Tagged: World Series

2018 World Series Champions: The Boston Red Sox…

Equates to VICTORY for Julia, not me…

I am writing this as a result of a lost bet with a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan named Julia (@werbiefitz). During the recent World Series, I took the side of my favorite National League team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Julia stayed with the team she has stood with since her childhood, the Boston Red Sox. The loser of the bet (which turned out to be me) was forced to read a book chosen by the winner. Upon completion of reading the book, the loser was required to write an essay about the ten things they learned from the book. Not a book review, that wasn’t really the point of the exercise, but rather how did the book affect you.

The Red Sox won the 2018 World Series in five games to cap an incredible season which saw the team win a franchise high 108 games during the regular season. It represented the fourth World Series Championship for Julia since the Curse of the Bambino was broken in 2004. For me, it was a tough post-season. My favorite team, the New York Yankees, won 100 games but were eliminated in the ALDS by the Red Sox. Then, my favorite NL team gave me second life. A renewed opportunity to take down the mighty Red Sox. It was not meant to be and I suffered two heart-breaking series losses to Boston in the same October. Victory to Julia, and some book reading and an essay for me. I also had to change my FaceBook cover photo to one showing the Red Sox celebration for one week upon conclusion of the World Series.

The book Julia chose for me was Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant. At first glance, it would be easy to find the negatives in the book about the city of Boston and the Red Sox franchise, but admittedly, I found this a story of redemption.

I was shocked almost from the start when I found out the Red Sox had the first opportunity in Major League Baseball to sign the great Jackie Robinson on April 16, 1945 but passed due in large part to racism that existed within the fabric of the franchise. I didn’t know former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey but I do know that he hired his drinking buddies to hold key executive positions within the franchise and their racist beliefs prevented potential Red Sox teams that could have featured Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Ted Williams in the same lineup. It’s scary to think what the trio would have been capable of together. They certainly would have had a say in the great Yankees Dynasty of the 1950’s.

I qualify this book as focused on the Red Sox but to believe that racism did not occur within the halls of other MLB organizations, including the New York Yankees, would be very wrong. Even the Dodgers organization, as the first team to feature a black player on its roster in 1947, was later marred by the racist words of their former General Manager, Al Campanis, who was fired in 1987.  The book briefly mentioned Elston Howard, who was the first and sadly only black player on the Yankee rosters for years during the 1950’s. Howard later played for the Red Sox.

Tom Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1933. Yawkey had admired Eddie Collins, a former second baseman with the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox, and appointed him as the team’s vice president and general manager when he took over control of the team. Collins had been with the White Sox during the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 when they threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds but Collins had been cleared of any wrongdoing. In 1935, Yawkey traded for Washington Nationals shortstop Joe Cronin, developing close friendships with both Collins and Cronin. From basically 1933 through 1958, Collins and/or Cronin controlled all player movement within the Red Sox organization. With these two men, I believe, Yawkey tarnished his legacy. Whether he was racist or not is not really the point, he allowed racism to exist to the detriment of the city and the franchise and that makes him responsible.

After passing on Jackie Robinson in 1945, the Red Sox had a unique opportunity to sign Willie Mays four years later due to an exclusive lease arrangement that existed between a Red Sox affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, and the Negro League’s Black Barons. Cronin, by that time the GM for the Red Sox, had been tipped off about the incredible talents of the 18-year-old Mays and he sent a reluctant and racist scout to Alabama to watch Mays. According to stories, it rained for three days and the scout sent the Red Sox front office a negative review, perhaps without ever laying eyes on the legendary Say Hey Kid. It was another missed opportunity for the Red Sox, although I am sure the New York/San Francisco Giants didn’t mind.

The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to add a black player to its roster. While the rest of the Major League teams were slowly starting to integrate, it would take the Red Sox over a decade before they would finally add a person of color to their team. Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, Jr. was born in Richmond, CA (East Bay near Oakland) in 1935. His brother, Cornell, someone I’ve been aware of since my childhood, was a star defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys. However, I never knew who Pumpsie Green was until reading the book. Fighting through racism within the organization and at the team’s training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, Green believed that he was going to open the 1959 season as the first black player for the Red Sox. At the eleventh hour, one of the noted racists within the Red Sox organization, manager Mike “Pinky” Higgins demoted Green to the minor leagues. Fortunately, it would prove to be a temporary decision. Higgins was fired 73 games into the ’59 season and replaced by Bill Jurges.  By that time, Eddie Collins was dead and Joe Cronin had left the Red Sox to become President of the American League. Green finally got the call to join the Red Sox later during the summer and on July 21, 1959, Pumpsie became the first African American player to take the field for the Red Sox when he was inserted as a pinch-runner for Vic Wertz and stayed in the game to play shortstop in Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. After the game, Green wept in the clubhouse. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions he must have felt that day.

On a side note about Pumpsie Green, Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams routinely warmed up with Green before games. It became a superstition for Ted but for Pumpsie, he remembered Williams as one of few who treated him both as a ballplayer and a man. I personally haven’t followed Red Sox history, but the way Williams approached Green gives me newfound respect for the Hall of Famer.

Pitcher Earl Wilson might have been the first African American player for the Red Sox if not for a two-year military commitment. Originally drafted as a catcher, Wilson blossomed as a hard-throwing pitcher and roomed with Pumpsie Green for a time. But for Wilson, the Red Sox years were hard ones. After the ’59 season was over, Tom Yawkey fired Billy Jurges and restored the racist Pinky Higgins as manager. As their careers moved into the early 1960’s, Green’s career was quietly coming to a close (the lack of consistent playing time prevented him from realizing his potential) while Wilson was becoming more prominent. In 1962, Wilson (12-8, 3.90 ERA) threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels.

When Yawkey fired Higgins as manager in 1962, Wilson felt Yawkey was finally opening his eyes to what a divisive man Higgins had been. Unfortunately, Yawkey surprised everyone by making Higgins his general manager.  Higgins was the GM in June 1965 when the Red Sox traded Earl Wilson to the Detroit Tigers along with Joe Christopher for Don Demeter and Julio Navarro. Wilson won 22 games for the 1967 Tigers, although the Tigers finished a game behind The Impossible Dream Red Sox that year, and he accumulated 338 victories overall for his career. Although Wilson lost Game 3 of the Series, he celebrated a World Series Championship with the Tigers in 1968. It’s sad that a pitcher primed for tremendous MLB success in Boston saw his greatest days in Detroit.

