The Month That Was in Baseball: October 2020
Thursday, October 1
Atlanta, Oakland and the Los Angeles Dodgers advance to MLB’s Elite Eight.
Leave it to the Braves’ first-round opponent, the Cincinnati Reds—dead last in the majors with an awful .212 team batting average during the season—to become the first team in postseason history to get shut out over an entire multi-game series as they bow at Atlanta in Game Two, 5-0. The Braves get six splendid shutout innings from rookie Ian Anderson, allowing only a pair of hits while striking out nine; a 0-0 game is broken up in the fifth on Ronald Acuna Jr.’s run-scoring double, while Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall add home run insurance in a four-run eighth.
It’s the first playoff series won by the Braves since 2001; they had lost a postseason record-tying 10 straight series (or singular wild card games), matching the Cubs (1910-98).
Cincinnati has gone 23 straight playoff innings without a run.
The A’s series-clinching, 6-4 triumph over the Chicago White Sox comes despite being placed in an early 3-0 hole, partially courtesy of a 487-foot home run from the Sox’ Luis Robert—the longest officially measured tater in the 53-year baseball history of the Oakland Coliseum. The White Sox more or less beat themselves; they lose DH Eloy Jimenez and fireballin’ rookie pitcher Garrett Crochet to early injuries, and then aid the A’s go-ahead, four-run rally in the fourth with five walks—two of those forcing in runs with the bases loaded.
Incredibly, this is the first time in the 120-year history of the White Sox that they play a winner-take-all playoff game. Their elimination also comes despite the efforts of shortstop Tim Anderson, who becomes only the second player in postseason history (after the Cardinals’ Lou Brock in 1968) to garner at least three hits in three consecutive games.
The 17 pitchers used by both teams set a postseason record for a nine-inning game.
An on-air chat between ESPN’s Dave Fleming and the A’s Ramon Laureano during the game is awkward for several reasons, because it seems every ball in play involves Laureano, because he blurts out an F-bomb while chasing down a gap double, and because the questions from Fleming (who’s quite good at play-by-play) simply provides no insight whatsoever. For players like Laureano, the season is on the line; let them concentrate on the game, not become part of someone’s marketing scheme.
The day’s most exciting game takes place in San Diego, where the Padres stay alive in desperate fashion with an 11-9 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds hold early leads of 4-0 and 6-2, and only once in 69 previous postseason games had they lost when leading at some point by four runs. But the Padres display their firepower with a bludgeon, smoking five home runs from the sixth inning on—including two each from Fernando Tatis Jr. (who drives in five runs) and Wil Myers.
There’s only been one other postseason game in which two players from the same team hit multiple homers: Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in Game Three of the 1932 World Series—yes, the one with Ruth’s ‘called shot’—played exactly 88 years to the day earlier.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers show once again why they’re the top-seeded playoff team—and why the Brewers (29-31) just don’t belong. Clayton Kershaw toys with Milwaukee hitters in what’s arguably his best postseason start—eight shutout innings, three hits allowed, 13 strikeouts—and the Dodgers get around to figuring out Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff (who’s electric for four innings before slipping in the fifth) to finish off a two-game sweep, 3-0.
Friday, October 2
Because it’s 2020: Baseball loses yet another cherished Hall of Famer with the passing of Bob Gibson, whose vicious, occasionally up-and-in fastball failed to knock down the cancer he had battled. Gibson is the third Cooperstown-level legend to pass in the past month, following Tom Seaver and Lou Brock.
On the list of the Cardinals’ greatest pitchers, Gibson stands tall. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in wins (251), strikeouts (3,117—a total good for 14th among all pitchers), complete games (255) and shutouts (56). Some would say that Gibson was all business on the mound; others would say he was all intimidation. If his lethal stare from the mound wasn’t enough to curl opposing batters, then his unapologetic habit for knocking them down would. Gibson’s ne plus ultra was experienced in 1968 when he produced a remarkable 1.12 ERA—easily the best since the end of the Deadball Era—but still lost nine games because his Cardinals teammates could only score a collective 12 runs and hit .147 during those defeats in the “Year of the Pitcher.” In three trips to the World Series, Gibson took his A-game to an even higher level; over nine starts, he completed all but one (an eight-inning stint in 1964), won seven, posted a 1.89 ERA and struck out 92 over 81 innings—including a Series-record 17 Ks against Detroit in Game One of the 1968 Fall Classic. He even hit two home runs in the World Series, epitomizing an athleticism so gifted, he logged time with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters before accepting his 17-year tenure with the Cardinals.
At Chicago against the Cubs, impressive Miami rookie Sixto Sanchez fires five shutout innings and a tough Marlins bullpen takes care of the rest, while Garrett Cooper’s solo homer in the seventh off Yu Darvish breaks a 0-0 tie and sets the Fish onward to the NLDS with a 2-0 win. The Marlins have now won all seven postseason series they have ever played; this is their second conquest of the Cubs, following the infamous Steve Bartman NLCS of 2003. For the Cubs, this is a continuation of their post-2016 playoff malaise, as visions of a dynasty have faded with a 4-9 postseason record and .161 batting average since winning it all for the first time in 108 years.
The Padres advance in the playoffs for the first time since 1998 with a 4-0 blanking of the Cardinals at San Diego, as nine bullpen pitchers combine to shut St. Louis down on four hits—setting the MLB record, postseason or regular, for the most arms used in a nine-inning shutout. Besides the lack of bats, not helping the Cardinals’ cause is sloppy defense that helps concede two runs in the seventh and strengthen the Padres’ momentum the rest of the way.
When Yadier Molina doubles in the fifth, he and the Cardinals ask for the ball. Why? Because it may be the last hit by the future Hall of Famer in a St. Louis uniform. Molina is likely to become a free agent and, at age 38, there’s a question as to whether the Cardinals will re-sign him. If he does return to St. Louis, he’ll extend his lifespan there to 18 years—the longest active ride with one team in the majors.
You’ve been canceled, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Under pressure from politically correct voices, the Baseball Writers Association of America votes to remove the name of baseball’s first commissioner from the MVP award, citing his stealthy efforts to keep the major leagues segregated. (It was only a year after his death that the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Branch Rickey made his move to sign Jackie Robinson.) An 89% majority of the BBWAA voters favors the removal; it’s undecided as to whether the MVP will officially take on a new name to replace Landis.
Saturday, October 3
It’s been a tough week to be an ex-Dodger. There was, at the beginning of the week, the passing of Jay Johnstone, the veteran outfielder/prankster who served with the Dodgers during the early 1980s. Then on September 30, “Sweet” Lou Johnson, a reliable offensive source for the popgun-hitting Dodgers of the mid-1960s who hit two home runs—including the go-ahead shot in Game Seven—during the 1965 World Series, and also had the only hit and run scored in Sandy Koufax’s 1965 perfect game against the Cubs, passed away at age 86.
