game back of the Cubs in the central division; the Rockies are a half-game back of the Dodgers out west and now hold a half-game lead over the Cardinals for the second wild-card spot. If you’re enjoying this, thank Derek Jeter.
It’s the Brewers and the Cardinals that are really making this interesting—without both teams exceeding expectations, various races would already be mostly settled—and it’s unlikely they would be in the positions they are currently enjoying if they had not done business with Jeter and the Marlins during the offseason. In the process of shamelessly stripping a team they couldn’t afford in the first place down to its studs, Jeter and the rest of the Marlins ownership group shipped Christian Yelich to the Brewers and Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals.
Yelich has been nothing short of an MVP candidate. He’s hit 33 home runs while leading the NL in average (.321), slugging (.583), and OPS (.973). He’s racked up 6.4 rWAR, and it’s likely that the Brewers would be in the process of putting yet another mediocre and October-less season to bed without him. In last night’s head-to-head matchup with St. Louis, which Milwaukee won 12-4, Yelich drove in six runs via a three-run triple and a three-run homer.
Meanwhile, Ozuna got on base four times last night and scored one of the Cardinals’ runs. This was a nice followup to Monday night’s game, in which he took invincible super-reliever Josh Hader deep in the sixth inning to give the Cards a 4-3 lead (Milwaukee would eventually win the game 6-4). Ozuna hasn’t been as flawless as Yelich this year, but he’s still put together a very nice season with 23 homers, a .280/.325/.436 slash line, and 2.7 rWAR.
The Marlins’ decision to all but give away two immensely talented hitters entering their primes for no other reason than craven payroll-shaving was and will remain some bullshit. But if a team is going to self-immolate like that, the best-case scenario is for the best of their discarded players to end up somewhere where they can really make a difference. It’s not a stretch to say that Ozuna and Yelich’s presence in the NL Central completely changed the course of the season. They’ve done so for the better, because we’ve got less than a week of baseball left, and five teams still have everything to play for.
And while your disgust for the Marlins persists, save some for the teams that could have easily lifted Yelich, Ozuna, or any of the other good players Jeter was tossing off the back of a truck this winter, but simply chose not to. If in a few days the the Rockies end up missing the playoffs by a game, ask me how I feel about their decision to stand pat and give Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra another go in the outfield instead of tossing some prospects in Jeter’s direction. I won’t feel good about it, I can tell you that!