At the beginning of the season, here were the predictions:
National League Playoff Teams: Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Milwaukee.
American League Playoff Teams: New York, Detroit, Texas, Anaheim, Boston and Chicago.
“It ain’t over ’till it’s over”, rings in our ears, Yogi. I can’t tell you what happened with Philadelphia. In Milwaukee it was the bullpen or lack thereof. Or it might have been the Prince factor. But there might be another reason. Blame it on San Francisco.
Why blame it on a team from “I Left My Heart Town”?
On April 2, 2012, San Francisco Giants signed Matt Cain to an eight year, $139.75 million contract, where in 2018, he will receive $21 million, which is a team option. For this season, he went from $7.3 million to $15 million and from 2013 thru 2017, he will be paid $20 million per year. He will be eligible for free agency in 2018. The Giants could buy that season out for $7.5 million.
Zach Greinke began the season with the Milwaukee Brewers and made $13.5 million. He was in the final year of his contract. Prior to the season, his disdain to have an agent was evident. He said the Milwaukee owner was one of the best in the world. He loved Milwaukee. In fact, he never lost a game on the mound at Miller Park. All was Brew City glow until Matt Cain signed his contract making him, the top paid pitcher in the National League and the biggest contract for a right-handed pitcher in the history of the game. Greinke immediately signed an agent who must have made it clear he wanted to test his proverbial waters before any more contract extension discussions could take place. As a known recluse, he made it clear he would not talk about contract during the season. Although 9-2, the Brewers had no decision to make except to get the most they could for one of their top pitchers. They were not going to pay Greinke $20+ million per year.
For the next several months, the team that was already feeling the void of their biggest slugger and lacking the presence of Prince Fielder, was swimming in a quandary of unknown. How would Greinke pitch? What effect would this ‘transition’ have on the entire pitching staff? Why not just pay him the $20 million and move ahead? On July 27th, he was shipped off to Orange County and back to the American League.
Sure. The Brewers made an incredible comeback this season from way under .500 to four games above, through Saturday with a starting pitching staff of unknowns plus Vonnie. But without the cable car Cain contract, what would the result have been for the Pigsville Nine?
If the season ended today, neither the Brewers or the Angels would make he playoffs. What would have happened if San Francisco didn’t sign Cain to a new contract until after the season ended and Greinke would have stayed in Milwaukee?
It’s all part of the fabric of the cloth of baseball which makes this game so great. The ‘what if’ is usually more interesting than the ‘what has been’.