Today, Ron Perranoski, Johnson’s teammate and a fixture not only for the Dodgers during their early, glorious Dodger Stadium years (1962-67) but also later as the team’s pitching coach (1981-94), dies at the age of 84. The New Jersey-born southpaw who made 737 appearances—all but one as a reliever—led the NL three times in games pitched for the Dodgers, with his best campaign in 1963 when he won 16 games (losing just three) and saved 21 others out of the bullpen while posting a stifling 1.67 ERA. In that year’s World Series against the Yankees, Perranoski represented the relief corps’ total series activity when he came in to get the final two outs in Game Three. Traded to Minnesota in 1968, Perranoski helped lead the Twins to successive AL West titles by leading the AL in saves (31 and 34 in 1969 and 1970, respectively) each season.
Then we have the strange, tragic case of Charlie Haeger, whose name is likely lost on anyone who reads this as he pitched parts of five nondescript seasons (2006-10), the last two for the Dodgers. He was not particularly good, beset by control issues—walking 59 batters over 83.1 career innings. Sadly, Haeger had control issues of a different, more serious sort of late; he shoots and kills an ex-girlfriend in the Phoenix area, points his gun at his roommate before fleeing, drives 130 miles north to Flagstaff, abandons his car, and is found dead on a Grand Canyon trail from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Haeger was 37.
The Phillies demote general manager Matt Klentak after the 40-year old watched his team skip gears over his five-year tenure, failing to finish above .500 even after the big-time acquisitions of Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Didi Gregorius, and Andrew McCutchen. The Phillies last finished with a winning record in 2011, though they have since finished with an even (81-81) .500 mark twice.
After 13 years, catcher Francisco Cervalli is hanging it up. The 34-year-old Venezuelan native played only 16 games for Miami in 2020 before being released, as multiple concussions over the past couple of years simply made it difficult for him to continue playing. Cervalli was mostly a part-time backstop, logging a career-high 130 games for the 2015 Pirates; the biggest news he made, unfortunately, came in 2013 when he got caught up in the Biogenesis scandal. He served a 50-game sentence and, when it was done, apparently wanted no more part in discussing it, telling reporters: “I talked to my agents, my lawyers and that’s what I said. Let’s stand up and that’s it. I don’t want to keep this soap opera going.”
Monday, October 5
Sorry, Astros haters, but the team you love to despise may be getting hot at the best possible time. In neutral-site Los Angeles, the Astros overcame an early 3-0 deficit and storm past the Oakland A’s, 10-5, to take Game One of the ALDS. George Springer collects four hits while shortstop Carlos Correa becomes only the second player (after Babe Ruth) to have multiple postseason performances of at least two homers and four RBIs. It’s the eighth straight playoff series in which the A’s have dropped the first game.
Down the road in San Diego, the Yankees take Game One of its divisional series against top-seeded Tampa Bay with a 9-3 victory, as Giancarlo Stanton caps a five-run rally in the ninth with a grand slam. With Gio Urshela’s bases-clearing shot at Cleveland in the first-round clincher over the Indians, the Yankees become the first American League team to hit grand slams in back-to-back postseason games, and their 11 home runs to start the playoffs are the most hit by any October participant over a three-game stretch. Gerrit Cole outlasts Blake Snell and earns the minimal requirements for a quality start, allowing three runs over six innings.
The cold war between MLB and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) will likely get hotter, a few days after their agreement expired without anything new to replace it. The Supreme Court denies MLB’s request to have MiLB’s lawsuit against it overturned, meaning that the minors can move forward in trying to bring better working conditions and wages to its players, who are woefully underpaid even by minimum-wage standards. There’s still a long way to go before the dust settles on this debate, but MLB has already begun to do as it wishes with the minors, terminating affiliations with lower-level clubs and leagues.
Tuesday, October 6
The NLDS Texas Two-Step began with the “home” teams taking Game One. In Houston, the Braves bounce back from an early 4-1 deficit against the frisky Marlins and tally eight unanswered runs to triumph, 9-5. Travis d’Arnaud has the big day for Atlanta, collecting a single, double, home run and two walks while knocking in four runs.
Later in Arlington at brand-new Globe Life Field, the Dodgers and Padres—playing away from their home fields back in California being used, ironically, for the ALDS—engage in a peculiar contest in which the Dodgers pull away by a 5-1 count. The Padres keep the Dodgers hitless through the first five innings, but it’s far from pretty; starter Mike Clevinger is removed in the second as his troublesome elbow flares up again, and Padres pitchers combine to walk eight, throw two wild pitches, hit a batter and toss 116 pitches—only 58 of those for strikes—through just those first five frames. The Dodgers even the score on a defensive miscue before finally notching their first hit in the sixth—and that’s when the offensive dam bursts in Los Angeles’ favor.
The Astros defeat the A’s at Los Angeles, 5-2, to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five ALDS. George Springer follows up a four-hit performance in Game One with two home runs, while Framber Valdez dials in seven solid innings for the win. In defeat, Oakland slugger Khris Davis belts his third homer in four postseason games; he hit just two during the entire regular season.
Down in San Diego, the Rays survive two homers from the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton to outpace New York, 7-5, and even up the ALDS. Tampa Bay mashes four homers of its own, while Tyler Glasnow strikes out 10 over five innings of work in picking up the win. As for Stanton, he becomes the first player ever to homer in each of his first four postseason games, collecting a total of five to date.
Wednesday, October 7
The Astros are three runs up and nine outs away from wrapping up their series with the A’s, but they can’t seal the deal—a continuing theme in manager Dusty Baker’s career postseason record of frustration. Oakland rallies to tie in the seventh on Chad Pinder’s three-run homer—the A’s fifth of the game—then go relatively small ball to take command in the eighth, notching two tallies on a pair of sac flies. The A’s infield becomes the first in history to have all four of its members (Pinder, Tommy La Stella, Marcus Semien and Matt Olson) go deep in a postseason game, while closer Liam Hendriks has a 1970s-style game-ending stint by throwing the final three innings (allowing just one hit) to pick up the win.
The Braves make it 2-0 in their series with, appropriately enough, a 2-0 win at Houston over the Marlins. Rookie pitcher Ian Anderson keeps Miami silent for 5.2 innings and has thrown 11.2 frames of shutout baseball in the playoffs.
Arozarena is the word in the Rays-Yankees ALDS, as rookie Randy Arozarena continues to sparkle this postseason for Tampa Bay. The 25-year-old Cuban native goes yard for the third straight game and collects three hits overall to help give the Rays an 8-4 win over New York for a 2-1 series lead. Arozarena is is the third rookie with multiple hits in four straight playoff games after Pepper Martin in 1931 and Miguel Cabrera in 2003. Other Rays star on this night; Tyler Glasnow becomes the first Tampa Bay pitcher with 10 strikeouts in a postseason game, while Kevin Kiermaier and Michael Perez are the first 8-9 hitters in the lineup to each have three or more RBIs in a playoff game for the same team.
The silver lining for the Yankees is that Giancarlo Stanton extends an active record playoff streak by homering in his fifth straight game, and his six blasts overall tie a Yankees postseason record held by Bernie Williams (1996) and Alex Rodriguez (2009).
