With the recent announcement of capitulation by the Philadelphia Rebels, the St. Francis Friars (with 71 wins, second in BARB) now find themselves in an unfamiliar position: not merely contending, not merely leading their division, but with at least ten games between themselves and both the Rebels and the Casselton Horned Toads, who lost 11 of 13 to fall out of the race.
In other words, barring an historic collapse, the Friars will finally achieve the goal of every expansion team, win a division and make the playoffs.
But problems remain on the horizon. Despite acquiring Heath Bell to close, and adding LHP Joe Saunders off the free-agent scrap heap, there can be no doubt that St. Francis's pitching staff is a notch behind the other major contenders for the playoffs. While each starter is capable of winning on any given day, and all but Roy Oswalt can be counted on as inning-eaters, the fact remains that Brooklyn, Frostbite Falls and Yuma have better rotations, with comparable (or superior) bullpens. That puts a great deal of pressure on the Friars lineup to score early and often.
Further, the avenue to trade for pitching is closing, and good starting pitching appears to be all but impossible to pick up, given the limits imposed by the salary cap, unless St. Francis is willing to completely gut their farm system.