Posted on: December 30, 2010 6:06 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2010 6:12 pm

Ex-big leaguer Boros dies at 74

What a sad year this has been for the Tigers.

Ernie Harwell died. Sparky Anderson died. Bill Lajoie died.

And last night, Steve Boros.

Maybe he wasn't as well known as the other three, but I'd challenge you to find anyone who knew him and didn't like him. And just about anyone who spent time in baseball over the last 50 years ran into Boros at one time or another.

He was a $25,000 Tigers bonus baby in 1957, a local kid signed out of Flint and the University of Michigan. He was never a big-league star, but he spent parts of seven seasons with the Tigers, Reds and Cubs. He later managed in the big leagues, with the 1983-84 A's and the 1986 Padres. He was one of the first managers to make use of a computer.

Boros came back to the Tigers in 1996, working first as minor-league field coordinator and then in other jobs through 2004.

Boros was 74.

Posted on: December 5, 2010 4:56 pm

Baseball's big week begins . . . now

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Baseball's Winter Meetings begin Monday.

Or did they start Sunday? Or maybe last week?

It's a little hard to tell, given how fast and furious (and sometimes confusing) the hot stove has been. In the last few days alone, the Yankees re-signed Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, and the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez.

Or maybe they didn't.

As the baseball world traveled to Walt Disney World for this week's meetings (and yes, they do officially begin on Monday), multiple reports said that the Red Sox hadn't been able to reach a contract agreement with Gonzalez before a 2 p.m. Sunday deadline, which very likely means the big trade with the Padres won't happen.

Gonzalez's future will be a topic for executives in the lobby at the Dolphin Hotel, but so will the future of Zack Greinke (who could be traded by the Royals), Jayson Werth (who MLB.com reported was close to signing with the Nationals), Cliff Lee (who probably won't sign anywhere this week) and Carl Crawford.

Despite all that has happened since the World Series ended, the potential exists for a lively week.

And it begins Monday. Or Sunday. Or something like that.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 4:32 pm

Manager of the Year (except October), Part III

Congratulations to Bud Black and Ron Gardenhire, deserving winners of the Manager of the Year awards.

Now, for the third straight year:

The system needs changing.

In the current baseball world, the world of a three-tiered playoff system, managers of top teams are judged at least as much by what they do in October as by what they do for the six months before October. And yet, the Baseball Writers Association of America still decides the Manager of the Year awards based only on the regular season.

It's possible that Black still wins in the National League, because keeping that Padres team alive in the playoff fight until the very last day of the season was hugely impressive. But don't you think Bruce Bochy, who finished a distant third in the voting (behind Black and Dusty Baker) gets strong consideration to win it if you include October.

Simple question: Of all the managers in the National League, who had the best season (including the postseason)? It may well have been Bochy.

As for the American League, Gardenhire was a fairly close winner over Ron Washington, which was just about right if you include the regular season only. Gardenhire's Twins lost closer Joe Nathan in spring training, and they won 94 games, third in the AL behind the Rays and Yankees.

Add in the postseason, though, and I'll guarantee you that award goes the other way. Gardenhire's Twins had yet another first-round disappointment against the Yankees, while Washington pulled the Rangers past both of the AL East powerhouses.

Black and Gardenhire had outstanding years. Bochy and Washington were better.

The system, as of now, doesn't allow us to recognize that.

Posted on: October 27, 2010 11:35 pm

No offense? Giants take down Lee in Game 1

SAN FRANCISCO -- Believe it or not, there were three other times this season that Cliff Lee gave up seven or more runs.

Believe it or not, the three teams he did it against were the Padres, Orioles and Royals.

Hard to believe?

No more so than Wednesday's Game 1 of the World Series, when the Rangers handed Lee an early two-run lead and then watched him give up seven runs to the offensively-challenged Giants, handing San Francisco an 11-7 win.

So the most successful postseason pitcher we've ever seen just got destroyed by one of the weakest World Series lineups we've ever seen?

Yeah, that's exactly what happened in Game 1. Believe it or not.

In his first eight postseason starts, Lee never lost. Not only that, but he never gave up anything bigger than a one-run lead.

In their first 10 games this postseason, the Giants only once scored more than four runs. In fact, even going back to the regular season, the Giants topped four runs just once in their last 17 games.

And they pounded Cliff Lee.

They knocked him out in the fifth inning -- first time that's ever happened to him in a postseason game, and first time it's happened to him in any start since the end of August.

They spotted him the two early runs, tied the game in the third with the help of a Michael Young error, then took control with a six-run fifth. Lee left trailing 5-2 with two out and two runners on base. Darren O'Day gave up a three-run home run to Juan Uribe, and that was that.