In a twist of irony, Tom Yawkey fired Pinky Higgins as GM on September 16, 1965, the same day Red Sox pitcher Dave Morehead tossed a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. After his firing, while in Louisiana, Higgins drove his car into a group of black highway workers. He killed one man, a white World War II veteran and injured three others. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and sentenced to four years. However, he was paroled after serving only two months in 1969. But just two days after his release, Higgins dropped dead from a heart attack. As Earl Wilson would say while in Detroit when asked to comment on his former manager, “Good things happen to some people”.

I was appalled to learn that The Elks Club, as recently as the 1980’s, condoned racism. The Elks Club in Winter Haven, FL, the site of Red Sox spring training at the time would issue invitations to white players, but not the blacks. Growing up in the Midwest in the 70’s, my step father was an active member of The Elks Club and served as the Exalted Ruler for the local chapter in my hometown in 1978. I was unaware the organization condoned racism and I am deeply saddened to have been connected to such a pitiful organization. I may have been a kid but I feel a responsibility that I should have known better. I only hope that my step-father’s chapter did not practice racism like the Winter Haven chapter did. My mother and step-father have passed away so it is not a discussion I can have with them.

To back up a little, I vividly recall when Jim Rice and Fred Lynn burst onto the Major League scene for Boston in the mid-70’s. They were great players from the start.  Living far away in the Midwest, I didn’t see how the players were treated differently in their own city. Jim Rice, backed by his superior talent, had the power to be a major voice for the black community but it wasn’t his personality.  He was introspective and to the media, he was unfriendly and considered sullen. I know Rice has gotten into tiffs with Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia over the years for whatever reasons, but I am not trying to indict the man. He was an incredible ball player. In a career spent entirely in Boston, Rice hit 382 home runs and drove in 1,451 runs. His career batting average was a healthy .298 and he had 2,452 hits in a career that spanned from 1974 to 1989. He was an eight-time All Star, AL MVP in the Bucky “F**king” Dent year of 1978, a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, three-time AL home run leader, and two-time AL RBI leader. Yet, his number (14) was not retired by the Red Sox until two days after his Hall of Fame induction in July 2009. No one wore the number after his retirement but still, Rice is among the Red Sox Legends and deserved better treatment. Rice was charitable and a humanitarian. I think he is misunderstood because of his personality and I’d like to think he could have done more to help pave the way for black players in Boston, but there is no denying the man was one of the best in the history of the Red Sox to pick up a glove, bat and ball.  Noted baseball columnist Peter Gammons believed history would have been significantly different had Rice taken an active role in voicing his thoughts about the climate and culture of the Red Sox organization. To Rice’s defense, I’ll use this quote from the book’s author: “Had Rice been white, he would have been lauded as a modern-day Gil Hodges: strong, silent, important. Being black, though, meant Rice was moody, arrogant and distant.”  These words prove to me that I have absolutely no idea what it was like to walk in Jim Rice’s shoes.

The next great superstar in the Red Sox organization was slugger Mo Vaughn. He was drafted in Rice’s last year in 1989. For an organization that had featured so many outsiders over the years, Vaughn was a New Englander. He was from Norwalk, CT and had frequently visited Boston while growing up.  He was hailed as the first local Red Sox star since Carlton Fisk. As a Yankees fan, I despised Vaughn coming to the plate, much like how I’d later feel about David “Big Papi” Ortiz or more recently, Mookie Betts. These men knew/know how to use Fenway Park to their full advantage.

Vaughn was the AL Most Valuable Player in 1995.  The city of Boston accepted Vaughn as their own and he was able to transcend the issue of race in his city.  Vaughn loved the city of Boston and wanted to spend his entire career there. The GM at the time, Dan Duquette, brought an era of diversity to the Red Sox. He corrected many of the wrongs committed by previous regimes and reconnected with former black players like Tommy Harper, Dave Henderson, Reggie Smith, and Jim Rice. But for all his positives, Duquette had his faults. He had a reputation of being difficult to work with and he frustrated those who worked for him. The relationship between Duquette and Vaughn became irreparable in 1998 when Vaughn was led to believe that he would be offered four-year contract for approximately $42 million (Peter Gammons believed they had reached agreement). Yet, when the offer came, it was only two years for $17 million. Using the media, the Red Sox orchestrated a smear campaign on the popular Vaughn. Vaughn had put together six monster years for the Red Sox, but on November 25, 1998 as a free agent, he left the team to sign a six-year, $80 million contract with the Anaheim Angels. It was a sad day for Boston and for Baseball in general. Vaughn was not a So-Cal kind of guy. He was a New Englander who should have called Fenway Park home for his entire career. I certainly do not feel that Dan Duquette is a racist but this might have been one of the saddest stories while reading the book.

On February 22, 2002, the legacy of Tom Yawkey was ended when John Harrington sold the club to an ownership group led by John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. It brought much needed closure for the Yawkey Era, and it set the Red Sox on a path that has yielded four World Series championships in fourteen years. Before reading the book, I am not sure that I fully understood the huge impact John Henry has had on the Red Sox organization and how he has, through actions and not just words, rebranded the Red Sox organization into an exemplary model of professionalism and class. Well, maybe not for Yankee fans like me, but the current ownership group should be applauded for making a difference.

As Julia pointed out to me, while the history of the Red Sox organization wasn’t always pretty, the other Boston sports franchises were ground-breakers with integration. Willie O’Ree is referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey” (the first black player in the NHL). He made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958. Chuck Cooper became the first black player drafted in the NBA when he was selected with the first pick in the second round of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. Legendary Celtics coach/executive Red Auerbach put together the NBA’s first all-black starting five in 1964. In the inaugural American Football League draft in 1960, the Boston Patriots selected running back Ron Burton in the first round as their first-ever pick. Rommie Loudd became the AFL’s first black coach when he was named linebackers coach for the Patriots in 1966. Loudd later became the first black top executive in major league sports as the owner of the World Football League’s Florida Blazers in 1974.

There is so much more to the book than I’ve touched on with this short essay. Racism continues to be a big part of our everyday life in 2018 and it must stop. We’ve made some progress, but we are not where we need to be. We live in a current climate of hatred and blame which allows racism to survive. If I have one wish, it is a hope and prayer I live to see the end of racism as we know it. Even this week, there were reports out of the Seattle Mariners organization that their former Director of High Performance, Dr. Lorena Martin, has made allegations of derogatory comments made by GM Jerry DiPoto, Manager Scott Servais, and Director of Player Development Andy McKay with racial and sexist overtones. Maybe it is a case of a disgruntled former employee, but maybe it is not. Where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire. If true, this is unacceptable behavior that cannot be tolerated. I think all of us want a better tomorrow for our children and their children. The work to make it happen starts here.  No looking back, the focus should be on now and the future, and how we can help each other be successful and live meaningful, rewarding lives.  As they say, none of us are getting out of here alive.  We should live these days to the best of our ability and to share love and happiness around the World.