The Dodgers are threatening to make it a three-and-done against the upstart Padres in Arlington after hanging on for a 6-5 win. Cody Bellinger giveth with a fourth-inning solo homer, and taketh by denying Fernando Tatis Jr. one of his own—leaping high above the center-field wall to rob the flashy Padres star of a go-ahead, two-run shot in the seventh. With a three-run lead in the ninth, the Dodgers nearly blow it—allowing two runs and helping the Padres load the bases before Eric Hosmer’s routine grounder finally ends it. Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly combine to throw 49 pitches in the inning, and Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts is reportedly rethinking Jansen’s role as closer.
The TV ratings for baseball’s crowded, best-of-three first round are released—and they’re not good. The average viewing audience is 1.8 million, with a high of 2.6 million for Game One of the Yankees and Indians (which runs opposite the first presidential debate) and a low of only 731,000 for Game Two between the Astros and Twins.
Granted, the proliferation of games, with as many as eight on one day, possibly led to a market saturation that watered down the ratings—but consider that just two years ago, a wild-card playoff between the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies attracted 7.1 viewers.
So you’re thinking about attending the World Series at neutral-site Arlington? Too late. Tickets for each game of the Fall Classic—11,150 per game, as the State of Texas is allowing 25% capacity—are all scooped up within a 90-minute period. Though we frown on the wisdom of allowing that many fans inside a ballpark even as COVID-19 has nervously stabilized in a state averaging 4,000 new cases per day, it will be refreshing to no longer hear the fake din of crowd noise on network broadcasts.
Thursday, October 8
Three of the four divisional series are decided, with the surprise of the bunch being everyone’s favorite punching bag, the Astros.
In another home run fest at Dodger Stadium, the Astros build an early lead and, unlike the day before, build upon it late to outlast the A’s, 11-6, and take the ALDS in four games. This will be the fourth consecutive year that the Astros will reach the American League Championship Series—and the first time anyone has made it this far in the postseason with a losing regular season record, a fact which will only serve to infuriate Astros haters more. Houston awaits the winner of the Tampa Bay-New York Yankees ALDS, which evens up at two games apiece thanks to a 5-1 triumph by the Yankees at San Diego.
Only two other teams—the 1991-99 Braves (the postseason-less 1994 campaign omitted) and the 1971-75 A’s—have reached the LCS in more consecutive seasons than the 2017-20 Astros.
Both the Astros and A’s mash 12 home runs apiece during the four-game series played exclusively in the daytime air of Dodger Stadium. No previous team has ever belted more than 11 in a postseason series of five games or less.
The NLCS, meanwhile, is set as the Braves and Dodgers both advance with easy wins in Texas.
In Houston, the Braves get another splendid starting effort from a rookie pitcher—this time Kyle Wright, who allows just three hits over six shutout frames—and Atlanta hitters make life miserable for Miami rookie sensation Sixto Sanchez, who concedes four runs on four hits and three walks over three innings, to coast to a 7-0 win and complete a three-game sweep. The Braves have now thrown four shutouts in five postseason games, matching the 1905 “Zero Hero” Giants shouldered by aces Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity.
This is the first postseason series loss ever suffered by the Marlins, who won their first seven.
Up in Arlington, the Padres throw everything they can at the Dodgers and still got trashed, 12-3, wrapping up a three-and-out and ending visions of a punchy upset of the majors’ top-seeded team. San Diego uses 24 players and 11 pitchers (both postseason records) but the Dodgers yawn at the effort, as they capitalize on 14 hits—including five from catcher Will Smith (setting a Dodgers playoff record) and nine walks.
The qualifying offer for impending free agents is reportedly set this Fall at $18.9 million, a $1.1 million increase over last year—and the biggest one-year jump since 2016. But now comes the $18.9 million question: How many teams will offer the offer, and how many of those offered will bite, given the uncertain economic environment in these pandemic times—with the possibility that the 2021 campaign may still open to ballparks occupied only by cardboard cutouts?
Friday, October 9
It’s a brutal day to be a New York Yankees fan: The team is eliminated from the 2020 season, and mourns the death of the franchise’s greatest-ever pitcher.
Whitey Ford, the charismatic and sanguine ace of the great Yankee teams from the 1950s and 1960s, passes away at the age of 91. From the start, the Queens-born Ford was a confident presence on the mound, winning his first nine decisions—something matched only be Livan Hernandez in later years—and, almost seemingly without effort, rolled through a 16-year career with a 236-106 record, two AL ERA titles and six World Series rings. His .690 win percentage is the best among 200-game winners in the modern, post-1900 era, and his career 2.75 ERA is the lowest among retired starters who pitched exclusively after the end of the Deadball Era. It was teammate Yankee Elston Howard who, during the 1950s, tagged Ford with the nickname “Chairman of the Board,” because of his Fifth Avenue, corporate-style valiance.
On the wins and losses, a number of Yankee Hall-of-Fame pitchers achieved their Cooperstown status thanks in part to abundant offensive support (i.e., Red Ruffing), but Ford would have shined on good team or bad; even when the Yankees dynasty began to crumble in 1965, even as the 36-year-old southpaw’s arm became beaten down to the point he occasional lost feeling, he still turned in a 16-13 record and 3.24 ERA. That latter figure, and the 13 losses, were career-worsts numbers—numbers any other major league pitcher would have been content with.
Ford partied hard during the 1950s with Yankee star teammates Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin—and one could imagine that while the other two would be dragging themselves out of bed the next morning and limping their way to Yankee Stadium, Ford would be up and at ‘em as if rested and ready for another wonderful day at the ballpark, wearing an almost impenetrable grin. It all makes sense that he easily outlived Mantle and Martin, who ultimately became victims of the booze in various ways.
Hours after the news of Ford’s passing, the Yankees are hoping to dedicate an ALDS series win to him, wearing #16 on their jersey sleeves in tribute to the fallen ace. And Ford would be proud of the effort put forth by New York starter Gerrit Cole, who strikes out nine over 5.1 innings while allowing only one hit on three day’s rest. But the Tampa Bay Rays have their own remembrances to focus on, namely that of revenge. And in the winner-take-all Game Five, they get it in the best possible way. With the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth and Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman on the mound, the Rays’ Michael Brosseau—who back on September 1 ducked a 99-MPH fastball from Chapman that enraged the Rays—answers back with a go-ahead home run, the ultimate game-winner as Diego Castillo finishes off the Yankees in the ninth and gives Tampa Bay its second-ever trip to the ALCS with a 2-1 win.
Chapman’s pitch that Brosseau slams for the deciding tally is clocked at 100.2 MPH—the fastest pitch hit for a home run this season, regular or post.
The final out of the game, a wicked shot off the bat of Gio Urshela, is snared by Rays third baseman Joey Wendle—but not without the ball nearly ripping through his glove.
