Monday, November 1, 2010

Far From Scottsdale

  • This ain't Arizona, it's Texas:

Nor is it spring training.

It's the World Series.

Some of you may be aware that prior to the season, when the tidal wave of pre-season National League Rookie of the Year support was solidly behind Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, I selected Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner as my pick to win the award.

It wasn't due to any desire to be contrary; given Bumgarner's dominating success in and rapid rise through the minor leagues, the young lefty was a good idea to win his 12-15 games for a solid Giants team and be recognized as the NL's top rookie.

Bumgarner rewarded me by getting blasted so completely and having control so heinous that he didn't make the big club out of spring training. The numbers were atrocious: 7 innings; 8 hits; 5 runs; 5 earned runs; 1 homer; 1 hit-by-pitch; 7 walks; and no strikeouts.

It was only spring training, but there had to be cause for concern within the Giants organization; not because he got shelled, but because he didn't strike out one batter in all of spring training. The implication was that Bumgarner----as a lefty who pitched to contact----wasn't going to be able to handle disciplined big league hitters as well as he did the minor leaguers still learning their craft.

After going to Triple A, Bumgarner went 7-1 with across the board stats that were nowhere near the decimation he inflicted on the entire minor league system during his first three pro seasons. In fairness, no one save an in-his-prime Pedro Martinez could keep up an ERA under 2 all the way up to the majors; and Triple A isn't a development league; it's rife with veterans who are interchangeable parts with the 24th and 25th man on a big league roster. If a young pitcher performing competently against Triple A hitters, it's a relatively good sign that he'll be able to deal with big league hitters----to a certain, reasonable extent----regardless of age or rawness.

Bumgarner was recalled in late June and pitched very well----far better than his 7-6 record indicates; by all rights, he could've won 12 games. Because of the overt failure of $126 million man Barry Zito, Bumgarner suddenly found himself in the position of having to start important games down the stretch and in the first two rounds of the playoffs against the Braves and Phillies. He came through in all cases.

Last night, the 21-year-old showed a maturity reminiscent to Bret Saberhagen when the precocious 21-year-old won the Cy Young Award and led the Royals to the world championship in 1985. Bumgarner pitched 8 scoreless innings, allowed only 3 hits; walked 2; stuck out 6; and was never in any serious trouble at any point. Of course he was helped along by the Rangers over-aggressiveness and manager Ron Washington, but that doesn't diminish what Bumgarner has done in his coming out party of the 2010 post-season.

He's not going to win Rookie of the Year, but he might just get himself a championship ring; and unlike Zito, the veteran whom he replaced in the rotation, he'll have actually done something to earn it.

I'm sure he'll take the trade-off.

  • It's called a "stop sign", Ron:

Ever heard of it?

It means STOP!!!

Don't go.

Hold your position.


Move not.



Does Rangers manager Ron Washington have a hold sign for his baserunners or is everything at their own occasionally haphazard----as has been proven repeatedly in this post-season----discretion?

There's such a thing known as impulse control; a time for safety first; of knowing when a team has to abandon their "way" of doing things and let their hitters hit.

What possible reason was there for Josh Hamilton to be stealing second base on the first pitch with Nelson Cruz at the plate, 2 outs and the Rangers trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning?

Two schools of thought are applicable here: 1) the Rangers have played this way all year and it's part of the reason they're in the World Series; they haven't been hitting at all and perhaps it was time to push the envelope a bit. Or, 2) It was Nelson Cruz at the plate; Cruz has bashed lefties all year long with a .330 average and .976 OPS; and, more importantly, he hit .446 vs lefties at home (25 for 56) with a 1.304 OPS.

It was the first pitch of the at bat as well. I can see, to a point, trying to send Hamilton if Cruz fell behind 0-2; but on the first pitch? Did Washington call that steal? And if he didn't, why wasn't there a hold sign for Hamilton?

