Results tagged ‘ Charlie Manuel ’

Chicago, Chicago

Was it Mitch Williams on MLB Network who last night suggested that if Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams were smart they’d choose as Ozzie Guillen’s successor, former Cubs’ great (and jilted would-be Wrigley skipper) Ryne Sandberg?

It would be a brilliant stroke in terms of stealing some of the Cubby fan base, but it comes up against two realities. The Cubs themselves will probably be looking at Ryno again (and everybody else) this winter after the unhappy realization that Mike Quade is a great guy and a great baseball man but not a long-term Cub manager. Meanwhile, Sandberg – judging by his prominent in-dugout role in Spring Training and September – would appear to be Charlie Manuel’s heir apparent in Philly if he wants to wait that long.

He might. The Cubs have to be looking closely at the FenwayPocalypse – the tendency to panic in Boston is decades old and burns below the surface of recent success. It is just the kind of place to run either Tito Francona and/or Theo Epstein out of town and either or both to say ok. As the great Boston sportscaster Clark Booth told me 25 years ago, you have to remember that the fan mindset is simply this: if the Sox win today, it’s only because losing tomorrow will hurt MORE.

Lastly I’m not so confident about Ozzie Guillen in Miami. He is the perfect Marlins manager – for the fans. For an owner who found Joe Girardi too filter-free? Every night could be fireworks night in the new ballpark.

Minor League Cards: Playoff Edition

While all eight teams are still there (for the moment) I thought this was a suitable time to salute the managers, and show them in the blossom of youth, on minor league (or in two cases, even more exotic) baseball cards from decades back.

Some you’ve seen before and some you haven’t, and we’ll start with the American League matchups:
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We’ve shown the “Only Maddon” here before, from the 1976 TCMA Quad City Angels set. That’s Ron Washington from ProCards’ 1987 Rochester set. Washington appeared in about half a dozen minor league sets over more than a decade, dating back to his days as a top infield prospect in the Dodgers’ system. To continue:
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Yup. Gardy, captured in the Pacific Coast League in ProCards ’87 edition. A year later he’d be shown again, as the rookie manager of the Twins’ farm at Kenosha, Wisconsin – part of the same set that shows the young Joe Girardi of Pittsfield of the Eastern League. One of his pitchers that year was Mike Harkey, and joining both of them on the EL All-Star Team, Dave Eiland of Albany. Eiland and Harkey are Girardi’s pitching coaches today.
To the National, and we go very far afield for these:
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That is a TCMA 1979 Japanese Leagues issue card of Charlie Manuel, DH of the Kintetsu Buffaloes, clearly the creators of the busiest batting helmets in baseball history, American, Japanese, or probably anywhere else. By ’87 Manuel would be back in Portland, serving as Ron Gardenhire’s last manager! The Dusty Baker card on the right is from a team-sponsored set put out by the Richmond Braves of the International League in 1971.
And to finish off the playoff managerial match-ups:
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   We’re getting very international here. That, in a 1982 TCMA Tidewater Tides card, is the only French-born manager in the bigs, Mr. Bochy of the Giants. To the right, the 1967-68 Venezuelan Winter League card of Bobby Cox, still, at that point, three or four months away from his major league playing debut with the Yankees.

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Of course as I write this, Coxy has already been ejected from Game 2 of the NLDS, so obviously I’d be remiss to not include the bench coach who succeeded him at the helm of the Braves. That victim of misspelling on the 1987 ProCards Gastonia set is indeed Chino Cadahia, not “Cadania,” now on Cox’s staff in Atlanta just 23 years later.
Cadahia had some team in that season in the South Atlantic League: three kids named Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, and Sammy Sosa. In something that should tell you something, Cadahia and Gastonia finished with 58 wins and 82 losses.
And let’s just finish things off with two of the announcers covering these division series. On the right is a familiar figure on the Mets’ telecast (and that same 1982 TCM
A Tidewater set that depicted Bochy). The other one is a rookie and he’s bounced around among three teams this year: TBS, MLB Network, and PeachTree, but he might make it. I mean, if he can survive the experience of being on the Pro Cards’ 1987 Glens Falls Tigers card set, I suppose he can survive anything. 
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These Were Pretty Decent Predictions