The 21 home runs hit in the series account for 75.6% of the runs scored—the highest rate of any postseason series consisting of three or more games. It’s also the third highest total of home runs launched in a series of five games or less—surpassed by the 22 in 1995 between the Yankees and Seattle Mariners, and the 24 just this past week between the Astros and A’s up the road in Los Angeles.
MLB releases its latest testing results—and it shows that no player or coach has reported positive in 40 days, while the overall positive rate from tests this year has been an astoundingly good 0.09%.
Sunday, October 11
The Astros look ready to carry on their so-called “revenge tour” in ALCS Game One at San Diego against the Rays, as Jose Altuve hits his 16th career postseason homer to take a quick 1-0 lead off Blake Snell. But that’s all the offense Houston can generate on the night, as Snell labors to keep the Astros off the board—and four relievers to follow fire four shutout innings, escaping a few jams of their own to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 victory. The Rays’ offensive contributions come from Randy Arozarena (solo homer in the fourth) and Mike Zunino (RBI single in the fifth).
Monday, October 12
A rough 2020 for baseball legends continues with the passing of Joe Morgan, the Hall-of-Fame infielder and two-time MVP, at the age of 77 from what his family describes as a “nerve condition.” Small, at 5’7” and 160 pounds, but athletically gifted, Morgan made his major league debut for the Houston Colt .45s late in 1963, just two days after his 20th birthday; he was part of the memorable, all-rookie lineup put out by the Colts at the end of that season, garnering a triple and single in five at-bats as Houston lost to the New York Mets, 10-3. In his first full season two years later, Morgan showed himself to be the real deal by scoring 100 runs, stealing 20 bases and leading the majors with 97 walks—but with the rebranded Astros, he found elevation to the next level difficult, scuffling about with moments of greatness but with disappointing batting averages that hugged the .250 mark. That changed in a major trade that helped alter the destiny of the Reds, as Morgan arrived in Cincinnati and, surrounded by a lineup of All-Stars, evolved into a monster presence—earning All-Star status eight straight years (1972-79), and winning MVP titles during the same two seasons (1975-76) in which the Big Red Machine peaked with World Series triumphs.
Morgan’s game regressed as he aged north of 35, but he was still a hero at the few remaining major league stops that lay ahead: In San Francisco, where his season finale home run in 1982 knocked the hated Dodgers out of the playoffs; and in Philadelphia, where he sparked a vintage September effort to help will the Phillies to the 1983 NL pennant. In retirement, Morgan became a successful broadcast analyst and formed part of the likeable, long-time duo with Jon Miller for ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecasts.
The Braves get the initial upper hand on the Dodgers in NLCS Game One, 5-1, with a Freddie Freeman homer in the first inning and a four-run outburst in the ninth, buffeted on round-trippers from Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies, to help break a 1-1 tie. Atlanta postseason pitching remains magnificent; starter Max Fried surrenders a run on four hits through six innings, while the bullpen doesn’t allow a single baserunner over the remaining three innings.
The big news regarding this game, besides the final result, is that actual fans are allowed in the ballpark for the first time since the pandemic halted spring training in mid-March. The crowd at Arlington’s Globe Life Field is officially listed at 10,700, as capacity is capped at 25% and spectators are spaced out throughout to maintain social distancing guidelines; additionally, all available concessions are “pre-packed,” and tailgating is not be allowed. This is expected to be the status quo throughout the NLCS and World Series, which will also be held at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark.
Meanwhile, at an empty Petco Park in San Diego, the Rays take ALCS Game Two over the Astros, 4-2. The Rays help themselves with terrific defense across the infield and an amazing catch by right fielder Manuel Margot—upending himself over the side wall and onto a concrete walkway while somehow still hanging on to the ball—while the Astros hurt themselves with two Jose Altuve throwing errors, the first of which leads to three unearned runs from Margot’s pacesetting homer in the first inning. But the Rays still have to sweat it out at the end as Nick Anderson allows a run and at one point loads the bases with nobody out in the ninth, before escaping the jam.
Despite leading the Chicago White Sox to their best record (by the percentages) since their World Series-winning 2005 campaign, manager Rick Renteria is sacked after four years with the club. No specific reason is given, though White Sox GM Eddie Hahn says the move is a “mutual” decision between the team and Renteria. The dismissal has a similar smell to what happened six years earlier when Renteria was fired by an emerging Cubs team and replaced by veteran skipper Joe Maddon; rumor strongly has it that the White Sox are looking at disgraced ex-managers Alex Cora and A.J. Hinch—even 76-year old Tony La Russa—to replace Renteria, as they’re seeking a replacement with championship experience.
Padres outfielder Tommy Pham is stabbed in the lower back outside of a strip club in downtown San Diego late Sunday night after an altercation near his car; he will be treated at a hospital and expected to fully recover, as the wound is not life-threatening. But wait a minute; no one’s allowed in to watch baseball at voluminous Petco Park—but you go inside a nearby strip club?
Tuesday, October 13
Good news, for the moment, for Astros haters: The Tampa Bay Rays have Houston on the ropes. A five-run sixth inning, spiked by yet another Jose Altuve throwing error, is all the offense the Rays needs to extinguish the Astros in ALCS Game Three, 5-2. Typical of Rays baseball, no weaknesses are apparent; Randy Arozarena sets a postseason rookie record with his fourth three-hit game, impeccable defense is highlighted by two outstanding catches by center fielder Kevin Kiermeier, and the bullpen sets a playoff record by inheriting its 20th runner to start a postseason without any of them scoring. The only bad news on the night for Tampa Bay is Kiermeier’s early departure after getting hit on the lower wrist during the five-run rally; he will not start the next three games—all Tampa Bay losses.
Altuve’s throwing error is his third over his last two games; he didn’t commit any such errors during the entire regular season.
In the NLCS, things aren’t going the Dodgers’ way even before the first pitch of Game Two as ace Clayton Kershaw is scratched with back spasms, a chronic issue of his over the years. In his place, Tony Gonsolin looks sharp to start but falls apart midway through, leaving with the Braves up 5-0. Meanwhile, Atlanta rookie starter Ian Anderson keeps the Dodgers nailed down through four shutout innings, allowing one hit and, yes, five walks that shorten his stint. The Dodgers trail by as much as 7-0—their worst deficit of the entire year to date—but bounce back for three in the seventh and, after an Ozzie Albies homer in the ninth, four in the bottom of the frame to pull within a run with Cody Bellinger representing the tying run on third. He fails to get home, as A.J. Pollock grounds out to end the Braves’ 8-7 win, giving Atlanta a 2-0 lead in the series.
Anderson has now thrown 15.2 scoreless innings to start the postseason.
Wednesday, October 14
Feeling the pressure after losing the first two games of the NLCS, the Dodgers are looking at making a statement to get back in the series. And boy, do they ever. In Game Three, Los Angeles piles up 11 runs in the first—a postseason record for one inning—and easily coasts to a 15-3 rout of the Braves at Arlington. The Dodgers score all 15 of their runs within the first three innings, as two Atlanta pitchers—rookie starter Kyle Wright and reliever Grant Dayton—share the abuse. The Dodgers set franchise postseason marks for runs and home runs (five); interestingly enough, the Braves never resort to throwing in a position player to preserve the bullpen, thanks to four innings of thankless (yet effective) shutout relief from Huascar Ynoa.
