I don’t know what kind of relationship Willie Randolph has with Lee Mazzilli (if any), but if Manny Acta gets the job to manage the Washington Nationals, Mazzilli may return to where he became a matinee idol. Mazzilli is out of a job now that the Yankees have moved Don Mattingly up to bench coach; so the Mets may be an option for Mazzilli who is from Brooklyn. He was a good guy in the clubhouse when he played on the top Mets teams of the 80s; always a voice of reason and honesty.
The report that says that Bruce Bochy is about to get the job as San Francisco Giants manager must be a relief to both Bochy and San Diego Pardres czar Sandy Alderson. Bochy knew that he wasn’t wanted in San Diego anymore because of his salary and his independence; Alderson wanted someone he could control Moneyball style. Now they’re going their separate ways. Alderson will hire someone who’ll be happy to have the job and will do what he’s told as the "middle manager".
Now all Alderson has to do is jettiston GM Kevin Towers and install the arrogant Ivy League "genius" Paul DePodesta as his marionette and everything will be fine. DePodesta did such a great job in LA. Maybe they can reunite Jeff Kent and Milton Bradley for some more clubhouse ‘rasslin; or maybe trade half the bullpen and starting catcher/team leader/manager’s favorite player for an injured starter that they don’t need. Quite an impeccable resume. But DePodesta did go to Yale (or Harvard, or one of those places). He knows what he’s doing—–doesn’t he?
A World Series outcome can turn on one simple mistake by either manager; Tony LaRussa’s gaffe of using Braden Looper to protect a one run lead in the eighth inning of tonight’s game could have been one of those disastrous mistakes in judgement that has the potential to turn a 3-1 stranglehold into a 2-2 tossup; and if the Tigers had won tonight’s game, they would have had the advantage moving forward in this series.
Anyone who watched Braden Looper in his work as the Mets closer for 2004 and 2005 would have been able to give LaRussa one piece of advice: use him in a tight game only as a last resort. I know all the right things that a manager has to say in defense of his players; and that with the Cardinals injuries and depleted bullpen they have to rely on pitchers they normally wouldn’t; but Looper has a history of coughing up games and self-destructing. Looper gives up a lot of home runs; he can get wild; and he has shown himself to be unable to be a consistent performer. LaRussa using him as the set-up man for Adam Wainwright could very well have blown up in his face and cost his team the World Series.
Wainwright ended up pitching 1 2/3 innings anyway. LaRussa would have been better off trying to push the Tigers backs against the wall tonight and worrying about tomorrow tomorrow by using Wainwright for a full two inning save. Instead, he brought Looper in and Looper proceeded to allow the first batter he faced to double. He’s completely untrustworthy in a pressure packed situation and should not be used unless there are no other viable alternatives.
If LaRussa were asked a series of questions as to why he used Looper in the eighth, he would probably say something along the lines of how that was how the Cardinals functioned all season in an attempt to defend his pitcher and the decision. But this is the World Series; not the regular season when pitches have to be calculated and pitchers’ psyches have to be a part of the equation. Feelings cannot enter into a decision. Simply because Looper was the designated "set-up man" is no reason to use him in that role in such an important game.
This was the "swing game" meaning whoever wins it has a great shot to win the championship. And LaRussa ended up bringing Wainwright in anyway for more than the usual one inning save that LaRussa prefers of his closer. Luckily for the Cardinals and LaRussa, they took the lead in the bottom of the eighth and Wainwright continued his domination with that over the top, 12 to 6, wicked hook that must look like it’s breaking from the top of the stadium and is impossible to pull the trigger and swing at. Now the Cardinals have a 3-1 lead and, no thanks to Braden Looper and the ill thought out decision by LaRussa, have a chance to close out a championship that no one thought was possible after seeing this same Cardinals team collapse over the last week of the season.
One more thing: If I were Jim Leyland, I would move Kenny Rogers up to pitch game five. Again, this is not the time to spare feelings. Justin Verlander struggled in game one; it’s going to be a raucous crowd at Busch Stadium. I doubt Leyland is going to do this to Verlander; and he’s going to cite the (accurate) logic that they have to win all three games anyway; but if they win tomorrow, they will at least be heading home. The Tigers need their best post-season pitcher on the mound; if they don’t win game five, their scheduled starter for game six is going to be about as important as who is going to open the exhibition season in March. Win today; worry about tomorrow tomorrow. The Tigers best pitcher has been Kenny Rogers, and they need him to repeat his previous three perfromances tomorrow night.
The news that the Yankees have picked up Gary Sheffield’s option has resulted in Sheffield’s irritated reaction and his predicted threats to be an unhappy camper if he’s traded. Not only that, Sheffield has said that he’s not going to be happy playing first base next season for the Yankees without an extension of his contract. What a shock! Gary Sheffield is unhappy about his contract.
