Yes or No 10/31/13: Orton & Cena as Champions, Sandow Gaining Nothing From MITB, More
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a great year. They finished the regular season with the best record in the National League, securing home-field through the NLDS and NLCS. They have reached the World Series and have been involved in a close, hard-fought affair with a tough opponent. The club still has a chance to pull off a world championship, as they are down 3-2 in the best of seven series.
Now, having said all that, time for the second-guessing and criticism. One has to wonder, if the Cardinals should lose on Wednesday or Thursday night, what could St. Louis manager Mike Matheny have done differently? Should Matheny have done something different with the rosters? Are there any in-game decisions that he regrets making? Should he have done something different with the batting order?
Well, I think the one thing that Matheny will get the most criticism for this World Series is placing both Edward Mujica and Shelby Miller on the roster. In the first 5 games of this series, neither has tossed a pitch. In fact, only a couple of times have they even warmed up in the bullpen. Obviously, Matheny has no confidence in Mujica to do anything but mop up. ‘Chief’ lost his closer’s job at the end of the regular season, when he was suddenly getting rocked. The Cards have been going with Trevor Rosenthal as the closer in the postseason.
In the NLDS and NLCS, Mujica only appeared in two games. He pitched the 9th inning of a Game 2 blowout loss to Pittsburgh in the NLDS. He also appeared in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Dodgers. He pitched one inning, allowing a home run to AJ Ellis in the 7th inning of a 6-4 loss for the Cardinals. Since that game, Matheny hasn’t even considered bringing in Mujica, not even to mop up Game 1 of the World Series, which the Red Sox won 8-1.
On the other hand, at least Mujica saw action in the NLCS. Miller hasn’t pitched since appearing in the 8th inning of Game 2 of the NLDS. His appearance in that game ended up indicating that Lance Lynn would be utilized as the 4th starter in that series. Lynn has obviously kept that role in the NLCS and World Series. With Lynn firmly being used as a starter, this should mean that Miller would be available out of the pen, right?
You would think, but Matheny hasn’t used him since October 4th. Not even in Game 1 of the NLCS, which went 13 innings. Instead, Lynn pitched the end of that game and went on to start Game 4. If Miller wasn’t going to be used in an extra-inning game in the NLCS, and Lynn was going to be used as the 4th starter moving forward, why even have Miller on the roster for the World Series? Was Matheny hoping to have Boston confused on whether or not Miller or Lynn would start? I figure with Miller not starting in the past month that John Farrell would know that Lynn was going to be the Game 4 option.
Ok, so who should have Matheny placed on the roster instead of Miller and/or Mujica? Well, it would seem that if you were going to leave both of these players off, you’d at least need to add another pitcher. The other options that the Cards had available to them, in terms of guys who had pitched in September and could have contributes, are pretty limited. The best names would be lefties Sam Freeman and Tyler Lyons and right-hander Fernando Salas. Salas, who at one point in the 2011 season was the Cards closer, spent much of the season in Triple-A. He was effective at times, with a 1.179 WHiP, but also gave up 3 HRs in 28 innings. Matheny would probably have had the same confidence in him as he’s had in Mujica, which is none.
Freeman, who spent most of the year in Triple-A, was very effective in limited action, posting a 2.18 ERA and 1.054 WHiP in 12.1 innings. Lyons was used as a starter off and on during the season. He posted a 4.75 ERA and 1.226 WHiP in 53 innings while striking out 43. Would a third lefty in the pen be useful? Well, it probably couldn’t have been less useful than having two pitchers you won’t utilize. And it also could have presented another option when facing David Ortiz.
Are there any better options the Cards could have used off the bench? Well, we need to be honest here. The cupboard is pretty bare for Matheny. There just isn’t much to choose from. One possibility is that Matheny could have had Adron Chambers available. Chambers was on the NLDS and NLCS rosters due to Allen Craig being hurt. Once Craig was deemed ready for the World Series, Chambers was replaced on the roster. Chambers doesn’t offer much in the way of hitting prowess (.154 in 23 games.)
