Posts Tagged ‘Terry Francona’

2017 Awards: Managers

October 4, 2017

It’s time again for my annual foray into the minds of the writers. Each year I prove that I’m a terrible mind reader, but I continue to give my opinion on who should win the various MLB postseason awards. This time I want to start with the managers.

National League

Lovullo

Generally, the manager of the year comes from a team that wasn’t supposed to be particularly competitive, but astounds the world, or at least baseball fans, by heading into the playoffs. There are a couple of those this year: the Diamondback and the Rockies. And I begin by wondering how much the “Coors Field Effect” will hurt Bud Black. There are those that argue that Coors gives the Rockies an unfair advantage and that anything happening there is suspect. I don’t know how much I buy that, but I think ultimately it will hurt Black. The Dodgers, Cubs, and Nationals were all expected to win, so I think that Torey Lovullo will probably win the National League Manager of the Year Award.

American League

Molitor

This should be a three-man race among AJ Hinch and his Astros who swept away the opposition and coasted to victory, Joe Girardi and the Yankees who weren’t supposed to be a postseason team this year, and Paul Molitor and his Twins who got to a playoff spot after 100 loses last season. Because the Astros were ultimately passed by Cleveland, I expect Hinch is out (as is Terry Francona because the Indians were supposed to win). That leaves Girardi and Molitor. My personal pick is Molitor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers favor the New York based Girardi.

If you’ve been following along all these years, you’ll recall that I’m only right about 50% of the time, so don’t bet your life savings on this.

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Good Bye to 2016

December 29, 2016
Hopefully I won't have to be this old before the Dodgers win

Hopefully I won’t have to be this old before the Dodgers win

Another baseball season is over. The winners are crowned, the loser mourned. The postseason awards are announced, the winter meetings are through, and the Veteran’s Committee has spoken. Here, in my usual nine things for nine innings format, are a few random thoughts on what we saw (and didn’t see) in 2016.

1. The Cubs finally won. It hadn’t happened in 108 years and the Cubs fans are joyous. But I wonder if some of the mystique that surrounded the Cubs wasn’t harmed. The “loveable loser” moniker is gone, as is the “sit in the sun, drink beer, and don’t worry about the score” motif of Cubsdom is over. Will it hurt the overall fan base, or not. I have no idea.

2. Can the Angels find a pitcher? They have Mike Trout, arguably the best player in the Major Leagues in a long time. They have Albert Pujols, a shadow of what he was at St. Louis, but still a formidable player (He had 119 RBIs and needs nine homers for 600). C. J. Cron is 26 and Kole Calhoun is 29. And they still can’t win. Maybe the problem is the staff, maybe it’s the coaching staff (Scioscia hasn’t led them very far in a while), but they just don’t win.

3. Sticking with the West Coast, but moving to Chavez Ravine, we say good-bye to Vin Scully who, for 67 years, graced us with his voice, his wit, his stories. I liked Jack Buck and Dizzy Dean. I liked Bob Prince and Russ Hodges, but there was only one Vin. Maybe he’ll be the first broadcaster elected to the Hall of Fame itself, not just to the broadcasters niche. And the Dodgers answered the question, “who needs an ace?” by rattling off a ton of wins with Clayton Kershaw injured.

4. I loved that Royals team that won in 2014 and 2015, but injuries and free agency have taken their toll. I’d love to see them back in the mix again, but I’m afraid it will have to be with a very different set of players. That’s a shame; they were fun to watch.

5. Then there’s Cleveland. They now have the longest streak of not having won the World Series (since 1948). It’s a good team with a very good manager and I’d like to see them break their streak (but not at the expense of my Dodgers). And sticking with the Indians, I hope the Terry Francona method of using his relievers in key situations, not just the ninth inning, catches on.

6. So Bud Selig is now a Hall of Famer. OK, I guess. There have been better choices and there have been worse choices. Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza also made it. They were better, and easier, choices.

7. We lost W.P. Kinsella this year. He gave us the book Shoeless Joe, which in turn gave us the movie Field of Dreams. We also lost Hall of Famer Monte Irvin and broadcast legend Joe Garagiola, and  current pitcher Felix Fernandez, among others.

8. Dan Duquette is an honest man. He told us that the Orioles weren’t interested in Jose Bautista because the fans didn’t like him. OK, I guess. It’s honest, but I don’t know how much baseball sense it makes. Thoughts, Bloggess?