This is the second time in as many years that the Braves have given up double-digit runs in the first inning of a playoff game; they also collapsed in the decisive Game Five of the NLDS last season against St. Louis. That had been the all-time record, tying a similar 10-run outburst by the Philadelphia A’s against the Cubs in the 1929 World Series.
The Astros avoid a sweep—and Jose Altuve avoids more throwing errors—by defeating the Rays in ALCS Game Four, 4-3. Altuve and George Springer each go deep, the 18th career postseason home run for each; Zack Greinke throws six solid innings to keep the Rays at bay, as Tampa Bay’s mild ninth-inning rally falls short.
As pointed out during the TBS broadcast, this is the 40th postseason game of 2020—and only the first in which both starting pitchers (Greinke and Tyler Glasnow), throw at least six innings.
Thursday, October 15
The Astros perfectly bookend a 4-3, ALCS Game Five victory over Tampa Bay as George Springer homers on the first pitch of the Houston first—and Carlos Correa homers on the last pitch, a walk-off solo shot to tighten the Rays’ lead in the series to 3-2. Springer’s blast is the 19th of his postseason career; for Correa, it’s the third time he’s ended a playoff game on a walk-off hit, tying David Ortiz for the most ever. In defeat, the Rays belt three home runs, all of them solo; one of those is hit by breakout star Randy Arozarena, who now has six this postseason—tying former Ray Evan Longoria (in 2008) for the most by a rookie.
The Dodgers’ 15-3 bludgeoning of the Braves the previous day isn’t momentum enough for NLCS Game Four. Atlanta breaks open a tight, well-pitched game in the sixth with six runs, and Marcell Ozuna busts out with two home runs, a double and single while driving in four runs to defeat Los Angeles, 10-2, on a gusty night at Arlington’s Globe Life Field. Bryse Wilson, the fourth Atlanta rookie starter in as many days, allows just one hit—an Edwin Rios homer in the third—over six innings to pick up the win; Clayton Kershaw makes his belated NLCS debut but collapses through part of the Braves’ big frame in the sixth. Atlanta now leads the series, 3-1, and has three chances to win one and knock out the majors’ best team of 2020 (by the record).
Friday, October 16
The Astros, losers of the first three ALCS games, become only the second team in major league history to force a seventh game from that hole. After trailing 1-0 early on, Houston breaks out in Game Six for four runs in the fifth, then add three more over the next two frames to take command and triumph, 7-4. Jose Altuve reaches base four times (two hits, two walks) and scores twice, while Framber Valdez continues a strong recent stretch of pitching (5-1, 1.69 ERA over his last five starts) while overcoming some head games by the Rays’ Yandy Diaz following a walk—leading to some fiery tough love talk from teammate Carlos Correa.
According to ESPN, the Rays are the first team to hit below .230 in eight straight postseason games.
In the NLCS, the Dodgers live to fight another day in a somewhat similar game—trailing early, exploding for a sizeable lead in the middle innings, easily hanging on with a 7-3 victory over the Braves at Arlington. The Dodgers do display a bit more power in their victory; Corey Seager goes deep twice, tying one franchise postseason record (four homers in a series) while setting another (10 RBIs in a series), while catcher Will Smith’s three-run homer off the Atlanta reliever of the same name in the sixth gives the Dodgers the lead to stay. Braves starter A.J. Minter—making his first start since 2015 while still in college—is electric as the first of six relievers in a planned bullpen game, striking out seven over three shutout innings; it’s a shame for Atlanta fans that he doesn’t get to continue, because the next four Braves pitchers give up at least one run in their short stints. The Braves lead the series, three games to two.
This is the first time that we know of that a player hit a home run off a pitcher with the same name.
Eric Kay, a long-time employee in the Angels’ front office, is indicted by a federal grand jury for possession and distribution of fentanyl which led to the death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs in July 2019. If convicted, Kay could spend 20 years in prison.
Saturday, October 17
For the second time in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Rays are headed to the World Series with a 4-2 victory over the Astros—in the process avoiding the stigma of becoming the second team to take a 3-0 series lead and lose the next four games. Like the six previous ALCS games, Game Seven goes down to the wire; every game in the series is decided by three runs or less, and all but one is decided with the tying run either on base or at the plate.
The contest has all the makings of a rout early on. The Rays take a quick 3-0 lead on Randy Arozarena’s seventh postseason homer (setting a rookie record) and Charlie Morton effortlessly denies the Astros until, rather stunningly, he’s removed two outs into the sixth after throwing just 66 pitches, as Rays manager Kevin Cash follows baseball’s growing mindset of, “Oh no, he’s past the fifth inning and just allowed a baserunner—get him out!” Sure enough, the two relievers that follow Morton—Nick Anderson and Peter Fairbanks—aren’t nearly as crisp, as the Astros initiate threats over each of the final three innings, scoring both of their runs in the process, before running out of at-bats.
It’s the fourth winner-take-all victory for Morton in his postseason career; that’s two more than any other pitcher, ever.
The Rays are living by the homer, and dying from the lack of it. Home runs have accounted for 71.9% of the Rays’ runs so far this postseason, by far the highest percentage for any team entering the World Series. The previous high was 58.3% by the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates. Overall, Tampa Bay hits .201 against the Astros—the lowest by an ALCS winner since the 1997 Cleveland Indians.
No one will shed a tear for the elimination of the Astros, so vilified as a result of their cheating scandal and a postseason party crasher with a 29-31 regular season record. But there is sidebar sadness for veteran manager Dusty Baker, who was given the thankless job of piloting a disgraced but talented roster—and nearly pulled off a big-time upset. This was the sixth straight winner-take-all postseason game that Baker lost.
While one Game Seven is settled in San Diego, another will be fought tomorrow in Arlington. The Dodgers force their winner-take-all, taking NLCS Game Six with a 3-1 victory over Atlanta. All three Los Angeles runs are tallied in the first, the first two on back-to-back homers from Corey Seager (setting a Dodgers postseason series record with his fifth of the NLCS) and Justin Turner. Braves starting pitcher Max Fried, the victim, hangs in and works two outs into the seventh on 109 pitches before being removed—but Atlanta hitters fail to energize, notching a lone run in the seventh after the removal of Dodgers starter Walker Buehler (six shutout innings, seven hits scattered).
Sunday, October 18
The World Series is set and it will pit, for only the fourth time since the initiation of expanded, wild card-induced postseason play in 1995, the teams with the majors’ two best records: The Dodgers and the Rays. That’s especially impressive, considering the maze of crowded postseason involvement in 2020 with an unprecedented 16 teams attempting their run to the Fall Classic.
