Monthly Archives: October 2009

Pedro Rises To The Occasion, Charlie Manuel Fails History

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

A Disclaimer: The Phillies did not lose Game 2 of the World Series because of Charlie Manuel’s pitching decision. They lost because A.J. Burnett and Mariano Rivera stifled their offense. The Yankees simply outplayed the Phillies. However, considering that there is a real possibility that Pedro Martinez will face the Yankees again this postseason, it’s worth pointing out an obvious flaw in Charlie Manuel’s managing of his starting pitcher.

For perhaps one night only, Red Sox fans became Philadelphia Phillies fans as Pedro Martinez continued his successful 2009 comeback tour with his start against the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series. For 6 innings, Pedro Martinez lived up to the hype of the situation at hand in his first Bronx start in 4 years. He dominated the American League Champions, holding their offense to 4 hits including 2 runs on solo home runs by Mark Teixeira and Hideki Matsui, while striking out 8. Following the 6th inning, FOX cameras showed Phillies manager Charlie Manuel talking with his starter, who had reached nearly 100 pitches. When the 7th inning started, Manuel had decided to stick with Pedro Martinez and he was facing off against Jerry Hairston Jr., inserted in the lineup for his successes against the pitcher that dated back to 2004. Hairston blooped a single to right, and immediately “Shades of Grady” began to emerge during the tight 2-1 game. Melky Cabrera smacked a single to right before Charlie Manuel made the move to the bullpen. While the non-move cannot be considered as game-changing as the non-move made by ex-manager Grady Little in 2003, it seems almost inconceivable that a manager of Pedro Martinez would allow such a situation to present itself again.

Perhaps Phillies manager Charlie Manuel needs a history lesson in Pedro Martinez 101: Versus New York Yankees, Postseason Edition.

Pedro Martinez’s first postseason start against the Yankees was on October 16th, 1999, Game 3 of the ALCS that featured what should have been a classic pitching duel between Pedro and Yankees starter Roger Clemens. Instead, it was rout of epic proportions as Clemens and Hideki Irabu combined to give up 12 runs in 6 and 2 third innings. For the Red Sox this was their only victory in an eventual 4-1 series loss to the Yankees, who went on to win their second consecutive World Series title.

Pedro Martinez didn’t face the Yankees again in the postseason until Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, matching up against Roger Clemens. This time, Clemens outpitched Pedro in a 4-3 victory for New York. The game included a bench clearing beanball war that resulted in Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer tumbling to the ground(which the NY media vilified Pedro Martinez for) and a post-game interview that included a hilarious quote from Martinez, “Who is Karim Garcia?”.

Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS was the setting of one of the most infamous managerial non-moves in recent baseball history. On October 16th 2003, 4 years to the day of the 1999 ALCS Game 3 matchup with Clemens, the two aces again squared off. In this round, Clemens exited after 3 innings and giving up 4 runs(3 earned). Martinez rolled through the Yankee lineup until the 7th inning, as his pitch count rose and the Yankee hitters grew comfortable at the plate. Despite giving up a home run and a pair of singles, Martinez got out of a 7th inning jam. Many Red Sox fans were surprised when Pedro Martinez appeared on the mound to start the 8th inning, despite the fact that David Ortiz’s home run in the top half of the inning gave the pitcher a 3 run lead to work with.

Until that point in the series, the Red Sox had utilized a near-systematic usage of their bullpen. Namely, Mike Timlin in the 8th inning and Scott Williamson in the 9th inning to close out games where the Red Sox were ahead. For reasons perhaps only ex-manager Grady Little knows, Pedro Martinez was left in the game after a mound visit by Little to determine if Martinez could finish the inning. Pedro subsequently gave up 4 consecutive hits, including 3 doubles, to allow the Yankees to tie the game at 5-5. Grady Little removed Pedro for Alan Embree and Mike Timlin to stop the bleeding, but the damage had been done. Three innings later, Aaron Boone was christened with a new middle name that starts with the letter F. Ask any Red Sox fan about the 2003 ALCS, and they will tell you the game was lost not in the 11th, but the 8th.

It was during the regular season in 2004 when Pedro Martinez uttered the now famous line, “I just have to tip my hat to the Yankees and call them my daddy.” after a loss to New York. Regardless of the outcome of the game, Yankees fans showered Pedro Martinez with ‘Who’s Your Daddy?” chants during his game 2 and 5 starts and his relief appearance during game 7 in the 2004 ALCS and even later in his first start back in the Bronx with the Mets in 2005. Though the Yankees have a new stadium, this is one of the traditions that made the move, as Yankee fans sang the refrain during Pedro’s warmups and at the beginning of Game 2 last night.

