As another season concludes save the current playoffs, here is this humble bloggers ramblings in no order of priority.
1. Keep Joe Torre
What is George Steinbrenner thinking? He must’ve have woken up from an extended stupor, tuned into The Bronx Is Burning and decided that he needs to act like The Boss again.
Threatening a manager’s job in public may have worked for Billy Martin but it didn’t seem to faze the unflappable Torre. He has managed the Yankees for 12 years. Only Joe McCarthy (17) and Casey Stengel (16) had longer tenures. He won 11 straight division titles with teams that were constantly turning over. This year when he didn’t win the Division was perhaps his best managing job. Down by as much as 14 ½ games and considered buried, the team roared back under his leadership and just missed another Division title with a pathetic pitching staff that called on 9 rookie pitchers during the course of the year.
Remember, Torre did not sign Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright who contributed virtually nothing yet tied up millions in salary.
The players love playing for Joe Torre because of his laid back professionalism and the respect he shows for his players. If Torre does indeed go you can expect some players to follow, most notably free agents Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera who came up as rookies in Torre’s first year. And if the rumor is true that the calculating, arrogant and overrated Tony LaRussa is Steinbrenner’s choice to replace him, then this will be the beginning of a long slippery slope for the Yankees and the opening teams like the Blue Jays have been waiting for.
2. Division Series
The National League takes the honor this year as having the best Division Series. After dispatching the Phillies, the Rockies hope to ride their incredible 17-1 streak all the way into their first World Series.
Then there are the Diamondbacks who are the biggest anomaly.
This is a team that was last in the league in hitting, was outscored by 20 runs and starts five rookies but still had the best record in the league. Even though this will be a continuation of an 18 game season series it will be fun to watch. Still, I’m certainly not going to miss the Beckett-Sabathia matchup on Friday.
3. Brewers Issues
The on-line edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a daily poll question some of which are asked about the Brewers. As a public service to the 3 people who read this blog, here are my votes and corresponding responses:
Should The Brewers Trade Bill Hall?
Yes. For sentimental reasons, the club should keep Bill Hall. Besides being the consummate team player, agreeing to switch positions to strengthen the team, he is a deserving fan favorite. But his hitting mysteriously disappeared this year and he ended up on the bench during the critical final week of the season. The outfield is one position in which the team is well stocked. If the club can get a reliable relief pitcher then a trade should be made.
What Was the Brewers Major Malfunction?
I’m inclined to say the bullpen, but that’s more of an issue of Ned Yost mismanaging it.
It was definitely the starting pitching, thought to be the strength of the team when the season began. Besides losing Ben Sheets for an extended period of time with his annual trip to the DL, Chris Capuano a 19 game winner in 2006 totally imploded (5-12 5.10). Jeff Suppan put up numbers not conducive to his big free agent contract (12-12, 4.89).
Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas both had ERA’s over 5.00. This was to be the original five man rotation. It ended up being led by two rookies who most assuredly will be in the rotation in 2008, Carlos Villanueva (8-5 3.94) and Yovanni Gallardo (9-5 3.67)
Which Player Will Win the NL Rookie of the Year?
Watching Ryan Braun hit bomb after bomb since being called up in late May there really was no competition. His numbers (34/97/.324/.634 Slg) in only 113 games were truly amazing.
But my nod, by a hair, goes to Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies. His numbers during the course of the season (24/99/.299) were certainly a factor in the Rox rise to the wild card.
Plus he has excellent range, a rifle arm and fields the position with skill and confidence.
Should the Brewers Bring Derrick Turnbow Back Next Season?
No. No further comment necessary.
Does Ned Yost Deserve to Return as Brewers Manager Next Season?
Three during the season columns certainly held clues about what I think.
Unfortunately this is a mute point since GM Doug Melvin has already decided that he will be back. So we get to see another second half swoon, a terrible record on the road, panicky late inning management, misuse of the pitching staff and little in-game strategy originality. For that, Melvin brings him back?
