Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The waiting continues

We may know for certain the name of the president-elect before we know who will hold the title of general manager for the Twins.

Derek Falvey, of course, has been named the chief baseball officer. The new GM will be under Falvey. And other than a report that interim general manager Rob Antony will not get that job, there has been little reported about it.

Which, I suppose, makes sense. We're working our way down food chains here. Whoever is general manager of the Twins will not have the authority that Terry Ryan had, even if he has the title. And I don't know that anybody other than Falvey and maybe Jim Pohlad/Dave St. Peter knows what responsibilities the job will entail.

But it figures to be an important job. Nobody can do everything; Falvey's got to delegate, as did Ryan. The titles -- general manager, assistant general manager vs. chief baseball officer, general manager -- are less important than the quality of the decisions, and the quality of the decisions depends on the ability of the decision makers of process the flood of information available to front office today. 

When the World Series is over and Falvey finally can officially take the helm, naming his No. 2 is likely to be Job 1.

Monday, October 24, 2016

On to the World Series

You already know that this World Series pits the two longest title droughts in baseball against each other. Cleveland last won baseball's championship in 1948, the Cubs in 1908.

It also -- and this doesn't happen often in this era of wild cards and multi-level playoffs -- pits the best teams from each league. (True, Cleveland didn't have the best record in the American League, but the Texas Rangers' record benefited from the unbalanced schedule and the soft AL West.)

The Cubs for a while this season looked like they could be an historic team. But they had a relatively soft June and wound up with "only" 103 wins, not the 110 or so that seemed possible in the first two months of the season.

And they are, pretty clearly, the better team of the two. Which doesn't mean they'll win. Weaker teams regularly win short series in baseball.

And there's an obvious path for the Tribe to take this series, the same path they took past the Red Sox and the Blue Jays in the first two rounds: Get the lead in the early innings and rely on that marvelous bullpen.

I didn't think Terry Francona had enough healthy, effective starters to get to the bullpen in the ALDS or ALCS; I was wrong, I don't think he has enough healthy, effective starters to get to the bullpen in this series either; I may be wrong.

I'm picking the Cubs, And, as often happens, I'm rooting the other direction.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Pic of the Week

Troy Tulowitzki flings his bat away after making the
final out of Game 5 of the ALCS.
There was a famous bat toss by a Toronto Blue Jay last year in a moment of triumph.

This one isn't (and shouldn't be) nearly as famous, but it makes an interesting counterpoint to Jose Bautista's fling.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Don't go there

There appears to be a push on to have Charlie Sheen throw out a first pitch at a World Series game in Cleveland this year. His connection to Cleveland, of course, is a work of fiction: He played an Indians pitcher in the "Major League" movies.

Which would seem to suggest that there is no real person from the Cleveland area worthy of the honor. I'm no expert on Cleveland, but a city of that size has to have thousands of people who would carry more dignity and honor onto the playing field than that contemptible clown.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A pre-emptive comment on Bartman

The Chicago Cubs now have a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. The last time they were this close to the World Series was 2003, and the popular shorthand for what happened is "Bartman."

Which is enough sewage to clog a waste treatment plant.

Fox and ESPN being ESPN and Fox, we will be inundated with the Steve Bartman story now. Let it be said right here, right now: Steve Bartman, wherever he is now and under whatever name, did nothing wrong in 2003. He was just a fan reaching for a ball that was in the seating area. Moises Alou had no more chance to catch that ball than I did sitting in Mankato.

The Cubs lost that game and that series because they made too many mistakes. The Cubs deserved, in a karmic sense, to lose that game and that series because the Cubs of that era and that managment -- Jim Hendry as general manager, Dusty Baker as manager -- acceptted no responsibility for anything that went wrong. For some reason, the national broadcasters went along with it. And the local broadcasters? Well, Steve Stone got fired for speaking truth about the Cubs.

It's a different owner, different front office, different manager, different players. But the Cubs have not earned their way back into my esteem, not that my esteem matters to them or anybody else. And if they play along with the Bartman nonsense, they never will.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Strictly on Merritt

The Cleveland Indians did what I didn't think they could: They beat the Toronto Blue Jays in a LCS without their second and third best starting pitchers (Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar). They beat the Jays while getting less than an inning from their No. 4 starter, Trevor Bauer.

And kudos to Terry Francona, who probably cemented his Cooperstown credentials with his bullpen mastery in this series. The Jays have a lineup stacked with power, and the Tribe shut them down even when they had to resort to a rookie lefty with one major league start on his resume. Ryan Merritt was pitching in instructional league when the Indians hurriedly added him to the roster for the LCS after learning of Bauer's injury.

If, as is speculated, Salazar will be ready to work in the World Series, Merritt probably won't be on the Series roster. He may not be anyway. Francona didn't let him work deep enough Wednesday night to get credit for the win -- 4.1 innings -- but Merritt should be a piece of Cleveland legend for years to come anyway.

I'm sure that Francona wouldn't have been nearly so quick with the hook in a regular season game. But this wasn't regular season, and he took advantage of the opportunity to close out the Jays and move on to the World Series.

Both metro papers this week carried stories on a theme I wrote soon after Derek Falvey was identified as the next baseball ops boss of the Twins, to take the position after the Indians were done with the postseason: Decisions have to be made in October, and not having Falvey on board is something of an impediment.

As I watched Merritt carve up the Toronto lineup with a mediocre fastball, I wondered: How much credit does Falvey deserve for the effectiveness of the Indians pitching? A major part of his duties as assistant general manager in Cleveland is reportedly pitching preparation. Merritt had to make the pitches, and somebody, probably catcher Roberto Perez, called the individual pitches, but Falvey is apparently key in drawing up the plan.

Then the followup question: Even if he does a brilliant job at that, how does that translate into moving into the big job? What he does now, no matter how well, is not what he's going to be doing in Minnesota. I'm not saying he can't succeed as the boss. I do raise the possibility of the Peter Principle (people rise to the level of their incompetence) coming into play.

In Cleveland, Falvey did certain jobs, and presumably did them very well, In Minnesota, he has to find and hire people to do those jobs. There's a difference,

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The first (player) move of the offseason

With or without Derek Falvey on board, with or without an announcement, the Twins made some moves:

No surprises there, really, not even Tommy Milone, who Berardino later tweeted will declare himself a free agent rather than accept the assignment to Triple A Rochester. The veteran cleared waivers during the season, which suggests that trade interest in him was nil; he spent September in the Twins bullpen; and he's arbitration eligible.

So the Twins officially now have 35 players on their 40-man roster, but there are three players who have to be brought off the 60-day disabled list and restored to the 40 -- Phil Hughes, Glen Perkins and Danny Santana. And Kurt Suzuki, free-agent to be, technically remains on the roster until after the World Series. So realistically, the Twins now have three open roster slots.

It's a good bet there are more minor leaguers they want to protect than that, so there will be more deletions to come. These were the most obvious ones.