9. Buck Showalter is getting another year. He’s a fine manager, but he’s gotta know when to bring in his relief ace.

And finally it’s time for my annual Dodgers rallying cry “Wait ’til next year.” Why change the cry now; it’s been good for 28 years.

 

Random Thoughts on the 2016 Season Ending Awards

November 18, 2016

The postseason baseball awards are finished, or at least most of them are. There seems to be a ton of new stuff now. It’s almost as if the “participation trophy” syndrome has made it to MLB. But the ones I care most about are now revealed and here’s some thoughts on them.

First, here’s the list of winners in case you missed it (National League listed first):

Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager (Dodgers), Michael Fulmer (Tigers)

Manager of the Year: Dave Roberts (Dodgers), Terry Francona (Indians)

Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer (Nationals), Rick Porcello (Red Sox)

MVP: Kris Bryant (Cubs), Mike Trout (Angels)

All in all it’s not a bad list. I might have done it differently, but the BBWAA did a good job for a change. I’ve been critical of the writers on more than one occasion, but this year their list looks very much like mine (as if they care what mine looks like). In the NL Seager was an obvious choice, as was Bryant. Scherzer was not at all a bad choice either. I was a little surprised that Roberts beat out Joe Maddon for Manager of the Year. I thought the Cubs success would put him over the top for the second year in a row. What Roberts did with a team that looked like a surgery ward in a hospital made him my choice and its nice when the writers agree. To be blunt about it, your team loses the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw) and they get better? The manager must be doing something right.

The American League was a little more interesting. Francona was, to me, an obvious choice. As with Roberts, he did wonderfully with a team of walking wounded. Hopefully, his strategy of using his best relievers when the game is in crisis rather than in the ninth inning will catch on. It was done in the 1950s and 1960s and there’s no reason not to return to that model. Frankly I thought Gary Sanchez of New York would win, but I’m gratified Fulmer took the award. Neither would have been a bad choice.

I presume that Trout and Porcello will be, as time goes along, the most controversial choices. Trout’s team didn’t win and Porcello didn’t get the most first place votes. It’s not like either is a bad choice and I got one right (Porcello) and one wrong (Trout) in my own betting on who would win. I expected Mookie Betts to win but I personally would have chosen Trout, who I feel had a better year. I would have chosen Justin Verlander over Porcello, but I thought he’d lose. What I didn’t expect he’d be left off two ballots (And did you see Kate Upton, his fiancée’s twitter post?). It’s one they’ll talk about for a while (actually I mean both the vote and Upton’s reply).

So congratulations to all the winners. It was a heck of a season and each of them made it a better year. Now on to the Hall of Fame votes.

 

2016 Awards Nominees Announced

November 10, 2016

It is now time for MLB to complete the 2016 season by naming the winners of its yearly awards. The new policy of announcing finalists (actually the 3 guys with the most votes) is still in effect. Apparently it’s the new normal.

OK, I guess, but I liked the old system better. I got to anticipate the winner in a different way than now. I got to wonder “who’s going to win?” and “who’s gonna finish fifth but shoulda won?” You don’t get to do that anymore and that’s kind of a shame. Now I know who’s been shafted before I even know who won.

Well, anyway, in case you haven’t seen the lists, here they are for your information and commentary if you want:

NL MVP: Kris Bryant, Daniel Murphy, Corey Seager (winner announced 17 November)

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout (also announced 17 November)

NL Cy Young: Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer (announced 16 November)

AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber, Rick Porcello, Justin Verlander (also 16 November)

NL Rookie: Kenta Maeda, Corey Seager, Trea Turner (announced 14 November)

AL Rookie: Michael Fulmer, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Naquin (also 14 November)

NL Manager: Joe Maddon, Dusty Baker, Dave Roberts (announced 15 November)

AL Manager: Jeff Bannister, Terry Francona, Buck Showalter (also 15 November

That’s the list. One thing I noted is how good the Tigers starting staff was just a few years ago: Verlander, Porcello, Scherzer. All three are nominees this season.

Good luck to all.

2013 Awards: Managers

September 30, 2013
Babe Ruth with Giants manager John McGraw

Babe Ruth with Giants manager John McGraw

Although there’s still a game left in the regular season (and isn’t it strange that the “play-in” game counts as regular season so that two sets of players get an extra game to pad their stats?) it’s time for me to begin my annual look at the upcoming awards season. As usual, I’m giving you two picks for each award: who I think will win and who I would vote for if I had a vote (sometimes it’s the same guy). I’ll drop these in over the next several weeks (not four posts in a row). This time it’s Manager of the Year.

