The Week Ahead: A Puerto Rican hero goes home

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There has been a lot of focus on Bobby Valentine as potentially being the next manager of the Florida Marlins, but lost in the shuffle is the interesting story of Marlins interim manager Edwin Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who was promoted from the Marlins Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans just a week ago to replace the fired Fredi Gonzalez, is the first Puerto Rican to manage in the big leagues.

This seems surprising enough given Puerto Rico’s baseball heritage, but it’s true. And in an even cooler twist, Rodriguez will get to return home as a big league manager this week when his Marlins take on the New York Mets in a three-game series in San Juan starting on Monday.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has been noncommittal when discussing his team’s manager situation, saying “right now Edwin is the manager. We’ll see what happens.” Rodriguez appears to be well aware that his position is tenuous at best, and just plans to enjoy the ride while he can.

Rodriguez says he’s flattered merely to have the chance to be part of a history-making event for his country.

It’s the third time the Marlins — who have a large Latin following — have played a regular-season series in San Juan. They took two of three games from the Montreal Expos in 2003, then swept the Expos in 2004.

“I’m just excited to go there and share this moment with the country,” Rodriguez said. “For many, many years, baseball people in Puerto Rico, they were questioning who’s going to be the first and not only who, when it’s going to happen. I think that’s why it’s so important for the people in Puerto Rico.”

Rodriguez’s home is actually closer to San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium than the hotel where the Marlins will be staying, so this will be a true homecoming.

Ticket sales have reportedly been brisk since it became evident that Puerto Ricans could see one of their own calling the shots in a big-league dugout for the first time, and the significance isn’t lost on the Florida clubhouse.

“We can’t quite grasp the anticipation or the excitement that he’s going through right now,” Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla said. “Everyone dreams about going home and playing. It’s got to be a very exciting time for him, and we’re all very excited for him.”

Let’s hope Loria can hold off on naming a permanent manager for a few days and let Rodriguez enjoy this moment. Unless, of course, he wants to hire Rodriguez.

Phillies at Reds, June 28-30:
Cincinnati keeps hanging in there, holding the slimmest of edges atop the NL Central. The Phillies are in third place in the NL East, but are 11-3 against NL Central teams. Things could get interesting in a hurry.

Dodgers at Giants, June 28-30: This intense rivalry is always entertaining, even more so though when both teams are in contention. The teams enter the week battling for second place, within shouting distance of the San Diego Padres.

Rays at Red Sox, June 29-30: It’s only a two-game series, but it’s a big one as both teams try to jockey for the No. 2 spot behind the Yankees in the AL East. The Rays are looking to regain their hitting strokes after a rough week that saw a dugout confrontation between B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria.

Rangers at Angels, June 29-July 1: The Angels have been resurging of late, trying to get back to the top of the AL West. But the Rangers enter the week with a four-game lead and are playing even better. This will be a true test for both teams.

Brewers at Cardinals, July 1-4: The Brewers don’t appear to have the talent to truly contend, but they undoubtedly wouldn’t mind causing some harm to their rivals’ chances in this four-game series.

Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Nationals at Braves (ESPN2)
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.: Mets at Marlins (ESPN2)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rays at Twins (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Marlins at Braves (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Nationals (FOX)
Sunday, 8:15 p.m.: Royals at Angels (ESPN)
*Check local listings

And for those of you who have asked for a schedule of MLB Network games, you may find that here.

Are you on Twitter? You can follow Bob here, and get all your HBT updates here.

Lost in all the excitement over Bobby Valentine’s potential return to managing has been the interesting story of Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez, the first Puerto Rican to manage in the big leagues. He’ll return home this week as the Marlins face the Mets in San Juan.

The Yankees were booed last night. Did they deserve it?

