Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-10-16

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Happy birthday, Tim McCarver (and please be quiet!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Top of the 1st
Returning to the World Series in back-to-back seasons is as easy as catching a particular leaf from tree during a Nor’easter with a pair of tweezers, winning it back-to-back, you do it blindfolded.

Just ask the Detroit Tigers.

The 1984 Tigers were led by an inspiring white-haired manager by the name of Sparky Anderson. Those Tigers went wire-to-wire winning 35 times in their first 40 games almost to no one’s surprise; after all, they had won 92 games the previous season.

Sparky’s team was led by names that resonate in Tigers history. The great double combination of Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker led off this great lineup. Their strength up the middle was bolstered by All-Stars Lance Parrish behind the plate and Chet Lemon in centerfield. Lemon was flanked by the great Kirk Gibson and Larry Herndon, while Dave Bergman was at first and Howard Johnson was at third and Darrell Evans was the DH.

Don’t minimize that pitching staff, with the rotation headed by Jack Morris, Dan Petry, and supported by Milt Wilcox, and Juan Berenguer. The bullpen was strong as well with Willie Hernandez and Aurelio Lopez combining for a 19-4 record and 46 saves.

It should come as no surprise that this team won their division by 15 games over the Toronto Blue Jays and then swept the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS and then on October 14, 1984 they defeated the San Diego Padres in Game Five to become the World Champions.

If there was a team destined to go back-to-back, it was these Detroit Tigers.

But the tweezers didn’t catch the leaf in 1985 and the Tigers 84 wins were only good enough for third place. Which is where their 87 wins landed them in 1986.

1987 brought them back to first but they couldn’t get by the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS.

Like the automakers who provided so many of the jobs, after 1987 the wheels began to fall off for the American carmakers and the American League Tigers. In Sparky Anderson’s last eight years at the helm for the Tigers, the team finished over .500 only twice.

Buddy Bell became the manager in 1996 and after two and a half seasons of his stewardship and a year and a half of Lance Parrish’s the Tigers were still well under .500 each year. Phil Garner tried it for almost three years (Luis Pujols finished off Garner’s last season in 2002) but the Tigers never approached a winning record.

In 2003, Alan Trammell was brought in to manage this team and return it to the level of play associated with his Tigers’ glory years. Detroit finished with a record of 43-119, a .265 winning percentage. It was a disaster of a proportion only exceed by the original 1962 New York Mets who lost 120 games. Winning five of their final six games prevented them from tying the 1962 New York Mets for the most losses in a 162-game schedule. Trammell limped through two more pitiful years.

Jim Leyland had last managed in Colorado in 1999, but the Rockies finished 72-90 and Leyland couldn’t take the losing and walked away from his contract. The Tigers had not finished above the .500 mark for 12 consecutive seasons, when President and GM Dave Dombrowski brought Jim Leyland out of his six-year self-imposed retirement (he scouted for the St. Louis Cardinals) with the hope of teaching this young team how to win.

Leyland would be satisfied with nothing less. “Without him, we’re not here,” Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. “It’s pretty much as simple as that.”

“He’s just a very good baseball man,” said Dombrowski, who also was Leyland’s boss during Florida’s title run. “You see it in so many ways, from the way he sets a standard that the players have to follow, to the way he handles a pitching staff. I’m happy for him, because he really deserves this.”

You see Dombrowski did it the old fashioned way, smart, gutsy baseball and owner Mike Ilitch’s money. Ilitch knew to win he had to spend. He reigning NLCS MVP Pudge Rodriguez. A year later, he paid big money to get Maglio Ordonez. Then this offseason came Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones. Ten Tigers remained from that 2003, 199-loss team.

But the big signing was Jim Leyland.