Sometimes I think the Yankees cut off their own noses to spite their faces. The best thing they could do is to simply reject the option and let both parties go their separate ways. Now they’re faced with Sheffield objecting to his treatment and not only threatening the team that trades for him, but the team that is slated to pay him $13 million next season. No team in it’s right mind is going to deal high value prospects for an irritated Gary Sheffield who is going to arrive in a sour mood; and the Yankees, if they can’t deal him, are going to have to go through the spring with another controversy on their hands if (when) Sheffield begins squawking about his displeasure.
This is just a matter of greediness on the part of the Yankees, who think that they are going to use the fact that Sheffield hasn’t got a no-trade clause in his contract to deal him and get something for him as opposed to losing him for nothing; but as Sheffield has shown in the past, there are ways for a player to have a no-trade clause without having a no-trade clause. Something that the Yankees are going to learn the hard way because of their belief that they’re smarter than everyone else.
There’s an article in today’s New York Times detailing Jeff Suppan’s involvement in opposing stem cell research; a commercial slated to be run locally during game four of the World Series, were it to be played last night, had a hatless and somewhat obscure looking Suppan voicing his opposition to the practice and the idea of human cloning. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not sure about human cloning either—-except for me. I should be cloned!) Other athletes who made their name in Missouri who are involved in the campaign (ostensibly to re-elect incumbent senator Jim Talent over his opponent Claire McCaskill) are Kurt Warner and Mike Sweeney. The Times article has an undercurrent of disapproval at Suppan involving himself in such an issue; but what I’m wondering about is why does anyone care?
If an athlete of any kind has an opinion on an issue and is asked to help a political candidate with whom he agrees to get elected, why should it bother anyone? To automatically assume that an athlete, simply because he’s an athlete will have any influence on a campaign is overestimating both an athlete’s power over others and his knowledge of issues. Everything must be taken into context. Many athletes today are religious; some present a facade of being religious as part of a public relations ploy. Who knows what these men believe or don’t believe; or how much they truly understand about an issue about which they donate their time and name recognition? That anyone who is voting would allow an athlete to dictate to them how to allocate their vote is a sad statement in and of itself.
So many famous athletes today lend their name and face for a public event. Curt Schilling, "Mr. Conservative Republican"——advocate of all things Bush——conveniently forgot his dedication to mandates and rules of law when he vehemently disagreed with the way the QuesTec was altering the way balls and strikes were called and smashed the thing. Years ago, the late Eric Show was lambasted for his open membership in the arch-conservative John Birch Society. These men are not experts in regards to any of these issues and their opinions aren’t worth any more than mine or yours. If an athlete is pro-choice or pro-life, then that is his opinion based on his own values; and if said athlete wants to lend his name to causes that he feels strongly about, then why should he be ridiculed or have articles written leaning toward opposition to his or her involvement?
In essence, these athletes are using and being used. Their skills in sport have allowed them a certain place in society; politicians or interest groups are using the athlete’s name recognition and skills in sports to attach themselves to something that will generate interest. Both sides are receiving benefit. The world is full of people who opine about things that they haven’t the full facts about; but it doesn’t take extensive research to have an opinion about something and to let that opinion be known. And if Jeff Suppan or whoever wants to allow themselves to be a part of something that they feel strongly, then there’s no reason to consider them to be anything more than a politically involved citizen simply because they can throw or hit a baseball.
I was preparing to write a blog detailing exactly why the Mets shouldn’t follow through on their rumored pursuit of Moises Alou to fill one of their holes at a corner outfield spot; but in checking his statistics in preparation for presenting my case, I came to the conclusion that his production would be a welcome and affordable addition.
I mistakenly thought that Alou’s having missed time this season with injuries was an ongoing trend over the last few seasons; but it wasn’t. Alou has played regularly and played well. His power numbers have been consistently good; he still doesn’t strike out very much and, despite his taking relatively few walks, he’s got a good OBP. Plus, he’s not going to cost the money that the acquisition of a Manny Ramirez or Gary Sheffield would. Because of the above reasons, Alou will probably be in heavy demand for a large number of teams. But if the Mets are one of them, signing Alou to a manageable contract would allow them to allocate more of their budget toward the two starting pitchers they’re going to need to continue this season’s domination of the National League.
Speaking of Gary Sheffield, there is talk that the Yankees are going to pick up Sheffield’s $13 million option and then trade him. One thing I would like to say is caveat emptor —let the buyer beware. If Sheffield is traded to a team that he doesn’t want to play for; or if that team refuses to extend his contract as he is undoubtedly going to demand—-watch out! Because an irritated Gary Sheffield is a disruptive Gary Sheffield. I am not one who believes that Sheffield is the ogre that some have portrayed him to be. I think he’s been a good teammate for the better part of his career. But when Gary’s unhappy, everyone around Gary has to be unhappy as well. And whoever deals for him had better be prepared to extend him or face the consequences. Just a word to the wise.
