- The Yankees win the pennant:
Surviving in spite of their manager:
Talent and a gaffe-laden opponent carried the Yankees through.
I don't remember seeing a playoff series in any sport in which a coach or manager made massive tactical errors so hideous that they cost his club not one, but two games and they were still able to win. But that's exactly what happened with the Yankees.
Manager Joe Girardi's inexperience and shoddy, haphazard attempts at strategy with over-and-undermanaging very nearly blew up in his face so completely that he could've cost his team an entire series when, by all possible metrics, this series should've ended in a four-game sweep for the Yankees.
The afterglow of the first pennant for the club since 2003 will cloud these sins, but won't erase them. There have to be deep concerns of what he's going to pull when the doesn't have the security of the DH to protect him from other, more complicated decisions during the games played in the National League park.
Was that really the Angels?
The series was exemplified for the Angels by the bottom of the eighth inning when Howie Kendrick pulled a clank and had a simple bunt play in which all he had to do was be a first baseman for one play and the ball bounced off his glove; then, on another bunt, Scott Kazmir lollypopped a throw over everyone and allowed an insurance run to score.
From beginning to end, the Angels didn't look right. They made horrendous baserunning maneuvers; didn't advance runners, steal bases or play the game correctly. Their pitchers continually walked Yankee hitters and put runners on base for the middle of their lineup----something you cannot do if you want to beat them. They fell into carefully set traps by Alex Rodriguez and essentially let the Yankees off the hook. If they'd played the game the way they normally do----the way they played to get them to the ALCS in the first place despite all the injuries, obstacles and tragedy they endured----they would've won.
They were beaten by the relentless Yankees lineup; the Yankees old warhorses (Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter especially) coming through; and their own poor fundamentals and lack of execution.
- ESPN fires Steve Phillips;
In a similar vein to Hollywood and sports celebrities looking for sympathy as some way to curry favor with an all-too-forgiving and gullible public, Steve Phillips is entering an in-patient treatment facility to "address his personal issues".
What that means is anyone's guess. Walking into the same trap over-and-over again isn't a "personal issue" that can be treated if that is indeed the main problem. Was it arrogance that caused Phillips to destroy his career and family life? Or was it a pure self-destructive tendency? Does he have some genuine issue with something? Or is this the old publicist's trick of subterfuge to make it look like he's going to be a changed man when he gets out of treatment?
His personal life is his business; he's a good broadcaster and a knowledgeable baseball man, so he can rehabilitate himself professionally; he'll get another job somewhere in baseball I would think; but who's to say he's not going to turn around and do this again after the mess he's made of a blossoming career resurgence?
I can laugh at anything, but I don't think this is funny. I don't like seeing people waste their talent and that's exactly what Phillips has done repeatedly. It's a shame.
- "Cool man, a media circus!"
The above quote is culled from one Bartholomew J. Simpson.
Sanity has prevailed with the Cardinals as they've signed manager Tony La Russa to a multi-year contract.*
*I had a bad day with my predictions yesterday as hours after I said that I thought La Russa was going to leave St. Louis, it trickled out that he was staying. Then there was my prediction of ANGELS IN SEVEN that obviously didn't end as I expected. I stood up for my Family as a leader should and took the beating. Everyone has to take a beating sometimes. Life goes on.
La Russa's decision to stay in St. Louis has become the secondary story as hitting coach Hal McRae was fired and will be replaced by Mark McGwire.
Now this will be interesting.
The one thing I'm curious about is how McGwire is going to answer the questions that he refused to answer in front of congress. Is he going to stay on the "I'm not gonna talk about the past" script? Will he confess to his steroid use? Or will he shy away from the media entirely and say that he's there to talk about his job as batting coach and make the whole situation worse?
My advice to McGwire would be to answer any and all questions at the introductory press conference on every subject and be done with it. Admitting his past steroid use will put this to rest because there won't be anywhere else for the media to go. Just say, "I did it," go into details about why he made the same choice that a massive chunk of athletes have made and end the story once and for all.
The attempts at vacillation through non-answers will only stoke the desire for the truth and if he gives it up voluntarily, he'll be able to get on with his life and do his job effectively.
I think he has the potential to be a good hitting coach because regardless of the way he's been disgraced, the players still like and respect him and he's helped numerous hitters with their swing and mental approach independently and in spring training. The first press conference will tell the story of how he's going to move forward. Being honest is the first step.
- Indians hire Manny Acta as manager:
This was one prediction I got right. The day wasn't a total loss.
Acta is a solid guy and a good manager. He dealt with a situation in Washington where he didn't have much talent, was babysitting a group of juvenile delinquents and a controversial and overbearing GM in Jim Bowden----and did well. Anything after that mess will look like paradise----even Cleveland----and the Indians situation isn't all that bad. There's enough talent to compete and more fairly quickly. Acta's young enough to relate to the players while still maintaining respect and is a very good choice.
Where this leaves Bobby Valentine is a question.
There's no job for him in the big leagues now, so he has the choice of staying with ESPN and waiting for a big league job to open, or going back to Japan. I doubt Valentine's going to go back to Japan now. He wants to manage in MLB and there will likely be several opportunities early in 2010 for a manager with Valentine's credentials.
That he didn't get the Indians job shouldn't come as a shock. While I'm sure the Indians wanted him for his baseball savvy and interesting personality, the price tag was going to be too high as would the power demands. Indians GM Mark Shapiro doesn't seem the type to want to deal with a load of aggravation and along with all his obvious skills, aggravation just comes along with the Bobby V package.
The one situation to watch with Valentine is Tampa. There isn't a better spot in baseball for Valentine than the Rays----a young team that needs a strategically oriented manager who has the cachet and fearlessness to lay down the law to a club that is floundering under soft manager Joe Maddon. The Rays have been reluctant to make drastic decisions until backed into a corner, but a bad start next year could spur them to pull the trigger and do what must be done for the greater good.