The Baseball Report Volume
IV Issue 14 - Playoff Edition!
October 10, 2000
From The Editor,
Before you read the issue, I'd just like to remind you all to forward TBR to anyone who you think may be interested, as the more people that read, the better.
The issue covers the playoffs, so if you are here to read about the Montreal Expos or the Texas Rangers, you will have to wait until next issue.
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The National League Beat by Eric D. Larson
The Cardinals and Mets will meet in St. Louis on Wednesday to begin National League Championship Series play. While both teams are coming off a three-game post-season winning streak, their methods of getting there were drastically different. In their first two wins against the San Francisco Giants in division series play, New York relied on extra-inning theatrics. In contrast, the St. Louis Cardinals quickly and decidedly swept the Braves, averaging 8 runs per game.
Perhaps it was the complacency of Atlanta fans or merely the disappointment in their team's late-summer performance, but it seemed that the Braves' home field did not provide the electricity of previous years. In fact, it appeared they were most excited when St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire stepped up to the plate in Saturday's game. McGwire and the Cardinals gave Braves fans little opportunity to cheer all week, dominating in all three match-ups. Atlanta pitching was ineffective, especially against Jim Edmonds, who homered twice, drove in 7 runs and batted over .500 in the series. McGwire's bat, while seldom used, was a looming presence against Atlanta defense, and his three appearances served merely as entertainment, for St. Louis and Atlanta fans alike.
Kevin Millwood reacted to Saturday's blowout: "We ran into a hot ball club that played better baseball than we did." Now the question remains if their momentum can up-end a highly motivated New York Mets team, fresh off a division series win against the team with the best record in baseball.
This year, the Mets are missing a few key players, mainly John Olerud and Rickey Henderson. Both propelled New York in 1999, leaving a significant void this time around. New York manager Bobby Valentine has aptly filled these holes in the roster with players like Jay Payton and Timo Perez, but the doubts were still evident. During Sunday's match-up, on the anniversary of Don Larsen's perfect game, with Tug McGraw throwing out the first pitch, New Yorkers had faith. Mets pitching did not disappoint. Bobby J. Jones' complete game performance was only slightly short of perfect.
"If he needed vindication, I'm glad he got it," said Valentine after the game. In fact, it was Valentine's leadership that may have proved the difference throughout the whole series. His motivation provided a Mets rebirth after an opening game loss against San Francisco. His roster-control during the following two consecutive marathon meetings allowed his team a chance to put the impressive Giants away for good. With a questionable starter in Game 4, Valentine and the Mets did just that.
Bobby Jones dismissed the notion of another extra-inning affair in Sunday's game and pitched a one-hit masterpiece. Edgardo Alfonzo and the previously slumping Robin Ventura provided the offensive punch needed to shut the door on San Francisco's dream season. Barry Bonds had the honors of flying out for the final out of the decisive Game 4. He was only one of a handful of Giants hitters even allowed a chance for four at-bats in the game.
Cardinals pitching had a strong outing as well in their first series. Overall, St. Louis allowed only ten runs in three games. Cardinal relievers carried an astounding 1.32 ERA against Atlanta. But, it was their offensive prowess that made headlines.
The Mets-Cardinals series opens on Wednesday. New York holds the regular season advantage, beating St. Louis 6 times in 9 attempts. Benny Agbayani and Mike Piazza both hold .300+ averages against Cardinal pitching for the year. St. Louis will open with Darryl Kile on the mound. With a 20-9 record, he looks the favorite against Mike Hampton, who lost the series opener with San Francisco. If the Mets have any hopes for a World Series appearance, they will need another unsung hero to quietly shoulder the load against a seemingly unbeatable St. Louis squad. Perhaps Bobby Valentine can find that hero again…or maybe he's been acting the part all along.
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The American League Side by Emily Liner
The first round of the playoffs are over. The wild card Seattle Mariners and the third-seeded New York Yankees made it out alive. They will meet in the AL Championship Series. The winner of the best-of-seven series will represent the AL in the World Series.
The Mariners swept the Chicago White Sox, who had the AL's best record. The White Sox won seven of the twelve games they played against the Mariners in the regular season. Nonetheless, the Mariners easily won their series against an older team. The Mariners had eight more players with previous postseason experience than the Sox.