After watching how the Cardinals righted their ship after the near disastrous end to the regular season in dispatching the Padres; their courageous battle with the Mets in the NLCS; why should anyone be stunned at the way they’ve played in the first three games of the World Series?
The Tigers didn’t suddenly become an unstoppable force because they got hot at the right time and beat a Yankees team whose pitching failed them and didn’t have the stomach to overcome a Tigers team that wouldn’t bow to their mere presence; or because they beat an Athletics team whose main power hitter, Frank Thomas, stopped hitting.
This implication that the Tigers were going to demolish a Cardinals team that has shown more heart and courage than any of the past six Yankees failures have, was indicative of those who weren’t watching the way the overmatched Cardinals battled the Mets. Those who thought this was going to be a near walkover for the Tigers may have thought that the Mets nearly defeating the Cardinals despite a shortfall in pitching was a good omen for a Tigers team that is loaded with solid starters and flamethrowers in the bullpen. What they failed to take into account was the way the Cardinals win their games.
The Cardinals have shown that they can squeak through when their top producer, Albert Pujols, is struggling by playing small ball and being aggressive. More importantly, they’ve gotten solid performances from their starting pitchers. The long layoff, combined with the perceived coronation of the Tigers has made their hitters impatient; their fielders shaky; and has diminished their pitchers’ velocity and command. With the confidence that the Cardinals have in Chris Carpenter; the way Jeff Suppan has pitched this entire post-season; and the stunning performance of Anthony Reyes (helped in no small part by the Tigers being overanxious); have put the Cardinals in position to "shock" the world by winning this series. Except that it shouldn’t be a shock. The Cardinals have executed better than the Tigers have and they’ve gotten better pitching. The Tigers deficiencies, specifically the lack of a hitter the mold of Albert Pujols, is becoming evident.
If the Tigers are planning to complete a happy ending to this storybook season, they had better rediscover that team that beat the Yankees and Athletics; instead of that team that was manhandled by the Kansas City Royals the last weekend of the regular season. If they don’t they may find themselves watching the Cardinals celebrate in St. Louis and returning to Detroit to do little more than clean out their lockers.
As great and productive an agent as Scott Boras is for his clients, his selection by Daisuke Matsuzaka as his representative for his jump to the U.S. is going to limit the number of teams that are going to be willing to post the money to negotiate with him and then provide the contract that Boras is going to demand. The number of teams that could afford Matsuzaka was already limited; now it is dwindled down to a short list.
The Yankees; Mets; Dodgers; Mariners; Angels; Red Sox; White Sox; Phillies; Rangers; and Orioles are probably the only teams that are going to have the money available to spend on a pitcher that is well-regarded, but still a slight risk. My guess is that it’s going to come down to the Mariners and Yankees.
I don’t think that the Mets can afford to spend the money necessary for Matsuzaka when there are many available starters for them to choose from; starters that they can pretty much forecast their production. The Red Sox have so many needs in their rotation and lineup, that it would be foolish to risk that money on Matsuzaka unless they are extremely confident that they are going to get the performance that they are paying for. As for the other teams mentioned, Ken Williams with the White Sox tends to acquire his talent via trade. The Orioles and Phillies aren’t going to get into a bidding war with the big market bullies and then spend money that could be allocated elsewhere.
What it may come down to is where Matsuzaka would like to go; Boras has a tendency to send his players to whichever team offers the most money regardless of their on-field situation. That is not a criticism. It’s up to the player to tell the agent what team he would like to play for; and then up to the agent to negotiate it—-not the other way around. Matsuzaka’s selection of Boras as his agent may even preclude the pitcher from ending up in Seattle.
In looking at the entire situation as a whole; with the posting money rumored to be heading as high as $15-$20 million; and Matsuzaka hiring Boras; it may be that the Japanese star has already made his decision regarding which team for whom he’d like to play. With the money that is going to be spent before he even throws a pitch in the majors, the only team that is willing to spend in such a way is the New York Yankees. And it’s starting to look like Yankee Stadium is where Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to call home next season.
I’ve made my ambivalence toward Joe Girardi as a manager perfectly clear in the past regarding his managerial skills (both on and off the field); so when Girardi removed himself from consideration for the job as manager of the Washington Nationals, I took it as Girardi realizing that he wasn’t going to get the job and preferring to take his name out of the running before it was taken out for him. Now it appears as though Girardi may end up back next to Joe Torre. (A good spot for him to learn some more strategy and how to deal with management in a constructive and non-confrontational way.) But now Atlanta Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton has also pulled his name from consideration for the job. It’s a rare thing when first time managerial candidates or those whose reputation needs a bit of refurbishment remove their names as candidates for open jobs; this is making me wonder exactly what is happening in Washington’s front office between club president Stan Kasten and GM Jim Bowden.