Before we look ahead, it’s necessary to look back. The divisional forecasts from this blog, from the end of March and beginning of April, beginning with the American League East:

Things I do not expect to see repeated from 2009: 1) A.J. Burnett’s reliability and perhaps even his stamina; 2) Joe Girardi’s ability to survive without a reliable fifth starter (if Phil Hughes really can pull it off in this, his fourth attempt, he might become the fourth starter if my instincts on Burnett are correct); 3) Nick Swisher’s offensive performance (his average and his RBI totals have never 

PREDICTIONS: Tampa Bay steps back into the forefront in an exciting race with the well-managed but decreasingly potent Red Sox, and bests Boston by a game or two. The Yankees contend – possibly even dominate – into June or July before the rotation, and/or Posada, and/or Jeter, blow up, and they fade to a distant third. 

Boston’s injury festival clearly threw a monkey wrench into that view, but in its defense, three of the four flaws with the Yankees arose as predicted, leading to the big one about New York dominating, then falling, to eventual division champs Tampa Bay.
To the AL Central:

Manager Ron Gardenhire of MINNESOTA knows 447 times more about baseball than I do…The new double-play combo is also symbolic of some serious problems. It is made up of two very nice men named J.J. Hardy (who was run out of Milwaukee even before the ascent of Alcides Escobar), and Orlando Hudson (who has been run out of Arizona and Los Angeles and who somehow lost his job to Ronnie Belliard in the middle of the pennant race last year). It is also the direct result of what must be viewed as two disastrous trades (Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza to Tampa for Delmon Young, and Johan Santana to the Mets for Carlos Gomez – now swapped for Hardy – and nothing of even impending value). Nothing would please me more than to see the Team They Tried To Contract rear up and fulfill its potential. I don’t think they have the front office personnel to pull it off.



PREDICTIONS: I like Detroit to get more lemons out of the slot machine of chance that is this division, than I do Chicago. Thus, the Tigers, close, over the White Sox. Minnesota and Cleveland will spar for third place…

Well, I got the part right about Gardenhire knowing 447 times more about baseball than I do. I do wonder about this team’s long-term prospects given the Garza and Santana trades, and its short-term’s prospects given its stumble to the title.
My forecast for the AL West was, if I must say so, pretty darn sharp:

With the strategic building in SEATTLE over the last two years – Figgins, Wilson, Gutierrez, Lee, even Byrnes and Snell and League (to say nothing of Wakamatsu) added to the Ichiro/Felix base, it would seem it would be almost impossible for the Mariners not to be favored. But as I have suggested before, Jack Zduriencik managed to make the one move that could undo all the good ones…It’s not as if Milton Bradley has had a few problems. This is six clubs in six seasons and the longest he lasted with any of them was until June 29th of the second year. I don’t know what it will be, I don’t know when it will be, but Bradley will do something to cost the Mariners the division. 

The line-up in TEXAS frightens me. I know Josh Hamilton is not going to hit 57 homers. I understand Vlad Guerrero has aged. I’m sure Chris Davis could repeat the first half of 2009. I noticed Ian Kinsler’s on the DL. Without them this is still the most potent batting order in the division. 

DIVISION FORECAST: As suggested, I like Texas. Oakland’s pitching could jell to challenge them; Milton Bradley could go AWOL on May 1 and save Seattle’s season; Brandon Wood could be e
verything the Angels ever wanted from him. But I don’t think any of those things are going to happen. Rangers by a five or six game margin, with the others following in a jumble I can’t quite yet discern.