For 6 innings, Pedro Martinez largely silenced the New York crowd, save for the two home runs that gave New York a 2-1 lead. Thanks in part to Charlie Manuel’s inability to recall history, Yankees fans theme song for Pedro Martinez was sung loud as he exited the 7th inning with men on the corners. As the series heads back to Philadelphia tied a game a piece, hopefully Charlie Manuel is considering his options should he be faced with a similar situation later on.

One Guy’s World Series Prediction

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

What better time to offer up entirely unscientific predictions than on the eve of the 2009 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies?

The 2009 World Series could be one of the greatest postseason series of all time. The teams are stacked quite evenly, with perhaps a slight edge given to the Yankees for their bullpen. However, I believe the World Series will come down to the starting rotation of both teams.

Will a Good Cole Hamels show up? Will Cliff Lee pitch well against the Yankees as he did in the regular season? How will Pedro Martinez shape up against that Yankee lineup in New York?

How will C.C. Sabathia hold up if he’s required to pitch on 3 days rest with over 250 innings on his arm in 2009? Will Girardi really use only 3 starting pitchers in the series? If there’s a 4th starter, how will Gaudin’s extended time off play in a crucial game?

I believe whichever team wins this series will win because of the answers to these questions. With both teams having great lineups, it will come down to manager picking the right matchups and pitchers rising to the occasion. I predict another Phillies World Series title in a 6 game series.

Historical Note: The last time the Yankees were swept in a World Series was also the last time there was a National League team that won consecutive championships, the 1975-1976 Big Red Machine.

Happy Anniversary: Today, 5 years ago, the Boston Red Sox completed one of the greatest comebacks in history when they put the finishing touches on their 4 game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.

World Series Rematch, 59 Years Later

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

During the Yankees greatest stretch of success, they appeared in 25 World Series between 1921 and 1964, winning 20 of them. At the crest of that dynasty, the Yankees won 5 straight World Series championships from 1949 to 1953. The Philadelphia Phillies were the first of the teams that attempted to unseat the reigning champions, only to be crushed by the Yankees, losing 4 straight in the 1950 series.

The 1950 World Series was the Phillies first appearance in the Fall Classic in 35 years, and they did not return for another 30 years, when they bested the 1980 Kansas City Royals to claim their first World Series title. It was 13 years before the Phillies reached the World Series again, when they faced off against the reigning champion Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays held off the Phils and won their second straight championship in that 1993 series. The Phillies had little success until 2008 when they won their second franchise championship, beating the upstart Tampa Bay Rays.

This time around, it is the Yankees in the position to unseat the reigning champions. The Bronx Bombers were in a similar situation in 1996, when they defeated the reigning champion Atlanta Braves to hoist their first championship banner in 15 years.

The Philadelphia Phillies have been described as an ‘American League team playing in the National League’, and it will bode well for them to play like one if they hope to beat the New York Yankees, a team that has lost just 13 times since September 1st, including only 4 times at home. Both lineups are stacked with power, as there are 9 players between the two teams with 25 homers or more. Both teams have speed as well, with 9 players between the two teams with double digits in stolen bases. The pitching staffs for both teams are capable of shutting down even the best offensive lineups, as just a few arbitrarily selected statistics can help point out; the Yanks led the AL with strikeouts and the Phillies were 2nd in the NL with most complete games.

Many predictions about the outcome of this World Series will be thrown about over the next two days, but there is one point that cannot be disputed. There is no doubt that the 2009 World Series holds the potential to be one of the best ever.

The Makings of a Little Red Machine

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

The Cincinnati Reds from the 1970’s were christened with the name ‘Big Red Machine’ as they systematically destroyed the National League during a decade which they reached the NLCS 6 times and the World Series 4 times, winning twice. Coincidentally, those two championships came during the back-to-back seasons of 1975-1976. After their convincing 5 game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Phillies are looking to become the first National League team since the ‘Big Red Machine’ to repeat as champions. In their own way, they’re trying to establish their own ‘Red Machine’.

The Phillies have built their success on developing players and acquiring the right talent that meshes well with their team. Since 2001, the Phillies have had just one losing season, which happened in 2002 when the team went 80-81. Since then, they have won at least 86 games each season. In 2008 and again this year the Phillies won 90+ games. Their lineup is littered with homegrown talent and key free agent pickups;

Their catcher, Carlos Ruiz, was signed as a free agent in 1998 and spent 7 years in the minor leagues before breaking into the everyday lineup.

Ryan Howard, the hulking first baseman, was drafted in the 5th round in 2001 and has since won the 2005 Rookie of the Year award, the 2006 MVP award and most recently the 2009 NLCS MVP award.

Second baseman Chase Utley was drafted in the first round of the 2000 draft and established himself as an everyday player and perennial All-Star by2006.

