World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three

Is there a bias against big market teams in Manager of the Year voting?


I couldn’t even begin to tell you whether Terry Francona was a more deserving Manager of the Year candidate than John Farrell. No one has ever explained to me some basis for comparing managers that makes choosing that award anything close to a clear or objective process. There are far more moving parts to a team’s success than there are to an individual player’s success and we struggle with picking MVPs and Cy Youngs as it is. Applying some rational basis, let alone statistical basis, to the award is probably beyond our abilities.

And, perhaps because of that, the Manager of the Year Award is way, way, way more narrative-laden than any award. Tell a compelling story and that guy is probably going to win it. Tell me: how much of Clint Hurdle winning it last night had to do with the Pirates losing for 20 straight years as opposed to simply what happened in 2013? I’d say a fair amount. Of course Clint Hurdle wasn’t around for most of that losing and factors which had the Pirates losing in, say, 1996, 1999 and 2004 had zero effect on what the Pirates did in 2013. None of which is to say that Clint Hurdle wasn’t the best manager in the NL in 2013 — I’d probably vote for him because, well, why not? — but he gets credit for stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with him because, well, it’s a good story.

Some folks in Boston aren’t really happy with the story that won Terry Francona the Manager of the Year Award over John Farrell. John Tomase of the Boston Herald is one. He argues that there’s a bias against big market/big payroll teams like the Red Sox when it comes to the Manager of the Year Award, with voters discounting the job guys like Farrell do because they have an expensive roster and are thus, somehow, expected to win.

I think there’s probably some truth to that. Looking at recent Managers of the Year and they tend to come from teams with lower payrolls and in smaller markets and in situations where they weren’t expected to do much. Surprise teams are often favored. People like those stories.

Maybe that’s a little unfair to guys like Farrell, but Tomase’s competing narrative — one that favors Farrell — is a lot less compelling to me:

He also had to win in an environment far harsher than Cleveland’s. While the Indians played to a largely empty park in relative anonymity, Farrell had his every move analyzed, dissected and eviscerated on two all-sports radio stations and two sports-only TV networks, with one of the league’s largest traveling media contingents chronicling his every move … The Boston market presented its own unique challenges. Clay Buchholz’ use of suntan lotion started a firestorm. A team that never lost more than three straight the entire season nonetheless had the panic-mongers fully frothed after a 5-9 stretch in mid-August.

In other words: Farrell’s job was tougher because, we, the fierce Boston media made it tougher for him. How impressive that he dealt with our unrelenting coverage and criticism.

I don’t suppose that’s nothing either — it is a stressful job — but I bet if you asked any manager if he’d rather deal with an annoying press corps or a meager payroll, he’d pick the annoying press corps seven days a week and twice on Sundays. Also: while media narratives are inevitable when it comes to the Manager of the Year award, how rich is it that the chosen media narrative here makes the media itself such an important part of the story?

Gonna go out on a limb here and say that John Farrell almost certainly spent ten times more thinking about the next day’s lineup and who in the bullpen needed rest than he did whether someone from the Globe, Herald or some sports talk station was going to ask him about the goop on Clay Buchholz’s arm. And that, whatever we can say about the difficulty of handing out the Manager of the Year award, we can say that there’s a lot more to it than “the role the media played.”

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.

Jake Arrieta beatable, but still unbeaten

Jake Arrieta
1 Comment

Jake Arrieta gave up as many earned runs Monday against the Cardinals as he had in his previous 13 starts combined, yet the Cubs still won 8-6.

It’s the 15th straight time the Cubs have won a game started by Arrieta, who is set to finish first or second in the Cy Young balloting announced next month. Their last loss in an Arrieta-pitched game was when the Phillies’ Cole Hamels no-hit them on July 25. They won the previous four before that, too, so make it 19 of 20.

The outing could go down as Arrieta’s last of the season, though that would require the Cardinals beating the Cubs in back-to-back games to finish the NLDS. The more likely scenario at this point is that Arrieta starts Game 1 of the NLCS against the Dodgers or Mets.

Arrieta, though, was vulnerable in this one, turning in his shortest start since June. Even in the shutout of Pittsburgh in the wild card game, the Pirates had chances in the middle innings (most notably before Starling Marte‘s well-hit grounder with the bases loaded turned into a double play in the sixth).

Tonight, he walked two in a row at one point, after not walking a single batter in his previous three starts. He gave up his first homer in six starts. The wind was a factor in tonight’s eight-homer barrage, but Jason Heyward‘s two-run shot off Arrieta went against the grain in left-center.

So, if nothing else, the illusion of impenetrability is now gone. Arrieta can be gotten to, if primarily in short bursts. That’s not going to do anything for the Cardinals — at least not unless Arrieta is called on to pitch an inning or two in Game 5 — but it’ll probably come into play later in the postseason.

Ding-Dong! The Cubbies ride homers to a 2-1 series lead

Jorge Soler

The wind was blowing out of Wrigley Field on Monday night, but mostly for the home team. Makes you think that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all about the wind.

The Cubs hit six homers off of Cardinals pitching, one each from each of the first six batters in their lineup. Three of them came against Michael Wacha, who Mike Matheny inexplicably let bat for himself in the top of the fifth and take the hill in the bottom of the fifth and on to a third time through the Cubs’ order. He was shaky as it was, and quickly put a runner on and then allowed a two-run homer to Kris Bryant to make it 4-2. One batter later Kevin Siegrist came in and let Anthony Rizzo take him VERY deep to right field to make it 5-2.

Jason Heyward made it interesting in the top of the sixth with a two run shot to make it a one-run game but then Jorge Soler hit a two run shot in the bottom half and Dexter Fowler hit one in the eighth to make it 8-4. You can’t trade solo shots for multiple two-run jobs. You wanna get the Cardinals? Here’s how you get ’em. They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! They hit a solo homer, you hit a bunch of two-run shots. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get the Cardinals!

Not that the Cardinals didn’t do a lot. They scored four runs in five and a third against Jake Arrieta, who hadn’t been damaged like that since June 16. But five Cubs relievers held mostly firm. You tell me before the game that they got to Arrieta like that and I tell you they won. But nope.

Now it’s 2-1 Cubs in a best of five. They go tomorrow with Jason Hammel and try to eliminate the Cards. Who had best figure out how to counter the Cubs’ power.