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Angels fire Brad Ausmus

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The Los Angeles Angels have fired manager Brad Ausmus.

Ausmus got only one season at the helm of the Angels and went 72-90.  It was a tough year in a number of ways for the Angels, with several key injuries, some severe roster shortcomings, primarily in the starting pitching department and, most notably, due to the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

He’s likely not being fired for the bad record, though. Ausmus is likely being fired because there’s an attractive managerial candidate now available in Joe Maddon, who managed his last game for the Cubs yesterday.

The same Joe Maddon who was a minor league player in the Angels system, scouted, coached and managed in the Angels system for many years and who coached on the big club in Anaheim for over a decade. Word is that Angels owner Arte Moreno looks upon Maddon fondly. One wonders if it’s not almost a nostalgia thing. Either way, it’s hard to conclude that Ausmus would be let go so suddenly if Maddon was going to continue on in Chicago.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Maddon will come work for the Angels. Maybe there’s some wink-wink agreement already? Maybe it’s just a hope on Moreno’s part that he can hire Maddon? Maybe, actually, Maddon has nothing to do with it and the club just really didn’t like the cut of Ausmus’ handsome jib? We’ll no doubt find out in the coming days.

If he does take the Angels job, it’ll be the second time in five years that a first-year manager was fired by a club because Joe Maddon became available. Rick Renteria, you’ll recall, was let go by the Cubs following the 2014 season, not because he had done so bad a job, but because Maddon became a free agent after finding a way out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cubs coveted him.

Will Ausmus land on his feet like Renteria did with the White Sox? Hard to say, as he’s now been fired twice in three years and that’s never a good thing to have on one’s resume. Still, part of me thinks he’s more likely to find work now, with the impression that he was cast overboard because of Maddon, than if he had stayed with the Angels and led them to additional 90+ loss seasons and was officially considered damaged managerial goods.

Whatever this all adds up to, it’s worth remembering something: the Angels rotation, in words of Rotoworld’s Chris Crawford, is made out of rotten hot dog water. So good luck Joe Maddon or whoever else lands that gig.

 

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

Blue Jays roster and schedule
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”