The Dodgers’ 4-3, NLCS Game Seven victory over the Braves is a game of slow-turning momentum. Atlanta takes an early 2-0 lead, but Los Angeles evens the score in the third with two runs off Braves starter Ian Anderson—who finally gives up his first earned runs after 25.2 consecutive innings without conceding one. Austin Riley’s run-scoring single in the fourth pushes the Braves back ahead, 3-2—but a golden opportunity to increase the lead collapses with multiple baserunning blunders on one play. On a sharp grounder to short, Dansby Swanson unwisely chances it to home, gets caught in a pickle and is tagged out—and Riley, who should have charged to third, hesitates and gets easily nailed before reaching the bag.
Though trailing at that point, the momentum given to the Dodgers makes it seem inevitable that they’ll find a way to prevail. Sure enough, it happens; Kiké Hernandez steps to the plate in the bottom of the sixth and unloads the first-ever, game-tying pinch-hit homer in a winner-take-all postseason game. Two innings later, with two outs in the eighth, Cody Bellinger launches his own no-doubt-about-it shot to give the Dodgers the ultimate winning run. Offensively, the Braves are denied by right fielder Mookie Betts—who steals a home run from Freddie Freeman in the fifth—and Julio Urias, who pitches the final three innings so flawlessly that even Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts, who tends to overmanage, lets him ride to the finish while leaving closer Kenley Jansen hanging on the bullpen mound.
The Miami Marlins will not renew team president Michael Hill’s contract for 2021, effectively ending a 19-year run within the organization. One of the few (if perhaps only) holdovers left from the Jeffrey Loria era—thus not fired by new team chief Derek Jeter—the 49-year-old Hill was let go as his current contract expired.
Monday, October 19
The players’ union adds a new honor to its list of Player Choice Awards: The Curt Flood Award, named after the late outfielder who unsuccessfully challenged the reserve clause in the early 1970s—but helped cleared the pathway for future arguments that eventually overturned the clause. The award will be given to “a former player, living or deceased, who in the image of Flood demonstrated a selfless, longtime, devotion to the Players Association and advancement of Players’ rights.” That first player, as announced three days later, will be former Hall-of-Fame outfielder Andre Dawson.
Tuesday, October 20
Even in the face of impulsive pitching changes that have dominated the postseason, the matchup of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Rays’ Tyler Glasnow to start the 2020 World Series is advertised as a potential pitchers’ duel. And for the first three-plus innings, the hype seems to be justified. But Glasnow cracks in the fourth—giving up a two-run home run to Cody Bellinger—and collapses in the fifth, departing after 4.1 innings having thrown a whopping, career-high 112 pitches. The Dodgers, up 6-1 at that point, add two more tallies and use sure-handed defense to repel several potential Rays uprisings to take the first game, 8-3.
Kershaw, who allows a run on two hits over six innings, becomes the second pitcher in history to reach 200 career postseason strikeouts. He finishes the night at 201—four behind all-time leader Justin Verlander.
The Rays continue to have trouble producing hits. They’ve now collected no more than eight in 10 straight postseason games, a streak second only to, interestingly enough, Babe Ruth’s Yankees of 1921-22—who struggled as such in 13 straight games.
Game One draws 9.2 million viewers on Fox, the lowest ever for a World Series game. By comparison, Game Six of the 1980 World Series between Philadelphia and Kansas City attracted 55 million. Remember, though: There were a few less channels to choose from during that time.
Derryl Cousins, who worked 4,496 major league games—the ninth most in history—passes away at the age of 74. Cousins had a dubious MLB debut in 1979 as a replacement umpire while the regulars were on strike, but he hung around and continued to work until 2012. Among his more famous home-plate assignments was Tom Seaver’s 300th win in 1985, and Barry Bonds’ record-tying 755th home run in 2007.
Wednesday, October 21
After Dodger stars grabbed the spotlight in Game One of the World Series, Game Two belonged to the Rays’ Brandon Lowe. Struggling through his first 15 games of postseason action with a .109 average and one home run, Lowe goes deep in the first inning and does it again in the fifth, giving Tampa Bay a 5-0 lead that will hold toward a 6-4 finish. The Rays in general finally cluster up enough hits to total 10 for the first time since ALDS Game Three (10 games ago) and, outside of Lowe’s deep flies, score runs the ‘hard’ way—singles, doubles, sac flies, etc. Keeping the Dodgers off the Rays’ heels early on is Blake Snell, who, like so many other pitchers facing Los Angeles in the postseason, looks positively sharp for the first three or so innings before being figured out in the middle frames. Snell strikes out eight over four no-hit innings, then gets a little wild and lit in the fifth, leading to his departure after 4.2 innings—one out shy of gaining official personal credit for the win. The former Cy Young Award winner has now made 20 straight starts (regular and postseason) without making it through six full innings.
The Dodgers unsuccessfully go full bull in their attempt to take a 2-0 series lead, as seven relievers shuttle through and fail to quell the Rays. Here’s the problem; when you use that many pitchers, almost one inning at a time, someone’s going to show up in the midst of a bad day. And so we have Dustin May, the Raggedy Andy rookie who records four outs while conceding three runs. For fans, the constant changing of pitchers upsets game rhythm, burdens them with more commercial time outs, and extends games closer to four hours than three. We can only take so many GEICO/Progressive commercials before giving up and switching the channel elsewhere.
It’s Interesting to note: As the first pitch of Game Two is being thrown in Arlington, Texas—with fans in the stands—the Lone Star State overtakes California as the state with the most COVID-19 cases to date.
Thursday, October 22
Per a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s LaVelle E. Neal III, the National League is expected to forego use of the designated hitter in 2021, returning to the time-honored tradition of having the pitcher hit for himself.
This is rather surprising; we fully expected that once the DH was implemented—even on a “temporary” level—there would be no going back. So to all you National League pitchers out there, pick up a bat and head to the cages, you’re going to need to catch up on some lost hitting time. Let’s just hope that MLB also says “adios” to the gift runner on second as well—forever.
Finalists for this year’s Gold Glove awards are announced, and some players left off the list are none too pleased. This includes St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina—who claims to be snubbed so he can’t tie Johnny Bench for the most Gold Gloves by a backstop—and Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who tweets his displeasure at being on the outside looking in while posting analytic defensive stats showing him at the top of his position.
Maybe it’s us, but it’s always a turn-off to see people complain about not getting nominated for something when there’s so much worthy competition. Don’t be like Madonna with the Oscars; either be graceful about it, or just don’t say anything.
Friday, October 23
It’s definitely not Walker Buehler’s day off in World Series Game Three at Arlington. The 26-year-old flamethrower is at his best against the Rays, allowing a run on three hits while becoming the first pitcher in Series history to strike out 10 batters over six or fewer innings, as the Dodgers sail to a 6-2 victory and a two-games-to-one lead. Offensively, Justin Turner gets the Dodgers started with a first-inning solo homer, his 14th career postseason jack to tie Duke Snider for the most in franchise history (though Snider needed half the at-bats). Catcher Austin Barnes caps the scoring in the sixth with another solo shot, breaking a 0-for-22 World Series slump dating back to 2017.