Texas, as you know, won not by five or six or by nine, with the Angels ten back and the Mariners having screwed themselves into the ground thanks to the continuing curse of Milton Bradley.
Over in the National League:

ATLANTA is the obvious sleeper, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. If Troy Glaus and Jason Heyward produce as Atlanta expects them, Bobby Cox will have a competitive final year. If they exceed expectations (and Heyward gives off the vibe of a Pujolsian, From-Day-One-Superstar) the Braves might actually air out the division. The rotation gets a little sketchy behind Hanson and Jurrjens, and there is little or no room for injury...Florida’s biggest question mark is the bullpen, where Leo Nunez may or may not succeed.

All that can be said about NEW YORK is: Sigh. I love the people who run this club, from the ticket takers to the owners. But this year the wheels could fall off even worse – and farther – than last…Plus, the silence 

DIVISION PREDICTIONS: I’ll take the long odds that the Braves’ breaks fall the right way and Cox goes out with a winner in a tight race over the Phillies. The Marlins will hit a ton but waste the brilliance of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco by using 11 different fifth starters and half a dozen closers. The Mets will have their nightmare collapse and be wondering if they can unload not only Castillo, but maybe Beltran and Reyes, too.

It is amazing that the prediction about the Braves wasn’t a bad one, and the forecast on the number of injuries in Philly rolled out pretty much as expected – and Philadelphia still won the Division. It is why the Phils must be considered the early line post-season favorites, and why the fact that the NL Manager Of The Year Award discussion is farcical if Charlie Manuel isn’t the odds-on winner.
Here’s another prediction I am proud to recount, from the NL Central:

CHICAGO…The starting line-up is five-eighths made up of guys who significantly regressed from 2008 to 2009…The Cubs are a mess…But there is at minimum some sense of upswing in Cincinnati. Dusty Baker gave Drew Stubbs the chance to play last year, and might even find spots for Aroldis Chapman, Mike Leake, and Yonder Alonso this season. The bullpen is strong, the rotation potentially deep… What’s the psychological saw about repeating the same unsuccessful action with confidence that this time it will succeed? The Brewers are confident Dave Bush, Doug Davis, and Manny Parra and/or Jeff Suppan constitute three-fifths of a pitching staff. They’re certain Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart will harness their talent. Everybody knows this is the year Yovanni Gallardo leaps to the forefront of NL starters. This is a recording….

ST. LOUIS is the most overrated team in the majors. Albert Pujols glitters so brightly, he makes you forget that the rest of the infield is an assortment of Brendan Ryans and Felipe Lopezes and David Freeses. Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright were so dominant that they obscured the reality of what happened if you actually beat them on consecutive days – the Cards’ season would be snuffed out in a sweep. This is a team that was ready to trot out a rotation in which Kyle Lohse, Brad Penny, and Rich Hill would pitch more often than did Carpenter and Wainwright (the first light bulb going off: giving the fifth spot in the rotation not to Hill but to Jaime Garcia). The bullpen is a jumble, the bench non-existent, and lord help Tony LaRussa if Yadier Molina is really hurt or Pujols’ back is cranky for more than 45 minutes at a stretch.

PREDICTIONS: You know what? I’ll take the long-odds bet on the dice coming up for the Reds and not the Cardinals. 

Pretty much got that division correct, right down to the ascension of Jaime Garcia and the injury to Yadier Molina, to say nothing of being one of only two forecasters I’m aware of to pick the Reds, who won by five over the only other team to finish above .500 in baseball’s biggest division.
I will not claim I did as well in the West, but this does wind up describing what actually happened:

COLORADO…This is a well-rounded, deep team, and Troy Tulowitzki, batting clean-up, may reassert himself this year on the path to being one of the league’s top ten hitters. In LOS ANGELES or anywhere else, I would trust Joe Torre with my wallet or my vote or my house keys. But I think he’s in for a dreadful year. The Dodgers cannot get a full season out of Ronnie Belliard, haven’t gotten one out of Blake DeWitt. They may have burned out Russell Martin. And Manny Being Just Manny (No PEDs) is a just slightly better offensive force than, say, Mark DeRosa. The McCourt Divorce may be a lot more interesting than the 2010 Dodgers, and a lot less painful to watch.

