Author: Matthew Pouliot

Dick, Charlie Monfort

Given chance to start over, Rockies stay in house with new GM


After 15 seasons as the Rockies’ general manager — the last two in some sort odd, impractical tandem system — Dan O’Dowd stepped down on Wednesday. The man who took on some of O’Dowd’s responsibilities following the 2012 season, Bill Geivett, also resigned. Finally, the Rockies could make a clean break of it and work on reshaping their dysfunctional organization.

Instead, they promoted senior director of player development Jeff Bridich to the general manager role.

The Denver Post described Bridich as O’Dowd’s right-hand man, which doesn’t exactly seem like a positive qualification at this point. Since Bridich became the Rockies’ director of player development  in 2006 (moving up to the senior role in 2011), the Rockies have gone 662-767, good for a .463 winning percentage. They’ve lost 89, 98, 88 and 96 games the last four seasons, finishing between 18 and 30 games back of the NL West winners. In fact, they’ve still never won the NL West in their 22 years of existence (their three playoff appearances all came as the wild card).

Bridich is a Harvard product. He’s 37 years old. Those two facts would seem to suggest that he’s more of a new-school guy. He appears to be fairly well regarded by the baseball community, though he wasn’t talked up as a GM candidate before today. It’s hard to imagine him not being an upgrade. The Rockies under O’Dowd shifted directions weekly. New plans were discarded even before they were fully implemented. It was a terrible way to run a baseball team.

And that’s why the Rockies probably should have chosen to start from scratch today, bringing in a new GM from outside of the organization. But it should be noted that the baseball operations department is merely half of the problem in Denver, if that. Until the Monforts go, one imagines there’s always going to be a little dysfunction to deal with.

Because of bad hip, Josh Beckett indicates that he likely will retire

Josh Beckett

While Josh Beckett didn’t quite announce his retirement following the Dodgers’ loss in the NLDS Tuesday, he doesn’t appear prepared to continue his career following hip surgery.

“I just don’t see me going through that rehab and coming back to pitch at this point in my life,” he told’s Ken Gurnick.

According to Gurnick’s report, Beckett intends to undergo hip surgery in May, which seems rather odd. That single quote from Beckett is the only one in Gurnick’s story. If Beckett is really planning to undergo surgery seven months from now, then it surely would rule him out for 2015 anyway. And this is hardly the first hint that he’s done, so, yeah, the odds are good that Beckett never pitches again.

That’s a shame, too, because Beckett is just 34, and he had a 2.88 ERA in 20 starts this season before his hip forced him to the disabled list. If this is it for him, he ends his career 138-106 with a 3.88 ERA and 1,901 strikeouts in 2,051 innings. He was a two-time world champion with the Marlins in 2003 and the Red Sox in 2007. In the latter season, he won 20 games and finished second in the Cy Young balloting.

Beckett certainly earned those championships, too. He had a 2.11 ERA in 42 2/3 innings for the Marlins during their run in 2003. In the NLCS, he pitched a two-hit shutout in Game 5 against the Cubs and allowed one run in four innings of relief in Game 7 three days later. He then pitched a shutout in Game 6 of the World Series to finish off the Yankees.

In 2007, Beckett won all four of his starts for the Red Sox, throwing a shutout versus the Angels in the ALDS and striking out nine over seven innings in Game 1 of the World Series. He wasn’t needed again because the Red Sox swept the Rockies.

Beckett’s performance this year, his best since 2011, included his first career no-hitter against the Phillies on May 25.

Nationals still in great position for 2015

Anthony Rendon

Maybe it’s still too soon to take solace, but the Nationals have more answers than questions headed into the winter.

Ex-closer Rafael Soriano excepted, the entire pitching staff is due back next year, including the NL-best rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark. The team might want to talk extension with Zimmermann and Fister, both of whom are free agents after next season, but they won’t have to go starter shopping. Soriano almost certainly will be allowed to walk and Ross Detwiler could also be traded or set free, but the Nationals will still be in good hands in the pen with Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Aaron Barrett and company.

It was the Nationals’ lineup that was the problem during the NLDS, but at least the team’s two most important players going forward — Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon — were the two who shined versus the Giants. The Nationals will probably say goodbye to Adam LaRoche, even though he was such an important part of this year’s lineup. Ryan Zimmerman needs to be a full-time first baseman because of his shoulder problems.

That leaves the only question mark as second base. One imagines the Nationals will try to re-sign Asdrubal Cabrera, who is a better option than any others out there in free agency. A trade is also a possibility. The Rays would probably be open to discussing Ben Zobrist, and the Nationals have some intriguing outfielders and hard-throwing right-hander Blake Treinan to use in talks.

But it should really be a rather quiet offseason for the Nationals overall. They’ll enter next spring as the favorites to win the NL East and probably as the favorites to represent the NL in the World Series, though we all know how well that can work out.

Matt Williams’ must-win strategy could use some work

Division Series - Washington Nationals v San Francisco Giants - Game Four

How do you lose a 3-2 game without ever using either of your two best relievers or the No. 1 starter you designated to the bullpen for the day?

Nationals manager Matt Williams used six pitchers in Tuesday’s Game 4 loss to the Giants. None of them were named Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen or Stephen Strasburg.

