Aside from last night’s improbable and exciting comeback by the Sawx, this year’s playoffs have been pretty lame. All four Division Series were yawn worthy, as was the NLCS. It hasn’t just been this year either. The American League has gone 12-1 13-4 in the last four World Series, and none of those four series were particularly competitive. I don’t think there’s any question that the College World Series in June has been more exciting that the traditional Fall Classic for the past few season.
Games are starting later and later, which means most adult fans are asleep by the 7th inning, while young kids – the future of the game as both fans and players – as asleep by the 3rd. A stupid commercial (a commercial!!!) by a Presidential candidate will delay the start time of a World Series game even further. The number of off-days has reached ridiculous proportions, with a typical best-of-series series spanning an ungodly ten days, with even more days off before and after the series. The Phillies are going to have six days off between clinching the NLCS and Game 1 of the World Series, a year after the Rockies endured a ridiculous nine day layoff.
What do you guys think? Have you been disappointed by the way the playoffs have been drawn out and made inconvenient to a typical fan? Would it maybe be better to chop a week or two off the regular season to keep players fresh for the postseason, or do you prefer seeing tired relievers and exhausted starters throwing meatballs that determine games, series, and sometimes even career paths?
So while we wait another another off-day before Game 6 of the ALCS, let’s take this chance to air any playoff grievances here. Play nice.
How about a chat this afternoon, let’s call it 3pm? Help pass that always slow Friday afternoon. He’s the past chat transcripts.
AzFL Peoria (9-8 win over Mesa)
Austin Jackson: 1 for 4, 1 RBI
Juan Miranda: 3 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K – leads the league in batting avg by .144 pts, OBP by .019, SLG by .373 & OPS by .452
Kevin Russo: 1 for 4, 1 RBI, 1 K – he’s played 3 positions (3B, LF and now SS) in the 6 games he’s played
…then perhaps it will even begin to look like a baseball field too. Sliding Into Home has the latest photos from inside the new Yankee Stadium. The infield is nearly complete. The same cannot be said for the rest of the seating bowl, however. Take a look. · (9) ·
The Yankees are interested in Jake Peavy and have had very preliminary discussions with the Padres about the righty, NJ.com’s Dan Graziano reported last night. The Yanks, according to the report, feel that the Padres are further along in talks with other teams and that Peavy wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause to come to New York. So in other words, the Yanks’ interest in Peavy is similar to my interest in Scarlett Johansson: It ain’t gonna happen. · (71) ·
At some point in the playoffs, textbook managing has to take a backseat to creativity. Joe Torre, once Don Zimmer left, never really put that together, and tonight, we saw both sides of the picture.
On the one hand was Terry Francona. Facing a five-run deficit and with two on and nobody out in the seventh, Francona played his trump card. Knowing that the Red Sox had their back to the walls, Francona wasn’t going to go down without getting his best pitcher into the game. Shades of the 2003 World Series this was not.
In a way, the move backfired. Jonathan Papelbon allowed the two inherited runners to score, but he staunched the bleeding after that. He pitched out of a self-induced two-on, no-out jam and held Tampa’s offense in the 8th.
This risky Papelbon move wasn’t the only gamble Francona took. He had gone to Hideki Okajima, one of his other top relievers, in the fifth to keep Tampa quiet. Only Manny Delcarmen in the seventh dropped the ball. Meanwhile, with a few other relievers in the pen — including Justin Masterson, the eventual winner — Francona knew that he could buy his offense a few innings before he absolutely had to turn the game over to Mike Timlin, the Sox’s 25th man in the postseason.
Across the field, Joe Maddon was not so lucky. Up 7-0 with two outs in the 7th, Grant Balfour lost it. Then Dan Wheeler, throwing just 19 of 33 pitches for strikes, lost it, and finally J.P. Howell really lost it. As his pitchers struggled throwing for command and struggled keeping Red Sox off the bases, Maddon didn’t really manage for anything.
At this point, Maddon has to know that even up 7-1, a lefty should come into face David Ortiz. Maddon has to recognize that when Dan Wheeler struggles, you remove him before J.D. Drew, another lefty, comes up to the plate. Maddon has to overmanage game five of the ALCS even with a six- or seven-run lead because this is Fenway Park and these were the Red Sox, winners of two of the last four World Series. They’re not going to roll over.
In the 8th, I believe that the Rays should have turned the ball over to one James Shields. He’s held the Red Sox in check all season and could have pulled a Randy Johnson circa 2001 in getting the final six outs. Maddon wouldn’t have burned his game six starter because there would have been no game six.
Perhaps, a move like that would have represented something of a Hail Mary in a non-Hail Mary situation. After all, Tampa — 57-24 at home — lost two in a row in the Trop just twice all season, once against the Mariners in April and once against the Yankees in September. But with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester on tap, if I’m Joe Maddon, I don’t take those chances. After all in 2004, after the Yanks roundly beat the Sox in game three, Boston came back to win not just one but two games they shouldn’t have won. There certainly were shades of 2004 haunting game five tonight.
If Tampa is going to win this series, they have to learn that when the Boston Red Sox in October show you their jugular, you go for it with all you’ve got.