That’s a wrap. While I wish that I had won the bet with Julia, I learned a great deal from the book and hopefully I can be a better person as a result. Enjoy your World Series championship, Julia. Your team earned it. But rest assured, the New York Yankees will be back, stronger than ever in 2019.  Until next time…

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World Series: Dodgers vs Red Sox…

LA wins NLCS to advance to Fall Classic…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite National League team and now they represent my final hope for ending Boston’s season without a championship. The Yankees couldn’t stop the Red Sox and neither could the defending Champion Houston Astros. I wasn’t too confident heading into Game 7 of the NLCS, especially with the game being played in Milwaukee, but the Dodgers showed the resiliency they’ve had all season to win the game in convincing fashion and propel themselves into the World Series for the second consecutive year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Nothing against the Milwaukee Brewers. I think they’re a fine baseball team and I have much respect for former Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and former Yankees Erik Kratz and Curtis Granderson, but as a Minnesota Vikings fan, the thought of a World Series between the fan bases for both the Red Sox and Green Bay Packers was a bit too much for me. I am glad the Dodgers bailed me out. I guess I should also thank former Yankee Clay Bellinger and his wife for giving birth to Cody and setting the stage for young Bellinger’s go-ahead two-run homer last night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Stacy Revere)

I wish the Dodgers had a more formidable bullpen outside of closer Kenley Jansen but the Red Sox proved you don’t need a great bullpen to make it to the World Series. I doubt we’ll see Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw closing out games in the World Series like he did Game 7 of the NLCS. But down the stretch, the Dodgers pen performed about as well as you could so I think I’ll take my chances with Dodger Blue over the course of the next four to seven games. The Dodgers have the bats to get into Boston’s bullpen and I think that will finally be the Achilles Heel for the Red Sox.

It will be fun to see Manny Machado back in Boston. Like Manny’s response last night while celebrating when asked if the win was sweet after the boos from the crowd. He said “what do you think?” and took a swig of champagne. Perfect! There is no love lost between Machado and the Red Sox from his days in Baltimore, and I am sure much will be written in the coming days about his villainess in the city. No doubt the boo birds will show up in full force on Tuesday night. I’d love to see Machado to emerge as one of the heroes of this World Series. It makes a nice segue for his future as a Yankee.

As previously written on this blog, I have finalized the wager with my long-time friend, Boston-area native/resident and die-hard Red Sox fan, Julia (@werbiefitz on Twitter). We have had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and Red Sox. It was not meant to be (for me) this year so I am jumping on the Dodgers bandwagon for the latest wager. Well, it’s not really ‘bandwagon jumping’ since the Dodgers have long been my NL team and that wouldn’t have changed even if they had lost 115 games this year like the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are still my primary team, but for the rest of October, I am bleeding Dodger Blue.

For our wager, the loser must change her (okay, his/her) cover photo on FaceBook to a picture of the winning team celebrating their World Series championship for seven days at the conclusion of the 2018 World Series. The loser must also read a book chosen by the winner, and then post a minimum 500-word essay about the ten things they learned reading the book. Not a book review, but rather information that he/she did not previously know about the winning organization. The essay must then be posted on Social Media for all to see.

For Julia, since the Dodgers are going to win, I’ve chosen Brothers in Arms:  Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman.

Should I lose, which is obviously not going to happen, Julia has chosen Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant.

We’ve had fun with these wagers over the years. I’ve had to take pics of myself wearing Red Sox hats, including a pink one, and Julia, a Red Sox fan from birth, has had to wear a Yankee hat…in public…in Boston. Since I don’t live in the New York City area, I’ve been fortunate I haven’t had to wear a Red Sox cap in the Bronx, but I am sure it is inevitable if we keep up these wagers.

Game On, Julia! I am ready. My beloved Yankees may not have been able to take down the Red Sox this year, but I get a second chance with the Dodgers. 2018 has been a year of resiliency for the Dodgers who were once ten games below .500 (16-26) during the regular season.  They’ve battled back a few times, with their backs to the wall, and have always prevailed. They may have lost the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros but this is a year of redemption. You’ll always have your 108 regular season wins, but sorry, my friend, your season will end on a down note. You may want to go ahead and buy the book in advance so that you are ready to start reading.

My prediction:  Dodgers in Six (with hat tip to former Yankees and Dodgers manager Joe Torre).

My apologies, I now return you to Yankees Baseball…

After celebrating Mickey Mantle’s birthday yesterday, today’s “Birthday Boy” is alive and well at age 90.  Happy Birthday to the Chairman of the Board, Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford!

Whitey was born on October 21, 1928 in New York City. A lifetime Yankee, Whitey pitched for the Pinstripers in 1950, served two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (thank you for your service!), and resumed his career in the Bronx from 1953 through 1967. Ford was 236-106, 2.75 ERA, and had 1,956 strikeouts for the Yankees. He was a ten-time MLB All-Star and he won six World Series championships. In 1961, he was the AL Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP. Andy Pettitte may have surpassed Ford for most wins by a lefty in franchise history if not for Andy’s three years in Houston. Pettitte, who won 256 games overall, finished 17 wins behind Ford while wearing the famed Pinstripes. It is very appropriate for Ford to remain at the top of the list, closely followed by Pettitte, another former Yankee I hold in very high regard.

I get excited to see Whitey Ford every year on Old Timer’s Day. His health is in decay (I know, it happens to the best of us) and there will be a day when he is no longer able to take part in the Yankee Stadium festivities. Like Mantle, he was a great, great Yankee, and perhaps the greatest living one. I am so proud he is among the greatest of Yankee Legends.

I’ve seen a few Yankee fans say the team should sign Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, and Nathan Eovaldi for the starting rotation next year. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote this morning in his Sunday Baseball Notes that Eovaldi, currently part of Boston’s World Series roster, should command a deal comparable to the one that Alex Cobb signed late last off-season with the Baltimore Orioles (4 years at $57 million). If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin and retaining Happ, that’s probably too much for the Yankees to sign Eovaldi as well, especially with young guys like Justus Sheffield, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu and Domingo German waiting in the wings. If the Yanks lose out on Happ, I’d have no problem with an Eovaldi reunion but I am not really expecting it to happen.

