Posted on: October 19, 2011 5:40 pm
ST. LOUIS -- The tarp is on the field. The place is on near-lockdown with First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden due tonight. The rain has been falling off and on all afternoon.
Though MLB officials are confident that the Cardinals and Rangers will play tonight (and on time), it is cold, wet and raw here -- which means Mother Nature may have a better chance of slowing down these two big-hitting lineups in Game 1 of the World Series than any starting pitcher.
The cold, wet conditions will not help Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, who experienced some swelling in his right elbow following his Game 3 start against Milwaukee in the NLCS. (He says he's fine.)
The weather will not be comfortable for Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, who has experienced some severe swelling in his postseason numbers this autumn: He's 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA. (He says he's fine.)
But the conditions may be even worse for hitters, because the colder it gets, the less the baseball carries. And it is expected to dip into the upper 30s tonight.
The Rangers clubbed 13 homers, 20 doubles and scored 55 runs in their 10 post-season games so far, and they're hitting .276 with runners in scoring position. Josh Hamilton has hit safely in five consecutive postseason games, and he hopes to take that momentum into this World Series to erase the memories of last year against San Francisco: Hamilton was just 2 for 20 against the Giants and looked even worse than those numbers do.
The Cardinals, meantime, averaged 5.6 runs per game in the NLCS. They led the NL in runs scored this season, and their +70 run differential was third in the AL. Albert Pujols is coming off of a torrid NLCS, and Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are doing a fine job of protecting him. Holliday, battling tendinitis in his right hand, says though it's about the same as it was in the NLCS, it's far better than it was against Philadelphia in the first round.
Both of these clubs are fairly experienced in October, the Rangers having gained theirs more recently. Michael Young talked extensively Tuesday about how this year should be better for Texas because the Rangers know what's ahead of them, know better what to expect out of the World Series. That no doubt goes for manager Ron Washington, too, who is has guided the Rangers to their second World Series in two years.
This is the sixth World Series for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, and as the wind blew and the rain fell outside, he spoke of how he's changed from that first one with Oakland in 1988 until now.
"The first one, I wouldn't say I was clueless," La Russa said. "You have a little clue. But it was like in '83, the first time in the playoffs [managing the White Sox], you're just hoping you don't pass out during the game.
"That was painful in '88 because no doubt, Tommy [Lasorda, then the Dodgers' manager] did a much better job of getting his club ready for the World Series than I did for the A's."
All these years later, La Russa has become the master. And over in the Texas dugout, Washington has earned his stripes -- though he doesn't want to hear about "matching wits" with La Russa.
"I don't think I can ever live up to matching a wit with Tony La Russa, but what I will try to do is put my players in the right position," Washington said the other day. "And if my players perform, I don't have to worry about matching wits. They'll take care of things."
Rangers-Cardinals, we're just about there.
Well, as soon as they take the tarp off the field.
Posted on: July 12, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 7:17 pm
Washington waited many, many years before getting his first managerial opportunity. And then, in his fourth season guiding Texas, he led the Rangers to their first-ever World Series. This after he tested positive for cocaine during his third season and survived.
Yes, Washington is a survivor, an underdog, however you want to put it. He is beloved by his players -- just as he was by players in Oakland during his 11 seasons as an Athletics coach. Part of it is his baseball knowledge. Part of it is his humanity -- his compassion, his understanding, his ability to relate to people. And part of it is his directness, which comes peppered in his own unique, colorful language.
Which is why one of tonight's All-Star Game highlights figures to occur in the privacy of the American League clubhouse, away from the public eye.
"His pre-game speech is going to be a classic," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young says. "I'm going to have to record it. I'm going to make sure I have a front-row seat.
"It might be the first All-Star speech where f--- is said about 30 times."
Young's point is well taken, though his accuracy is ripe to be questioned.
Let's remember, the Dodgers' Tommy Lasorda managed the NL club five times.
Posted on: October 13, 2010 3:40 pm
Fredi Gonzalez is smart, he's coached under Bobby Cox, the Braves love him (front office and players alike) and he's got a veteran manager's pedigree.
There's only one thing not working in his favor, and it will be no small obstacle for Gonzalez to overcome: That old maxim, you never want to be the man who follows The Man.