Bowden is known as a guy who speaks his mind and does things that may irritate his bosses simply on the basis of his extroverted personality and aggressiveness; Kasten was always viewed as a voice of reason in all of his sports related front office jobs with both the Braves and the Atlanta Hawks. But it strikes me as odd to have two candidates remove themselves from consideration for a job that should be pretty attractive.
I have no knowledge of what’s going on with the Nationals, so I won’t speculate as to why this is happening. Lou Piniella pulled his name from the ring because he didn’t think the Nationals were ready to compete quickly and he was in line for the Cubs job and probably figured he would get it. But Girardi, despite collecting his salary for the remaining two years on his contract with the Marlins; and his name being bandied about as possible manager of the year in the National League; and the respectable job he did with a group of youngsters in Florida; does have the smudge on his resume of being fired because of being disrespectful to his bosses and hard to work with. One would think that Girardi would want to keep his options open. As for Pendleton, the Braves are a great organization in which to learn how to run a team; but one of the reasons that their revered longtime pitching coach Leo Mazzone left for Baltimore is that the Braves don’t pay their coaches all that well. One would think that Pendleton would want to keep the possibilty of upward mobility and an opportunity to manage open.
If the Nationals are truly intent on re-signing Alfonso Soriano, they had better show him not only the money, but some stability in management. It was already a longshot that Soriano was going to stay in Washington; but now that they can’t even keep their list of candidates as manager from bowing out on their own, it makes me wonder exactly what is going on behind closed doors and what these candidates know that the public doesn’t and why they’re withdrawing their names from consideration.
In the waning days of his tenure as the manager of the Oakland Athletics, Tony LaRussa’s team was playing so poorly; and was so undermanned; that he tried something that he and Jim Leyland claimed to have discussed for years as a different way of running a game and organizing their pitching staffs. It was a variation on what LaRussa and Leyland have done for years by way of organizing their bullpens.
Focusing on matchups; everyone knowing and accepting their defined roles; all have been hallmarks of the way LaRussa has run things—–and it’s been extremely successful. But as he saw that his team in Oakland couldn’t compete, LaRussa went a step further and tried to use his entire pitching staff in the same way he used his bullpen.
In the system, starting pitchers and relievers are such in name only. From the first inning on, the starting pitcher, whoever he is, is used for a finite period of time, whether it is number of innings or pitches; then he is replaced. When LaRussa tried it in Oakland, it was out of desperation and he was still relying on pitchers such as Bob Welch who were well past their prime and probably weren’t particularly thrilled with the sudden disruption of their routines. But if there were a team that had a management that was willing to try it and go through all the "experts" who would deride the idea as "trying to reinvent the game", then it would have a great chance of working. The same things were said about Branch Rickey when he eschewed the idea of paying exorbitant prices for players from independent minor league teams and began quietly buying controlling stakes in the same teams to create a "farm system" for the Cardinals. Or Sparky Anderson when he became known as Captain Hook for his penchant for yanking his pitchers at the first sign of trouble with no remorse or concern as to how many pitches they’d thrown or whether or not they got a win. Or Joe Torre and Lou Piniella, when they used their great bullpens to shorten the game to six innings.
Such an idea would require an organically built pitching staff or a series of signable team players who are interested in winning above and beyond personal statistics. It would also throw the current way of recording statistics into chaos because if a team did try to implement such a plan, their innings pitched; wins; losses; and ERA would be rendered irrelevant. There would be no closer, per se; nor would there be an "ace". There would be a group of pitchers (at least twelve on staff) who would be united toward the common goal and uninterested in whom happened to be pitching in the fifth inning or when their team took the lead and got "credit" for the win. It would be a pure team concept and I’m quite sure it would work.
But it isn’t going to happen. There would be too much resistance from the management and fans if it wasn’t immediately successful; the press would unload on such a plan because it would be considered too unique; and they’d also be afraid that it might actually work. One thing it would definitely do would be to make the pitching staff incredibly inexpensive because each and every part that made up the whole would be replaceable. And that would leave a bulk of payroll to spend on hitting.
But pitchers who want to get their money for accumulating saves; and wins; and low ERAs; and high numbers of strikeouts; and other stats that are essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of winning would never buy into the practice. It would be scoffed at and ridiculed. It would also be the work of a brilliant and courageous mind who had the temerity to implement it and follow through with it for an entire season. In other words, it’s never gonna happen.