The Twins and Yankees meet yet again in the first round of the postseason but Minnesota has home field advantage this time.
As they did last year as well as 2003 and 2004, the Twins run squarely into the Yankee juggernaut in the first round. Unlike those other three meetings, they have home field advantage this time around, as they won the AL Central going away thanks to a league-best 48-26 second-half record. The defending world champion Yankees, who held the majors' best record for most of the season, were forced to settle for the wild card due to a sluggish 13-17 showing against a very tough schedule in September and October. Despite the relative temperatures of the two clubs, it's important to remember that late-season records aren't predictive of October success—or failure.
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Except for iron-fisted Buck Showalter, the newly hired managers are really no different than the men they replaced.
Just when you were convinced that managing was a thoroughly debased profession, along comes Buck Showalter. Five clubs have changed managers in the course of this season (Arizona, Baltimore, Florida, Kansas City, and Seattle), which wouldn’t have been a shocking number from the 1960s through the 1980s, but is high for the current era. Back in the 1920s, Giants manager John McGraw said, “With my team I am an absolute czar. My men know it. I order plays and they obey. If they don't, I fine them.” Did Don Wakamatsu look like the czar of anything to you? For that matter, does Jerry Manuel?
Will the Phillies establish a mini-dynasty, or will the Yankees add to their crowded trophy case with another title?
A year ago, the Phillies broke a 28-year-old title drought by winning the World Series, defeating the upstart Rays in five games. After winning 93 games in the regular season and tidily dispatching both the Rockies and the Dodgers in the first two rounds, they're back to defend their crown with a cast that's largely the same, save for summer acquisition Cliff Lee. They're the first NL team to repeat as pennant winners since the 1995-1996 Braves, and if they win the World Series, they'll be they first senior circuit club to do so since the 1975-1976 Reds.
The LDS round ends early again, leaving us with a few days without baseball to ponder what just happened to give us baseball's final four.
The four teams that advanced to the League Championship Series are probably the top two teams in the AL, and two of the top three playoff teams in the NL. We can debate the Dodgers; relative standing in the NL as a whole, complicated by the fact that their playoff lineup is nothing like anything they used during the season, but I don't think anyone would argue that they're a better team than the Brewers at the moment.
Will the lefty-mashing Brewers match up well with Philly, or will Phillies firepower and a strong pen make all the difference?
Less than three weeks ago, the Brewers came to Philadelphia holding a four-game lead in the wild-card race and carrying the league's second-best record despite a slump that had seen them lose seven of 10 to open September. By the end of the four-game set, the two teams were tied for the wild card. It was the start of a finishing kick in which the Phillies went 13-3, breezing past the Mets to claim their second division title in a row.
Two different approaches at the plate, and two stacked rotations. Christina has the most in-depth preview of the Athletics-Tigers series you'll find anywhere.
Okay, so it's Cinderella with some serious mojo versus the Moneyball-Meets-John Jaha Memorial Edition A's, and everyone's fascinated because it's another delightfully Yankee- and Red Sox-free American League Championship Series involving real ballclubs and stories more interesting than who gets Connecticut.
Steven chimes in on the Delmon Young fiasco, looking to history for a bit of guidance.
That Labor Day at Toledo, Derr was calling the plays at first base. The Mudhens had been leading the pennant race, but were in the midst of a losing streak that had dropped them out of first place; tempers were running short. When Derr called a Mudhen out on a close play at first base, Stengel came running out to argue. Whatever he said--use your imagination--it got him thumbed from the game. That was standard operating procedure. What happened next was new. Stengel didn't leave the field. He turned towards the stands and began conducting them like a band leader, exhorting them. Writing about it a few days later, John Kieran of the New York Times said,
Jeff Angus takes a look at how the White Sox' closer usage pattern stacks up against more dominant patterns, and has some illuminating insight into the 2005 Champions' brand of baseball.
The 2005 World Championship Chicago White Sox got the rap of
being a "hustle-ball" or "anti-Moneyball" team.
False. One of the pillars of their success was the ability to
deliver on an innovation that's best known as the failed child of
Bill James and Theo Epstein: The "Closer by Committee."
How Chisox General Manager Ken Williams and Manager Ozzie Guillen
delivered value from the discredited concept is enlightening,
and, because of the team's championship, it's something that's
likely (though not certain) to be imitated. As with most
competitive tools, it wasn't invented from scratch, but diffused--in this case, from the other side of Chicago.
Jay Jaffe, Keith Woolner, James Click and Jonah Keri reach into the mailbag and address win expectancies, the stathead revolution, the running game, gambling, and...scrabble? Plus, a reader known only as "J.S." offers Steven Goldman (if that is his real name) some more conspiracy fuel for the fire.