Heath Bell [all together now!] claims he was taken out of context

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Yesterday Heath Bell was on a radio show and ripped Ozzie Guillen.  It was pretty straight forward, yes?  Well, no, because like just about everyone else who didn’t realize that they said something controversial until after he said it, Bell has gone into damage control mode and now claims he didn’t mean what everyone heard him say.

He was on “Power Alley” with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin on MLB Network Radio today — you can listen here — and he said he didn’t think he said anything wrong. When asked if he was misinterpreted, he said:

“I think it was.  I was never criticizing Ozzie.  I don’t think that’s what I was doing on the radio.  I was choosing my words kind of right …  I never said I don’t respect him as a manager or a person.

Wait, time out, Heath: this is what you said:  “It’s hard to respect a guy that doesn’t tell you the truth or doesn’t tell you face to face.”  And then you said Ozzie Guillen didn’t tell you the truth and didn’t tell you face to face.  Now I’m confused.  Let me think … I want to give you the benefit of the doubt here because I kinda like your style, so let me be your spin doctor …. thinking …

Got it!!  Though it is hard to respect such a man, you fought through that crap and did it anyway.  Really, Ozzie should be thanking you for your strength!  You’re one HELL Of a guy.

Bell went on:

It is interesting, I think, to play underneath a manager like Ozzie because he talks to the press and he does a lot of things and he’s loud.  But you know what?  You know, I’ve had good managers, I’ve had bad managers and I don’t think Ozzie’s the reason why we really stunk this year.  I think for me not performing to the next guy not performing.  And that’s the reason we didn’t win this year.  It’s not because of Ozzie.

Heath Bell pivots pretty quick for a big dude.  OK, Heath, Ozzie isn’t the problem. Who is?

Everybody’s trying to point at Ozzie or somebody in this organization … I just think everybody’s trying to point fingers why we didn’t win.

But not, you, right. You didn’t try to point a finger and say something you shouldn’t have, did you?

And, you know, did I say something I probably shouldn’t have?  Yes, I did.  I’m going to own up to it.

Good. Nice to see that humility. This is actually progress:

But you know what?  I’m not going to back down from anybody.

But … but … with the owning up and the … I’m so confused …

Apparently I just have to keep my mouth shut. Next year I’m not going to talk to anybody for the simple fact [that] it’s not doing me any good.

OK, we’re back to agreeing on something. Nice interview, Heath.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.