Saturday night when Magglio Ordonez hit his walk-off homer to win Game 4, Leyland joined six other managers to manage a pennant winner in both leagues: Sparky Anderson (Detroit, Cincinnati Reds), Yogi Berra (New York Yankees and Mets), Alvin Dark (A’s and Giants), La Russa (A’s and St. Louis Cardinals), Joe McCarthy (Yankees and Chicago Cubs) and Dick Williams (A’s, Red Sox and San Diego Padres).

The formula was really very simple. The players did it for Leyland and Leyland…did it for the Detroit fans, “This is for you,” said Leyland, raising the American League Championship trophy into the night sky. “You’ve been patient with us and deserve this.”

As a Detroit News editorial wrote, “With great pitching and clutch hitting, the Tigers have given a slumping state something to cheer about. The roar of the Tigers has been restored.”

Leyland and his Tigers have Detroit and the baseball world believing again. Like Sparky Anderson, Leyland has white hair and baseball and people smarts.

Exactly 22 years to the day that the Tigers last won the Series, Jim Leyland plucked a leaf with a pair of tweezers and brought the Tigers back to the Series. Just hand the man a blindfold because as far as Detroit is concerned if their beloved Tigers win it all this year, the last 22 years will be quickly forgotten. In their hearts, this will be back-to-back.

Top of the 2nd
Oakland Athletics vs. Minnesota Twins
OAK wins 3-0

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
DET wins 3-1

St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Diego Padres
STL wins 3-1

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets
NYM wins 3-0

Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
Gm Date Site Time (TV)/Result
1 DET, 5-1 @ OAK WP Robertson – LP Zito
2 DET, 8-5 @ OAK WP Verlander – LP Loaiza
3 DET, 3-0 @ DET WP Rogers – LP Harden
4 DET, 6-3 @ DET WP Ledzema – LP Street

St. Louis Cardinals vs. N.Y. Mets
Gm Date Site Time (TV)/Result
1 NY, 2-0 @ NYM WP Glavine – LP Weaver
2 STL, 9-6 @ NYM WP Kinney – LP Wagner
3 STL, 5-0 @ STL WP Suppan – LP Trachsel
4 NY 12-5 @ STL WP Perez – LP Thomson
5 Mon. Oct. 16 @ STL 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Glavine vs. Weaver
6 Wed. Oct. 18 @ NYM 4 p.m. ET (FOX)
7* Thu. Oct. 19* @ NYM 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
* – If necessary

TBD vs. Detroit Tigers
Gm Date Site Time (TV)/Result
1 Sat. Oct. 21 @ Detroit 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
2 Sun. Oct. 22 @ Detroit 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
3 Tue. Oct. 24 @ NL 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
4 Wed. Oct. 25 @ NL 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
5* Thu. Oct. 26 @ NL 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
6* Sat. Oct. 28 @ Detroit 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
7* Sun. Oct. 29 @ Detroit 7:30 p.m. ET (FOX)
* – If necessary

All games can be heard on ESPN Radio

Top of the 3rd
The Mets scored the most runs in their playoff history, banging the Cardinals, 12-5 and evening the series at 2-2. The heart of the Mets’ order, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright, the Mets’ 3-4-5 hitters, all homered with Beltran belting a pair and delgado driving home 5 runners. They were the sixth trio of teammates to homer in the same postseason game from the so-called “heart of the order.” The last were Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, and Troy Glaus of the Angels in Game 2 of the 2002 ALDS against the Yankees.

“It wasn’t a must-win,” the Mets’ Shawn Green said, “but it was as close to it as you’re going to get,” as the Mets would have been down 3-1 games if they had lost.

This was not a classic match-up of starters, so no one could be too surprised with the result. The Mets threw Oliver Perez (3-13) while the Cards countered with Anthony Reyes (5-8). This was the first time in postseason history in which neither starter won more than five games during the regular season. Perez’s 6.55 regular-season ERA was the highest ever recorded by a pitcher who started a game during the subsequent postseason. Only two others posted ERAs of 6.00 or higher: Dave Mlicki (6.17, 2001 Astros) and Alex Ferguson (6.14, 1925 Senators).

