Two weeks ago in this very column I predicted which teams would be the winners and which the losers. Those predictions did come with some restrictions that might apply. I also stated, quite emphatically, that I don’t bet on baseball, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend any bets be placed based on my words (even if, in the words of Pete Rose, I were a betting man.) Turns out I was right on the money… about not betting on my predictions.
That’s why they actually play the games. That’s why the best can be beaten by the worst at a drop of the hat and no logic can explain it.
As you may or may not recall, I predicted that the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves would make the playoffs. I also predicted that the Philadelphia Phillies much vaunted and admired starting four would ensure the Phillies not only went to the World Series, but would defeat the New York Yankees.
Oops. Double and even quadruple oops.
So what the heck happened? How did the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red sox manage to accomplish the biggest freefall in major league baseball history? How did the Detroit Tigers defeat the New York Yankees? How did St. Louis defeat Philadelphia?
I can only imagine the media feeding frenzy in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. I haven’t read any of the “analysis” from those media centers but I am certain that everyone from the stars of the team to the water boy has been blamed.
To this point, the proverbial scythe has lopped off the head of Boston manager Terry Francona, is threatening to do the same for Boston GM Theo Epstein and New York GM Brian Cashman , and there will be the inevitable questions for Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi. In these cities, making the playoffs , especially not making the playoffs, is never enough, only winning the World Series will get it done.
The rumors in Boston point to an undisciplined clubhouse and Francona losing control of several veteran players, players he was counting on to right the ship before it was too late. Veterans more concerned with their paycheck and when the next tee off time was than winning a ballgame. Veterans who seemingly didn’t care enough about winning and playing as a team. No one knows for sure if Francona left or was fired. He graciously alluded to the fact that he didn’t get the job done and made too many mistakes. But he’s a corporate kind of guy with a loyalty not often seen in the world of sports.
The criticism in Atlanta seems to be focused on the overuse of the bullpen. They couldn’t hold a couple of leads late in games over the final weekend. They couldn’t overcome the injuries to the starting staff. Maybe Fredi Gonzalez was too laid back. Rumors persist that Bobby Cox would never have allowed this to happen and Gonzalez was too laid back. Someone needed to light a fire under this team. Apparently, no one did. Apparently Jason Heyward having a horrible sophomore season and Chipper Jones being hurt off and on had nothing to do with it.
I was somewhat correct in my prediction that no team could beat the Phillies starting four more than once. I got that one right if one wants to get technical about it. No Phillies starter lost more than once. Unfortunately, no Phillies starter won more than once either. Halladay let game one get away early but settled down and his team came back and won it for him. Halladay allowed only one first inning run in game five, yet lost the game. The other starters pitched well, just not well enough to win. The St. Louis Cardinal offense was relentless and no one could get Albert Pujols out. A different Cardinal beat Philadelphia in each game. Philadelphia couldn’t hit and couldn’t hit especially when the game was on the line.
So you ask, what am I predicting for the Championship series? Well, not the Phillies or the Yankees and that one I would bet on. So there.
“Baseball Present” is a column that Doug Bird contributes every Sunday that looks at the current state of the game.