Mookie Betts continued his early lobbying effort for Series MVP, becoming the first player since Cincinnati’s Bobby Tolan in 1972 to collect two hits and steals each in multiple games within one Fall Classic.
For the Rays, the consolation prize on a lifeless night goes to Randy Arozarena, whose ninth-inning homer ties the all-time postseason record for home runs with eight, sets the all-time postseason mark for total bases (52) and sets a rookie record for postseason hits with 23. Derek Jeter, in 1996, had been the holder of the latter two marks.
Saturday, October 24
The Rays even the World Series up at two games apiece with a stunning chain of events on the final play that caps an 8-7 Tampa Bay win that, even before, had all the makings of a classic game.
The middle innings are dominated by a myriad of lead changes fueled by continued home run madness. But insanity rules in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, runners on first and second, and the Rays trailing 7-6. The batter: Benchwarmer Brett Phillips, a career .202 hitter whose best use for Tampa Bay this postseason has been as a late-innings defensive replacement. Down to his last strike against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, Phillips hits a soft liner to right-center that eludes the shift; center fielder Chris Taylor, playing in place of sore-backed Cody Bellinger (reduced to DH duty) muffs the ball, which escapes to his left. Kevin Kiermeier, racing from second, easily scores to tie the game; Randy Arozarena, on his tail, stumbles and falls between third and home, becoming a virtual dead duck—except that Max Muncy’s relay throw to catcher Will Smith goes off his glove and toward the backstop, allowing Arozarena to get up and, with a head-first slide accented with a flourish of relief, scores the game-winner with ease.
This last play will undoubtedly go down in World Series history as one of the five biggest defensive meltdowns to end a game. Also among the top of this list are the series of gaffes committed by the Giants in the 1912 winner-take-all against the Red Sox, highlighted by Fred Snodgrass’ “$30,000 Muff”; the knockdown of Reds catcher Ernie Lombardi, who was apparently all on his own, by the Yankees in the 1939 Series finale; Mickey Owen’s passed ball on what should have been the game-winning strike for the Dodgers against the Yankees in 1941; and, of course, Bill Buckner’s legendary error against the Mets that ended Game Six in 1986.
Phillips’ instantly famous hit is also a Purple Cow moment. Let us explain. Purple Cow is a very good marketing book that uses the analogy of kids looking out the window of a car during a road trip, seeing a cow and going, “Oooh, look!” Then they see another cow, and another, and another…until it gets rather boring. Then, they spot a purple cow, and go, “Oooh, look!”
There were six home runs hit in the first eight innings of Game Four. There have been 17 hit in the first four games of the World Series. There’s been 155 hit in the entire postseason to date. All those cows, all looking the same. It’s become too much of a good thing, resulting in a long-ball fatigue that leaves us feeling as if we’re in the middle of a drawn-out, increasingly tiresome Home Run Derby. Then comes the Phillips hit. It’s a simple single, to be sure, but the play just doesn’t end at that point. Defenders can’t just look over the wall and, like the fans, become basic witnesses. It’s incumbent upon the fielders to make a play, to keep advancing runners from advancing further. It’s what we used to call baseball. It’s become the purple cow. And that’s what Phillips’ hit—and the madness that ensued—exactly was.
Phillips is so emotional and physically drained from the game-winning hit and the following celebration, he receives an IV after the game.
Maybe it’s just us, but we miss baseball the way it used to be played, between the lines and in front of the walls. Don’t get us wrong; we embrace home runs as much as the next guy, but when they account for the majority of the runs, it starts to get tedious. Brett Phillips, Chris Taylor, Randy Arozarena, Max Muncy and Will Smith all reminded us, on one play, how exciting baseball can really be—that it’s more than home run distances, exit velocities and bat flips.
Some of last night’s home runs are historic. Arozarena’s fourth-inning solo shot off Dodgers starter Julio Urias is his ninth of the playoffs, setting an all-time postseason record. Corey Seager’s third-inning blast is his eighth, so he still has a chance to tie or even surpass Arozarena. And Justin Turner’s ice-breaking homer in the first is his 15th postseason tater as a Dodger, surpassing the franchise record he tied just one night earlier. The tandem of homers from Turner and Seager also made it seven straight postseason games in which the Dodgers have hit at least two—breaking the playoff record set earlier this month by the Yankees.
Sunday, October 25
After a wild and crazy ending to World Series Game Four, all the Dodgers want to do is quietly get back into a winning mode. And thanks to some early offense and a solid start from Clayton Kershaw, they do—defeating the Rays 4-2 in Game Five to take a 3-2 lead in the World Series. The Dodgers strike for two quick runs in the first inning off Rays starter Tyler Glasnow, who again is far from sharp. In the second, Joc Pederson hits a solo shot to make it 3-0 and becomes the ninth Dodger to go deep in the series—setting an all-time Fall Classic record. Conversely, it was the ninth postseason homer allowed by Glasnow—also a record. Kershaw is unceremoniously removed from the game after getting two quick outs in the sixth, and people yet again begin wondering if Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts is over-managing. But the three relievers to follow keep the Rays off the scoreboard and secure the victory.
With six strikeouts, Kershaw surpasses Justin Verlander as the pitcher with the most Ks (207) in postseason history.
The gutsiest move of the night—Manuel Margot’s attempted steal of home in the fifth—ends in failure for the Rays. The play is so close, it’s a small wonder the Rays don’t challenge the out call. It’s the first attempt to bag home in a World Series game since the Angels’ Brad Fullmer successfully swiped the plate in 2002 against San Francisco; that, in fact, is the only steal of home in the Fall Classic since 1964.
Once again, Tampa Bay postseason breakout star Randy Arozarena earns the consolation prize as his RBI single in the third breaks Pablo Sandoval’s 2014 playoff mark for most hits in one postseason, with 27.
Monday, October 26
The Texas Rangers announce that they’ll have not one but two pitching coaches for 2021: Doug Mathis and Brendan Sagara. Which leads us to ask: If a Rangers pitcher is in need of a pep talk on the mound, do both coaches go out at the same time and argue with one another over what’s the best advice to give?
Tuesday, October 27
On a night that perfectly sums up baseball in the year 2020, the favored Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series, analytics both win and lose the day, and there’s a guest appearance by COVID-19.
In Game Six at Arlington, the Rays take a 1-0 lead in the first on Randy Arozarena’s 10th postseason homer—extending his all-time record—and Blake Snell brilliantly backs it up with what certainly looks to be a dominant effort equal to some of the greatest in Fall Classic history, allowing just two hits with nine strikeouts and no walks into the sixth. But it’s after that second hit—a simple two-out single by Austin Barnes in the sixth—that Rays manager Kevin Cash inexplicably removes Snell in the name of modern-day analytical trust. All a disbelieving Snell can do is watch from the dugout as Nick Anderson, his replacement, quickly concedes two RBI hits to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Mookie Betts adds insurance with a solo homer in the eighth, and Julio Urias—the Dodgers’ seventh pitcher of the night—wraps it all up by retiring the last seven Rays, four by strikeout, minting the Dodgers with a 3-1 victory and their first world championship in 32 years.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner is removed in the eighth after being told that he’s tested positive for the Coronavirus; it’s the first positive test for any major league player since early September. Despite Turner’s certain exposure to his teammates, staff and opposing players, the game is allowed to continue; after the game, a defiant Turner breaks all protocols and returns to the field to join in on the celebration—wearing a mask, but doing no social distancing as he hugs players and sits among others for a team photo with the championship trophy, which he himself will hoist at one point.