Masahiro Tanaka

The boos came raining down from the Yankee Stadium faithful last night. They started when Brett Gardner grounded out in the eighth inning. More came later. A lot of it was, no doubt, based on Gardner’s disappointing performance late in the season. A lot of it was because, around that time, it seemed like the Yankees had zero shot whatsoever to mount a comeback. Which, in fact, they didn’t. A lot of it was pent-up frustration, I assume, from a late season skid which saw the Yankees lose their lead in the AL East and wind up in the Wild Card Game in the first place.

Anyone who buys a ticket has a right to boo. Especially when they buy a ticket as expensive as Yankees tickets are. It’s obviously understandable to be disappointed when your team loses. Especially when your team is eliminated like the Yankees were. And last night’s game was particularly deflating, with that 3-0 Astros lead feeling more like 10-0 given how things were going.

But isn’t booing something more than a mere manifestation of disappointment? Isn’t a step beyond? Booing isn’t saying “I’m sad.” It’s saying “you suck!” It’s not saying “I’m disappointed,” it’s saying “you should be ashamed of yourselves!” And with all respect to Yankees fans, the 2015 Yankees have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

This was a club expected to miss the playoffs, full stop. Maybe some people allowed for an if-everything-breaks-right flight of fancy, but hardly anyone expected them to play meaningful games late in the year, let alone a playoff game. They were too old. Too injured. There weren’t enough young reinforcements to fill the gaps. Some even went so far as to claim that they were about to spend years in the wilderness.

But then A-Rod broke out of the gate strong. And Michael Pineda had a really nice first couple of months. And Mark Teixeira put up numbers that wouldn’t have been out of place for him several years ago. The bullpen did what it was supposed to do and more, Masahiro Tanaka held together somehow and, eventually, a couple of young players like Greg Bird and Luis Severino came in to reinforce things. The not-going-anywhere Yankees were contenders. And they led the division for a good while. Of course they stumbled late. And of course they lost last night, but by just about any reasonable measure, this was a good team — better than expected — and, unlike a lot of Yankees teams in the past, was pretty darn enjoyable to watch.

Then the boos. I just can’t see how this Yankees team deserved that.

I realize a lot of people in the media have duped a lot of people into thinking that a team with a high payroll is supposed to be dominant. And I realize George Steinbrenner duped a whole lot of people into thinking that anything less than a World Series championship for the New York Yankees is failure. But that’s rhetoric and branding, not reason. In the real world where baseball players play baseball games World Series titles are rare, even for the Yankees. At the end of the season all but one of 30 teams are either at home for the playoffs or went home after suffering a gut-wrenching playoff loss. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the history of American professional sports yet they still have finished their year without a title over 75% of the time.

With that as a given, fans are left to judge their team’s performance based on its talent, its health, its heart, its entertainment value and the strength of the opposition which ultimately vanquished it. The Yankees weren’t nearly as talented as many, yet made the playoffs anyway. They were a walking hospital ward, let limped on. They never quit and never got pulled down into the sort of muck a lot of New York teams find themselves in when things start to go sideways. And, ultimately, they were simply beat by a better team. By any reasonable measure the 2015 Yankees were a good story, a successful enterprise, a resilient bunch and no small amount of fun.

It’s OK to be sad that it ended as it did. But that doesn’t deserve to be booed. Not by a long shot.

Collin McHugh will start Game 1 of the ALDS for the Astros

Collin McHugh Astros
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After using ace left-hander Dallas Keuchel to get past the Yankees in the Wild Card game the Astros will turn to right-hander Collin McHugh in Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Royals.

McHugh had an up-and-down year, posting a 3.89 ERA compared to his 2.73 mark last season, but thanks to good teammate support he had a 19-7 record and his 171/53 K/BB ratio in 204 innings was solid. He was particularly good down the stretch, posting a 2.89 ERA and 69/20 K/BB ratio in 72 innings after August 1.

McHugh will match up against Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura in Game 1. Houston hasn’t named a starter for Game 2 yet, while Kansas City is going with Johnny Cueto. And then the Game 3 matchup figures to be Dallas Keuchel versus Edinson Volquez.