Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Lightning 10.24.2010

  • Tough enough:

The Phillies were out-managed; out clutch-hit; out pitched; and outplayed, but the key to the entire series may not have been an on-field, quantifiable occurrence; it may have been the simplicity of the Giants not being intimidated by the Phillies; not allowing them to bully their way through; by banding together as a group and shoving the Phillies back.

If you look at the teams that the Phillies have abused in the regular and post-seasons of the past four years, you'll see teams that----bottom-line----haven't had the heart to hit the Phillies back. Both the Mets and Dodgers have had key players outright intimidated by the Phillies.

Since 2007, it's been an avalanche for the Mets. Rife with passive players who need a conduit to exhibit the inner anger that they clearly don't know how to express and use for their own ends, they've been beaten by the Phillies repeatedly. Looking at the foundation of the Mets there are the Carlos Beltran/David Wright-types who don't have the innate fire and explosiveness; Johan Santana and Jose Reyes talk a good game in that regard, but are either injured or fail at crunch time; Jeff Francoeur was willing to do the dirty work, but wasn't productive enough to back it up.

The Dodgers, led by the calm and collected Joe Torre, were undone by closer Jonathan Broxton's high-profile gacks; in fact, the 6'4", 300 pound Broxton wilted at the sight of the Phillies regardless of the score or situation.

In 2007, the Phillies were simultaneously satisfied and exhausted after the frantic final month in which they overtook the Mets to win the division; having finally made the playoffs after so many late season failures of their own was a stepping stone to the subsequent years.

The Rays lost the 2008 World Series because of Joe Maddon's idiotic strategies----not using David Price when the rain suspended game 5 resumed was nonsensical; and the Phillies were the better team.

By 2009, the Phillies reputation and execution caused the unraveling of the closers of their two NL opponents, the Rockies (Huston Street), and Dodgers (Broxton). The Yankees beat the Phillies because they had a few battle-tested players of their own with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.

That determination carried the Phillies from their struggles and injuries at mid-season 2010 and they blasted their way through the final two months of the season. Overtaking the Braves to win the NL East with the best record in the NL; they blew through the overmatched and waiting-to-lose Reds....then they ran into the Giants.

For all the on-paper advantages in the lineup, the Giants were able to counteract that which made the Phillies so frightening. The Phillies "big three" starting pitchers----Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels----were neatly matched by the Giants Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain; Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner did their parts and Giants manager Bruce Bochy was smarter and better than his counterpart Charlie Manuel; in fact, Manuel managed scared and/or stupidly by using Oswalt in relief in game 4.

And the Phillies didn't hit.

Is that a byproduct of the flaws in their lineup----streakiness; too lefty-centric; strikeouts galore?
Or was it the Giants pitching that mitigated them?

I'd say it was both.

In other circumstances, the Phillies might have been able to shove their way through a different team with different personnel. Had they been facing the Braves, Rockies or Dodgers, then the end result would've been unavoidable; but the Giants? No.

More than the sum of their parts, you look at the Giants roster from top to bottom and what do you see?

You see tough guys.

Cody Ross----with the Marlins, he got popped in the mouth with a fastball while trying to bunt; stood there bleeding, came out of the game...and insisted on playing the next day.

Brian Wilson----in an age in which closers are unable or unwilling to pitch more than one inning, Wilson is from an era in which relief pitchers said "gimme the ball" without question or complaint; battling through pain and firing fastballs, Wilson will pitch as long as he's needed.

Juan Uribe----underappreciated for defensive weakness and a hacking style, he hit big homer after big homer all season until last night's game-winner in the eighth inning.

Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum----pitchers, for the most part, are afraid brush hitters back; Cain and Lincecum aren't.

Aubrey Huff; Pat Burrell; Edgar Renteria-----all players who are ready to fight and come through in the spotlight.

Tough guys.

