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October 29, 2008

On the Beat

Fold Up the Umbrellas and Play Ball?

by John Perrotto

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PHILADELPHIA-Charlie Manuel is usually media-friendly, accessible, and easy-going, but the Phillies manager refused to talk to reporters Monday night after Game Five of the World Series was suspended due to rain with the score tied 2-2 in the middle of sixth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Word was that Manuel was upset about the way the whole situation was handled, and he did not completely deny that on Tuesday while talking to reporters after MLB decided to delay the resumption of the game until Wednesday in a series the Phillies lead 3-1.

"At that time, I felt like there was no sense in me coming down there and answering questions," Manuel said in response to questions about his declining to participate in the Monday night post-game press conference that included commissioner Bud Selig, umpires Tim Welke and Tim Tschida, Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, and Rays president Matt Silverman and manager Joe Maddon. "There were some things that went on through the game, with the pitcher and things like that, which are part of the game. I was upset with some of the things that went on, but I definitely agreed with everything that happened and I also agreed the game definitely had to be stopped. The conditions were definitely unplayable."

Manuel declined to discuss specifics about what bothered him. "I don't like to talk about those things," he said. Clearly, though, Manuel was disappointed that he had to burn left-hander Cole Hamels, his best pitcher, only one win away from the franchise's first title since 1980. Hamels gave up two runs in six innings, and now has a 4-0 record with a 1.80 ERA in five starts during the postseason. Manuel also seemed bothered that Hamels had to pitch in an increasingly heavy rain in the top of the sixth, giving up the tying run on Carlos Pena's RBI single, while Rays reliever Grant Balfour was not asked to take the mound in the bottom of the inning. "It was hard for my pitcher to grip the ball in the sixth inning," Manuel said. "He definitely didn't have good command of his fastball, so, therefore he couldn't put a lot into it or put enough on it to throw 88-92 mph. With his changeup, the ball was slick. It was wet and damp, and he had a hard time getting a feel for it. I think the weather definitely comes into play there."

Manuel was asked if the game should have been stopped after the fifth inning with the Phillies leading 2-1, which under normal circumstances would have given them the victory and the series win with the game already official. "Well, everybody's got an opinion, and from a manager's standpoint I'm biased I guess, because I want the best for my team," Manuel said. "At the same time, two teams are playing and there are a lot of people who make decisions that are going to come into play. I wasn't the one to make the decision, and I'm sure [Rays manager] Joe Maddon feels the same way-that you've got to cooperate and kind of go along with things that happen." Commissioner Bud Selig had said on Monday night that he would have invoked his "best interest of baseball" powers to ensure a full nine innings were played; no World Series game has ever been called before the ninth.

Hamels is still technically in the game and is due to lead off in the bottom of the sixth inning, but Manuel has ruled out trying to squeeze another inning or two out of Hamels tonight. He threw just 75 pitches on Monday, had a day off Tuesday, and this would be the day he would normally through between starts. Manuel did sound as if he might be tempted to stick with Hamels though, if the weather were to push the resumption of the game to Thursday night. "He's not coming back to pitch in this game," Manuel said. "There's no way. I can tell you that. At the same time, we haven't discussed what we're going to do for the future. We're totally focused on what we're going to do in [Game Five]. We'll talk about some of things we want to do at some point but right now we're just thinking about this game.

As of now, right-hander Brett Myers is scheduled to pitch Game Six on Thursday night, and left-hander Jamie Moyer would start Game Seven on Friday night if needed. Both games would be played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. There has also been talk that a travel day could be added to the schedule on Friday if the Rays win the suspended the game, moving the last two games to the weekend. If the series does wind up stretching to Saturday, Hamels would be able to start on his normal four days' rest. "We're concentrating on winning [Game Five]," Manuel insisted. "That's all that's important to us. That's all we are thinking about. We've got 3 innings of baseball. We get to bat four times and they get to bat three. We get 12 outs and they get nine. We are definitely coming with the mindset that we will win that game, and that's all we want to be focused on."

---

The Rays, meanwhile, were thrilled with the way the Game Five suspension played out since they no longer have to deal with Hamels, who had beat them in Game One. "He has been so good, and to scratch out the runs that we've had against him is very difficult," Maddon said Tuesday. "Of course, their bullpen has been magnificent, so it's no going to be an easy task by any means. We have a lot of our bullpen fresh now, too, so getting Hamels out is important. I think us coming back like we did and sitting on it for a day or possibly two could weigh in our favor a little bit, I'm not sure yet. I think the most important part of it is that both bullpens are rested. There's no telling what's going to happen at this point."

The Rays, as a team, should be well-rested when play resumes after traveling secretary Jeff Ziegler scrambled to find hotel accommodations in Wilmington, Delaware, early Tuesday morning; the Rays had checked out of their Center City hotel in Philadelphia on Monday afternoon before going to the ballpark, expecting to fly home to St. Petersburg regardless of whether they won or lost. Wilmington is located just 30 minutes from Citizens Bank Park. "It's a magnificent hotel," Maddon said. "I believe it was built one year prior to Fenway Park [in 1911] and walking through the downstairs lobby, it's one of those old-fashioned, well-kept European units. So it's a quite a treat actually to be able to come up with this situation on a moment's notice."

Maddon said he would not change his pitching plans regardless of how long it takes before Game Five is resumed. Balfour, who relieved starter Scott Kazmir in the fifth inning, will likely begin the bottom of the sixth. The Rays also plan to stick with right-handers James Shields in Game Six and Matt Garza in Game Seven if those games are necessary. "I like the way our pitching lines up," Maddon said.

