Andrew McCutchen is hitting .343 heading into Saturday's game against… (Gene J. Puskar / Associated…)
Could be a pain in the asterisk
Baseball's best race this September: Andrew McCutchen vs. the Invisible Man.
Melky Cabrera and his excessive testosterone called it a season with a .346 batting average and 501 plate appearances. That would leave the San Francisco Giants' outfielder one appearance short of the National League batting title, if not for this rule: Give a player an out for every appearance short of the required 502. If his average is still the highest, he wins.
Add one out to Cabrera's stats, and his average stays at .346.
That leaves McCutchen, the star of the reborn Pittsburgh Pirates, chasing a number rather than a player. McCutchen was batting .343 through Friday.
The commissioner is rooting hard for McCutchen, of course. Bud Selig refused to show up when Barry Bonds broke the all-time home run record, then took thinly veiled shots at him in a congratulatory statement. Selig certainly wants no part of a tainted batting title, but the hysterical cries for him to stop Cabrera are ridiculous.
Bonds still holds his record. Manny Ramirez still has 555 home runs. Rafael Palmeiro still has 3,020 hits. To arbitrarily strip one guy of hits would be beyond unfair.
The better solution? The minimum number of drug tests should be two a month, not two a season.
The young and the restless
It sounds ludicrous, but a 50-year-old could start in the major leagues a few days after a healthy pitcher less than half his age could be shut down.
The Washington Nationals already have called it a season for 24-year-old ace Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals are limiting Strasburg's innings in his first full season after elbow surgery, so the first postseason baseball in the District of Columbia since 1933 apparently will go on without him.
The slight saving grace for Washington management: The Nationals should make the playoffs easily. Through Friday, they had a 6 1/2-game lead in the National League East and a 12 1/2-game cushion for a wild-card spot with 24 games to play. Imagine the outrage if the Nationals' pennant race came down to the final day or two, with Strasburg held out by his own team.
Roger Clemens could decide to pitch for his hometown Houston Astros as soon as Wednesday, letting the worst team in the majors sell a few seats while setting his Hall of Fame eligibility back five years in the hope voters lighten up on the steroid era.
The Astros' AARP-friendly opponent on Wednesday? The Chicago Cubs, with the worst on-base percentage (.298) in the league.
Good news for Donnie Baseball
With the Dodgers' owners negotiating a contract extension for General Manager Ned Colletti, the time has come for Manager Don Mattingly to exhale.
Mattingly's contract expires after next season. However, Colletti and Mattingly probably will discuss an extension this winter, so that Mattingly need not enter next season as a potential lame-duck manager.
If the new owners had opted to replace Colletti, Mattingly would have been at the mercy of a general manager who had not hired him. Instead, Mattingly could manage his first relatively normal season in 2013, with the legal and financial perils of former owner Frank McCourt limiting the Dodgers' ability to compete last year and an extreme roster makeover compelling Mattingly to try to build clubhouse chemistry on the fly this year.