In the first game, the Mariners won 7-4 in ten innings thanks to Edgar Martinez and John Olerud's home runs off of Chicago reliever Keith Foulke, the losing pitcher. Seattle reliever Jose Mesa got the win and rookie closer Kazuhiro Sasaki got the save. Chicago's Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordoñez, and Carlos Lee collected only two hits in thirteen at-bats.
Seattle won 5-3 in the second game, and Paul Abbott got his first postseason win in a fifteen-year career. Mariner Jay Buhner hit a home run. The White Sox had more trouble. Thomas, Ordoñez, and Lee did not get a single hit, and erratic shortstop Jose Valentin overthrew a ball in the second inning. Mike Sirotka got the loss, and Sasaki earned another save.
The Mariners secured a place in the ALCS for the first time in five years with their 2-1 win in the third game in front of a crowd of 48,010, the largest ever through Safeco Field's brief history. Reliever Jose Paniagua got the win. Foulke got his second loss. Carlos Guillen made a controversial game-winning pinch-hit RBI bunt single in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Chicago's offense limped through the series, collecting only seventeen hits and seven runs. MVP candidate Frank Thomas went 0-9 with four walks. Seattle's bullpen was stellar, allowing only three hits and striking out 14 in 11.2 scoreless innings.
"This goes to show you that we're not the same old Mariners team," Buhner said.
It took five games for the Yankees, the defending World Champions, to defeat the Oakland Athletics, who had not been in the playoffs since 1992. The last time the two teams met in the postseason was 1981. In the regular season, New York won six of the nine games they played against the A's.
George Steinbrenner, the owner of the Yankees, said about his slumping team before the first game, "Tired? Yeah, maybe. Struggling? Yeah, maybe. But scared? That word ain't even in our vocabulary."
The A's won the opener 5-3. It was Art Howe's first postseason victory as a manager. Gil Heredia got his first postseason win in his nine-year career, and Jason Isringhausen got his first postseason save. Roger Clemens used 111 pitches to get the loss. Oakland's Ramon Hernandez had two RBIs, and Ben Grieve hit into two double plays.
Andy Pettitte's terrific pitching and an altered lineup helped the Yankees win the second game 4-0. Closer Mariano Rivera got the save. Kevin Appier took the loss in his first postseason start in a twelve-year career. New York's second baseman, Luis Sojo, made an embarrassing error when he tripped over his own feet trying to field a routine ground ball.
The Yankees won the third game 4-2. Orlando Hernandez got his sixth straight postseason win. Rivera got another save. Tim Hudson was the losing pitcher. Oakland's rookie Terrence Long hit the first home run of the series. The A's 2-7 hitters went 0-19.
The A's routed the Yankees 11-1 in game four. Barry Zito, only twenty-two years old, earned the win. The veteran Clemens got his second loss of the series. He gave up a three-run home run to Olmedo Seanz, who had only nine in the regular season. Eric Chavez and Grieve each had two RBIs.
New York finalized their ticket to the ALCS with a 7-5 win in the fifth game. The Yankees scored six runs in the first inning. Reliever Mike Stanton got the win. Rivera got his sixteenth career postseason save, breaking former Athletic Dennis Eckersley's record. David Justice hit the Yankees' first home run in eight games.
The ALCS will be very exciting. Seattle was 6-4 against New York in the regular season, but the loss of lefty starter Jamie Moyer will surely hurt them. Moyer will have to sit out for the rest of the playoffs with a fracture in his left kneecap. Rob Ramsay was added to the Mariners' playoff roster, and he will be in the bullpen.
Seattle will have Freddy Garcia start the first game, probably followed by John Halama, Aaron Sele, and Abbott. New York has Denny Neagle starting the first game, with Pettitte, Hernandez, and Clemens likely following.
NBC will televise the ALCS. New York will host the first two and last two games. The third, fourth, and fifth games will be at Seattle. Game one will be on Tuesday, October 10 at 8:15 pm. Wednesday's game will be at 4:15 pm. The third game will be on Friday at 8:15 pm. Game four will be on Saturday at 8:15 pm. The remaining three games will be played only if necessary. Game five, on Sunday, will be at 4:15 pm. The sixth game will be on Tuesday at 8:15 pm. Game seven will be on Wednesday at 8:15 pm. All times are Eastern.