Lee gave up eight hits, and five of them went for extra bases. He gave up three doubles to Freddy Sanchez.

Then again, maybe we shouldn't be surprised. When Lee faced the Padres back in May, he gave up three doubles to Adrian Gonzalez and another three to Nick Hundley.

Maybe there's something about the National League West. Maybe there's something about offensively-challenged NL West teams.

Who knows?

All we know for sure is that what happened Wednesday night wasn't what any of us expected to see.

Posted on: October 3, 2010 5:46 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2010 5:59 pm

Braves, Pads, Giants roll with the changes

ATLANTA -- When this run started for Bobby Cox and the Braves, they stood on the infield grass at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, watching a game from Candlestick Park.

And when the Giants beat the Dodgers, the 1991 Braves were division champions.

So here Cox and the Braves are this afternoon, at Turner Field, watching a game from AT&T Park, hoping that another Giants win -- this time over the Padres -- will put them in the 2010 postseason as the National League's wild-card team.

And REO Speedwagon is on the infield dirt.

Memories of the '90s. Memories of the '80s.

And all the while we're still trying to figure out who will be in the playoffs now.

As Sunday afternoon turned into evening, the Braves were in their clubhouse, waiting to see whether they could spray champagne as a true playoff entrant, or whether they'd be in a three-way tie with the Padres and Giants, necessitating a Tuesday late-afternoon play-in game in Atlanta.

"We'd rather do it tonight," Cox said, after the Braves' 8-7 win over the Phillies. "All right, keep your fingers crossed."

Or listen to REO Speedwagon, as a few thousand fans did. Meanwhile, the Padres and Giants played on, on a small screen in left field.

"People might be cheering, and they won't know why," Braves general manager Frank Wren said as the concert began. "They'll think, 'This wasn't even one of our hits.'"

UPDATE: The concert is over, and the Padres and Giants are on the big screen at Turner Field -- and 80 percent of the concert crowd has left the building. The few people remaining are cheering the Giants.
Category: MLB
Tags: Braves, Giants, Padres
Posted on: September 30, 2010 10:27 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2010 10:44 pm

3 to watch: The Hoping for 163 edition

The best game of the postseason last year wasn't officially a postseason game.

It was Game 163, Tigers at Twins, and by baseball rules it was a regular-season game.

But it sure did have a playoff feel, and it was great.

In an October/November where none of the seven official postseason series went to a final, winner-take-all final game, Game 163 was as good as it got. And it was plenty good, a 6-5, 12-inning Twins win that even the Tigers acknowledged as maybe the best game they'd ever played in.

We've had a Game 163 each of the last three years, and they've all been great ones. It was Matt Holliday scoring in the 13th inning for the Rockies against the Padres in 2007 (was he really safe?). It was Jim Thome homering off Nick Blackburn for a 1-0 White Sox win over the Twins in 2008.

And it was an Alexei Casilla single off Fernando Rodney (pitching his fourth inning), after home-plate umpire Randy Marsh missed Brandon Inge getting hit by a pitch in the top of the 12th.

So what are the chances we get a Game 163 this year?

Not too good, from the looks of things going into the final weekend. The Giants lead the Padres by three games in the National League West, which means the Padres would need to sweep this weekend's series at AT&T Park to force Game 163.

The Braves lead the Padres by two games in the NL wild-card race, which means the only chance of Game 163 in Atlanta would be if the Padres win two of three and the Braves lose two of three.

Or, if the Braves lose two of three and the Padres sweep, you'd have a three-way tie for the wild card/NL West and a pair of one-game play-in games.

Unlikely possibilities, all of them, and disappointing for neutrals, especially since as recently as Sunday night, the Giants, Braves and Padres were separated by just one game.

So what do we do? We settle for a final weekend with plenty still on the line, and then we hope for a great October (and early November).

A few things to watch for this weekend, besides the Padres, Giants and Braves:

-- The seeding race. The Rays have the tiebreaker against the Yankees (by winning the season series), so they enter the weekend with a magic number of three to clinch the American League East. The winner in the East hosts the Rangers, while the loser in the East is the wild card and goes to Minnesota. The Rays also had a magic number of three to clinch the AL's best record, and home field in a possible second-round matchup with the Twins.

In the NL, the Phillies have already clinched the best record, but this weekend will determine the first-round matchups, and home-field for the other two division winners.

-- The awards race. Buster Posey's big home run Thursday (and his big September overall) had to make an impact with voters in the toughest NL Rookie of the Year race in years, and the toughest of the major award races this year. It might come down to who has the best weekend between Posey and Jason Heyward, although Florida's Gaby Sanchez also deserves consideration.