At least he gives me much to write about during the season.
There’s an old blues classic entitled “I Pity the Fool” in which the singer tells his ex that anyone who loves her must be a fool. This could be said for all Cubs fans about their team save those few diehards who are hardcore.
You see the Cubs are a team in a big city with a huge payroll and a vast fan following. But they have stamped themselves as “lovable losers” to cover up for decades of ineptness. This moniker has enabled them to be seen as annual underdogs in the race for the pennant.
Give me a break! They have a payroll north of $150 million dollars. They went on a free agent shopping spree that was unprecedented even by Yankee and Red Sox standards. They paid nearly a hundred million dollars to keep both Derek Lee and Carlos Zambrano and over that to sign Alfonso Soriano. Their manager has a salary that exceeds all others including Joe Torre. This activity was justified by ownership to attempt to eliminate that “lovable losers” tag. This was the year they were SUPPOSED to win.
So what happens? With a week and a half left in the season, they find themselves tied for first place with the Milwaukee Brewers. The Milwaukee Brewers for goodness sake! The Brewers, who have one free agent, Jeff Suppan. The Brewers whose infield combined doesn’t make as much as Lou Piniella. The Brewers whose roster of young players have never been in a pennant race before but who refuse to wilt. And the Cubs are the underdog!
The Cubs are a marquee franchise. Their ballpark is certainly idyllic which makes it more of a destination than a place to watch baseball. I mean how many tourists go to Miller Park? They have the resources and the backing to be a consistent winner. Yet still they are looked upon as an underdog!
You can bet that the national media is hoping that the Cubs make the playoffs instead of the Brewers. To them it’s a much better story: Wrigley Field, large market, team studded with stars and a larger national following. Plus they are the underdogs!
As for the Brewers, that’s OK. Good teams from Wisconsin never get any respect so we are used to it. We’re confident that the real underdogs will be playing in October.
Yes, I Pity the Fool – Cubs fans who actually believe that they are the underdog.
Ned Yost has managed the Brewers for almost five years. When he took over the club the goal was to resurrect a floundering team and manage it to respectability. That meant a goal of a .500 season to break the chain of 10 straight losing seasons. After managing an admittedly weak team for two years (remember Brooks Kieschnick?) the chain was finally broken in 2005 with an 81-81 record. No, not a winning season, but not a losing one either.
Then last year, with the best team he had since becoming manager the team regressed back to sub-.500 with a horrible second half.
Well, it’s déjà vu in 2007 but this time there are no excuses. The team that had a whole city excited during the year finally succumbed its lead last week and continues its pattern of late season swoons under Yost. Yes, the Brewers are back to being under .500.
There is one main reason for this: the starting pitching has been getting hammered since the All-Star game. This was supposed to be the strong suit. Good pitching while the kids mature.
But Chris Capuano had not won in 16 straight starts and has been dismissed to a mop up role. Claudio Vargas has been inconsistent but for the most part has kept the team in the game when he pitches. Now he will probably head to the DL with a bad back. David Bush will never be anything better than a .500 pitcher with a high ERA. Ben Sheets, the ace of the staff is coming off his annual extended stay on the DL. How can you count on him over a full season? Yovani Gallardo is the team’s best pitching prospect and proved it with his first five or six starts. But now whether it is from fatigue or bad mechanics or the fact that the league has caught up with him, he has been gruesome the past couple of weeks.
Finally there is Jeff Suppan. Surely a disappointment with an 8-9 record and an ERA close to 5.00. Not the kind of stellar statistics one expects from the highest paid player in team history. But Suppan has a history of being strong in the latter parts of the season and proved it last night against the Cubs, allowing 4 hits, 1 run, no walks and 4 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
Now comes the crux of the matter. When Suppan hit Cliff Floyd with a pitch that got away from him with one out in the 7th our astute manager went and got him. Despite the fact that he was still in control of the game. Despite the fact that he was well under the dreaded 100 pitch count. Yost did what he has done all year: overmanage in the late innings and allow the bullpen to determine the outcome. "He (Suppan) had pitched well to that point and we had struggled in the seventh inning with our starters a little bit here lately," Yost said. "I didn’t want to take a chance."