National League: I think this is essentially a two-man race. In late June the Dodgers were dead in the water and in September they clinched their division title with a great 50 game run. Don Mattingly will (and should) get credit for a lot of that.  On the other hand, the Pirates hadn’t produced a winning season in 20 years. Manager Clint Hurdle led them not only to a winning season but to a playoff spot. I think Mattingly, because it’s a prime franchise, will garner several votes, but I expect Hurdle to win the award. I know I’d vote for him.

American League: The AL is much more wide open. I think there are six candidates that can pick up votes. Joe Maddon at Tampa and Bob Melvin at Oakland did great jobs with teams that were supposed to do well, but don’t really have great stars (quick name two Athletics not named Donaldson). Joe Girardi at New York was supposed to do well, but his team was wretched. But I expect him to garner some votes because the problem was injuries not mismanagement. Considering all the Yankees injuries having this team in a playoff hunt with a week to go was damned good work.  Did you know that the last time Kansas City had a winning record was 2003 and that the time before that was 1993? Ned Yost led the team to a winning record in 2013 (what is it with the Royals and seasons ending in 3?). That should get him a some votes (I’d put him third). But I think the real race will come down to the men at Boston and Cleveland. Last year Boston lost 93 games and this season John Farrell led them to the best record in the AL. A year after a second consecutive third place finish, Boston let Terry Francona, the only Boston manager to win a World Series in the lively ball era, go. After a year in the broadcast booth, this year he took Cleveland, which lost 94 games last season, to the playoffs. Boston still had a number of quality players from the last few years while Cleveland had nothing last year and very little this year. I think the glitz that is Boston will get Farrell the manager award, but I’d vote for Francona.

Other awards to follow as the muse directs.

Blue Monday

October 10, 2012

The “Blue Monday” Home Run

Back when my son was still pre-kindergarten we began a tradition. We had these magnets for all the teams in MLB and when the postseason started, we’d place the magnets for all the teams in the playoffs on the fridge then move the winner one spot over to show who was leading. When a team won its series we’d remove the loser and replace the winner at the edge of the fridge. We’d keep doing this until there were 2 teams left, then we’d do the same thing until a World Series winner was crowned. Then we’d retire the magnets until next season. My son is long gone from home now, but in his honor I still keep up the tradition. I haven’t updated the magnets, so when Washington won its division I was at a loss for a  magnet. So I used the Expos magnet to represent Washington (after all they had once been in Montreal). It marks the first time I’ve used the Expos magnet, because the only time Montreal made the playoffs was before my son was born and before this tradition began.

The 1981 season is probably mostly remembered for the strike that wiped out a good deal of the middle of the season. But it’s also the only time Montreal played postseason games. When the strike ended, MLB leadership decided to play a “split season”. The idea was that the teams that were in first when the strike occurred (the Phillies and Dodgers in the National League) would be declared first half winners and the teams that did best after the strike would be declared second half winners. The Astros and Expos won the second  half in the NL (while St. Louis had the best overall record in the NL East and Cincinnati the best record in the NL West, both missed the playoffs). Then the two division winners would face each other with the two champions fighting it out for the pennant.

It was the only Expos team to win a division title. Here’s a quick look at the starters. Warren Cromartie, Rodney Scott, Chris Speier, and Larry Parrish held down the infield first around to third. The outfield had Tim Raines, Hall of Famer Andre Dawson (before he got lost in the Wrigley Field ivy), and Tim Wallach from left to right. Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter backstopped, and Steve Rogers, Bill Gullickson, Scott Sanderson, and Ray Burris all started 20 or more games. The closer was Jeff Reardon (although Woddy Fryman had more saves). Terry Francona (yes, that Terry Francona) was a rookie and the fourth outfielder. Dawson finished second in home runs (and led the league in being hit by a pitch with 7) and Raines won the stolen base crown.

They took on Philadelphia in a best of five first round. After winning two in Montreal, they dropped the next two in Philly. In game five (also in Philly), Rogers outdueled Steve Carlton and Montreal won its first ever playoff series. Gary Carter was the hitting star with two home runs and a .431 average. On the other side of the bracket, Los Angeles beat Houston and the NLCS (a best of five that year) was set.