Shortstop Corey Seager wins the Series MVP after collecting eight hits in 20 at-bats with two homers, five RBIs and six walks.
The 27 strikeouts between the two teams set a Series record for the most in a nine-inning game. Dodgers pitchers collectively group to record 16 of them.
Making Nick Anderson’s insertion in the place of Snell all the more puzzling is that he had given up at least one run in his six previous relief appearances. With the two runs allowed in Game Six, he ups that streak to seven—setting a postseason mark.
This is the second straight year in, ultimately, the World Series’ deciding game that a pitcher who seemed to be in quite the groove is prematurely removed, only to have the bullpen fold and hand the Series to the opponent. In happened last year with the Astros and Zack Greinke, and it happens here with the Rays and Snell. Can you imagine the death stares coming from the likes of Bob Gibson, Roger Clemens or Jack Morris if a manager dared to remove him on the basis of one mid-inning hit? Analytics are great and all, but sometimes the best decisions come from the gut, not an Excel spreadsheet. Ninety-nine percent of those watching didn’t think Snell should have been removed. Ninety-nine percent was right.
It’s theorized, perhaps conspiratorially, that MLB knew about Turner’s positive before the game and let it play on because, after all, they were oh so close to finishing the season without further interruption. One wonders what might have happened had the positive result was known before the first pitch, or had the Rays won to force a seventh game—possibly leading to the delay of further Series action.
Ratings for sporting events on TV are down everywhere, a fact that the World Series is not immune from. The average viewership for the Dodgers and Rays was just below 10 million, with a high of 12.6 million for Game Six. That latter figure is nearly half what Fox drew for Game Seven last year between the Astros and Nationals; overall, this year’s Fall Classic ratings are the lowest on record, a whopping 32% below the previous low of 2012 when the Giants swept the Tigers.
Wednesday, October 28
It’s the day after the World Series, which means the market is flooded with a new class of free agents—147 in total. Among those on the outside looking back in for bigger wages: Atlanta slugger and likely top MVP candidate Marcell Ozuna, Boston outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., Cincinnati ace Trevor Bauer, Houston outfielders George Springer and Michael Brantley, virus-stricken Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, ageless Minnesota slugger Nelson Cruz, Mets pitchers Marcus Stroman and Rick Porcello, Yankees star hitter DJ LeMahieu and pitchers James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, Oakland closer Liam Hendriks and shortstop Marcus Semien, Philadelphia catcher J.T. Realmuto, and St. Louis icons Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.
Teams can still reach out and try to entice most of those listed above with one-year qualifying offers of $18.9 million—and if they do, some of those players might want to grab it. That’s because after MLB teams lost a collective $3.1 billion this year due to the pandemic—and with the prospects for returning to fully-loaded ballparks next year looking highly unlikely, at least early on—money will be tight this offseason, and owners will be more hesitant than ever to shell out big bucks.
Thursday, October 29
Proving that it’s never too old to manage—just ask the ghost of Connie Mack—Tony La Russa is hired on as the new manager of the Chicago White Sox, 41 years after he was hired the first time by the Pale Hose. The 76-year-old La Russa, retired for nine years and already in the Hall of Fame, previously piloted the White Sox from 1979-86, winning one AL West title in 1983 with the “Winning Ugly” roster. The 2021 season will be La Russa’s 34th year as manager, breaking a second-place tie with John McGraw for the most years piloting a major league team; he needs just 38 wins to pass McGraw for second on that all-time list. The aforementioned Mack is far ahead of all managers in terms of service, wins—and losses.
According to a tweet from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, there aren’t too many people in the White Sox’ front office who are happy with La Russa’s return, skeptical that he’ll be able to adapt to the more analytically driven state of the game and the players who drive that process. Passan posts: “This was a (White Sox owner) Jerry Reinsdorf decision. Simple as that.”
Two veteran players who’ve played their entire major league career with one team will likely now have to find a second. Milwaukee will not pick up its $15 million option for 2021 on Ryan Braun, who over 14 years emerged as the Brewers’ all-time home run leader, 2012 NL MVP and notorious Biogenesis patient. Meanwhile in Yankeeland, New York passed on its $10 million option to keep 13-year Yankee outfielder Brett Gardner, who’s third on the all-time franchise list with 270 steals.
Friday, October 30
Hey Astros haters, get ready to add the Tigers to your list. A.J. Hinch, the disgraced, suspended ex-Houston manager who knew his players were cheating during the Astros’ 2017 world title season but did nothing about it, is brought on as Detroit’s new manager for 2021. The Tigers didn’t waste any time in securing the 46-year-old Hinch, who said they offered him the job 30 minutes after the final out of the World Series and the official end of his suspension. Terms of the contract have not been made public, but it’s said to be a multi-year deal.
More name players find themselves as free agents after having their 2021 options declined. These include Texas pitcher Corey Kluber, who pitched just one inning for the Rangers in the shortened 2020 season before leaving in pain due to a shoulder muscle tear; Cleveland closer Brad Hand (16 saves, 2.05 ERA) and first baseman Carlos Santana, who struggled (.199 average); the White Sox’ Edwin Encarnacion, who really struggled (.159 average); 15-year pitching veteran Jon Lester, who thanked Cubs fans by inviting them over for a free drink at his favorite bar; and two members of the AL pennant-winning Tampa Bay Rays: Pitcher Charlie Morton and catcher Mike Zunino.
MLB officially approves the sale of the New York Mets to hedge fund guru Steve Cohen for $2.4 billion, making it the largest-ever purchase of a major league franchise. Cohen will own 95% of the team, while the Wilpon and Katz families will retain a minority 5% interest. That may be 5% too much for Mets pitcher Noah Syndegaard, who responds to the sale by stating, “All I plead is that the new owner treats players and personnel…like people and less like expendable commodities.” On the flip side, Cohen’s interest might be 95% too much for New York mayor Bill de Blasio, who dislikes the idea of Cohen—whose firm was slapped with a $1.8 billion fine in 2013 for insider trading—owning the Mets, and said he would put whatever pressure he could to stop the deal.
Saturday, October 31
Transactionmania continues in the days after the completion of the 2020 season. Pittsburgh declines an $11 million option on faded ace Chris Archer, while two players with the power to call the shots on their 2021 contract declare their intent to stay: Boston slugger J.D. Martinez, who will thus receive $19 million from the Red Sox, and Cincinnati’s Nick Castellanos, who’s fine staying at Cincinnati for three years and $48 million after declining his opt-out.
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