SAN DIEGO might catch lightning in a bottle, if Mat Latos and Kyle Blanks and Nick Hundley get off to explosive starts and there is no need to unload Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez…Watch, hope; rent, don’t buy.

I don’t much like SAN FRANCISCO’s outfield (maybe they should have given John Bowker’s spring training resurgence more attention), and their third best all-around player might spend most of the season backing up Bengie Molina, but that’s some pitching staff Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti have to play with…if Colorado falters, this is the West’s best bet.

PREDICTIONS: Colorado in a runaway, unless the Giants put everything together early. The Dodgers finish third, just ahead of the Diamondbacks – unless the Padres blossom early as mentioned above and don’t trade everybody, in which case the three teams will place within a few games of each other.

So all in all, the only division I got wildly wrong was the AL Central. Tampa, Texas, and Cincinnati were picked outright. I had the Braves winning the NL East and they go in as the Wild Card, and the Giants winning the Card and they instead go in as West Champions. Swing and a miss on Minnesota and Philadelphia, and all I can say is to repeat: when do we stop thinking of Charlie Manuel as an affable guide of talent-heavy teams, and start thinking of him as one of the top managers of the early 21st Century?

Your All-Star Controlled Scrimmage

Jayson Stark tweets that All-Star Managers Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel were told to pick one “multi-position” player to their teams, which explains, if not excuses, the ludicrous selections of Omar Infante of Atlanta and Ty Wigginton of Baltimore. 

They are not All-Stars. They do not play every day. They are a kind of baseball equivalent of Special Teams guys, and that’s okay if that’s the way you want the All-Star Game to devolve. But you have taken it from an All-Star Game in which the actual stars often used to play the entire game, to an All-Star exhibition in which the roster is framed around a fans’ popularity vote, to one in which it is further restricted by a requirement that each team have a representative, to an All-Star Controlled Scrimmage in which a few more of the precious discretionary roster spots are awarded based on very narrowly defined “success.”
“Multi-Position Players”? “Middle Relievers”? What next, “Pinch-Hitters”? “Top Rule 5 Picks”? I mean, you could legitimize the ludicrous talk of having The Strasburg pitch in the game seven starts into his career by making sure a place on each team was reserved for “Top Rookies Brought Up Late To Avoid Super Two Arbitration Status.” And when you get to that point – and we’re close enough as it is – just call the thing on Monday “The Home Run Hitting Contest,” and the thing on Tuesday “All-Star Pitching Warm-Ups and Batting Practice.”
To expand on the issue of Middle Relievers, I have no problem with them. When Joe Torre put Mike Stanton on the 2001 All-Star team, many howled, I did not. But they have to be having a season that is as proportionately good as any Closer or Starter. And I don’t think Matt Thornton of the White Sox or Evan Meek of the Pirates are close to the top. Thornton is not an embarrassing pick (another tweet today suggested a good MLB scout considered him one of baseball’s top ten relievers – though I’d argue that surely at least one of the Padres’ Mike Adams, Heath Bell, or Luke Gregerson deserves to be ahead of him on that last, as does Bard of Boston, and very possibly Kuo of the Dodgers).
But I went a little further into the selection of Meek and it is just indefensible. 
Meek has pitched brilliantly this season. Obviously leads in Pittsburgh are scarce, but not impossible: Octavio Dotel has as many Saves as Jonathan Papelbon and one more than Mariano Rivera. One can argue that an All-Star Reliever – like Evan Meek – is more valuable with the Pirates than he is with the Yankees because leads are such a precious thing. Yet though he has pitched 38 times this year, the Bucs have only used Meek twelve times when they were ahead, and only five other times when they were tied. 
He comes to the All-Star table with more than half of his statistics compiled in games already lost, or nearly so. Twelve appearances with a lead. Ten appearances with his team already losing by three runs or more. These just aren’t the circumstances in which the other nine All-Star relievers have had their mettle tested. That he has been spectacular in 21 meaningless games, and less so in 17 others, is a virtual disqualification for consideration. You’re a step up from factoring how well guys did in AAA this year, or on Rehab, or in the AFL last fall.
It is also discouraging to how Meek has fared in the middle relievers’ equivalent of “Close And Late”:
Twelve Meek Appearances With Lead:
Games Saved:                                1
Games Held:                                   5
Games Won:                                   1
Blown Saves:                                  5*
No Win, Hold, Save, or BS:              1
“Record”:                                  7*-5-1
   * Blown Save 4/13, received Win
Five Meek Appearances In Ties:
Games Won:                                   2
Games Lost:                                   2
No Won or Loss:                              1
“Record”:                                    2-2-1