The first two games were at Dodger Stadium. LA won game one, but Montreal came back to earn a split. With the final three games in Montreal, the series became a best of three. Montreal won game three and LA took game four, making it one game for the pennant. It turned out to be a classic.

The Dodgers sent young phenom Fernando Valenzuela (remember him?) to the mound against Ray Burris. The Expos picked up a run in the first on a Raines double, a Scott sacrifie bunt, then a Dawson ground out plated Raines. The score held until the top of the fifth when Rick Monday led off with a single, went to third on another single, and, like Raines, came home on a ground out. That tied the game and ended the scoring through eight innings. Valenzuela was terrific. He gave up three hits, one walk, one earned run, and had six strikeouts through eight. Burris was equally good, giving up five hits, one walk, one earned run, and striking out one through eight. But in the bottom of the eighth, the Expos pinch hit for Burris. That brought ace Rogers in to pitch the ninth. He got the first two men out, which brought up Monday, the man who’d scored the only Dodgers run. On a 3-1 count, Monday launched a home run into the right field stands, putting LA ahead with three outs to go (It’s still known as the “Blue Monday” homer in Montreal.). Valenzuela got two of them, then walked consecutive batters. In came Bob Welch. He induced a second to first ground out to end the game, send the Dodgers to the World Series (which they won), and ending Montreal’s run.

They never got back to the playoffs. In 1994 they were in first place when the strike wiped out the rest of the season, including the World Series. So they finished first that year, but there was no postseason. In 2005, they moved to Washington and made the playoffs this season for the second time in franchise history. So whatever happens over the next three games, the Expos franchise has finally won for a second time.

Picking the Winners, 2010 Style

November 24, 2010

Now all the postseason awards are handed out and there’s cheering in some circles and weeping in others. In some previous posts, I stated my position on the various individual awards. How did I do?

I looked at the awards in two ways. The managers I told you who I thought should win. With the other three awards (Rookie, Cy Young, MVP) I told you who I thought would win. Here are the results, managers first.

I said I would vote for Bud Black and for Terry Francona. I also stated that Francona had no shot at winning, but that I felt he’d done the best job trying to win with what was essentially an ER ward. I did note that Ron Gardenhire was a legitimate candidate to win, but that I personally chose Francona. So I went one for two, getting Black right. That’s better than I normally do. Usually I get the managers all wrong unless someone comes out of left field to win a pennant or something. So I can pat myself on the back, at least a little.

On the player awards I went 5 of 6, which is a lot better than I usually do. Maybe this trying to figure out what the writer’s are going to do is easier than picking the people myself. I got both MVPs, both Rookies, and the NL Cy Young winners. I missed, as I stated in my last post, the AL Cy Young winner. I underestimated the amount of credence the writers would give to the new sabrmetric stats that favored Felix Hernandez for the award. So I guess I had a reasonably successful time picking postseason awards in 2010.

Does it mean anything? Well, my picking doesn’t, but the writer’s picks might or might not (how’s that for being definite?). If you look down the lists of Rookies of the Year and MVPs and Cy Young Award winners you get a mixed bag. In rookie voting you get Cal Ripken and Ron Kittle in back-to-back years (BTW Ripken is the last ROY winner to make the Hall of Fame). Not all of the ROY winners go on to great careers. Sticking with Ripken, he wins the MVP in 1983 and is followed by Willie Hernandez. Not exactly the same quality player, right? The Cy Young gives us Sandy Koufax and Dean Chance in back-to-back seasons. Again, very different quality players. My point is simply that winning one of these awards is no guarantee of long term greatness. So we need to be careful about how much weight we put on these awards.

Having said that, congratulations to all the winners. I hope they go on to great and illustrious careers. Now if the Dodgers could just pick up one or two of these guys…

Picking the Winners: Managers

November 12, 2010

The final of my thoughts on the next round of postseason MLB awards. I’ve said before that I have little idea how to evaluate managers, so this post is more in the nature of who I think should win rather than who I think will win. As to the latter, I have no idea.