-- The playoff questions. Yankee fans worried about their rotation will watch closely to see how Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett pitch on Friday and Saturday against the Red Sox. Ranger fans worried about their lineup will watch closely to see how Josh Hamilton looks, assuming he's able to return to the lineup as scheduled on Friday against the Angels. Phillie fans will keep an eye on Jimmy Rollins, who is 1-for-8 in his first three games back from a hamstring injury.

-- The Pirates. Their road record is 16-62, which is historically bad. How bad? Well, in the era of the 162-game schedule, the fewest road wins any team has had are 17, by the 1963 Mets, followed by 18, by the 1962 Mets. The Pirates are in Florida this weekend, with three games to go.

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Giants are one of the hottest teams in baseball, with eight wins in their last 10 games and an 18-8 record in September. The Padres are one of the coldest, with four losses in the last five games and a 12-22 record over the last month-plus. The Giants pitching was amazing in September, with a 1.78 team ERA. The Padres offense has been shaky all year and awful recently, with 81 runs in 28 games in September (28th among the 30 major-league teams). Now the Padres need to sweep this weekend's three games, starting with Padres at Giants, Friday night (10:15 ET) at AT&T Park . Their opponent Friday is Matt Cain, who has given up two runs in his last 22 innings.

2. The Braves chose Saturday to honor Bobby Cox, who is retiring at the end of this season. With a magic number of two, the Braves could clinch Cox's record 16th playoff appearance as soon as Friday night. But it wouldn't be bad if the clinch comes Saturday, when the Braves and Padres will play at the same time. Tommy Hanson, the Braves' best starter of late, will go in Phillies at Braves, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Turner Field .

3. As unlikely as it is, we're still holding out hope for Game 163. So save time on Monday. Just make sure you've got something else to do if it doesn't happen.

Posted on: September 26, 2010 9:35 pm

3 to watch: The Fitting three into two edition

As Bruce Bochy walked out to the field for batting practice Sunday, he turned back with a message.

"Kansas City, 1," the Giants manager said. "See, I'm watching the scoreboard."

For four more days, Bochy will keep watching, and not to see if the Royals score another run. For four more days, the Giants and Padres and Braves will eye each other from a distance, knowing that all three teams remain very much alive and that only two playoff spots can be divided among them.

It's really that simple now in the National League. The Phillies are in, and the Reds are basically in, too. The Rockies, it now seems certain, are out.

So among the Giants, Padres and Braves, the teams that end up with the two best records will make it. The team that ends up worst among those three won't.

As the week begins, Bochy's Giants have the advantage, holding a half-game lead over the Padres (and thus holding first place in the NL West) and holding a one-game lead over the Braves (who trail the Padres by half a game in the wild-card race).

The Braves have other advantages, mostly because the Padres and Giants meet at the end of the week (meaning that for the last three days of the season, one or the other them has to lose), but also because their final three games are against the Phillies, who by then will no doubt have officially clinched the NL East crown and will be more focused on preparing for the playoffs than on beating the Braves.

But the Braves have other issues, mainly that they're not playing nearly as well as the Giants or Padres are right now.

In any case, it should be a fun week for everyone, at least until one of the three teams gets knocked out.

"Intense," Giants outfielder Cody Ross said. "This is as much fun as I've ever had playing baseball."

On to 3 to watch:

1. The Braves have their final six games at home, where their 52-23 record is the best in the majors. That much we know. Now, if we only knew who was going to pitch. The Braves told reporters Sunday in Washington that Jair Jurrjens may get a shot in his sore knee Monday, in hopes that the pain will let up enough that he can start a game for the first time since Sept. 14. There's been some thought that Jurrjens could return for Marlins at Braves, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Turner Field , but the Braves also said that they've considered bringing Tim Hudson back on three days' rest to make that start. If Jurrjens can't go, and if manager Bobby Cox doesn't want to use both Hudson and Derek Lowe on short rest, the other option would be to use rookie Mike Minor, who seems to have hit a wall and is 0-2 with a 9.37 ERA in four starts this month.

2. The Padres have rotation questions of their own, and the biggest one is how Mat Latos will do. Latos has been San Diego's top starter all year, but in his last three starts he's 0-3 with a 13.94 ERA, and has lasted a total of just 10 1/3 innings. Latos faces Ryan Dempster in Cubs at Padres, Tuesday night (10:05 ET) at Petco Park . The way the Padres' rotation sets up, Latos would also start the final game of the season, Sunday in San Francisco.

