A smashing October
The Royals' managerial search enters its quiet phase. Meanwhile, we're reminded that postseason baseball is fun.
All is quiet on the Royals’ managerial front. It’s not a surprise. After an initial flurry where everyone floated potential candidates and expressed a preference, the front office is digging in.
We haven’t heard any rumblings of interviews happening at One Royal Way, so I’ll assume they’re still assembling their lists and preparing for that step.
So far, the only news on the managerial front is who other teams have interviewed.
Let’s be honest here…the bar is low when it comes to impressing the White Sox. When they say they’re impressed it’s like they’re complimenting someone for being really good at breathing. Congratulations!
There hasn’t been enough movement as of yet that MLB Trade Rumors has set up their annual manager tracker. Last year, it went up toward the end of October, which is when the managerial hot stove really beings to cook. So let’s recap what we know here:
Blue Jays - No movement, but will assume they’re bringing back John Schneider.
Marlins - Interviewed Joe Espada and Pedro Grifol. Reported interest in Joe Maddon.
Rangers - Interviewed Bruce Bochy and Tony Beasley.
White Sox - Interviewed Joe Espada and Pedro Grifol. Reported interest in Joe Maddon.
Yep. Not much going on.
The Espada interviews are happening early because the Astros are figuring to make a deep run in the postseason. You grab time whenever you can. The Grifol interviews are happening because he’s a candidate for the same position with his current employer. In other words, the early interviews are happening for a reason. (Although you would hope the Royals would muscle in and grab some time with Espada.)
I remain unimpressed by any helium Maddon is collecting. I don’t expect him to be linked with the Royals and that’s fine. If he’s going to manage again, he seems a better fit to return to Chicago. I’m just cynical when it comes to Maddon. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s filtering his own name out there just to interject himself in the process. You gotta do what you can to stay relevant.
All this to say that while we have yet to hear of interviews for the Royals, they are still not really behind in this process. It looks like most of these teams are in the early stages of their search. Of course, “early stages” can be relative. It is possible Miami or Chicago has collected enough info after two interviews to make a decision. Although given how teams conduct business these days, I doubt it. At least, I doubt that’s the case for Miami. Who knows what’s happening in Chicago?
Please count me among those who feel that Major League Baseball has devalued its regular season by expanding the playoffs and adding another layer of series. The champion often isn’t the best (or even a tolerable second-best) team.
Although I’m so much of a curmudgeon that I can’t admit the baseball this month hasn’t been insanely fun.
Maybe my small-market roots are showing but I’m delighted that the Dodgers and Braves were kneecapped in their divisional series. It’s a drag seeing the same teams advance every October and with the way the big market teams dominate the spending, I’m fine with a well-timed crash and burn. I can live without a pair of 100-victory teams in the LCS. As a neutral, I want new blood in the playoffs for as long as possible. Yeah, the Padres spend money like they somehow have an endless supply, and it took adding an extra team to the playoffs to get the Phillies in, but send me all the Manny Machado vs. Bryce Harper hype you can drum up. I’ll gladly absorb that over a tired Freddy Freeman-Atlanta-to-LA narrative the national writers were already workshopping.
Besides, isn’t it strange to hear complaints about how the best teams don’t win championships? If that’s a problem, why have a postseason at all? Make it like soccer in Europe. They play a full slate of games and the team at the top of the league gets a trophy. Full stop. Then, there’s also a cup competition where it’s a traditional tournament. Anyway…
At least there’s still some continuity in this game for the traditionalists.
It’s an old Tweet, so I guess we need to update that after the Yankees delayed, yet inevitable, victory in Game 5 of their Divisional Series. The above is…not fun. Not in any way. Six consecutive years of Houston in the ALCS and their opponent is mandated to come from the East and is either the Yankees, Red Sox and that one time the Rays went on a heater.
I’m sure the fan bases of the two teams remaining in the AL don’t care about my thoughts, but another October of the Astros and the token AL East team isn’t interesting anymore. If it’s not interesting, it’s not good for baseball.
Let’s not forget that money still talks in this game. It’s the easiest way to get to the postseason*.
*Unless you hire Tony LaRussa to manage.
Four of the top seven payrolls are still in it. The two top payrolls—who are both eliminated—won 101 and 111 games respectively.
The lesson is that spending money doesn’t buy you what Rob Manfred calls “a piece of metal.” It does, however, buy you a seat at the table. Sure, what happens over a three or five-game series is anyone’s guess and weird things happen and it’s foolish to draw conclusions from such a small and random sample of games when we have a full slate of 162 to use as a basis for an opinion.
It’s always about the money.
Can we stop pretending the best team not advancing to the World Series is a new phenomenon? Look, I dislike Rob Manfred probably more than you, but I just can’t bring myself to drag him over this. Not when the league added the Wild Card and an extra layer of playoff series in 1995. It took only a year for a Wild Card team to knock off the best team in the league (the 88-win Baltimore Orioles beating the 99-win Cleveland ball club three games to one) and a year after that before the first Wild Card team won a World Series (the Florida Marlins).
Hell, jump in the Wayback Machine and you see the 82-win Mets dumping the Big Red Machine and their 99 wins out of the 1973 NLCS, the first major upset of the divisional era that opened in 1969.
The Royals romp to the seventh game of the 2014 World Series and subsequent championship the following year was so tidy, so crisp, that it seemed kind of…simple. Put together a club that hits and runs and has a lockdown bullpen and you, too, can find success! The Royals were so close in ‘14 that their run to the AL Central with the best record in the league that it kind of felt like a natural progression of that team we watched finish with a .400 winning percentage a few years prior.
Except it’s truly not that easy, or simple.
If it was, the Dodgers would still be in this. So would the Braves. And baseball would be a little stale. October needs new blood for the game to survive. It needs Machado and Harper and Kyle Schwarber vaporizing baseballs and Yu Darvish throwing 20 different pitches.
Tuesday’s NLCS lid lifter was a lot of fun. Two teams who have been absent from the October stage going toe to toe for the NL pennant. It should be a fun series. I’m doubtful we’ll find that kind of joy from their counterparts in the American League.
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