NL-Bud Black. I think deep down inside that Dusty Baker will probably win this or maybe it will be Bobby Cox or yet again Bruce Bochy. All of them led their team in the playoffs and that’s generally rewarded. Baker took a team that wasn’t supposed to win and took down the favored Cardinals. For Cox it was his last season and he got the Braves to the wildcard. Sentiment alone might get him the award. Bochy took a team that didn’t hit a lot, but pitched well and won the division on the final day of the season (remember the voting is done before the playoffs begin so the writers don’t know Bochy’s team is going to win the World  Series). As I said, Bochy won on the last day of the season. He did it by beating the Padres, Bud Black’s team. The Padres were picked dead last in an already weak division. With good pitching, decent enough hitting to win close games, and a reasonably decent defense, the Padres took it to the last day. Baring that horrendous 10 game losing streak, they would have won the west. The manager of the Padres, Bud Black, gets my vote for the manager of the year. He had almost nothing to work with and came within an ace of knocking off the pitching rich Giants. He’d get my vote, but if pressed to pick who I think the writers will choose, I guess I’d go with Baker.

AL-Terry Francona. He has no chance, but you have to give him credit for the Red Sox successess this season. Do you know how many of the Red Sox first line everyday players played at least 130 or more games? Exactly four (Marco Scutero, Adrian Beltre, JD Drew, and David Ortiz). That means that half the team was out of the lineup for long periods of time and they still ended up 89-73. Only Drew started more than 50 games in the same outfield position (McDonald and Hall started 50, but not in the same position). A manager has to get some credit for keeping a team like that in contention until late in the season. Only Jon Lester and John Lackey started 30 or more games. Try winning with 60% of your starters getting into less than 30 games. Frankly, as I stated earlier, I don’t think Francona has a chance of winning, but he probably should. Francona is using mirrors and sitll winning. Not bad. And speaking of mirrors, the other guy I’d look at seriously is Buck Showalter. He was there a third of a season in Baltimore and that will surely hurt him. But he won with that team; something no one’s done for a long, long time. I keep asking myslef, “Did he really win with those guys?” Again, if pressed, I’d probably say the writers will pick Joe Maddon, but I wouldn’t. I’d also love to see Ron Gardenhire finally get the credit he deserves.

End of a Decade

December 31, 2009

Today marks the end of the decade whose first three numbers are 200. A lot of people are doing their all-decade this and that. Who am I to go against the tide? So here’s my choice for baseball’s all-decade whatever.

Story of the decade: Has to be the steroid issue. It has tainted the statistics, the record book, awards, and the Hall of Fame voting. Frankly I don’t trust much of anything that happened in the first few years of the decade.

Franchise of the decade: I was tempted to go with the Yankees, who won 2 World Series’ and lost another, but finally decided to go with the Red Sox. They won 2 World Series’, completed an improbable comeback in 2004, and in general took a franchise that hadn’t won in 80 years and picked up multiple rings.

Player of the decade: Albert Pujols easy. No steroid taint (at least not yet, PLEASE GOD), great numbers, a ring, and one of the greatest home runs I ever saw (sorry, Brad Lidge). An honorable mention here to Joe Mauer who may end up the greatest hitting catcher ever. We’ll have to watch that closely.

Pitcher of the decade: Mariano Rivera. What he did in the late 90’s he’s continued to do for this decade. His team didn’t win as often, but as a rule that wasn’t his fault. An honorable mention here also is in order. This time to Curt Schilling. Better pitchers in the decade, but his influence on the winning Red Sox should be noted (and he had a heck of a 2001 World Series).

World Series of the decade: Speaking of the 2001 World Series, it gets my vote as the best of the decade. Several great games including the three in New York and a memorable game 7. One of the few times Rivera failed.

Playoff series of the decade: 2004 American League championship. Down 3 games to none, the Red Sox roar back to win the series 4 games to three. That had never happened before. What a great series and what a great showcase for David Ortiz.

Cinderella of the decade: 2008 Tampa Bay Rays. Came out of absolutely no where to get to the World Series. Would have been a better story if they’d won, but still a nice tale for the grandchildren years from now.

Bonehead of the decade: The tied All Star game. YUCK!!! Then they compound it by making an exhibition game determine home field for the World Series. Incredible.

Footnote player of the decade: Wasn’t sure what to call this, but it’s basically a hymn to those players you love to watch, but know aren’t really going to be anything but a footnote in baseball history. For me it’s David Eckstein. Love the guy’s intensity, his grit, his resolve. His winning the MVP for the 2006 World Series was an all-decade highlight for me.

Hall of Fame vote of the decade: Putting in a whole boatload of Negro League players at once. Great of baseball to finally recognize the depth of quality play in the Negro Leagues beyond just the most famous names and to finally recognize the executives that made the Negro Leagues work. It also gave the Hall of Fame its first female member in Effa Manley.

Manager of the decade: Terry Francona who wins 2 World Series’.