He didn’t want to take a chance? Why not? A starter has finally thrown a strong game. So you overmanage again and blow another win!
It is no surprise that the Brewers lead the majors with the most losses after leading by 3 runs. The team’s current third place position is certainly attributable to this telling statistic.
It all goes back to a manager who panics in the late innings and depends on his bullpen to bail him out of his dumb decisions.
People will blame Scott Linebrink for last night’s loss. But the real blame goes to Ned Yost who can’t leave well enough alone. This “push-button” managing was something I wrote about back in June and now it has resulted from a team that was in first place for 125 days to a team that once again is under .500.
After being a student of the game for nearly 40 years through playing, watching more than 1,000 games and a vast library of baseball related books, I think I can safely say that I am more educated to the nuances of the game than the average fan.
And while I don’t claim to know everything about this complex and fascinating game, I think I know enough to observe that the one thing hindering the progress of the Brewers is the inability to manage a pitching staff and to have enough late inning patience.
If the team yet again ends up sub-.500, it will be the biggest disappointment ever. And it will be Ned Yost’s fault. After nearly five years at the helm, you would think he has learned.
Watching the collapse of the Brewers has been like experiencing the Chinese Water Torture: drip, drip, drip. One drop at a time the Brewers have succumbed their lead.
Only because the now first place Cubs were also staggering along would the lead been larger than this morning’s one game.
But to hear and read the Brewers fans reaction, you would think that a first place finish was assumed all along. Not many predicted that this team would be in contention much less in first place for the better part of four months.
Sure there have been some abhorrent game management decisions that Manager Ned Yost should be held accountable for, but the shocking collapse of the pitching staff has been the biggest reason for this downfall.
That and the inability to win on the road (worst road record in the league) means that the Brewers will most likely be on the sidelines during the playoffs.
The next two weeks will be critical for the Brewers as the season winds down. The next nine games are on the road including two series with first place teams (Arizona and Chicago) and against the rejuvenated Giants who aren’t going anywhere but seem to be playing much more relaxed now that THE record has been broken as evidenced by their four game sweep of the Marlins in Miami.
But does this mean that the season has been a failure? Absolutely not. This season has proven that the Brewers have a tremendous nucleus of young talent that will learn and build on what it takes to sustain a lead during a long season.
This year was the coming out party. Next year (if Ben Sheets can actually put together a whole year without being on the DL) should bring a legitimate contender.
So chill Brewer fans. It’s been a good year no matter the outcome. We’ll always have the world famous racing sausages.
While I’m not ready yet to concede, realistically the magical 2007 season will appear to end just short of the playoffs. That’s nothing to be mad about or ashamed of. This is just the beginning of some great years to come.
Running commentary with much to discuss:
Will the Real Brewers Please Appear?
The ecstasy of the early season 24-10 record has evolved into a survival mode to retain first in the National League Central. Only mediocre play by all other teams in the division has kept the Brewers atop the Division. Two embarrassing scenes this past week leaves one wondering: Can the surprise team in the NL keep it going? Losing two out of three to the pitiful Rangers was bad enough. Sunday’s implosion was the exclamation point: Francisco Cordero coughed up a 3-0 lead with two outs in the ninth! Then, on to Detroit where Justin Verlander no-hits them. The starting pitching, the real strength of this team, has been sporadic and the hitting has returned to the typical inconsistency that has characterized Brewers teams from the past.
Every team goes into a slump, but the Brewers need to shake out of their complacent play and soon or they’ll drop out of first place by the end of the month.