3. So how about the Giants? They have Monday off, and that leaves them with the question of whether to pitch Tim Lincecum on his normal day, in Diamondbacks at Giants, Thursday afternoon (3:45 ET) at AT&T Park . The other option would be to pitch Barry Zito Thursday on normal rest, and save Lincecum for the first head-to-head game with the Giants on Friday night. Bochy said Sunday that such a plan hasn't yet been discussed, but he added that they will "talk about the club and any changes" on Monday. As of now, the pitching matchups for the series with the Padres would be Zito vs. Clayton Richard on Friday, Matt Cain vs. Tim Stauffer on Saturday and Jonathan Sanchez vs. Latos on Sunday.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:45 am
Edited on: September 24, 2010 12:23 pm

3 to watch: The Giant issue edition

Even if you count the Rockies as now basically out of the National League West -- the standings say they're in serious trouble, their recent history says who knows? -- the Giants' three games this weekend at Coors Field are a potentially huge obstacle to San Francisco's chances of winning the division.

Despite what happened Thursday at Wrigley Field (a nine-run inning, a 13-0 win), the Giants' path to first place in the West has been built almost totally on pitching. Including Thursday, they've now gone 17 games since they last allowed four runs, a streak that according to the Elias Sports Bureau is the longest by any team in a single season since the 1917 White Sox went 20 games in a row.

Now they go to Coors Field, where the Rockies have scored four or more in 19 of their last 21 games, and where the home team hits so well that some Giants apparently think the Rockies have been monkeying with the humidor process .

Since Coors Field opened in 1995, only five teams have gone through an entire three-game series without ever allowing four runs. All five of those series have come in the humidor era (which began in 2002), but it still comes down to one series a season -- and it hasn't happened yet this year.

And the Giants, despite all their pitching and despite three trips a year to Colorado, have never done it.

Maybe that's why the Giants haven't won a season series at Coors since 2005. They're 2-4 in the first six games this year, so they'd need a sweep to win this season series.

Given the Rockies' collapse on the road this week -- they couldn't hold a 6-1 lead Sunday in Los Angeles, then got swept in three games in Arizona -- the Giants don't necessarily need a sweep this weekend. Their lead over the Padres is only a half-game, but San Diego also faces a potentially tough series, at home against the Reds.

Besides, the Giants' head-to-head showdown with the Padres next weekend will be at AT&T Park, where the Giants have allowed just 16 runs in their last nine games.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Tim Lincecum hasn't won at Coors Field since May 20, 2008. Then again, Lincecum hadn't won anywhere for a month before his 2-1 win over the Rockies on Sept. 1 in San Francisco. He's been very good the entire month, and maybe that means he'll win at Coors, too, when he opens the series in Giants at Rockies, Friday night (8:10 ET) at Coors Field . While the Giants are 0-4 in Lincecum's last four starts in Colorado, he hasn't been awful, with a 4.32 ERA in that span.

2. The Reds enter the weekend with a magic number of 3, and that means the soonest they could clinch their first division title in 15 years is in Reds at Padres, Saturday afternoon (4:05 ET) at Petco Park . That would take a little cooperation from the second-place Cardinals, but all the Cardinals have been doing recently is cooperating. As Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse pointed out on Twitter, the Cards are 9-17 since Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols attended Glenn Beck's rally in Washington.

3. The biggest advantage the Braves have in the National League wild-card race is that the Giants and Padres play each other next weekend. That means for three of the remaining 10 days on the schedule, either the Giants or the Padres is guaranteed to lose (and that the team that wins could win the division and not affect the Braves' wild-card chances at all). For it to be an advantage, though, the Braves need to win. They need to do to the Nationals this weekend what they did to the Mets last weekend, and that means they need to beat Livan Hernandez in Braves at Nationals, Sunday afternoon (1:35 ET) at Nationals Park . Hernandez threw eight shutout innings in a 6-0 win over the Braves last weekend in Atlanta, and he's 2-1 with a 2.19 ERA in four starts against the Braves this year. The Braves starter Sunday, they hope is Jair Jurrjens, who missed his Monday start in Philadelphia with a knee problem. As manager Bobby Cox said, "He'd better be able to pitch." Sunday is also the Braves' final regular-season road game, which means it's the final time an opposing team will pay tribute to Cox, who is retiring at the end of the season. The best gifts he has received so far: a No. 6 from the scoreboard at Wrigley Field, a set of wine glasses with all the NL team logos from the Reds, and many checks to support his charity helping homeless veterans. Cox entered the weekend with 2,499 wins in 4,499 career games.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com