It's no newsflash that the American League East Division is the toughest in the Major Leagues, which makes the 6-1 (2.13) record the Toronto Blue Jays' Brett Cecil carries from seven starts against the Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees into Monday's start against the Rays all the more significant.
But can you make the case this season is the toughest the AL East has been since the division format was adopted in 1995? Absolutely. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, heading into Sunday's games the Rays' and New York Yankees' 79 wins marked just the fourth time since 1969 that two teams within the same division had 78 wins through 128 games.
It is only the seventh time since the expansion era (1961) that two teams in the same league have as many wins after 128 games. Those three other seasons of two 78-win teams in the same division occurred in the National League.
Toss in the fact that the Boston Red Sox had 74 wins, and it is only the third time since '95 that three teams from the same division had 74 wins at this point in the season.
Cecil's eyebrows raised only slightly when the numbers were mentioned. Really, some things don't need quantifying. "Obviously, you can take something away from having that kind of success but, you know, next season it's going to be 'That was last season,'" Cecil said, shrugging.
Like Brandon Morrow, who found out Sunday he was going to be shut down after his next start as part of a preventative maintenance plan, Cecil was told last September that his year was done because of innings pitched. He threw 1421/3 innings in the Majors and minors combined in 2009 and has 1392/3 this season in the Majors plus 11 in the minors.
"We wanted to keep it around 180 innings this season," he said. "The key was would I be able to be consistent? That's what's pleased me the most. Getting shut down is tough because you're a competitor, and for me it meant going home two weeks early. But I talked to Brandon about it. He's fine with it."
The week ahead...in crisis management
"When do you get tired of losing? When do you get tired of getting your ass handed to you? We still have a long season left, but it's getting shorter and shorter every week."
B.C. Lions slotback Geroy Simon has more questions than answers ahead of his 1-7 team's game on Friday against the Montreal Alouettes.
"I don't know what that means. Joe's the manager. I look forward to my next start, but he makes the decisions."
Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett reacts to manager Joe Girardi's pledge to "evaluate" his rotation after the weekend. Burnett is 0-2 (12.20) and given up 20 hits in his last two starts and could be moved into the bullpen.
"It's a gentle way of saying your business case isn't there in the context of what you're trying to achieve."
Hamilton city councillor Terry Whitehead tells The Spectator what Pan Am games organizers meant when they told city officials that after examining the city's business plan for a stadium in the city's west harbour, they'll fund only a 5,000 to 7,000 seat facility instead of a 15,000-seat facility as was originally planned, in part because of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' stated intention to not play there. Council will discuss the matter Tuesday.
Note to all you puckheads
Enjoy your remaining rounds of golf and have no Fehr. Pay no heed to alarmists convinced that Donald Fehr's imminent naming as interim head of the NHL Players' Association means a labour stoppage is on the horizon.
True, Fehr will become the smartest person in the game the second his hiring is made official. But as his tenure as head of the Major League Baseball Players Association shows, he can also detect the slightest kernel of agreement during negotiations. Even a cursory reading of the situation shows that baseball ownership, specifically Jerry Reinsdorf, created the environment that made a player strike inevitable in 1994.
Fehr's only blemish is that he served his constituency well, that he is a great lawyer and shrewd manager of people and will go to the wall for his employees. As a former member of the United States Olympic Committee and guiding force behind the World Baseball Classic, he is a strong internationalist who will lend his voice to the Olympic debate.
Mostly, he will establish order in the NHLPA to the point where the loudest and not always smartest voices (hello, Chris Chelios) fill a leadership vacuum. In the end, a stronger and better run NHLPA will make for clearer labour dialogue. Fore!