As for Corbin, Cafardo notes the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Atlanta Braves will also be vying for his services. Here’s hoping “blood” is thicker than water. Assuming all dollars are fairly equal, I hope Corbin chooses his Yankee family roots. While Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado would be nice free agent signings (or in the words of TGP’s Daniel Burch, “luxuries”), Corbin is clearly the one I want and the one the team needs. Patrick, we’re waiting for ya, bud! Come join the Party in the Bronx! We will be spilling champagne in 2019!

After previously withdrawing his name from consideration for the managerial gig with the Cincinnati Reds, Joe Girardi has withdrawn his name from consideration in Texas for the Rangers job. I am a little surprised but I have always felt Girardi’s dream job is with the Chicago Cubs. I can’t see Joe Maddon staying with the Cubs too many more years so maybe that’s what Girardi is waiting for. Who knows. Maybe he is starting to understand the reasons he is no longer Yankees manager. As for the Reds, they’ll name David Bell as their new manager on Monday. Bell, like Yankees manager Aaron Boone, comes from a baseball family.  His grandfather, Gus, and his father, Buddy, were both Major Leaguers. Boonie is creating a new trend…analytics AND baseball in the blood.

Lastly, a shout out to Didi Gregorius! He was sharing his million-dollar smile last night at the Knicks game. It didn’t help the Knicks win (they lost by two to Boston) but the pic put a smile on my face. It was a reality check to see his heavily wrapped elbow but the dude can light up any room with his effervescent personality. I can’t wait to see him back on the playing field, starting at shortstop, next summer.

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Birthday to Mickey Mantle!…

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yankees Legend would have turned 87 today…

Mickey Mantle was born October 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, a town with a population of 437 (according to 2010 census) in Northeast OK. He died August 13, 1995 in Dallas, Texas at the age of 63. Mickey was taken from us too soon but he’ll never be forgotten. I remember following the news of his liver cancer and other ailments, subsequent transplant, and finally his death, and even attended his funeral in Dallas. My earliest memories of Mantle were late in his career so I didn’t get to see the great Yankees Legend at his best but you didn’t have to be there to know that he was one of the finest Yankees in the history of the organization. He had his faults, but that’s true of us all. Mantle, the  baseball player, was one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

A funny thing happened to the Los Angeles Dodgers on their way to the World Series. I’ll have to give Game 6 of the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers and especially their fans for getting inside the heads of the Dodgers and Manny Machado. Many on Social Media were referring to the fans as the Milwaukee Booers and there’s no doubt it played a huge role. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers rebound today for their final chance to win a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to play the Red Sox starting Tuesday night. If the Dodgers lose, I am finished with baseball for 2018 as I have no interest in Brewers/Red Sox even if there are a few former Yankees involved.

I was surprised to see Joe Girardi remove his name from consideration for the Cincinnati Reds managerial vacancy. Girardi apparently had been a frontrunner for the job, in competition with former Detroit Tigers manager, current Los Angeles Angels special assistant and one-time Yankees prospect Brad Ausmus and David Bell, currently VP/Player Development for the San Francisco Giants. I wonder if Girardi has a preference for the American League or if he wants to hold out for a Chicago job should one of the jobs open within the next year or so. Girardi is apparently still under consideration for the job with the Texas Rangers. With no offense to Cincinnatians, I know that I’d prefer to call Dallas/Fort Worth home but that’s me. For now, Girardi will continue his work with The MLB Network. Regardless of what he does, I suspect he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

I know the Yankees don’t need a superstar at every position. Erik Kratz is proving that you can be one game away from the World Series with a marginal catcher. But the more I think about it, why wouldn’t you want to drop Bryce Harper in the Yankees lineup between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton? I know, money. But I am confident money is not an issue for the Yankees organization. Sure, I believe you don’t need to spend $200 million to win a World Series, but I also believe in putting the best players on the field. TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen made a great correlation earlier this year about how success = money for those who think Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t want to spend money. I don’t just want to beat the Boston Red Sox next year, I want to crush them.  Having Judge-Harper-Stanton in the heart of the Yankees order, with so many great bats elsewhere in the lineup would truly be the modern Murderer’s Row. Harper can’t pitch, it’s true, but I fully expect the Yankees to bring in reinforcements to help Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka in the starting rotation regardless of any run for Harper.

The Yankees are apparently going to buy back controlling interest in the YES Network according to reports. The Yankees sold 80% of the network, retaining 20%, in separate deals completed in 2014 to 21st Century Fox.  The YES Network, at the time, was valued at $3.8 billion. If the Yankees have the money to buy back the YES Network, they have the money to sign Bryce Harper. Another superstar for YES Network subscribers? Makes sense to me. Remember, Success = Money.

Photo Credit:  New York Daily News Illustration

If the Yankees were headed for the World Series, non-Yankee fans would be in an uproar about how they are the best team money can buy, yet nobody is saying a word about the nearly $240 million payroll-bloated Red Sox.

After a lost season for Yankees prospect Thairo Estrada (he was shot in the hip during a robbery attempt in Venezuela in late January, missed Spring Training, and then was lost for the season in June due to the hip and a back injury), it’s good to see his participation in the Arizona Fall League. The numbers aren’t there (4-for-25, with no extra base hits and a lone RBI) but at least he’s back on the playing field. Here’s hoping 2019 will be much more productive for the talented shortstop. He still has the bullet lodged in his hip but hopefully he is back stronger than ever next year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Didi Gregorius.  As most of us know, he had successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Wednesday morning in Manhattan. At this point, we don’t know when we’ll see Sir Didi again as some reports say he may be out until August, but I wish him much success and a quick return to good health with his post-surgery rehabilitation. I really hope the Yankees move to lock up Didi long-term and don’t allow the surgery, and subsequent lost time, as a reason to non-tender the player. I’d prefer to see the Yankees find shortstop alternatives to hold them over until Didi’s return, keeping Gleyber Torres at second, rather than moving Torres back to his natural shortstop position and bringing in a name second baseman like Joe Panik or D.J. LeMahieu. I love having Didi Gregorius as this team’s shortstop and I don’t want that to change anytime soon. Get well, Didi!

I am anxious to get the playoffs and World Series over so that we can begin the Hot Stove League season. I am excited to see what presents Santa Cashman has in store for us this year. Fans of the Red Sox, Brewers and Dodgers may think differently, but I am ready to begin building the 2019 New York Yankees and starting their run for the Championship. Pinstripes for you, Pinstripes for everyone. Climb aboard the 2019 Victory Train!

Go Yankees!