Following Cox in Atlanta? It will be like following John Wooden at UCLA (poor Gene Bartow), Don Shula with the Miami Dolphins (Jimmy Johnson couldn't replicate the success), Tommy Lasorda with the Dodgers (hello Bill Russell, sacrificial lamb).
Not only did Cox guide the Braves to those 14 consecutive NL East titles (discounting the strike-shortened 1994 season) and the 1995 World Series title, but his greater legacy while moving to fourth on the all-time managerial wins list might be this: You never heard any player who passed through the Braves clubhouse over the years utter a negative word about Cox. None. Ever.
What a testament to Cox in the immediate aftermath of Game 4 of the NL Division Series: The Turner Field crowd giving him a prolonged standing ovation, and the San Francisco Giants hitting the "pause" button on their on-field celebration long enough to stop, face the Braves dugout and give Cox a standing ovation of their own. What a show of spontaneity and class.
Into this Grand Canyon-sized opening steps Gonzalez, who was unceremoniously dumped by the Marlins last summer when owner Jeffrey Loria's lust for Bobby Valentine apparently got the best of him.
Gonzalez was the Braves' third-base coach from 2003-2006 and, before that, in 2002, he managed their Triple-A Richmond club.
This is a man with intimate knowledge of the Braves' system -- the players, the way they do things, the culture. Even after leaving to manage the Marlins in 2007, Gonzalez lived in the Atlanta area in the winters and several times a week would meet Cox and other Braves coaches for breakfast.
So, the transition from Cox and Gonzalez should be seamless. Part of that will be because the Braves, as you would expect, handled the entire transition with class. From Cox's retirement to refusing to discuss Gonzalez until after one last, final Cox news conference on Wednesday, the Braves hit all the right notes.
Now, it's up to Gonzalez. We don't know whether Chipper Jones will make it back next year from his knee injury, but we do know the cupboard is fairly well stocked for the new manager, from pitchers Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe and Tommy Hanson to everyday players such as Martin Prado, Jason Heyward and Brian McCann.
In Atlanta, the prima donnas are at a minimum. Presumably, Gonzalez will not have a petulant Hanley Ramirez problem on his hands. And if he does, we know how he'll respond: In one of his finest moments as Marlins manager, he benched Ramirez when the shortstop resorted to dogging it.
In two of Gonzalez's three full seasons in Florida -- 2008 and 2009 -- he got more out of the Marlins than they had a right to expect. He'll have more resources in Atlanta -- bigger payroll, more tradition and established veteran players.
Replacing Cox will be no easy task, but in so many ways, Gonzalez is inheriting an ideal situation. Let's see what the man can do.
Posted on: December 7, 2009 11:21 am
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Veterans' Committee went 2 for 2 Monday in voting former manager Whitey Herzog and former umpire Doug Harvey into the Hall of Fame.
Herzog was an innovator who managed the Cardinals to three National League titles.
Harvey was an umpire who gave new meaning to the standard that umpires are the game's highest authority: He was called "God" by the players because he was never wrong.
As Harvey told me with a chuckle two years ago for a column just before he fell one vote short of election then, "There have been Princes and Earls and everything you can think of in the way of high nicknames in the game. But name another person that the players called 'God.'"
Indeed. And in becoming the first umpire elected to Cooperstown since Nester Chylak in 1999 -- and only the fourth admitted since 1977 -- Harvey's marvelous 47-year career finally has the ending it deserves.
I mean, a few years back the highly respected Society for American Baseball Research ranked Harvey as the second greatest umpire of the 20th century of professional baseball, behind only Bill Klem.
"Doug Harvey, to me ... sometimes you see umpires and you say, 'That guy is not giving his best. He's being lackadaisical,'" says Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, a voting member of the Veterans' Committee. "That never happened with him. He put his heart and soul into the game.
"He always had good control of the game. He had the players' respect. He had the pitchers' respect. This is where he belongs."
Herzog, who, like Harvey, missed election by only one vote two years ago, easily was elected this time with 14 votes (12 were needed).
Over his 18-year managing career, he led St. Louis to three NL pennants and the World Series title in 1982 and, as Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith -- Herzog's start shortstop in St. Louis -- notes, he changed the way things were done.