Chambers is also a left-handed hitter, and the Cards have more than enough of those on their bench as it is, as Kolten Wong and Daniel Descalso are both left-handed, and Jon Jay and Matt Adams give them even more left-handed options if they don’t start due to matchups. Was there another right-handed option? Well, Tony Cruz, the backup catcher, has seen no action as a pinch hitter due to the Cards not carrying a third catcher. Rob Johnson could have been an option. Of course, Johnson did nothing with the bat during his limited time in the majors this year (.171 in 20 games.)
Even if Chambers or Johnson didn’t provide much to be excited about in terms of bench production, either could still have provided more options for Matheny than an unused pitcher. If the Cards lose the World Series, Matheny will most likely have to answer questions about his roster selections. Hopefully, he can give us all a really, really good answer. Because, from the outside looking in, it just doesn’t make much sense.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino will not be in the lineup in Game 5. He is still suffering from lower-back tightness. Victorino has been bothered by the injury for most of the season, but it has recently flared up. The 32-year-old should be available to pinch-hit if Boston needs him.
Just as in Game 4, Daniel Nava will start in right field and Johnny Gomes will play left field. This move worked out the Red Sox on Sunday night, as Gomes hit a 3-run home run to lead Boston to a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Prior to that homer, Gomes was 0-9 in the World Series and had looked overmatched.
The Red Sox also are making a couple of changes in the lineup. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia will now bat second and David Ortiz, who will continue to play first base, will move up to third. Red Sox manager John Farrell has moved Gomes into the cleanup spot. Nava, who batted 2nd on Sunday, will now bat 5th. Mike Napoli, the everyday first baseman, will once again sit so Ortiz’s bat can be in the lineup.
On the mound, the Cards throw out ace Adam Wainwright. Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA, 1.07 WHiP) was roughed up by the BoSox in Game 1, giving up 5 runs (3 earned) in 5 innings in the 8-1 loss. He faces off with his Game 1 opponent, Jon Lester. Lester (15-8, 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHiP) tossed 7-2/3 innings of shutout ball while striking out 8 in Wednesday’s win.
Prior to Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant claimed that he could do whatever Lions’ receiver Calvin Johnson can do. In an interview with a Dallas radio station on Monday, he had this to say: “I believe I can do whatever he can do. I think it’s just a pride thing. When it comes to football, just being on the field, it’s a mindset and having a mentality. I honestly believe when I’m there, I’ll be feeling like there’s nothing I can’t do. Whatever the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to do it.”
Well, Johnson must have taken that as a challenge because he had the game of a lifetime on Sunday. In a wild 31-30 win against the Cowboys, Megatron caught 14 balls for an unreal 329 yards to go with a TD. That was the 2nd most receiving yards in a NFL game in history. While Bryant had a pretty good game of his own, with 3 catches for 72 yards and 2 TDs, it just couldn’t compare with the ridiculousness that was Calvin Johnson’s afternoon.
The Lions were able to pull out an improbable win in the 4th quarter. Down 6 points with just 1:02 left and no timeouts, Stafford was able to carve apart the Cowboys defense with long completions to Kris Durham and Johnson. After completing a 22-yard pass to Johnson to get the Lions to the 1-yard line and the clock ticking down, Stafford was able to plunge over the line for the score. He seemed to fool the Cowboys (and perhaps his own teammates) as they thought he was going to spike the ball to kill the clock. Withe the extra point, the touchdown put the Lions up by 1 with 12 seconds left and they’d go on to win the game.
Losing in this fashion, and being completely eclipsed by Johnson, may have been too much for Bryant. After Stafford’s score, Bryant and tight end Jason Witten were seen getting into a heated argument on the sidelines.
I think Dez Bryant just needs to forget about this past week and try to put it behind him. It’s been a little rough. Chin up, Dez. Chin up.