Yet Another Unofficial World Series…

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees

Red Sox Advance to Fall Classic to Play Dodgers or Brewers…

Sadly, the Boston Red Sox are returning to the World Series. I was hopeful that the defending champion Houston Astros would end their season, but unfortunately, the Astros were a no-show. I still feel the Yankees and the Astros were the better teams, but for whatever reason(s), fate sided with Boston. The Red Sox, from April forward, have consistently found ways to win, en route to 108 victories over the course of the long season. They are not in the World Series by some fluke. Growing up as a kid with the Curse of the Bambino alive and well, it does kind of suck that the Red Sox have played in and have won more World Series than the Yankees this century.

Speaking of my childhood, I have never forgotten an illustrator for The Des Moines (Iowa) Register by the name of Frank Miller who used to say that it wasn’t an official World Series if the Yankees weren’t playing in it.  I know it’s something that I’ve mentioned on this site before, but I think about it every year so my apologies for the regression.

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I am already lining up a wager with a long-time friend and die-hard Red Sox fan. We’ve had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and the Red Sox, but this year, since the Yankees are home for the holidays, I am riding the Los Angeles Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Milwaukee Brewers, of course). If the Dodgers make it to the World Series, the bet is on. The loser must post a picture of the winning team’s celebration as their cover photo on Facebook for seven days following the World Series, and the loser must read a book about the winning organization (as selected by the winner) and write a 500-word essay about the ten things they learned about the winning organization they did not know before. The essay must be posted on Social Media.  For my friend, I have chosen Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman should the Dodgers win the World Series.

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My friend will choose a Red Sox book for me to read if Boston wins the World Series. Of course, if the Dodgers stumble in Milwaukee and end their season prematurely, the wager is moot. I have no interest in a Brewers-Red Sox World Series and my baseball season will be officially done.  I wanted to pick a Yankees book for my friend to read, but Boston beat the Yankees fair and square in the ALDS, proving that, for this year anyway, they are the better team. Dodgers, please do not let me down. You’re my last hope for bringing down the mighty Red Sox.

I know that Manny Machado has taken much heat over the past week for not hustling and dirty play but I have not wavered in my desire for the Yankees to sign him in free agency after the season. He remains a young, special and talented superstar player who will help any team that he plays for. He has a desire to play in New York and he can handle New York.  He’s hated in Boston which is perfectly fine by me. Nothing Machado has done has deterred my wish for seeing him in Pinstripes. If the Yankees go after Bryce Harper instead, that’s fine.  I’d be stoked to have Harper as a Yankee. If Cashman and Company decide neither player is worth the investment, then so be it. Clearly, the greatest need is finding help for the starting rotation and filling in the potential holes in the bullpen. If the Yankees do nothing in the off-season but focus on pitching, I’m fine with it. But regardless, I wanted to get it out there that I continue to support Manny Machado and he’ll continue to be one of my favorite players next season, no matter what uniform he is wearing. Well, if he signs with Boston, that might hurt.

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Photo Credit: AP (Matt Slocum)

I really wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Jacoby Ellsbury. I am dreading the thought of his presence at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL next Spring. I know, when healthy, he’s a decent player.  But his history has proven he cannot be relied upon. He may be healthy in March, but, no doubt, it will not be an injury-free year. The certainties of life…death, taxes, and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list. I am tired of the guy and I wish he’d resume his career elsewhere.

Has Sonny Gray been traded yet? Another player that I am anxiously awaiting to see place the word “former” in front of “Yankee”. I like the suggestions of Gray to Arizona in a package to get Arizona’s Robbie Ray or Paul Goldschmidt or to San Francisco for second baseman Joe Panik. I am sure that Gray will prosper in a less pressurized environment and I am confident GM Brian Cashman will get the best possible return despite Gray’s struggles in the Big Apple. Now if he could just do something about Ellsbury, too.

For those who say that Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez fits in with the Yankees, I agree. If the Yankees decide to pass on the big ticket purchases in free agency, I think Gonzalez could help this team. Or even if they do sign Machado or Harper, I think Gonzalez would be a good Yankee. I don’t like the Astros but I do like Marwin and his versatility. I know 2018 was a bit of a down year for him, or maybe it is his norm and 2017 was an unusual year, but either way, I like the character of the guy and the winning attitude he exudes. He certainly helps fill some holes with the ability to play first base, shortstop and left field.

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Photo Credit: AP (David J Phillip)

Here’s hoping the Dodgers take care of business tonight in Milwaukee. Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA in 15 regular season games), one of the Dodgers’ best starters down the stretch, gets the ball.  He’ll be opposed by the resurgent one-time Red Sock Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA). Miley lost 15 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season and now he’s charged with extending the post-season for the Brewers, probably throwing to former Yankee Erik Kratz. Life is funny. No offense to those guys, but I hope their season ends tonight. The Dodgers have a date with the Red Sox and I don’t want anything to mess it up.

Tonight (and possibly tomorrow), it’s Go Dodgers.

But as always (and a lot more), Go Yankees!

The Year of Pinstripes & Champagne…

Welcome to the New Year, Yankees Family!

2017 and falling one game short of the World Series is a distant memory. We’ve turned the page, and it is time to look onward and upward. To each of you, I wish a most joyous and highly successful New Year, both personally and professionally, and it’s one, for all os us, that I hope consummates in the 28th World Championship for the New York Yankees.

Credit:  Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images

As we head into the New Year, I am not quite sure why the Yu Darvish rumors persist. I don’t have anything against Darvish. I’ve long liked the pitcher, but I don’t see how he fits. The Yankees may like Darvish but it doesn’t mean that they should sign him. Earlier in the off-season, MLB Trade Rumors projected the next Darvish contract at 6 years and $160 million. While prices will begin to drop for the stagnant free agent market, I’d be surprised if Darvish gets anything less than $20 million per year. That figure alone would take the Yankees past the $197 million luxury tax threshold.

There’s speculation that the Yankees could move Jacoby Ellsbury to make some room, but you and I both know that the Yankees have to pay a huge chunk of that onerous contract to get any team to bite. And, oh yeah, there’s the little issue that you need Ellsbury’s consent too. Even if the Yankees could move Ellsbury and pick up, say, $10 million in annual salary relief, it wouldn’t make sense to sign Darvish as it would leave very little room for experienced quality infield help and potential trading deadline moves.

So, let’s kill any talk of Yu Darvish. There’s no chance he’ll show up in Pinstripes.

Same for the Gerrit Cole rumors. The Pittsburgh Pirates know what the Yankees are willing to offer and there has been no deal. The Yankees are not going to sweeten the pot beyond the rumored names. Those talks appear to be dead and I do not see any chance of resuscitation.