While I would like to report that the pitchers were better than expected, they were as expected, although Perez came through for the Mets in a way that was appreciated by the team. Perez was marginal through five giving up only three runs. He ended up surrendering five runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.

“It was a huge outing,” Green said. Perez got the game ball from Guillermo Mota, who tossed a scoreless 9th inning.

The Mets bats came alive and that made all the difference. “We didn’t put any pressure on ourselves,” Delgado said. “We knew that this was a very important game, but we didn’t want to put anything extra. We just needed to go out there and play the game like we’re capable of, and that’s what we did.”

With the score tied at 2, Cardinals relief pitchers allowed 10 runs after allowing one run in their first seven postseason games,. The last time a National League team’s bullpen surrendered 10 runs in a postseason game was Oct. 6, 1960, when Pirates relievers gave up 13 runs in a 16-3 loss to the Yankees in Game 2 of the World Series.

Delgado now has nine RBIs in the series, which ties the Mets’ playoff series record with Gary Carter from the 1986 World Series. Beltran smacked two solo homers, accounting for the Mets’ first run and 12th run. He also singled, walked twice and scored four runs. Beltran, has 11 homers in 19 postseason games,

“It’s all even,” Wright said. “It’s who wants it more in these last couple games. Go out there and dig down deep. Guys are tired, guys are beat-up, but you’ve got to see what’s left in the tank and finish strong.”

Bottom of the 3rd
Brian Reich filed this report –

I was sitting next to the players wives and I should also note, as an aside, that the rally cap really does work. When the Cardinals were giving away the farm, run after run with no out, I flipped my hat around and inside out, the inning ended. Then, with the rally cap still in place, the Cards started to make a comeback. But I think the baseball gods knew I was a visitor and when only a few rally caps popped up in the crowd, the momentum stopped.

Jim Edmonds fulfilled the ultimate defense/offense great baseball moment… A fantastic over the shoulder, Willie Mays style catch in center, then a homerun the next inning.

The Mets shortstop, Jose Reyes, tried a little trickery – ‘flubbing’ a liner from, I think, Scott Rolen, in an attempt to force a double play. The umpire used good discretion in calling it an out and we all got a good laugh out of it.

With the rain today, the local news is already saying that the game may not start today until 10pm (11pm EST) – if major league baseball wants to start a game at 10pm. Otherwise they would obviously lose their travel day – play tomorrow then go to NYC.

Good fans, but a lot of them left early when the Cards got down. That’s sad – this is the playoffs, not just some ordinary game. Maybe I don’t have the perspective these guys in STL have, because my team, the Mariners, aren’t in the playoffs every year. But I think every game in October is special, every inning provides new life – even in a game as lopsided as the one last night became. But the stands should have been filled to the end and they weren’t.

Thanking you, Brian.

Top of the 4th
Steve Lyons, the No. 2 Fox Sports baseball analyst, was fired Friday night for offensive comments he made during Game 3 of the American League Championship Series in Detroit. “Steve Lyons has been relieved of his Fox Sports duties for making comments on the air that the company found inappropriate,” Lou D’Ermilio, a company spokesman, said. Now this had nothing to do with any derogatory comments about Fox’s show “Prison Break” but Lyons, who was nicknamed “Psycho” as a player, was not just a poor color commentator, but an incredibly insensitive one as well.

Friday’s incident occurred when Lou Piniella, a guest analyst working with Lyons and the remarkably redundant Thom Brennaman, noted that the Oakland Athletics could not expect shortstop Marco Scutaro to continue to produce runs as he did when he drove in six during the division series against Minnesota. Piniella said that expecting similar production would be “like finding a wallet on a Friday night and looking for one on Sunday and Monday, too.”

Four minutes later, they had moved to different subjects and Piniella said something in Spanish. “The bilingual Lou Piniella,” Brennaman said. Lyons said: “Lou’s habla’ing some Espa