Friday, October 05, 2007

Short takes

Well, so far, the NLDS is making me look like a complete fool. I picked the Phillies to win, and now the Rockies have taken a 2-0 lead heading into Coors Field. It looks like Colorado will win the first postseason series in franchise history. Here's a trivia question: Name the 2 other MLB teams that have never won a postseason series? (Answer at the bottom).
And out in Arizona, the D-Backs not only won behind Brandon Webb in Game 1(which was understandable), they've taken an 8-4 lead, knocking Ted Lilly out of the game in Game 2. The Cubs at least will be heading back to Wrigley for the next two games, but still you never want to be down 0-2 in a playoff series. And if they do lose Game 2 (which is in the 6th now), they'll be up a creek, because they'll have to beat Brandon Webb again in Game 5 even if they do win both games in Chicago.
I must admit that I'm amazed at the second-guessing that ensued after Lou Pineilla pulled Carlos Zambrano from Game 1. This is just insanity and misplaced anger; baseball fans should learn to accept a loss without finding people to blame (and boy, is Lou getting roasted).
The move didn't work out, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. Zambrano hasn't thrown a lot of pitches, but he is Carlos Freakin' Zambrano; you never know when he's going to lose it and give up some walks and homers (he led the league in bases on balls). Carlos Marmol has been brilliant this year, and he's a guy you can rely on.
I gained a great deal of respect for Lou when I read this snippet of conversation, taken from Rob Neyer's blog:

The Piniella quote that's all over the place this morning is in response to the press-conference question, "Lou, do you think you could be accused of looking ahead to Game 5, or Game 4, when -- "

Piniella broke in: "I'm not accused of anything, sir. I've got a good bullpen here, OK? I trust my bullpen. I'm bringing back a pitcher on three days rest on Sunday. I took a shot with my bullpen. It didn't work today. They've done it all year. I've got confidence in them. Period. End of story."

Even better is Lou's statement here, which does a great job of summing things up: "The reason we didn't win this game is, we scored one run on four hits. I mean, you're not going win on the road, you're not going to win anywhere, getting four hits and one run."

In the AL so far, things are going well; the Indians thumped the Yankees (ha, ha) and the Red Sox (and Josh Beckett) shut down the Angels. Peter Gammons has a good piece on this game, and while I'm not jumping on the "Josh Beckett as Mr. October" bandwagon yet, I was very interested in Peter's remarks about the scouting report on Lackey.
As for the Indians, things look pretty good for them. It's still an uphill climb, but it's a good sign that they were able to dismantle both Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes. And it's an even better sign that they held the Yankee offense to 3 runs.

But no, the thing I really want to talk about today is the amazing news flash I read about today that Walt Jocketty is out as GM of the Cardinals. As best I can tell, the move wasn't so much a baseball-related move; there was something of a power struggle in the Cards organization as team owner Bill DeWitt had undermind Jocketty by placing his own man, Jeff Luhnow, as the head of the scouting and amateur draft side of baseball operations. This effectively cut Jocketty off from the amateur draft, something that doesn't really happen in baseball ops, much less with someone as well-respected as Jocketty. Amazing though it may sound, the team has decided to let Jocketty go (with one year left on his contract).
I don't think I say it enough, but I'm a Walt Jocketty fan. While it's true that he doesn't have a very strong record in the amateur draft, it's also true that Jocketty's built one of the most successful big league franchises of the past ten years in spite of the fact. He won two pennants and a World Series as Cardinals GM and has made a series of moves that have given the Cardinals a great pay-off in the long-term and short-term. He does have his faults, and I think he deserves some measure of responsibility for the fragile, top-heavy nature of the team's roster as it is, but really, I can't imagine how the Cardinals will be better off without him.
It seems to me that when you have issues like this or issues with control and power, you have to try to solve these problems before you're forced to fire one of the game's best GMs. Bill DeWitt and the Cardinals never should have let things get where they are, not to the point where they lost Jocketty. While there are a lot of people who deserve credit for the great run of success in St. Louis since 1996, Walt Jocketty is right at the top of the list. Where would the Cardinals franchise be without Mark McGwire, acquired by Jocketty for a song in 1997, a year before he single-handedly revitalized St. Louis baseball? Where would they be without Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, stolen from the Angels and Phillies, respectively, without having to give up much at all? And what about Chris Carpenter, who Jocketty signed in spite of his arm problems and whose faith in him was justified with a Cy Young Award, and quite possibly more to come. And I couldn't forget about Albert Pujols. While the Cards' farm system has been pretty dismal for the past ten years, their one success has been pretty good, as far as successes go.
Really, there's no excuse for this. Statheads and scouts both can agree that Jocketty was one of the best at what he did, and while we can certainly quibble with some of his moves and personal quirks, it's hard to argue that he deserved to be fired. The fact that Bill DeWitt was either unable or unwilling to resolve this inter-office dispute with Jocketty before it resulted in his dismissal isn't just a personal black eye for DeWitt, it's severely damaged his team's ability to field a contender, and that's the most important thing.

Oh yeah, and as if that weren't enough, it seems likely now that Tony LaRussa, a Jocketty supporter, will almost certainly be leaving St. Louis. The long-term prospects of the Cardinals without Jocketty/LaRussa are significantly worse than they would be if those two remained. It's possible that the team will be able to find somewhat suitable replacements for two of the best in their field, but they shouldn't have to. If the Cardinals' organization falls off over the next five or ten years, you can really put the goat horns on Bill DeWitt and whomever else thought that the team would be better off without Walt Jocketty. Amen, Keith.

And if you're a team that's in the market for a manager and/or GM, you might want to send DeWitt a thank-you note.


The Cubs have been retired in the 8th, so now they've just got one more at-bat to score 4 runs. The world won't end if they lose this game, but it will be pretty close. I'm just glad Harry's not around to see this . . .

(Trivia Answer: Tampa Bay and Texas. The D-Rays have never made it to the postseason, and the Rangers have only made it 3 times in their 47-season existence: 1996, 1998, and 1999. They played in three division series against the Yankees and lost them all. We need to think of a snappy name for a curse of the New Washington Senators or something, because the awful record of the Senators/Rangers -- especially in the postseason -- is starting to stick out now that all the other curses are getting broken.)

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