At this point, starting pitching is not really a need. Sure, there are questions about the rotation but name a team that doesn’t have questions with at least one starter. The odd man out if the Yankees were to acquire another starting pitcher would be Jordan Montgomery. To me, the only real reason that you’d make a trade is if you have the belief that this is the year the UCL tear in Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow will finally require Tommy John surgery. CC Sabathia surely won’t make all of his 2018 starts but with guys like Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu waiting in the wings, there is hope and promise on the horizon. While I’d hate to lose Chad Green out of the bullpen, the Yankees have told him to come to Spring Training as a starter. So, when in need of spot starts, Green and Adam Warren are more than capable of the challenge.

The Yankees can reassess their starting pitching needs in July and make decisions accordingly.  No Cole. No Darvish. Let’s move on.

I remain very hopeful the Yankees can move Jacoby Ellsbury (please!). The real question is how much of the contract the Yankees have to absorb to make it happen and how much prospect talent they need to include. In reality, no team will make a trade for Ellsbury as long as the free agent market continues to offer guys like Lorenzo Cain, Carlos Gomez, and Austin Jackson. Ellsbury may be better than all except for Cain, but it will take an environment of desperation for teams in need of a quality centerfielder to act on a possible Ellsbury trade.

If the Yankees believe strongly that Miguel Andujar can be the answer at third base, they should make a lower level free agent signing for someone like Eduardo Nunez to ease the transition. I’ve said that I wouldn’t want rookies on both sides of Didi Gregorius but the  Yankees have Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes to hold down second until Gleyber Torres is ready. Realistically, the Yankees will start Torres at Triple A for at least 20 service days to push his free agency back a year. That’s a move that they have to make for the long-term best interests of the organization. While Wade/Torreyes man second base, it would be helpful to have a veteran covering third or at least provide support for Andujar.

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Tampa by February 13th, there’s not really much left to be done for GM Brian Cashman. With the holiday season behind us, the coming weeks will be about finding value and bargains. I still expect the addition of a veteran third baseman but nothing major. I am resigned to the fact that we won’t see the return of the Toddfather nor will we be celebrating Moose Tacos in the Bronx. Nevertheless, I am confident that whomever runs out to third base at the start of the game at 3:37 pm EDT on Thursday, March 29th at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada will be the right decision.

Here is the MLB Network’s projected Yankees lineup:

Brett Gardner, LF

Aaron Judge, RF

Giancarlo Stanton, DH

Greg Bird, 1B

Gary Sanchez, C

Didi Gregorius, SS

Aaron Hicks, CF

Miguel Andujar, 3B

Ronald Torreyes, 2B

Personally, I kind of like putting Bird between Judge and Stanton to break up the righties, but that’s for Aaron Boone to decide, not me. The above lineup, with or without experienced help at third, is very solid…particularly once the Gleyber Show arrives.

Credit:  Andrew Savulich, New York Daily News

It’s going to be a great New Year in the Bronx! I am excited and look forward to the upcoming season, and hold strong dreams of a victorious October.  Let’s stain those Pinstripes with the Bubbly!

Go Yankees!

Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions…

Credit:  Wally Skalij — LA Times

2017 World Series

Astros 5, Dodgers 1…

Astros Win Series, 4-3

In the words of the former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. Sadly for me and those who were pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a very long night. From the second consecutive horrific start by Yu Darvish to Cody Bellinger shattering Aaron Judge’s post-season strikeout record, it was a forgettable night for the Dodger Blue as the Houston Astros claimed their first ever World Series Championship.

Credit:  Robert Gauthier – LA Times

This should have been a special and magical season for the Dodgers. Their start to the season created much talk about surpassing the tremendous accomplishments of the 1998 Yankees, then came the extended losing streak. They rebounded but in the end, they were just another World Series loser. It was a good Dodgers club, but not quite good enough.

As for me, I am kind of tired of the Houston Astros after losing two seven-game series in a row to them…first the Yankees in the ALCS and now the Dodgers in the World Series. Plus, word started popping last night that Yankees third base coach Joe Espada has decided to join the Astros as their new bench coach (replacing Alex Cora who will become the new manager for the Boston Red Sox). I guess it was just adding salt in the wound.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the Astros for the championship! It was a hard-fought win for them and the city of Houston.

The Astros controlled the game from the start. It took three pitches for Houston’s George Springer, leading off the game, to double into the left field corner off Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. Alex Bregman reached base on an error, making it to second on first baseman Cody Bellinger’s throwing error. Bellinger had moved toward second in front of the second baseman in shallow right to scoop up the grounder, but his throw back to first sailed past Darvish. It probably would have been easier for second baseman Logan Forsythe to make that play. 

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

While Bregman advanced to second, Springer scored the game’s first run. Bregman stole third to put himself in prime scoring position.  It played to perfection when Jose Altuve grounded out to first, with Bregman racing home to score the second run for the Astros. Darvish settled down and retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning and finally bring the Dodgers to bat.

The Dodgers looked like they were going to answer the bell in the bottom of the 1st. Chris Taylor led off for the Dodgers with a double to deep right center. Corey Seager struck out swinging, but there was still hope with the heart of the Dodgers batting order coming up. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch when he took a ball off his forearm, the first of four batters that Astros starter Lance McCullers, Jr would plunk. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out. Yasiel Puig was next and he, like Turner, was hit by a pitch, on the arm, to load the bases. The reinvigorated Joc Pederson came to the plate, flashing a smile, with the chance to bring momentum back to the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second baseman Jose Altuve for the final out.  No runs for the Dodgers. A missed opportunity for them.  In retrospect, one of the game’s key moments.

Yu Darvish was back out on the mound for the 2nd inning but he would not survive.  He started the inning by walking Brian McCann. Marwin Gonzalez doubled to the right field wall, with the slow-footed McCann moving to third. Josh Reddick grounded out to second for the first out. Then, in one of the game’s critical moments, McCullers, who should have been an easy out, hit a slow grounder between first and second. The only play for the Dodgers was to throw out McCullers at first. McCann was able to easily jog (sorry, it is hard to use the word “run” when it comes to the former Yankees catcher) home to pick up an RBI for McCullers. George Springer was next and he put an exclamation point on the Astros’ early performance with a two-run homer high over the center field wall. The Astros led, 5-0. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out and pulled Darvish in favor of Brandon Morrow. It may have been the final Dodger appearance for Darvish, a free agent to be. Morrow struck out Alex Bregman to end the inning but using one of your best relievers in the second inning is not exactly a blue print for success.