Even giving him both statistics in that April 13th game against the Giants in which he inherited a runner in the sixth, then gave up a single and a groundout producing the tie run, and then becoming the pitcher of record in what was ultimately a Pittsburgh victory, Meek, “Close And Late,” is 9-7-2. It’s counted seventeen times, and he has failed on seven of those occasions, and only twice because he inherited a runner and let him score.

Not only that, but the Pirates seem to be using him ‘when it counts’ less frequently as the season has worn on. Seven of his first fourteen appearances came while Pittsburgh was ahead or tied, and eleven of his first twenty-one were. Only six of his last seventeen have been.
I know this reads as if I’m beating up on Evan Meek. I’m not. He’s got great natural gifts and after years of struggle, his dedication to his craft and his willingness to learn has made him a valued major leaguer. I understand about the jigsaw puzzle that is the All-Star Roster (if Andrew McCutchen is actually the Bucs’ All-Star – and he is – then Michael Bourn can’t go representing the Astros and suddenly you’re making Matt Lindstrom or Brandon Lyon an All-Star). It’s not personal (it actually startles me that Pittsburgh, in another rebuilding season, hasn’t worked him into more pressure situations; heck, I even had him on my rotisserie league team for a month earlier in the season, and I take that stuff way too seriously). But the statistics of how they are using him suggest that no matter how good he might look against an individual batter or even in an individual game, the Pirates use him as if he were the second or even third best middle reliever on their team.
And when the second or third best middle reliever on the worst team in the league is an All-Star, it’s no longer the All-Star Game.

Game 4: Pitchers

CC Sabathia seems to be struggling with his mechanics.

Joe Blanton is (as usual) struggling with looking too much like Turtle from Entourage.
And the conspiracy theorist within is struggling with the possibility that Charlie Manuel used the hit-by-pitch as an intentional walk for Alex Rodriguez in the first inning with the specific hope the umpires would warn both benches and thus take the inside pitch away from Sabathia. 
The latter is unlikely, but certainly the first part of it would be anything but unprecedented.

Yankees, Quickly

I know, I know – the Yankees have not even made the World Series yet. George Steinbrenner would file a protest if somebody told him I was already picking them to beat the Phillies.

But I speak to you as a season-long skeptic about New York, who now looks at this team and believes they should’ve swept the Angels, but for some over-managing by Joe Girardi. I still think the Yankees have some holes and I wouldn’t leave my season in the hands of A.J. Burnett and I still don’t like starting CC Sabathia on short rest. 
But one set of statistics should make Phillies fans shudder: 

1-8-.178-.290-.290.

Those are Ryan Howard’s numbers against lefthanded pitchers, during the regular season, in Citizens Bank Park, in 2009. And it’s not a small sample, it’s 107 at bats, and he struck out in 51 of them. And no matter whether Girardi is going to push the envelope on Sabathia and try him on three days’ rest again, or play it safe, there will be two games at home in which Ryan Howard will have to face Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. He has seen nothing like them individually during the post-season, and nothing like them in tandem, conceivably in consecutive starts, during the regular season. The Phillies might as well bench him in those games over Halloween weekend.
It’s not like he’s good against lefties out-of-town, either. Howard’s line this year is 6-33-.207-.298-.356. And he will open at Yankee Stadium against Sabathia, who during the season gave up twelve hits, and no home runs, to lefthanded batters, in fourteen starts. Pettitte has been less dominant than Sabathia against lefty hitters in New York, but even he has only surrendered five homers to them at home.
The other Phillies do not fold entirely against southpaws but they become less imposing. Here are their key lefthanded or switch batters versus lefty pitchers:

Ibanez:   13-40-.285-.359*-.639*

Rollins:     7-22-.230-.266-.425*

Utley:      11-33-.288-.417-.545

Victorino:  2-12-.314*-.385*-.459*

  * better LH than RH

The problem becomes apparent when you consider the way the two ways the Yankees could set up their rotation:

Game One, Wednesday 10/28, @ New York: Sabathia*

Game Two, Thursday 10/29, @ New York: Burnett

Game Three, Saturday 10/31, @ Philadelphia: Pettitte*

Game Four, Sunday 11/1, @ Philadelphia: Sabathia* or ?

Game Five, Monday, 11/2, @ Philadelphia: Burnett, ? or Sabathia*

Game Six, Wednesday, 11/4 @ New York: Pettitte* or Burnett

Game Seven, Thursday, 11/5 @ New York: Sabathia* or Pettitte*

If the Phillies get to the seventh game, and if Joe Girardi plays it conservatively, they will have already had to face starts by three southpaws, and then beat Pettitte in the finale, with Sabathia available in the bullpen. It is absolutely plausible that Girardi will not be conservative at all, and will have already started both Sabathia and Pettitte twice each, with Sabathia gearing up for the start in the decider.

It’s a slightly more daunting task than beating the Rockies with no lefty starters, and then flummoxing a slumping Clayton Kershaw and beating, in a do-or-die game for the other team, a starter who was released by Texas two months ago and on whom you can always rely – he’ll always let you down. And they don’t have a power plug-in for the DH in The Stadium (unless Charlie Manuel were to pull a real rabbit out of his hat, like John Mayberry, Jr.).

I don’t think they can do it. Congrats on that pennant.
PS: For whatever this is worth, Howard went 2-for-14 in the three-game clash at Yankee Stadium in May. The hits were both off Sabathia, and both infield singles to the left side.

Bunning And Short And Lidge… And Happ?

I don’t really remember the last time I saw him, but it may have been 1987. I never knew his name and I could not then verify his story, but he claimed that he had been at every one of Gene Mauch’s opening days since 1965 (and a lot of other Mauch-managed games, even some in spring training).