It was just a matter of time, but the Yankees finally seem to be getting it together and none too soon. Going into Friday June 18Th game against the Mets, the Yanks have reeled off 9 straight and lopped ten games off the Red Sox lead. The resurgence can be attributed to a stabilized starting rotation with the arrival of Roger Clemens and a healthy Chien Mien Wang and the resurgence of some hitters especially Bobby Abreau.
Jason and the Selignauts
Jason Giambi comes clean and what is his reward? Tell all to the Mitchell Committee about steroid usage in the major leagues or be suspended. This is because there has been absolutely no cooperation with the Committee and Bud Selig is getting desperate for some concrete evidence. Since he inexplicably cannot touch Barry Bonds who’s battle with the federal courts will go on long after he eventually breaks the home run record, he needs to look at other means. Yes, we need to get beneath this issue but also behind it. To let this go on for years will dilute the impact when the final report and subsequent action will be announced. To let this go on for years means that most of the guilty players will be retired and thus avoid the consequences. It will be a big "So What?"
The Pitching Staff
The two or three regular readers of this blog will know how much I lament the way pitching staffs are used in today’s game. The emphasis has been full use of the bullpen during games. Indeed, relief pitchers are having more of a big impact on the outcome of games than ever before. Set-up men and closers have become as important as starters. Rare is it that a starter gets to the end of the seventh inning.
There are two dominant reasons for this: The almighty pitch count. Starters who are throwing shutouts and are seemingly still effective will get pulled after 100 pitches. This leaves the burden on bullpens to maintain leads. The second reason is strategy. When once there was situational relief pitchers to get that critical out, now relievers are being used an inning at a time. I think the reason for this is to try to get the opposing hitters off rhythm.
Yet there are many games this year where a bullpen has blown lead after lead. One of the reasons the Yankees struggled early was the ineffectiveness of the bullpen. The Tigers bullpen is iffy and will probably be the reason they don’t repeat as league Champs. If you look at all of the last place teams – Orioles, Royals, Rangers, Nationals, Reds and Giants – a big reason for their lack of success are incompetent bullpens (although the Rangers and Royals also have pathetic starters as well).
So with all of the emphasis on bullpens, why is it that except for closers, they still pitch in relative obscurity and are probably the least compensated of any other position players? If bullpens have become such an important part of the game, why not recognize key set-up men and others who have been instrumental in a clubs success? All-Star slots should be given to two bullpen pitchers besides closers who have performed well. It may be hard to quantify relative success so maybe simple stats like Holds and ERA could be used. No, I don’t like the idea of relief pitchers repeatedly determining the outcomes of games, but if that is today’s strategy, let’s recognize some of the best.
What’s Wrong With the Yankees?I don’t know which team is the most hated in baseball, the Yankees, Cubs or Red Sox. I do know that Yankee haters are gloating over their interminable problems this year. The Yankees have been a team of misfortune and misadventure. Surely they can play better. Their defense needs to be tighter. Big bats are dormant (Abreau, Damon), the bullpen is one of the worst in the league and the number of injuries have been alarming.
But baseball needs the Yankees to be good. In the grand tradition of the game, the Yankees stand as a monument. More championships than any other team. More Hall of Famers. While other teams wear pinstripe uniforms, only one team is synonmous with them. Only the Yankees have a memorial honoring past great players in their ballpark.
And while other teams’ fans hate them, they are the only team in either league that plays to sell-outs both home AND away.
Yes, the Yankees try to buy their championships because they have the revenue to do so. Name me one team that would not do the same thing if they had a similar revenue stream. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Other teams have also spent generously to try to mimic the Yankee way and all have fallen short.
As Lou Piniella is finding out in Chicago, it is not easy managing a high salaried team with a mixture of ego and attitude. Yet Joe Torre has masterfully done so over the past twelve years.
Yes, they are not invincible as is so glaringly obvious so far this year.
Yes, fans everywhere are happy to see this slide.
But when it is all said and done, the Yankees mean more to the game than any other team. So let’s hope they can re-group and challenge the Red Sox who act like they invented the game.