The Dodgers looked like they had another opportunity in the bottom of the 2nd. Logan Forsythe started things with a single to left. Austin Barnes grounded out to third (great defensive play and throw by third baseman Alex Bregman), but Forsythe was able to advance to second to put himself in scoring position. Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Morrow and was hit by a pitch (ball grazed his shirt but it would have been Ball 4 anyway). Runners at first and second. But it was not the Dodgers’ night. Chris Taylor lined a shot directly to shortstop Carlos Correa and the Astros were able to double Forsythe off second to complete the double play. Again, no runs for the Dodgers and yet another missed opportunity.

Clayton Kershaw took over for the Dodgers in the top of the 3rd inning. Kind of makes you wonder why the Dodgers didn’t go to Kershaw sooner but he did his job, retiring the Astros in order. There was still time for the Dodgers to claw their way back into the game. In the bottom of the inning, Corey Seager led off with a single to center over Jose Altuve’s head. I tried to think of a humorous line about that but I came up short. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch for the second time, this time under his left shoulder blade, and the fourth hit batter by McCullers. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

After McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, Astros manager A.J. Hinch removed him and brought in Brad Peacock. Yasiel Puig flied out to center but Seager was able to tag and move to third. Two outs for Joc Pederson with a runner just 90 feet away. Pederson went down swinging.  Still no runs for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, with Kershaw pitching strongly, the Dodgers had their next chance in the 5th. Corey Seager took a one-out walk and moved to second when Justin Turner singled to left. Alex Bregman dove for the ball and knocked it away from Carlos Correa, allowing the ball to roll into left field. The Astros pulled Brad Peacock and brought in Francisco Liriano. Cody Bellinger hit a fielder’s choice to Jose Altuve and the Astros were able to force Turner out at second with Seager moving to third. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Another pitching change which brought Chris Devenski in to face Yasiel Puig. Devenski won the battle when Puig lined out to first for the final out.

The Astros were able to load the bases in the top of the 6th against Kershaw on only one hit but Kershaw was able to get out of the jam unscathed.

In the bottom of the 6th with Charlie Morton taking over the mound for the Astros, Joc Pederson singled to center…a hit that would have been more useful in his earlier at-bats. Logan Forsythe walked and the Dodgers looked like they might be in business. After Austin Barnes popped out to Carlos Correa in shallow left for the first out, Andre Ethier, pinch-hitting for Kershaw, singled to right on a roller past Jose Altuve, scoring Pederson. Forsythe moved to second.  A home run now, and it would have been a one-run game. Unfortunately, like the earlier innings, the Dodgers couldn’t move the runners. Chris Taylor struck out and Corey Seager grounded out to short. It had seemed like it might be a big inning for the Dodgers but all they had to show for it was a single run. 5-1, Astros.

From there, Morton shut down the Dodgers, retiring the next nine batters in order. When Corey Seager hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who, in turn, threw the ball to first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the 9th, the Houston Astros were World Series Champions.  

Credit:  Luis Sinco – LA Times

I am happy for Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. For them, it was good to see the elusive World Series championship come their way.  It might be the final hour for Beltran’s career so if it is the end, he gets to go out the right way.

Credit:  Jason O Watson, Getty Images North America

George Springer was rightfully named the Series MVP.  His five home runs tied a World Series record and he was seemingly at the heart of every big Astros rally in this series.

Credit:  Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

For as much as I ripped Yuli Gurriel for his offensive gestures directed at Yu Darvish and his subsequent 2018 suspension for same, it was a very nice touch by Gurriel to tip his cap to Darvish when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Credit:  John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

The first pitches for the game were thrown by Dodgers legends Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe, with Steve Garvey and Rick Monday on the receiving ends, respectively. It was a very nice moment for the Dodgers and their fans.

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Now, the MLB season is over and the Hot Stove League begins. Time for the Yankees to find a new manager and begin preparations for the path that hopefully leads to the 2018 World Series championship.

Odds & Ends…

Now that the World Series has ended, Masahiro Tanaka has three days to decide if he’ll opt out of his contract. So, we’ll know by Saturday where we stand with the right-hander. I am hopeful that either he decides not to opt out or that he and the Yankees are able to come together for an extension. I would prefer to see Tanaka stay.

Credit:  Anthony Causi, New York Post

It looks like the Yankees have found their replacement for former VP of Player Development, Gary Denbo, who recently departed to join Derek Jeter in Miami. Kevin Reese, most recently Director of Professional Scouting for the Yankees, will apparently take Denbo’s former role. There has not been an official announcement yet by the Yankees but it is expected shortly.

The New York Mets did not retain hitting coach Kevin Long when Long’s contract expired so there are rumors that Long could return to his former role as hitting coach for the Yankees. Nothing against Alan Cockrell or Marcus Thames, but I’d like to see Long back in Pinstripes. He is one of the many rumored names for potential Yankees manager. I do not really want to see him as the manager, but as part of the coaching staff, he’d be a great fit.

The coming days should be interesting for the Yankees and the managerial search. I find it very hard to believe that they did not have a specific choice or choices in mind when they made the decision not to retain Joe Girardi. So I don’t buy they are in the process of gathering names. I think they’ll go with an outsider rather than someone with immediate Yankee connections but we’ll see. Things should become more transparent as we move forward.  I would not be at all surprised if the new manager is Jerry Hairston, Jr.  

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! It was a wonderful season and a successful one for the Pinstripers.  They are only going to get better.  Go Yankees!

Dodging Their Way to Game Seven…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series 

Dodgers 3, Astros 1

Series tied, 3-3

The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, okay I am not quite that old…the Los Angeles Dodgers…forced the first World Series Game 7 in Dodger Stadium history with their win over the Houston Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday night. We’re a week into this World Series and we now stand in the month that Derek Jeter made famous. Who will be the latest November hero?  We’ll find out later today.

The game was expected to be a pitching duel with veteran ace Justin Verlander pitching for the Astros against the resurgent Rich Hill for the Dodger Blue. Unlike the slugfest the broke out between Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw match-up, Verlander-Hill did not disappoint.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers started the game by having former Dodgers greats Tommy Lasorda and Orel Hershiser, champions in 1988, throw out the first pitches. Hershiser is regularly seen by Dodgers fans on SportsNet LA but it was wonderful to see Lasorda on Dodger Stadium turf again. It’s always good to see the legendary Lasorda whenever he makes an appearance. I didn’t love the guy back during those World Series against the Yankees in the late 70’s, but he grew on me over time and I appreciate his role in Dodgers history.