Normally, I'd say there was no way a manager called for a steal in that situation, but Washington hasn't exactly distinguished himself as a great strategic thinker in his time as Rangers manager, so I put nothing past him; and I'm honestly curious if any of the Rangers baserunners know the hold sign, if it indeed does exist.

Hamilton has been historically cautious and successful in his stolen base attempts, but in this case, a hold sign to give Cruz a chance to perhaps walk or hit one into the gap was appropriate strategy. A stolen base attempt on the first pitch was ludicrous.

It can't happen. In fact, it's insanity.

  • Why turn down a potential interview?

Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record said the following on Twitter regarding former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons and the possibility of Gibbons interviewing to be the manager of the Mets:

John Gibbons has told #Mets he's not a candidate for manager's job. He sent a message to Alderson thru 3rd party: he's happy in KC.

I find this odd.

Why not take the interview if the opportunity is offered?

I've been an advocate of Gibbons getting an interview and as a frontrunner for the job based on his toughness, managerial skills, and ties to the Mets; but if this is the way he feels about it, then perhaps the Mets are better off without him.

Another name that I'd brought up numerous times in recent years for other jobs----Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin----is making the rounds in rumors/suggestions for the Mets. He has no Mets ties, but did work for Mets front office man Wayne Krivsky with the Reds as he managed the team to a 41-39 record after taking over for the fired Jerry Narron. He also managed the Pirates over the last month of the 2005 season after Lloyd McClendon was fired. Mackanin deserves a good look from new Mets GM Sandy Alderson.

  • Viewer Mail 11.1.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes the Yankees and Joe Girardi:

It would be nice if Girardi could relax a little now and not consult The Binder all the time. Well, he can consult it, but not make decisions based solely on it. Good managers go with their gut.

The shame of it is that he's a supersmart man and undoubtedly has conflicting feelings about doing certain things; there have to have been situations in which he knew going against the percentages was the right thing to do, but eschewed such a radical deviation from what he's been told by the front office and the Binder out of caution. Maybe the 3-year contract will push him into a different line of thinking.

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger (Brooklyn Capo) writes RE the Yankees, Brian Cashman and Girardi:

Girardi is exactly who Brian Cashman wants him to be. Cashman made it very clear on the radio he has no use for anyone who manages with their guts. As a matter of fact he called it irresponsible. Cashman said he wants a manager making decisions based on all the accumulated information contained in said Blue Binder. The binder is co-authored by Cashman himself.
"LooseLeaf" Lives On. Me? You can't qualify everything with a number. It just doesn't work that way. Stats are nice, but they're not gospel.

I get the impression that Girardi has rattled his cage from time-to-time as was the case with Joba Chamberlain being shifted to the bullpen in the spring; Cashman didn't seem too happy with the decision and made some cryptically clingy statements to the idea that Chamberlain is a starter. (And in fairness, I'm beginning to think he might be right....if they let the guy pitch and don't tie him up as they have Girardi.)

With the 3-year contract, I'm not sure of Cashman's recourse if Girardi stars disobeying him. Is he going to fire him in May if Girardi makes a couple of decisions that aren't straight out of the Binder? Cashman may live to regret giving his manager some strong footing on which to stand to think like a human being.

I was a guest with Sal on the SportsFan Buzz a week ago talking about the World Series, the Mets, the Yankees and all sorts of other things. Click here to listen directly or here to download it from Sal's site on I-Tunes.


Jeff said...

Ron with a stop sign? Hell no, man! That's the life of fast-paced (*wink wink*) manager!

After Hamilton took off, I had a gut feeling the Rangers were getting desperate, that they'd lose the game.

Gabriel said...

Madison Bumgarner throwed a gem last night. During the game I was reminded of your prediction. I thought Bochy would pull him at the 6th or 7th but he didn't, and that's one of the signs of a great manager.

She-Fan said...

Bumgarner for Rookie of the Year! I guess he won't win it, but he was impressive last night. They talk about a pitcher's composure all the time and normally I roll my eyes. But this kid showed it big time.