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The Managerial Shuffle by Hollis T. Russell
The yearly dance of mating manager to roster has begun. On the first day after the completion of the 2000 Major League Baseball season, three managers were shown the door. While this is not an unusual practice, managers are fired after every season. But as a general rule, there are firings taking place during the course of the 162 game schedule. This year, for the first time since 1942, no managerial changes took place during the course of the regular season.
It must have something to do with the economy. 1942 was the year that the United States actively swung into full production for World War ll. 2000 is the year that this country reached the peak of an incredibly strong bull market on Wall Street. In 1942, Victory Gardens were planted and in 2000, IRA's were established. In both of these seasons, with the robust economy in full bloom, Major League Baseball reaped the benefits with sold-out stadiums and tight pennant races. This gives food for thought that the owners and general managers felt it best not to rock the boat during the season by firing the "skipper." So start the music and get ready to pencil in the changes as the new hats worn by familiar faces has begun in earnest.
Buck Showalter is out in Arizona. After a disappointing season that saw the Diamondbacks go from division champion to third place, Showalter, the only manager in team history was fired. This was somewhat surprising as Buck led this franchise to a .500 + finish in their first year. No other expansion team has ever finished over .500 in their initial season. The Arizona franchise went 100-62 in winning the division in 1999 and 85-77 this season. The criteria for success must be more than winning for owner Jerry Colangelo. Buck not only was victorious on the field; he even picked out the flowers that adorned the landscape outside of the stadium.
Jack McKeon is also looking for work as the Reds went 85-77 while featuring Ken Griffey Jr. in center field. Many experts felt that Griffey was the missing piece that would push Cincy over the top into a regime that would rival the "Big Red Machine" of years past.
The Pirates fired Gene Lamont after a fifth place finish in the National League Central. Lamont, who led the Pirates to a second-place finish in 1997, was plagued by injuries to his starting rotation and rookies at third base and the outfield. Although very popular with his players, upper management has a new stadium to sell-out next year and felt Lamont should have done more with the talent he was given.
These firings are only the tip of the iceberg. Davey Johnson is gone in Los Angeles becoming the fourth Dodger manager to be fired since the middle of the 1996 season. Terry Francona, sent packing by the Phillies, is rumored to have the inside track on the Arizona job. Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO, Paul Godfrey, denies reports that he is cleaning house in the front office and promoting Dave Stuart to General Manager. Should this occur, Jim Fregosi will be packing his bags for the lower 48.
Lou Pinella wants out of Seattle, especially with the opening in Cincinnati. If Seattle gives him his walking papers, he will be one of the leading candidates for the Redleg job. Jimy Williams is unhappy with the way that Dan Duquette has shuffled the Bosox personnel this season and would take the Atlanta job if Bobby Cox steps down. Stay tuned, as Yogi says, "It's not over till it's over."
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Playing The Short Hop by Michael Frankel
Some Quick Thoughts
So Dusty Baker feels like he is getting attacked for his game 4 decisions? Welcome to the playoffs Dusty. It is not just San Francisco anymore.
How impressive was Bobby Jones' start? Just the sixth one hitter in Major League postseason history. And the Mets consider him their number four starter…
I have come to believe that Edgardo Alfonzo is one of the most underrated players in baseball.
Does anybody feel bad for the Braves? Will anybody after they go out and sign a marquee player this winter?
Jim Edmonds for MVP.
Darryl Kile for comeback player of the year - No, I did not forget Andres Galaragga.
Exactly why was Orlando Hernandez used in the 8th inning of Game 5 of the ALDS?
How far has David Cone fallen? Not only is he not used as a starter in the Division Series; he was not even used when the starter got pulled after four lackluster innings.
What a bad break for Jamie Moyer…no pun intended.
It sure was nice seeing Oakland in the playoffs. Did anyone notice, by the way, how the coliseum sold out all home games near the end of the season? Can someone write this down - winning brings fans.
Too bad the White Sox did not do anything in the playoffs. Still an impressive year, but is anyone out there really going to pick them in 2001?
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