Williams made the proper move in taking Gio Gonzalez out for a pinch-hitter after four innings, but that was the only time he showed a real sense of urgency in the game. Gonzalez’s hiccup came in the second inning, when he botched a comebacker and then came momentarily unglued, giving up a pair of unearned runs. He was throwing well afterwards, and he was at just 55 pitches, but trying to score runs was the priority in the top of the fifth.

Williams, though, then decided to turn to his fifth starter, Tanner Roark, in the bottom of the fifth rather than his co-ace in Stephen Strasburg. That started the procession: Roark, Jerry Blevins, Matt Thornton, Aaron Barrett and Rafael Soriano.

RELATED: Sick of seeing Cardinals, Giants in NLCS? Too bad

The biggest mistake in there was letting Thornton, a lefty, face Buster Posey with one on and one out with the score still 2-2 in the seventh. Only after Posey singled did Barrett take over, but a righty should have been in the game already That it was Barrett over Clippard was something of a surprise. Not to take anything away from Barrett, who was excellent as a rookie and has a promising future, but with the score tied in the seventh inning of a must-win game, that situation had Clippard written all over it.

Unfortunately, Barrett walked Hunter Pence to load the bases and threw a wild pitch to allow Joe Panik to score. It was then that something truly bizarre happened: Barrett set up to intentionally walk Pablo Sandoval, airmailed to throw home and would up with an out anyway after making a play on Posey at the plate.

At that point, it seemed like a given that Barrett shouldn’t continue. So it was finally Clippard time, right? Nope. On came exiled closer Rafael Soriano with the dangerous Brandon Belt at the plate. At least that all worked out for Williams — Belt lined out to left and Soriano stayed in to pitch a scoreless eighth — but it was still an awfully dangerous choice in a one-run game.

In the end, the Nationals’ NLDS downfall had much more to do with the offense than Williams’ self-destructive pitching changed. Nine runs in four games — essentially five games, since one was 18 innings — isn’t getting the job done. Of course, the Giants also scored nine runs in the series and they’re moving on. That’s not all due to the skippers, but anyone who voted Williams ahead of Bruce Bochy in the NL Manager of the Year balloting should be hiding their heads in embarrassment right now.

Looking back at Don Mattingly’s Game 4 decisions

Don Mattingly

I’m not going to blame Don Mattingly for Tuesday’s loss and the Dodgers’ elimination in the NLDS. I certainly wasn’t thrilled with how he managed the game, but his three real calls didn’t work out that badly.

Those three:

Call No. 1 – The lineup: Mattingly tried to shake things up by starting Andre Ethier over Yasiel Puig in center field, rather than a more obvious move of starting Justin Turner over Dee Gordon at second base.

Result: Ethier got on base twice via the walk, and the downgrade in center field defense was a complete non-factor in the game. The big problem was Ethier getting picked off third base to end the top of the sixth. As for Gordon, he reached base twice as well, walking in the seventh and singling in the ninth. In all, Mattingly’s picks did fine. We’ll never know what the alternatives would have done.

RELATED: Cardinals beat Dodgers 3-2 to advance to NLCS

Call No. 2 – The eighth-inning bullpen choice: Down 3-2 with top of the Cardinals’ order up, Mattingly should have gone to closer Kenley Jansen, who had the best chance of anyone of keeping it a 3-2 game headed to the ninth. Instead, Mattingly stuck with Pedro Baez, who finished the seventh.

Result: No harm, no foul. Baez and Brandon League combined on a perfect eighth, saving Jansen for an opportunity that never came.

Call No. 3 – Approaching the ninth with the bottom of the order due up. Mattingly still had his entire bench, most notably Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke, available with Juan Uribe, A.J. Ellis and the pitcher’s spot due up. Complicating things was that Ellis, once an obvious choice to be removed, was hitting .538 in the series.

Result: After Uribe grounded out, Mattingly chose to let Ellis hit with one out and then replaced him with Puig once he walked. Turner struck out as a pinch-hitter, Gordon singled and Carl Crawford grounded out to end the game. Under the circumstances, I’d say Mattingly handled it correctly. An alternative was sending Turner up for Ellis and Puig for the pitcher, but letting Ellis bat against a wild pitcher made a lot of sense. Ellis may not be much of a hitter, but he certainly knows how not to swing. And once Ellis reached, Puig was the best option to run. It still hurt to give up his bat in such a situation, but I don’t think there was any other choice. Puig wasn’t going to hit for anyone later in the inning anyway.

RELATED: Sick of seeing Cardinals, Giants in NLCS? Too bad

Not a call: Leaving Clayton Kershaw in for the seventh after six scoreless innings.

Result: Kershaw gave up a three-run homer to Matt Adams before being lifted. Still, no manager in baseball takes Kershaw out after six, even at 94 pitches. Yes, it should have been obvious that Kershaw could lose it quickly while working on three days’ rest, but he showed no signs of fatigue through six. And while it was certainly time to start thinking about going to the pen after the first two batters reached in the seventh, there was no way Kershaw was getting pulled until after he faced the left-handed Adams. It’s a non-starter. In theory, you can argue that Jansen should have been in the game at that point. In practice, it’s absolutely never going to happen.


Personally, I think Mattingly is a lousy tactical manager, and it’s one of the reasons the Dodgers didn’t advance in October. I also thought benching Puig was absolutely the wrong call. Game 4, though, wasn’t lost by the Dodgers; it was won by the Cardinals.