His act was always the same. He was there when the park opened, and he stayed till it closed. And any time he thought Mauch could possibly see him, he raised his sign, which read, simply “BUNNING.” If he had one friend with him, that guy carried another sign reading “AND SHORT,” but there was supposedly a three-man version (one fellow with “AND” and the other with “SHORT.”). “He has to be reminded,” I heard the guy say. “He has to be reminded, every year, what he did.”
The vengeful fan’s argument – echoed by a lot of people then and now – was that the infamous Philadelphia Phillies collapse of 1964 was neither organic nor accidental, but the direct result of a crazy managerial strategy pronounced by then-Phils’ skipper Gene Mauch. Around the 13th of September that year, with Ray Culp lost to injury and onetime ace Art Mahaffey shaky, Mauch had pronounced that he wanted the Hall of Fame righty Jim Bunning, and the unsung southpaw Chris Short to each pitch in each of the remaining six series the Phils had to play. “Bunning and Short,” Mauch supposedly said, “these are my men. Bunning and Short.” If Mauch indeed said it on the 13th, he said it when the Phillies still had a six game lead and an 86-57 record.
They would thereafter go 6-13 and between them Bunning and Short would win a total of three games and the Phillies’ collapse would be etched for all-time as the most painful, if not the mathematically worst (they were still 90-60 after play on September 20th, still six-and-a-half up, and then lost 10 of the last 12).
So this fan followed Mauch to Montreal, to Minnesota, to the Angels, and every year trotted out his message of “Bunning And Short.” And Gene Mauch never did get to the World Series, and as history narrows his place in its nooks and crannies, it will be for the collapse, and “Bunning And Short,” that he will be remembered. 
And I wonder if Charlie Manuel isn’t going to join him. Inherent in the criticism of Mauch is that there is nothing unforgivable in a manager, other than inflexibility. Indeed, some of the greatest managers have been the ones who have let go of their deathgrip on consistency. Think of Connie Mack starting the washed-up Howard Ehmke in Game One of the 1929 Series. Ehmke was, in fact, Mack’s seventh starter, behind Hall-of-Famer Lefty Grove, 24-game winner George Earnshaw, 18-game winner Rube Walberg, and three lesser lights who had each won 11. Ehmke merely set the then-record for strikeouts in a Series. Later skippers like Chuck Dressen used relievers like Joe Black and Clem Labine as Series starters. As late as 1974, Walter Alston was leaning towards starting Mike Marshall – who had only relieved 114 times that year – to start the sixth game against Oakland, if the Dodgers had survived that long. Consider Mayo Smith of the 1968 Tigers deciding, on August 23rd, with his team up by seven-and-a-half games but his shortstop Ray Oyler hitting just .142, that he had better find an alternative – and giving centerfielder Mickey Stanley an audition of exactly nine games before penciling him in at short for Game One of the World Series.
And here is Good ‘Ol Charlie, insistent on closing with Brad Lidge, who has the singular flammability – and more impressive, the endurance - of the infamous Underground Fire Of Centralia, Pennsylvania. I have written before here of the paucity of viable alternatives: Ryan Madson is now at 8/14 in Save conversions this season, but just 13 of 32 lifetime. Brett Myers may not be able to pitch on any nights, let alone consecutive ones. Eyre, Park, and Romero are hurt. Condrey’s a quandary and Durbin’s doubtful.
But whatever his future redemption might be, Lidge is Charlie Manuel’s ticket to Mauch-like infamy. He needs to punt, and he needs to punt now, and he has insisted he will not. And still there is Tyler Walker and his respectable record as a closer, or if this still somehow seems more terrifying than a guy doing the Human Torch act during your three-game failed defense of your World’s Championship, take a page from Chuck Dressen or Walter Alston, mix in a little Mayo Smith, and work in reverse. Nominally, at least, you have six starters, two of whom you will not use as such no matter how long you go in the playoffs.
This is no time to stick to tradition. Crunch the numbers and talk to the men and, if need be, ask for a volunteer. Presumably you cannot envision a world in which you don’t start Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee as often as you can. But are you really risking your rotation if you pick one man out of the other four to serve as your emergency closer? 
Interestingly, just a superficial look at data suggests there are two candidates, one of each arm kind. A closer must have, more than any other attribute, the ability to be effective immediately. If you get that first man out in the ninth, your track record with runners-on or in late innings becomes decreasingly relevant. And one Philly starter offers these numbers in the first innings of his games: .219 opposing batting average, .259 opposing on base percentage, less than one base-runner per first inning, 3.41 ERA. Another maps out at  a.197 BA, .288 OBP, 1.05 WHIP, 1.35 ERA.
The first guy is Joe Blanton. The second one is J.A. Happ.
Charlie – you can’t get by without one of them in your rotation? Hamels, Lee, Happ, Martinez is too lefty-laden for you? What about Hamels, Lee, Blanton, Martinez? (Parenthetically, if you’re wondering about the others, Hamels has a .238 OBP in the first inning, Lee .268, Martinez .369, Moyer .381. Intuition tells you that a still-rehabbing Pedro might be the choice – the numbers don’t).
The point here, of course, is that if the Phillies swap out Lidge for Blanton or Happ, and it fails, Manuel will be criticized. But at least he won’t be criticized for ignoring the possibility that there was a way of avoiding the iceberg. Fate even offers him one righty and one lefty, to fit whichever kind of rotation he thinks will serve him best against whoever he might face along the way.
The other alternative, I’m afraid, is three guys showing up every day for the rest of Charlie’s managerial career. One has a sign reading “Brad,” the second has one reading “Lidge,” and the third one uses the fireplace lighter for comedic effect.
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