Congratulations to the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies for reaching the World Series. Sure there are going to be “haters” in all facets of life, but this is the match-up that makes the most sense. How do you say? Oh my dear friends, let me explain.
Look, the Yankees ARE the most storied franchise in sport…there’s absolutely no debating it (Manchester United fans please step away from the ledge…I like soccer, but you’re not the New York Yankees). Does that make me happy? Indifferent is probably the word that is most suitable. I think having lived in this area for the last 10 months has allowed me to better understand the dynamic of the Yankee fan. I get it. But that’s not necessarily the case around the country. Heck, all that non-Yankee fans see year-in and year-out is the amount of money they “throw” around in order to attract the “best” players in the game…even if it means spending north of $200 million a year. Does that translate to World Championships? As we’ve seen over the last several years, the answer has been no.
But it still puts a huge divide among fans that don’t follow the pinstriped Nation. If their team can’t sign free agent “A” because of limited resources and that free agent signs with the Yankees, that just adds one more disgruntled fan to the “I hate the Yankees” bandwagon. I get it…I understand what those fans are going through because I have found myself (at times, so don’t kill me) rooting against the Yanks…that may just be attributed more to the fact that I am really a fan of the underdog (<cough> excuse <cough>).
The bottom line is that, as much as you may hate to admit it, the Yankees are good for baseball. Because of some of the reasons listed above, people will watch. Fans want to see the almighty team, regardless of their time away from World Series play, fail or succeed depending on which side of the line you fall on. They WERE the best team in baseball even after their early season struggles, the ARod distraction in spring training, the dreaded “Joba experiment”and a manager that tends to “over-manage”, they persevered and got to the big dance. They are compelling.
As for the Phillies…what’s there not to like? Here’s a team that’s looking for its second straight World Series title. As Dan Plesac said on Sunday night’s pre-game show, the Phillies have the best Halloween costume…they’re an American League team dressed in a National League uniform. Charlie Manuel has what I like to call a “plug and play” lineup. He knows what the core lineup is going to look like coming out of spring training and he just fills it out and lets his players perform.
Everyone knew that the Phillies had a good chance of at least getting back to the World Series. They pretty much kept the same lineup intact from last year except for swapping Pat Burrell for Raul Ibanez in left field. And even though the Cole Hammels from last year was somewhat non-existent this year, they did get a damn good year out of J.A. Happ (who has a very good chance at winning Rookie of the Year – although I think it’s going to be Chris Coghlan of the Marlins). We all know about the struggles of Brad Lidge this season, but he’s turned things around in the post-season. And of course there’s the Cliff Lee/Pedro Martinez factor.
When there was talk this year that the Phillies were making a run at Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, I said that it made perfect sense in that it would legitimately give the Phils a chance at two, if not three World Series titles and that it was a risk worth taking. As we know, that didn’t work out…instead they landed Lee and signed Martinez off the scrap heap. So without unloading their top prospects, the Phils bettered their rotation for ’09 and ’10 (assuming they’re going to pick up Lee’s $9 million option for next year – they better!). And who knows…with Halladay’s value down going into the off-season, maybe the Phils pursue Halladay once again for the last year of his contract…could you imagine Halladay & Lee at the front-end of that rotation? Oh my!
People will watch this World Series. There are way too many good storylines to pass up. Can the Phillies overcome the Yankees to claim their second World Series title in as many years? Can the Yankees, with the best record in baseball, finally pick up their 27th World Championship in franchise history? Regardless of where you fall in all of this, if you’re a baseball fan at heart, you’ll be watching on Wednesday…I know I will be (Twitter overload beware).
* Congratulations to Manny Acta for getting the managerial gig in Cleveland. I know it’s very easy to look at the overall numbers for Acta while at the helm in Washington and wonder what the heck the Indians are doing. But it says a lot about Acta that not only did the Indians have an interest, so did the Houston Astros…so much so that Acta turned down a two-year deal from the ‘Stros to take the Tribe’s 3-year deal. Acta is a solid baseball man and even though the Indians finished last in the American League Central in 2009, there is some sort of a blueprint in place in Cleveland…something that Acta never sniffed in D.C.
* Speaking of the Houston Astros…they’ll now turn their attention to Brad Mills, Dave Clark or Phil Garner…yes, the same Phil Garner that was fired a couple of years ago from Houston. Here’s what I don’t get…supposedly Acta was offered the 2-year deal and even after it was brought up that the Indians had offered him 3-years, the Astros would not budge. WHY NOT? Regardless if it was Acta or anyone else, how fair is it to give the incoming manager of the Houston Astros only two years to turn things around? It’s virtually impossible. This team, going into 2010, still needs a real 3B, SS, Catcher and will have to figure out how the back-end of the bullpen shakes out with both LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Valverde hitting the free-agent market. On top of that, it’s one of the worst minor league systems in baseball…so talent in the pipeline isn’t going to help immediately. That’s a job that begs for at least a 3-year deal with an option but I guess when you still have to pay Cecil Cooper $800,000 to sit at home next year, you’ve got to try and figure out how to save that cake somewhere else. I don’t get it. Oh yeah, it’s got to be comforting for the guy that gets the job that they weren’t the team’s first choice. Good luck.
* It’s been reported that the St. Louis Cardinals are going to hire Mark McGwire as their next hitting coach. This, of course, is contingent upon Tony LaRussa returning as the skipper of the Redbirds in 2010, which seems very likely. What I don’t understand is why McGwire? I know that he played 15 of his 16 years under LaRussa and Tony’s been a huge apologist for Mark, but as hitting coach? I guess this is where loyalty comes into play and with LaRussa perhaps in the last couple of years of managing before retiring and entering the Hall of Fame, maybe he’s looking for a chance to get Big Mac back into the game and into everyone’s good graces. I don’t fault him for trying but Mac’s going to have to answer questions…something he hasn’t been fond of doing in the past. In all of this, it’s Hal McRae that takes the brunt. McRae spent 5 years as the hitting coach of the Cardinals and if their quick exit from this year’s post-season is the reason…well, that’s just pathetic. Show me what you’re made of Tony LaRussa…tell us that you just wanted Mark McGwire sitting next to you in the dugout as the hitting coach and THAT’S the reason you hired him…do it with grace and don’t throw Hal McRae u
nder the bus. Hal deserves it.
Just livin’ the dream…