With the Phillies of Chase Utley; Halladay; Oswalt; Joe Blanton; Jayson Werth; Shane Victorino; Carlos Ruiz----feisty with their fists balled up and ready to scrap, similar to the image the city of Philadelphia likes to project, a team that's going to beat them must be willing to get into the muck, stare into their eyes and act----not just talk-----act as if they're not afraid; and it can't be false bravado. It's an attitude that can be sensed.

This can't be analyzed through stats; stats don't play the game of baseball.

It's easy to say, "I'm not scared of you."; "You don't intimidate me."; "You hit me? I hit you back."

It's another thing to follow through.

The Giants followed through.

And they're going to the World Series.

That's pretty tough.

  • Crow parmigiana:

In case any of you missed one of the more disgusting aspects of Michael Kay (worse than his baseball "analysis"), the NY Post went into nauseating detail of his diet in early September----NY Post, 9/5/10.

With his preferred meals requiring the inclusion of bacon, steak or chicken parm, I have a recipe for him to eat as he's forced to read aloud The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci while simultaneously watching the Rangers and Giants play in the World Series; I call it Crow Parmigiana.

For Crow Parmagiana, you will need:

1 fat crow, plucked clean.

1 jar of Ragu plain sauce.

1 package of shredded mozzarella.

2 cups store bought bread crumbs.

3 large eggs.

1 cup vegetable oil.

Salt and pepper.

To make the dish:

Trim the crow and slice the breasts into cutlets. Beat the eggs in a bowl; add a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat oil on medium-high heat in large skillet. Dip crow cutlets into egg wash. Dredge crow cutlets in bread crumbs. Place breaded cutlets carefully into oil. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side until breadcrumb coating is nicely browned and crow is cooked through.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place crow cutlets on a tin foil lined baking sheet. Cover with Ragu sauce. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Bake until cheese is melted, approximately 12-15 minutes.

Serve with iceberg lettuce, undressed. (Um, the lettuce should be undressed; not Michael Kay; PLEASE not Michael Kay!!!)

Watch him eat and make sure he cleans his plate.

Now, I understand that crow may not be a delicacy; that Ragu sauce, store bought breadcrumbs and the other shortcuts taken in this recipe may not be friendly to the foodies among us (or even people with a modicum of taste), but this is Michael Kay; he won't know the difference; and after his expert declaration that the ALCS was "over" after game 1 (who were we, the Rangers or anyone to argue?), he needs a nice hearty meal to wash down the realization that he doesn't know anything about baseball; and to me, crow parmigiana is a perfect dish to achieve this end.

Farrell has a diverse resume. He was a pretty good pitcher in the late 1980s; was a recruiter and coach of his alma mater of Oklahoma State University; was the respected director of player development for the Cleveland Indians from 2001-2006; and has been a fine pitching coach for the Red Sox.

He's got the goods to be a good manager, but two detriments would give me pause. 1) he's a former pitcher; and 2) he's never managed before.

All due respect to pitchers, I would be reluctant to hire a former pitcher----despite his persona and well-rounded experience in baseball----to manage my team. Then when you add in the total lack of experience in managing, I have an even greater aversion to taking this kind of risk.

How many pitchers can you name that made good managers? I don't consider Bud Black of the Padres a "good" manager; he's had some success, but his strategic and personnel mistakes have cost his teams dearly in their pennant chases of 2007 and 2010. He does a good job, as he should, in handling the pitchers.

There have been good pitching coaches who've gotten the opportunity in recent years to run the whole team and it didn't work for them as managers. Larry Rothschild and Ray Miller are two examples of this.

It's very, very hard to translate that focus from pitchers and pitchers only to the rest of the team. Many hitters don't consider pitchers actual "baseball players" and this could sabotage Farrell's tenure from the start. If a pitching coach turned manager makes a series of strategic gaffes when he starts out----due to lack of experience, nuance or whatever----it's going to be hard for him to regain the confidence of the clubhouse as a whole.

Tommy Lasorda is one example of a pitcher who wound up being a great manager, but Lasorda managed in the minor leagues for years, was very successful and handled the young Dodgers players----Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Davey Lopes----as they were coming through the system; then he became the big club's third base coach under Walter Alston.