"He started building his ballclub according to the ballpark in which we played," says Smith, also a member of the Veterans' Committee. "He found an aspect of the game, an aspect he always highlighted that ... while the New York Mets might have been a better ballclub, we found a way to win the division.
"That was from fundamentals. We knew if we kept the game close, in the late innings, the team that played better defense would win, and we knew we could do that."
Smith speaks of the unique dynamic Herzog brought to the Cardinals during that time, noting in particular the way Herzog sometimes juggled his relievers by moving the pitcher into right field for a hitter and then bringing him back to the mound to pitch to the following hitter.
"Watching the confusion on the other side of the field," Smith says. "It was fun."
As Lasorda says, "Whitey was the kind of guy you didn't know what the hell he was going to do. You'd think he was going to do one thing and he'd do the other thing. He wasn't a [by the] book manager."
What he is -- deservedly so -- a Hall of Fame manager.
Posted on: October 15, 2009 7:25 pm
Edited on: October 15, 2009 10:15 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Who gets Tommy Lasorda in the Frank and Jamie McCourt split?
Los Angeles is buzzing about the bust-up of the Dodger owners, who were named as the area's "Power Couple of the Year" in 2008 by the Los Angeles Business Journal.
Though the timing of the public confirmation was inconvenient, to say the least, with the Dodgers set to open the NL Championship Series against the Phillies, those connected with the Dodgers have known for much of the summer that there's been trouble in paradise for the McCourts.
So as far as any immediate distractions, forget it. The only thing that's changed for the Dodgers is that knowledge of the McCourt's separation now has extended beyond the inner circle.
"It's a very private thing, and I respect that. ... It's not going to affect anything we do," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "My players and myself, we have a job to do, and whatever is going on there is certainly not going to affect what we do here. As I say, it's unfortunate and I feel badly, but it's one of those things that happen in life."
"I've experienced no difference in how we do our business," general manager Ned Colletti said. "On a personal level, I'm saddened by it."
No divorce papers have been filed, so it's premature to know for sure what it going to happen. But California is a community property state, meaning, couple split their assets 50-50 in divorces. That simple fact alone seems to spell big trouble ahead for the Dodgers -- just as it did for the Padres -- unless the McCourts reconcile.
Because if they don't, sources say neither one likely is financially liquid enough to buy out the other one.
Meantime, though Frank McCourt's lawyer told the Los Angeles Times that Frank is the sole owner of the Dodgers, that seems disingenuous because if the couple divorces, Jamie would be entitled to 50 percent of all assets failing a pre-nuptial agreement.
"Speculation about a potential sale of the team is rubbish," Grossman told the Los Angeles Times. "Frank McCourt is the sole owner. He has absolutely no intention of selling this team now or ever."
Aside from the sole owner stuff, he has no intention of selling the team ... ever? Ever? Really?
Colletti could be most immediately affected by the split because his contract is up after next season and, after building the team that finished with the best record in the NL this season -- 95 wins -- he should be in line for a multi-year extension.
Now, who knows?
"I'm fine," Colletti said when asked about the contract issue before Game 1 here Thursday. "I'll always be fine. I'll be wherever I'm supposed to be."
Colletti maintained that whatever is going on with ownership, Los Angeles is still the place he wants to be.
"I've made it known that I'd like to stay," he said. "We've had four good years here as a group. We've been to the postseason three times. We have the best record in the National League today. We struggled with Manny [Ramirez] being gone for 50 days.
"We have an investment here in time, energy and effort. Not just me -- everyone."
Likes: Philadelphia making its pitching up as it goes along. ... Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy writing the other day of Boston's Game 3 loss to the Angels that, before that day, closer Jonathan Papelbon's ERA was the same as John Blutarsky's grade-point average: 0.00. Fabulous line. ... A new Nick Hornby book to read: Juliet, Naked. Always a good thing when Hornby writes a new book. High Fidelity and About a Boy remain among my favorites. ... Great morning run Thursday morning around the Rose Bowl and through Pasadena's Arroyo Seco. Terrific.
Dislikes: Sure wish legendary Philadelphia broadcaster Harry Kalas were with us at this NL Championship Series. ... No sellout in Los Angeles?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"We'd been living together for a million years
-- Greg Kihn Band, The Breakup Song