---

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez has had nearly a month to chew on the Cubs' sweep at the hands of the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, and he is still having a hard time grasping that a team with a league-best 97 wins in the regular season could have its postseason end in the span of four days for a second consecutive year. The Cubs were also been swept by the Diamondbacks in the NLDS last October. Ramirez was at the World Series to accept the Hank Aaron Award, which is presented to the top offensive player in each league according to a fan vote.

When asked, he refuted the idea that the Cubs got too caught up in the fact this was the 100th anniversary of their last victory in the Fall Classic. He does feel however that the Cubs have pressed in the NLDS. "We don't pay attention to the 100 years," Ramirez said. "We go year by year. It's possible we try to do too much and we end up not doing anything in the playoffs. We just don't do anything right. We don't play defense. We don't hit. We don't pitch. We didn't do anything. I can't even pull any positives about being in the postseason, because we didn't do anything right."

Ramirez has hit a combined .087/.160/.130 in 25 plate appearances during the two NLDS defeats, but he believes it's unfair to assign too much blame to any one player for the Cubs' October failures. "It wasn't Aramis Ramirez or Alfonso Soriano or Ryan Dempster or Carlos Zambrano," Ramirez said. "It was the whole team that struggled, and that's why we lost."

Ramirez admitted that this year's NLDS loss was tougher to swallow than last year's. "It's embarrassing for us to go to the playoffs having the best record and playing the best baseball in the National League, then not get past the first round," he said. "It's kind of frustrating for us as a team because we put ourselves in a great position to advance. We had home-field advantage all the way through the National League playoffs. We clinched with 10 days left in the regular season, so we had everybody rested and our rotation set up. I know the fans were frustrated, and we as players were frustrated. We've got great fans, the greatest fans in baseball in my opinion. That gives you motivation to go back to spring training next year and try to get back to the playoffs and win."

---

Red Sox corner infielder Kevin Youkilis, who was primarily a first baseman this year but moved to third base for most of the postseason when Mike Lowell went down with a hip injury, won the Hank Aaron Award in the American League. That helps explain Athletics general manager Billy Beane's near-obsession with Youkilis while he was coming up through the Red Sox' farm system, something chronicled in Michael Lewis' best-selling book Moneyball in 2003.

According to the Hollywood entertainment newspaper Variety, a project is being developed that would turn the book into a movie. Brad Pitt would portray Beane in the starring role. "I think it has really come down to the common denominator that we both have twins," Beane told the San Francisco Chronicle. Beane's wife Tara gave birth to a boy and a girl in January, while Pitt and actress Angelina Jolie are the parents of twins born in 2006.

Youkilis, referred as the Greek God of Walks throughout the book even though he is actually Jewish, was quite taken aback when told that a screenplay is being written. "Moneyball as a movie?" Youkilis asked with an incredulous tone in his voice. "It was OK as a book, but a movie? I don't know about that. I'm not sure it would be a very interesting movie."

Since Youkilis was a recurring character in the book, he may have a part written into the movie. If so, what actor would play him? "That's a great question," Youkilis said, pausing for a moment. "How about the guy from Transformers?" Josh Duhamel had played Captain Lennox in the 2007 film with the ultra-hot Megan Fox, and it was suggested to Youkilis that perhaps she could play his love interest in Moneyball: The Movie. "Uh, you better write that my fiance would be the best person for that part," Youkilis said with a smile.

---

AL Rumors and Rumblings: Blue Jays right-hander A.J. Burnett is certain to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract, and if he does not re-sign with Toronto, the Cardinals are said to be number one on his list; he nearly signed with them when he was a free agent after the 2005 season. Other potential destinations include the Yankees, Orioles, Nationals, and Rangers. ... The Red Sox have some interest in Yankees catcher Ivan Rodriguez as a free agent if they can't reach a deal to retain catcher and team captain Jason Varitek as a free agent, but they will most likely pursue a trade, with the Orioles' Ramon Hernandez and the Giants' Bengie Molina the top targets. ... The Red Sox are also eyeing right-hander Kenshin Kawakami, a free agent from the Chunichi Dragons in Japan who is often compared to Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. ... One possibility for the Mariners' vacant manager's job is Ted Simmons, who spent most of this season as the Brewers' bench coach before being dismissed along with manager Ned Yost on September 15. New Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik was the scouting director with the Pirates when Simmons was their GM. ... The Royals have interest in Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs, who is likely to be traded this upcoming winter for financial reasons.

NL Rumors and Rumblings: The Brewers are said to be leaning toward hiring former Athletics manager Ken Macha as their skipper, which means former Mets manager Willie Randolph will likely stay on as the Rockies' bench coach. ... The Phillies are expected to announce that assistant GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be promoted to replace GM Pat Gillick soon after the end of the World Series. ... Those who know Padres right-hander Jake Peavy believe he will only waive his no-trade clause if dealt to the Braves, Cubs, Astros, Dodgers, or Cardinals. ... The Marlins are leaning toward keeping second baseman Dan Uggla, who many expected to be put on the trading block in the offseason because he is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time. ... Left-hander CC Sabathia, the biggest prize of the free-agent market, was so fond of the half-season he spent with the Brewers this season that he is very much open to a return, though that might mean that arbitration-eligible first baseman Prince Fielder would be traded to open up some room in the payroll.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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