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Down The Line

INSIDE BASEBALL

This season, 17 of 30 teams enter the Fourth of July weekend within four games of a playoff berth. For the same weekend last season, 15 teams were within four games of a playoff berth.

July 03, 2011|Kevin Baxter

Parity or parody?

Much has been made of baseball's parity, with 16 of the 30 teams entering Saturday within four games of a playoff berth.

Even Washington Manager Davey Johnson, who joined the Nationals last week, thinks his team has a shot at the postseason.

"If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't have taken the job," said Johnson, whose team is at .500.

A closer look at the numbers, however, reveals that balance isn't anything new. Rather, this is a repeat of last year.

Heading into the Fourth of July weekend a year ago, 15 teams were within four games of a playoff berth. And if the season ended today, five of the eight playoff teams would be teams that also played in the postseason a year ago.

Which makes you wonder why Commissioner Bud Selig keeps floating ideas such as realignment and expanding the wild-card field, ostensibly to create more excitement around the pennant races.

Diluting the playoff field won't create excitement; it will reward mediocrity. When even the Nationals -- a franchise that hasn't been to the postseason in three decades dating to its days in Montreal -- reaches the season's halfway point thinking it has a chance despite a losing record, it's time to leave well enough alone.

Historic homecoming

When the Nationals' Danny Espinosa hit his 15th home run of the season Monday in Angel Stadium, he knew just where to look in the stands to find his family. That's because his dad, a lawyer, has been an Angels season-ticket holder for more than 20 years. As a boy Espinosa spent many a summer night sitting in those same seats.

"It's crazy," he said. "Being up there all the time and watching all the players ... and then being here, looking up and seeing my family, knowing exactly where they are."

The homer was a historic one since no rookie second baseman has ever hit 15 before the All-Star break. Espinosa also leads first-year players in eight other offensive categories, including runs (40), stolen bases (nine) and runs batted in (48), making him a favorite for the National League rookie-of-the-year award.

The former Mater Dei High and Long Beach State standout says people bring that subject up all the time, but that he hasn't given it much thought.

"If it happens, it happens. If I don't get it, I don't get it," he says. "That's not my main focus."

Stat Watch (SoCal edition)

* Through 39 dates, the Angels are on pace to outdraw the Dodgers at home for the first time. With an average crowd of 38,686, the Angels are heading toward a home season attendance of 3.13 million. The Dodgers are on pace to draw 2.92 million, their lowest home attendance figure in a non-strike year since 1992.

* Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has two hits in seven at-bats against left-handers this season, one more than White Sox slugger Adam Dunn has in 53 at-bats. Angels pitcher Tyler Chatwood has gone two for three against right-handers. That's the same number of hits former Dodger Andruw Jones has in 17 at-bats against right-handers and one more than Manny Ramirez had in 14 at-bats before he retired.

-- Kevin Baxter

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