It's a really difficult transition and I'd take this into account before making that leap to manager from pitcher, to scout, to pitching coach. The Blue Jays are loaded with good young pitching; if Farrell has a veteran bench coach he can rely on to help him, then maybe it can work; but it's a gamble. A gamble I'd think long and hard before taking, resume or not.

  • Josh Byrnes-John Gibbons a winning combination for the Mets:

I find laughable the none-too-subtly leaked stories of the Mets having decided on hiring Sandy Alderson as their GM.

If they've made the final decision, then why are they bothering with a final "knockout round" of interviews with the two remaining candidates Alderson and Josh Byrnes?

What has to be understood when reading anyone's analysis of anything is where they're coming from. There's a desire----for whatever reason----to have Alderson take over as Mets GM. From the outside, it doesn't look to be fait accompli that Alderson is getting the job.

Unlike others, I've been open in my preference of Byrnes over Alderson. My reasons for this have been related in postings over the past two weeks. My agenda is transparent; to quote the Joker: "Do I really look like a guy with a plan?"

Because of my absence of pretense, when I rail against Paul DePodesta; Joel Sherman; Michael Kay; or whoever and say it's nothing personal, you know I'm telling the truth.

Can these others say that? Can they be open in their agenda and clumsy twisting of reality to suit their own ends?

I say no.

With that in mind, I'm making one final suggestion for the Mets before they decide who's going to run the show: hire Josh Byrnes as GM and John Gibbons as manager.

Reportedly, both Byrnes and Alderson submitted five managerial names to the Mets hierarchy as to whom they'd interview if given the job. I have no idea whether Gibbons is on one or both lists. But he should be.

Gibbons has Mets ties----he managed in their minor league system and has a 1986 championship ring; he's got big league experience having managed the Blue Jays; he was a catcher and knows how to handle pitchers; he was solid strategically; and, most importantly, he...doesn't...take....crap.

With the Blue Jays, Gibbons challenged the insurrection-minded Shea Hillenbrand to a fistfight to which Hillenbrand declined; he also got into a brawl with one of his pitchers, Ted Lilly, when Lilly showed up Gibbons as the manager removed the pitcher from a game.

I'd like to see what Gibbons would've done to Mike Pelfrey if Pelfrey showed Gibbons his back when the manager came out to yank him as Pelfrey did to former Mets manager Jerry Manuel late in the 2010 season.

He either wouldn't do it or he'd get belted. And he'd deserve it.

There are those promoting Wally Backman as manager; I'd have Backman as a coach, but as manager? He's too much of a risk. If the Mets want to speak to current coach Chip Hale, I'm on board with that as well. But to me, they need someone who's going to handle the job in all its aspects, and one of the biggest factors for the current Mets squad is respect and aggression----two things that Gibbons would demand.

This is what the Mets need and hiring Byrnes and Gibbons is what they should do.

  • I'll do Viewer Mail tomorrow:

Um...that pretty much explains that.

I was a guest with Sal at SportsFan Buzz a week ago Friday talking about the LCS and managerial stuff. Click here for Sal's site or here to listen directly. You can listen to see what I said pre-series and immerse yourself in that which I got right and/or wrong.

I'll be on with Sal tomorrow talking about the World Series and other stuff----playoff postmortem, managers, GMs, etc.

My voice is nearly as hypnotic as my writing, but not on a level with my personality. Or maybe I've got the order mixed up.

Judge for yourself!!!


Gabriel said...

You missed Fernando Valenzuela in the pitchers that Lasorda handled well.

I don't know if I like Farrell as the manager as well. Maybe I'd like him more if he had managed in the minor leagues. I'd have gone with Sandy Alomar Jr. He was a catcher and he handled pitchers really well.

And the Giants proved themselves. Congratulations to the Giants, Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean.

She-Fan said...

You 're doing recipes now? What a good idea. I see A Prince of New York cookbook in your future.