Jimmy Rollins was drafted by the Phillies in the second round in 1996 and made his mark in his first full season in 2001 when he swiped 46 bases, was made an All-Star and challenged Albert Pujols and Roy Oswalt for Rookie of The Year honors. Rollins won the NL MVP award in 2007 along with his first of 2 Gold Glove awards.

The Phillies leftfielder, Raul Ibanez, spent much of his career with the Seattle Mariners and was 2 years removed from his 30+ HR seasons when the Phillies signed him as a free agent before the 2009 season. He responded to switching leagues for the first time by cranking a career high 34 home runs.

Speedy centerfielder Shane Victorino was twice left exposed during the Rule 5 draft, to the benefit of the Phillies. First drafted by the Padres from the Dodgers in the 2002 Rule 5 draft, he was returned to the Dodgers in May of 2003. Victorino was again left exposed during the 2004 draft and the Phillies picked up their centerfielder who has been an All-Star and Gold Glove winner while swiping over 100 bases for the team in 5 seasons.

Phillies rightfielder Jayson Werth was traded twice before the age of 28 when he became a free agent. The Phillies signed him, and he had a breakout year in 2008 with 24 home runs to go along with 20 stolen bases, with an equally impressive 2009 campaign with 36 home runs and 20 stolen bases that earned him his first All-Star appearance.

Even the Phillies pitching is in part a result of drafting choices.

Cole Hamels was drafted by the Phillies in the 1st round of the 2002 draft, establishing himself in the rotation by 2007 when he led the team in wins, ERA and ERA+.

J.A. Happ was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft, and had two brief stints with the big league club in 2007 and 2008. This season he emerged as a solid compliment to Cole Hamels in the rotation.

The mid-season acquisition of Cliff Lee helped provide the Phillies with a formidable 1-2-3 punch down the stretch. In 12 regular season starts Lee went 7-3, with 3 complete games including a shutout against the Washington Nationals in September.

At the All-Star break, future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez was still sitting on the sidelines, waiting for a call to pitch in the 2009 season. On August 12th, Pedro made his first start with the Phillies, a good effort 5 innings of work versus the Chicago Cubs. In 9 starts, he went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA. In his one postseason start this season, he held the Dodgers to 2 hits in 7 shutout innings.

The Reds of the 70’s had Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Dave Concepcion, and Ken Griffey to go along with Gary Nolan, Jack Billingham, and Don Gullet as they ran the table in 1975 and 1976. The Phillies collection of Utley, Howard, Rollins, Werth, and Ibanez to go along with Hamels, Lee, Happ, and Martinez may very well be the first team to give the National League back-to-back World Series champions since the Big Red Machine.

As the Phillies prepare to face either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or the New York Yankees, they may want to look to Pete Rose from the Big Red Machine and member of the 1980 World Champion Phillies for quotable motivation.

“Somebody’s gotta win and somebody’s gotta lose and I believe in letting the other guy lose.” – Pete Rose

Game Day Connections: ‘LCS Edition

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

With the Yankees and the Phillies taking commanding leads in their respective championship series, now seems as good a time as any to reflect on the few players in history who have donned uniforms for the remaining four postseason contenders. Aside from the Angels, these teams have been around for quite a while. It’s hard to believe that only three players in major league history have put in time with each of the teams left in the postseason. Let’s take a quick look at two men who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles of Anaheim Angels, Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees, and a closer look at the one player who had an impact with some of these clubs in the postseason.

One of these players was Stan Javier, who split 17 seasons between 7 teams, and made his major league debut with the New York Yankees in 1984. His Yankee career lasted all of 7 games, and he was traded during that off-season in a multi-player trade that sent Rickey Henderson to the Bronx. He went on to have a solid career and a World Series championship with the Athletics. The second ballplayer that wore all the uniforms of the teams remaining was the late Ken Brett, brother of Hall of Famer George Brett. Ken Brett spent time with 10 different major league teams during his 14 year career. He appeared in the 1967 World Series as an 18 year old and threw an inning and a third of hitless ball. Despite lingering arm troubles, Brett was a reliable option as hemoved on from Boston after a few season and began his oddysey that included 9 uniform changes in 10 seasons.

The final player to profile is Jay Johnstone, who spent 20 seasons in the big leagues, logging time with 8 teams in total and appearing in 5 postseasons with the Phillies, Dodgers, and Yankees. Johnstone played all three outfield positions for the California Angels, the team that drafted him which he played 5 seasons of his career with. Johnstone bounced from the White Sox to the Athletics before finding a new home in Philadelphia. His career flourished with the Phillies, and peaked when he hit .778 in a losing effort against the Cincinnati Reds in the 1976 NLCS.

After his 1978 season started off slow, the Phillies shipped Johnstone off to the New York Yankees in June of that year for reliever Rawly Eastwick. Johnstone responded well by hitting much better with his new club. He played a bench role during the ’78 World Series which the Yankees won in 6 games. A year and a day later, Johnstone was traded to the San Diego Padres after another slow start to the season. Johnstone hit well the rest of the season, and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent following the 1979 season.

