By HAL McCOY
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, killing time (or wasting it) as we await the start of the World Series Friday night. Once again, they are all night games that will last beyond most people’s bed-time, including mine.
—DUST ‘EM OFF: Never has a manager carried a bigger bad rap than Dusty Baker. The pundits always say, “Baker is a great manager, but he can’t win the big games.”
As Sparky Anderson always said, “Players make the manager, not the other way around.”
Example: In 12 years with the New York Yankees, Casey Stengel won 10 American League pennants and seven World Series championships.
A genius? Well, before he managed the Yankees, he managed the Brooklyn Dodgers for three years and the Boston Braves for six years and not once finished higher than fifth in an eight-team league. And, of course, he lost a record 120 games with the 1962 New York Mets.
If Baker can’t manage under pressure, how does he take every team he manages to the post-season and take them to a winner-take-all game.
^2002: He managed the San Francisco Giants to the World Series and lost Game 7 to the Angels.
^2003: He managed the Cubs to the National League Division Series and lost to the Marlins in the third game of the best-of-five.
^2012: He had the Cincinnati Reds leading the National League Division Series two games to none, but his team — not him — lost three straight at home to the Giants.
^2015: As manager of the Washington Nationals he lost Game 5 of the NLDS to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
^2016: Still managing the Nationals, he lost Game 5 of the NLDS to the Cubs.
Now he is back with the Houston Astros in the World Series and is on a seven-game post-season winning streak, three straight over Seattle in the ALDS and four straight over the Yankees in the ALCS.
The Astros are only the third wild-card team to enter the World Series undefeated in the post-season.
—QUOTE: From Houston manager Dusty Baker: “Managers are never 100 per cent in control. You’re at the mercy of the players. A player is the navigator and I’m driving.” (Is that why Dusty always wears batting gloves as if they are driving gloves?)
—‘FESSING UP: Votes for National League Manager of the Year by the baseball writers must be submitted before the playoffs begin. Confession. . .I did not have Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson in my Top Three (We vote the top three).
The Philadelphia Story is absolutely amazing, but during the regular season the Phillies finished third in the National League East, 14 games out of first place.
I plead the fifth. And I’m not allowed to reveal my top three until after they announce the winner. Hint. My top choice won’t win.
—QUOTE: From former Reds manager Trader Jack McKeon when asked after a loss if he would change strategy for the next game: “Baseball ain’t like football. You can’t make up any trick plays.”
—YOU JUDGE IT: Voting for Most Valuable Player by the baseball writers must be submitted before the playoffs begin because only the regular season counts.
There is no question Aaron Judge had a true MVP regular season. But what if they included the post-season. Judge was a dud in the ALDS against Cleveland and a double dud in the ALCS against Houston (1 for 16). Is that an MVP player producing at the most important time of the season?
You be the, uh, Judge.
And don’t dump all the heat on Judge. While losing four straight to the Astros, the Yankee team batting average was .162. Clearly, the Bronx Bummers missed two injured players who were more about getting on base than launching home runs. . .D.J. LeMahieu and Andrew Benintendi.
—HE’S BAAAACK: Does baseball get into your blood and stay there? Of course it does. It courses through your veins like gas through a carburetor.
Just ask Bruce Bochy. After managing the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants for 25 years, Bochy thought he had enough and retired after the 2019 season.
Retirement lasted three years before the 67-year-old Bochy signed on this week to manage the Texas Rangers. “I missed the game, the competition, the clubhouse,” he said.
And the game missed him, one of the nicest guys ever to slip into a baseball uniform.
I had never really met him or interviewed him when he managed the Giants. One night after a game in Great American Ball Park, I was walking in the tunnel toward the exit when Bochy emerged from the clubhouse.
“Hello, Hal, how are you doing?” he said. That nearly put me on the concrete floor and we had a nice conversation as we walked the 100 yards or so to the exit.
Coming out of managerial retirement didn’t work for Tony La Russa and the Chicago White Sox. The hope here is that it works for Bochy and the Texas Rangers.
DOUBLING UP: Only we geezers remember when MLB had only 16 teams and five cities had two teams each.
There were two teams in Boston (Braves, Red Sox), two teams in New York City (Giants, Yankees), two teams in Philadelphia (Phillies, Athletics), two teams in Chicago (Cubs, White Sox) and two teams in St. Louis (Cardinals, Browns).
Two teams from each league moved. In the National League, the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee and then to Atlanta and the New York Giants moved to San Francisco. In the American League, the Philadelphia A’s moved to Kansas City and then Oakland and the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore.
Only Chicago survived with two teams until the New York Mets, an expansion team in 1962, joined the Yankees in New York. But the Mets are not in The Bronx, they are in Queens.
And that’s today’s baseball history lesson.
—REPEAT COMMENT; As I said last week, will somebody please give Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady a wake-up call. They are sleeping through the NFL season.
Meanwhile, quarterback, Dak is back and on the attack for the Dallas Cowboys.
—QUOTE: From ESPN NFL commentator Rex Ryan: “The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are old and slow.” (Did he mean the entire team, or just Tom Brady.)