It’s open season on managers this morning. First Lou Piniella, now Jerry Manuel, whose head the New York Post’s Mike Vaccaro calls for in today’s column:
He is a good and decent man, but increasingly his in-game decisions
and demeanor have been maddening, his uber-reliance on small-ball, his
puzzling lineup decisions. He was unhappy with that eighth-inning home
run that Fernando Nieve surrendered to Coghlan? How much do you suppose
his almost daily reliance on Nieve has helped speed along Nieve’s
regression from dependable to deplorable?
Omar Minaya will make the trip to Atlanta, which might mean he’s
following Brian Cashman’s itinerary from last year, when a surprise
visit to Turner Field served as an unlikely turning point in the Yankee
season. Or it could be his own blueprint from 2008, when he took an
unexpected flight to Anaheim to personally hand Willie Randolph his vest
with the fish inside.
For the sake of this season, it would be wise if he arrived with a
new manager riding shotgun.
I have less of a problem with this than I do with the calls for Piniella’s ouster. Manuel has been a tactical disaster this year, most notably with the bullpen, which he appears to have already burnt out. Though I’m an agnostic when it comes to batting order optimization, Manuel’s Jose-Reyes-bats-third experiment was a failure as well, and given that Reyes himself was opposed to it to begin with, you have to figure that he isn’t a happy camper right now. Oh, and Manuel pinch hit with Jeff Francoeur yesterday for cryin’ out loud, and that should be a firing offense in and of itself.
But even if this is less problematic than the calls for Lou Piniella’s job, I question whether replacing Jerry Manuel would make a big difference for the Mets’ season. To the extent they’re seen as a disappointment right now, that’s because the eight-game winning streak last month made us think they are something more than we thought they were going to be in the offseason. What we’re seeing right now is the Mets finding their true level, not failing to meet some rational expectation. Replace Manuel with Bobby Valentine or Bob Melvin or Wally Backman and you’re still looking at a 75 win team.
But the bullpen management bothers me a great deal, and as long as you’re going to lose a lot anyway, you may as well lose with someone who isn’t going to fry all your arms before the weather gets warm.
Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that Indians manager Terry Francona has set his starting rotation for the first three games of the World Series against the Cubs. Corey Kluber will start Game One, followed by Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin for Games Two and Three, respectively.
Kluber, the ace of the staff, has had a terrific postseason. He’s made three starts with a 0.98 ERA and a 20/7 K/BB ratio in 18 1/3 innings. The Indians won two of his starts — Game Two of the ALDS and Game 1 of the ALCS.
Bauer was unable to make it out of the first inning of his ALCS Game 3 start against the Blue Jays after the stitches on his pinky opened up and caused blood to pour out. He suffered the injury repairing one of his drones, which he builds as a hobby. Bauer insists he’ll be good to go in Game Two, though he also insisted that the injury wouldn’t be an impediment against the Jays.
Tomlin has made two solid starts for the Indians, allowing a total of three runs over 10 2/3 innings. The Indians won both games he started, Game 3 of the ALDS and Game 2 of the ALCS. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes that if Bauer can’t go in Game Two, Tomlin will be moved up to start in his place.
It isn’t difficult to see the fingerprints left by Cubs’ president Tom Ricketts and general manager Theo Epstein on the club’s remarkable 2016 season. In a piece for FOXSports.com, former Yankee Alex Rodriguez highlighted the duo’s effectiveness in liberating the Cubs from a five-year losing streak and six-year postseason drought, citing both the unrelenting work ethic and passion that Ricketts and Epstein brought to the club as major factors in their success.
Rodriguez’s first brush with sabermetric savant and all-around baseball wizard Theo Epstein came in 2003, when the then- 27-year-old All-Star was eyeing a deal with the Red Sox. The Major League Baseball Players Association eventually nixed the trade, and the Rangers’ young shortstop was sent to the Yankees shortly thereafter, but not before Rodriguez glimpsed the inner workings of Epstein’s mind.
What I remember best about that time was watching Theo furiously scribbling out the Red Sox lineup for the upcoming season on a room-service napkin. That’s when I saw Theo’s baseball mind at work. I saw he had a passion for the game, a depth of knowledge, and a thirst to be great. Theo’s passion was contagious. We were three 20-somethings convinced we were about to turn baseball upside down together. Though I never got a chance to work with Theo, I knew then that he was going to be a force.
A-Rod also referenced Ricketts’ thorough approach to rebuilding the organization. Ricketts, who purchased the franchise for $875 million in 2009, first made it his mission to transform Wrigley Field into a comfortable and enticing playing environment, then targeted top-tier management to run the show behind the scenes. With Ricketts fully backing Epstein’s transformative approaches — including an overhaul of the Cubs’ farm system, investments in international player development, and a comprehensive understanding and practical application of sabermetric advances — the Cubs’ path to a 97-win season in 2015 seemed a natural consequence of the pair’s hard work.
This year, the attention has been even more intensely focused on the Cubs’ elusive third World Series title. Rodriguez, however, believes that winning a championship is secondary to the strides Ricketts and Epstein have taken with the club.
Together, Ricketts and Epstein have built one of the greatest franchises in baseball and transformed 1060 W. Addison St. It’s a task that no one could quite get right for a hundred years. While four more wins would put a giant exclamation point on five years of focused work and determination, I won’t worry if this team doesn’t win the World Series in the next nine days.