Credit:  Los Angeles Daily News:  John McCoy/SCNG

Once the game began, it was a scoreless affair until George Springer’s solo shot to right into the front row seats with two outs in the top of the 3rd broke the ice. On a team with multiple offensive stars, Springer and teammate Alex Bregman have really stood out for the Astros. If the Astros ultimately win this World Series, there’s no doubt that one or both of these guys will be in the thick of the action.

 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Bregman followed Springer’s homer with a sharply hit ball to short that Corey Seager booted but Seager was able to recover quickly with his throw just beating Bregman to the bag for the final out.

While Verlander was cruising through the early innings, allowing only a meaningless single by Yasiel Puig in the second inning, the Astros finally got to Hill in the top of the fifth. Brian McCann led off the inning with a single to deep right which Yasiel Puig cut off in the corner. Marwin Gonzalez was next and he doubled down the left field line into the corner, moving the huffing and puffing McCann to third. After Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, Springer was intentionally walked to load the bases. 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Much to Hill’s disappointment, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made the call to the bullpen and brought in reliever Brandon Morrow who had imploded during his previous outing in Houston. The day of rest helped for the former Blue Jay. He was able to get Alex Bregman to ground out to short, through the runner’s legs, on the second pitch of the at-bat to end the inning with the bases overflowing with Astros.

The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th, while Verlander was still pitching a one-hitter at that point. With two outs, Yuli Gurriel singled to center off Morrow. Dave Roberts then made a double switch, bringing in former Pirates closer Tony Watson to replace Morrow and second baseman Chase Utley to replace Logan Forsythe. Watson promptly hit Brian McCann with a pitch in the back of the right arm that I am sure was not part of the plan. Runners at first and second. Fortunately, Marwin Gonzales hit a liner to second, with Chase Utley jumping up for the catch, for the final out. Another missed scoring opportunity for the Astros (bummer for them, for me…not so much). 

In the bottom of the 6th, Austin Barnes led off with a single to left. Chase Utley, batting in the pitcher’s spot thanks to the double switch, was hit by a pitch on his right foot with a bouncer in the dirt. Chris Taylor, who probably makes Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto lose sleep everytime he revisits that trade in his head, came up big…again…when he doubled to right, scoring Barnes and advancing Utley to third. The game was tied.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Corey Seager hit a high fly to right that died in front of the wall but it was deep enough to score Utley on the sacrifice. Verlander was able to get Justin Turner to foul out on the first base side and he struck out Cody Bellinger, but the Dodgers had taken their first lead of the game, 2-1.

The Astros made noise again for the third consecutive inning in the top of the 7th. After Tony Watson walked the lead off hitter, Josh Reddick, Dave Roberts took the ball from him and brought in Kenta Maeda to face Evan Gattis, pinch-hitting for Justin Verlander. Gattis hit into a fielder’s choice at short that erased Reddick at second but the Dodgers were unable to turn a double play. Gattis clearly reached first base before the throw but the Dodgers challenged and lost the play at second when they argued unsuccessfully that Reddick had purposely tried to take out Chase Utley (on the appropriately named Chase Utley rule). Mets fans were probably snickering as they recalled the time in the 2015 NLDS when Utley  slid into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada rather than the base, breaking Tejada’s leg and sending the shortstop’s career on a downward trajectory. Not snickering because of Tejada but because Utley was the victim of an aggressive play. 

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

George Springer hit a grounder to short but the ball got by Corey Seager and rolled into left field. Gattis moved to second and was replaced by pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman flied out to center, with Fisher tagging and moving to third. It brought Jose Altuve to the plate. Altuve hit a hard grounder to third, but Justin Turner made a great play in throwing the ball to first for the out to end the inning.

Joc Pederson added an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th when he took reliever Joe Musgrove deep with a solo blast to left. There was some initial doubt if he had hit the ball far enough but it carried over the wall much to the excitement of Pederson and his teammates.  

 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

From there, the Dodgers not to take any chances and brought in ace closer Kenley Jansen for the top of the 8th to get the six-out save. He easily retired the three batters he faced to send the game to the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers had a chance for more runs when they had two on with two outs for Cody Bellinger, but Clay’s son struck out swinging in an extended 9-pitch at bat against Francisco Liriano (who was making his first appearance in the World Series).

Kenley Jansen came back out for the top of the 9th (obviously). Marwin Gonzalez had the first chance to get the Astros back into the game. He popped out to first baseman Bellinger in shallow right. Next up, Josh Reddick. He struck out, swinging and missing the last two pitches. One last man stood between the Dodgers and victory…former Yankees slugger Carlos Beltran. Jansen threw a 94 mph Cutter with the count at 0-2 in favor of the pitcher. Beltran took a big swing  at the high pitch and missed. 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Michael Ciaglo

Game over. Dodgers win!

Credit:  LA Times – Gina Ferazzi

Dodgers Legend and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was in attendance as a spectator, looking like he could be the Game 7 starter if necessary.  Of course, it’s Los Angeles so there were more than few celebrities in the house, such as former Los Angeles Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Karen Warren

I have no clue who is going to win the World Series, but it comes down to one game. Winner take all. The matchup will feature Lance McCullers, Jr on the mound for the Astros. He’ll face Yu Darvish. If the game was to be the played in Houston, you’d have to like the Astros chances. But we are not at Minute Maid Park anymore. Darvish will have the support of the partisan crowd and Chavez Ravine will be rocking tonight. It should be another World Series classic.

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers (if you didn’t notice already).

Odds & Ends…

It was sad to read the words of Ken Rosenthal’s interview with former Yankees manager Joe Girardi on yesterday’s The Athletic. I refuse to pay a subscription fee to Rosenthal but fortunately the article was available in full. Girardi clearly sounded like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees era. I was glad to read that Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner left the door open for Girardi’s eventual return to the organization in some capacity if he so chooses. I personally doubt Girardi returns, but I thought he handled his first interview since the dismissal with style and grace.

Credit:  Getty Images

As expected, Gabe Kapler was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. So the Yankees are the only team without a manager. Unless there is a secret deal already in place (probably), today brings an unsigned general manager too as Brian Cashman’s deal expired last night. I think it’s a given that Cashman will return but I’ll be anxious to get his new contract behind us so that the Yankees can truly begin their off-season strategy and preparation to bring us their 28th World Championship.

Have a great Wednesday! This is it…the final day of Major League Baseball for 2017. Let’s Go Dodgers, but more importantly, Let’s Go Yankees!