At the age of 34, Johnstone’s 1980 season was his finest since the 1977 season, despite playing with 100-150 fewer at bats than his days with the Phillies. In 1981, Johnstone’s Dodgers were facing off in the World Series against the Yankees and Johnstone made the best of his limited play in the series. In Game 4, he cranked a 2 run home run as a pinch hitter en route to a come-from-behind 8-7 victory that helped turn the momentum in favor of the Dodgers as they went on to win the next two games and the series.

Johnstone logged a few more seasons in the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs and a brief return to the Dodgers, before turning his focus to a brief career as a color commentator.

As the Dodgers and Angels both face elimination games, there’s no doubt that fans of both teams are hoping there might be a Jay Johnstone somewhere in the clubhouses of their teams with their backs against the wall.

One Guy’s League Championship Predictions

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

In my set of predictions prior to the Division Series, i was correct in 3 of the 4 series. Of course, the only series which I picked incorrectly happened to be the series that featured my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. Since they’re no longer a factor in this postseason, I’ve decided to do a new set of predictions with the remaining teams. Truth be told, I don’t expect to have the same success with guessing the winners of the Championship Series. Anyway, here we go!

Between the Philadelphia Phillies and LA Dodgers, I picked the Phillies to win in a 7 game series. These teams are well stocked with pitching, but the Phillies will end up on top in the end. The Dodgers outperformed the Phillies pitching staff during the 2009 season, but the lopsided talent is not as obvious as say, the Yankees over the Twins. Pedro Martinez could play a big role in this NLCS. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are a fantastic 1-2 punch. The Dodgers bullpen has better numbers than the Phillies bullpen, but Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ and Cliff Lee ranked 2nd in MLB for complete games during the second half, and that may mean their starters are going deeper into games during this series. There hasn’t been any mention of the offense of either team, and that’s because this series will likely come down to pitching.

Between the Yankees and Angels, I picked the Yankees to take the ALCS in 5 games. Whether or not there’s a possible ‘hangover’ effect for the Angels after finally defeating the Red Sox, the Yankees are simply rolling through this postseason. Since August 1st, the Yankees are 41-18, 44-18 if you include the three game sweep of the Twins. The Yankees lost only 22 games in the second half, playing to a .703 winning percentage! One way the Yankees may lose this series is if Mike Scioscia outmanages Joe Girardi in a key moment. Girardi’s managing of the bullpen could be a factor as well, as he’s routinely brought Mariano Rivera into non-save situations and for more than one inning. While Rivera is the best closer in baseball, he has shown this season that when he pitches more than an inning, teams are able to scrap together and get men on base. If there’s one team in the postseason which you do not want to let men on base, it’s the Angels. However, the three man rotation of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte coupled with an offensive lineup that includes 7 starters that had 20 or more home runs during the regular season(5 of whom had 25 or more) is difficult to match up evenly with any team remaining in the postseason.

Regardless of who wins these series, it should be great baseball to watch as the postseason rolls on.

Happy Birthday, Tommy Harper!

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

When Jacoby Ellsbury stole 50 bases in 2008 during his first full season in the big leagues, Tommy Harper probably had an inclination that Jacoby Ellsbury would break his 26 year old record. Jacoby Ellsbury did just that when he swiped 70 bases during the 2009 season.

Tommy Harper’s Red Sox tenure was only 3 seasons of his 15 year career, but he managed to leave his mark in that short time. With his 107 stolen bases as a Red Sox, he put himself in the top ten for all time leaders for stolen bases by a Red Sox. The Red Sox have never been known as a running team. Harper’s 54 stolen bases in 1973 broke the team single season record of 52 held by Hall of Famer Tris Speaker in his MVP season of 1912 when the Red Sox won their second World Series championship. Speaker’s record remained for 61 years before Harper came on the scene.

Throughout the years there have been brief flashes of speed in Boston, including Otis Nixon with 42 stolen bases in 1994, but there hasn’t been a bonafide stolen base threat continually throughout Red Sox history. More recently, during his years in Boston, Johnny Damon provided a solid option to steal a base. Perhaps the most famous stolen base in Red Sox history belongs to a man with 243 career stolen bases, and just 5 regular season stolen bases as a Red Sox. They belong to Dave Roberts, owner of 9th inning stolen base that helped change the momentum of the 2004 ALCS versus the New York Yankees.

While Johnny Damon, Dave Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury have been examples of how the Red Sox have changed their offensive style to include running the bases, it’s important to remember the guy who held the 26 year record for most stolen bases in a season by a Red Sox.

For his single season stolen base record, and his steady play in the outfield during the mid 1970’s, Happy 69th Birthday, Tommy Harper!