Results tagged ‘ NL West ’

Keep post-season out of awards mix

It has been suggested by some columnists that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America should allow its voters for the Manager of the Year Awards to include post-season play. Just as is the case with the Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Awards in the BBWAA jurisdiction, voting is done prior to the start of post-season play and includes only the accomplishments during the regular season.

Some writers argue that while players, pitchers and rookies are eligible for separate awards related to post-season play, managers are not. Also, they add, steering a team throughout the post-season is a function worthy of being included in an honor that recognizes managerial skill.

In my view, the problem with that is that you would no longer need an election, would you? The heck with polling writers, just hand out the trophies to the two guys whose teams reached the World Series every year. I am sure there are some people who though the Giants’ Bruce Bochy and the Rangers’ Ron Washington were more deserving than the managers who won, the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire and the Padres’ Buddy Black.

You have probably read reports that Major League Baseball is toying with the idea of another round of playoffs by adding two more wild-card teams into the post-season mix. That’s just what we need; more November baseball with pitchers already overworked trying to keep their tongues off the mound.

All an additional round of playoffs would do is to continue to weaken the impact of the 162-game schedule, still the most demanding test in team sports. If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a hundred times from managers, coaches and players that the post-season is a “crap shoot.” Why base an award that is supposed to honor achievement over the course of a year on a crap shoot?

Managing a team involves more than just what takes place three hours a night during games. It is the day-to-day handling of two dozen-plus players over six months upon which a manager is judged. By adding post-season to the Manager of the Year Award mix, the eight managers whose teams reach post-season play, maybe 10 by 2012, will get a distinct advantage. Isn’t the field already small enough? There are 16 managers in the National League and 14 in the American League.

Again, why bother to have an election if post-season inclusion would likely lead to eliminating nearly three-quarters of the field?

Gardenhire, who won the award for the first time after five second-place finishes in the voting, directed the Twins to a 94-68 record and their sixth AL Central title in his nine seasons at the helm despite the loss to injury of closer Joe Nathan for the whole season and slugging first baseman Justin Morneau for half the schedule. Yet all that good work might have been discarded by voters after the Twins were swept in the Division Series by the Yankees.

Black’s victory in the NL by merely one point over the Reds’ Dusty Baker was a testament to the overachievement of the Padres, whom many thought at season’s start to be a last-place club. In his fourth season in San Diego, Black got the Padres within one game of the NL West title with the fourth best record in franchise history. But if the post-season had been included, mightn’t Cincinnati’s quick exit have hurt Baker so that the vote would not have been so close?

What takes place over a period of less than three weeks should not hold the same weight as what transpires over six months. A manager who does the best job in the post-season will get the best award there is – a championship ring. That is reward enough.

As I was saying. . .

Travel difficulties Sunday spoiled my chance to see one of the best World Series games pitched by a rookie as Madison Bumgarner put the Giants on the verge of winning their first championship in San Francisco.

I was flying home from Dallas where I attended the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s annual meeting and blogged off Game 3. My original plan was to get back to New York to catch Game 4 on television, but the plane I was supposed to board was put out of service because of mechanical problems. We were finally given clearance to board another plane about three hours later. By the time I got back home, the game was over.

I had envisioned the 2010 post-season being one in which the Phillies would take revenge for last year’s loss in the World Series to the Yankees. The trade for Roy Halladay, the likely National League Cy Young Award winner, was part of that plan, along with the mid-season acquisition of Roy Oswalt of the Astros. With Cole Hamels, the Phillies created their H2O rotation that to me seemed head and shoulders over everyone else.

Two things happened that the Phillies didn’t count on, however. The big one was that the Giants stayed hot on the Padres’ tail and ended up winning the NL West. San Francisco’s rotation of Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez was so good that former American League Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito wasn’t even placed on the post-season roster.

The Giants out-pitched the Phillies to win the NL Championship Series in six games, holding slugger Ryan Howard without a run batted in.

And out of the AL emerged the Texas Rangers, who reached the World Series for the first time in the franchise’s 50th season and had in their holster one of the most impressive post-season pitchers of all time, Cliff Lee. He was the same guy who beat the Yankees twice in the Series last year for the Phillies, who traded him to Seattle after they got Halladay.

Lee helped Texas get to the Series with three victories in the first two playoff rounds but got roughed up in Game 1 by the Giants. The lefthander stood in their way in Game 5. Lee just could be making his last start for the Rangers if the Series ends Monday night and he bolts Arlington for free agency. A Texas victory Monday night may not be much more than a bump in the road for the Giants, who would return to San Francisco still with the upper hand.

Bumgarner saw to that with eight innings of shutout pitching, limiting the Rangers to three singles and two walks. Only one player, Josh Hamilton, got as far as second base, and he reached base initially on an error. The Giants got all the offense they needed in the third inning on a two-run home run by Aubrey Huff, who has the Yankees to thank for where he is today. Well, sort of.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean mentioned the other day that during the previous off-season the club was in need of a left-handed hitter, preferably a first baseman, and had targeted Nick Johnson, late of the Nationals. But Johnson signed instead with the Yankees, so the Giants decided to go after Huff, who grew up about 50 miles from Arlington as a Rangers fan and is now in position to end their dream of a title and help the Giants to their first since 1954 when they still played at the Polo Grounds.