My thoughts are running on two parallel courses as we start this post-Labor Day period in baseball.
One is on the playoffs within Independent Baseball since five of the eight leagues will go a long way toward determining their postseason champions this week. After all, isn't this what is being competed for all season long?
At the same time, five more Independent players, including three who started their career in these ranks, are wearing major league uniforms. And, every one of the five is with a contending team. Not a single Independent player has been called up as part of the September 1 roster expansion so far unless his team is in the running to be on baseball's grandest stage next month.
It also seems noteworthy, if only coincidental, that all five of the players have joined National League teams.
The surprise of the group, at least to this corner, is seeing Josh Kinney back with St. Louis. Kinney, who we have talked about numerous times in this space and in our more expansive Independent Baseball Insider column, had not been in a regular season game in any pro league since the 2006 World Series until August 24. He was sufficiently recovered from his lengthy rehab from elbow surgery to work four times for Class AA Springfield, MO over a nine-day period, and the Cardinals brought him back onto the active major league roster. I would expect St. Louis to be on the cautious side over the next four weeks, and hope this 29-year-old, who started in the Frontier League (River City, O'Fallon, MO), will be back at full strength next spring. He was quite a find for the bullpen when he came up to help the Cardinals' championship run in '06.
The other recalls include Phillies infielder Mike Cervenak and Diamondbacks hurler Max Scherzer, who started in the Frontier League and American Association, respectively, plus pitchers Mark DiFelice (Milwaukee) and Brandon Knight (New York Mets, both of whom have worked in the Atlantic League.
AMERICAN ASSOCIATION CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES TIED--Sioux Falls, SD will be the site of the remaining games in the American Association playoff finale with the Canaries and Grand Prairie, TX tied at a game apiece in the best-of-five test. Grand Prairie, which ended Fort Worth's three-year championship run (one in the Central League and two in the AA), got even with Sioux Falls at a game apiece in a 6-3 matinee win today (Tuesday). The series resumes Thursday.
NORTHERN AND GOLDEN OPEN UP TONIGHT--Divisional playoff series begin in both the Northern and Golden Leagues Tuesday night, with the Can-Am starting Wednesday and the Frontier League later in the week. The Atlantic League does not finish its regular season until September 21.