Daniel Bryan faces Randy Orton for the vacant WWE Title as WWE presents Hell in a Cell! Plus CM Punk takes on Ryback and Paul Heyman in the Cell, John Cena faces Alberto Del Rio and more!
Chelsea Hitting Stride
In-form Chelsea await the visit of fellow title contender Manchester City in a marquee Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho’s side have won their last four matches on the trot and are undefeated since a shock 2-1 home loss to Basel in their Champions League opener last month. After a mixed start to the season, the Blues appear to be settling and the team’s performances are becoming more consistent by the week.
Chelsea were particularly impressive in their 3-0 midweek victory over Schalke in Germany. Still, despite the heavyweight nature of their clash with Manchester City, Mourinho went on at great length this week to indicate that this match means little more than any others.
“In this moment, with the way the Premier League is going week after week, no result will put a team in a great situation and no result will put a team in a difficult situation”, the Portuguese said.
“Manchester City are a very good team, of course. But we have tests every week. Every match is a test, and every match can be three points, so it doesn’t make a difference. We have to play our game and let’s see if our game is enough to win.”
Manchester City Looking To Avoid Away Blues
Manuel Pellegrini has enjoyed a solid start to his Manchester City career, though he will be looking for his side to improve on their away form beginning with Sunday’s visit to London to face Chelsea. Manchester City have won only one of their four away matches since the start of the season and know they must improve on that sort of form if they want to challenge for the league title. Pellegrini commented on Friday about the importance of this upcoming match against Chelsea, while dubbing it “tough”.
“Of course it’s an important moment, it’s always important playing against a team that have a lot of chance to win the league”, he admitted. “It’s a tough game for Manchester City, we are one point behind them and we must play well if we want to win”, continued the Chilean.
Manchester City supporters will be upset at the fact that captain Vincent Kompany will miss this match due to a thigh strain. A force at the back, this is Kompany’s second spell of the season with an injury and his absence is always difficult for Manchester City due to the Belgian’s sheer quality and leadership at the back.
This match won’t decide much in the title race such is the way this season’s competition is shaping up. However, it still promises to be an important game featuring two sides in the midst of two new eras. Mourinho’s second coming to Chelsea is beginning to bear the hallmarks of his highly successful first stint with the club that yielded much in the way of trophies. Pellegrini has had relative success in Europe but is still in search of his first major piece of silverware and believes that could happen with Manchester City. Both sides haven’t been perfect, but regardless they have enjoyed strong starts to the new campaign. It would be a big surprise if the match didn’t yield a couple goals and while Manchester City’s away form has been spotty, they have the weapons to at least earn a point at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City.
On Saturday evening, David Ortiz will lumber out to play first base for the Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series in St. Louis. Due to the one major rule difference between the American and National Leagues, Big Papi can’t be in the lineup unless he actually takes the field on defense. During the World Series, games played in AL home parks allow the designated hitter, while the NL parks force the pitcher to hit for himself.
For Ortiz, throwing on a first baseman’s mitt and trotting out on the diamond is a special occasion in and of itself. Since 2007, Ortiz has played a total of 32 games at first base. That averages to a little more than 4 games a season. When one thinks of a full-time DH, Ortiz is the prime example. He is paid to bat 4-5 times a game and that is it. In fact, Papi is generally used as a reason why the DH is patently unfair and extends players’ careers that otherwise would have been forced to retire or have a much reduced role.
Let’s face it. There is no way David Ortiz would have made $100 million in his playing career if there was no designated hitter in the game. Perhaps he could have been a full-time first baseman for some team over this entire span. Maybe. However, considering his size, weight gain over the years and lack of proficiency at the position, it is highly doubtful. Yet, due to his offensive ability, and the fact that all he has to do is swing the bat a few times a game, he’s been able to carve himself out a very lucrative career that will quite possibly land him in Cooperstown.
This isn’t meant to be an indictment of Ortiz. He’s naturally taken advantage of the situation in the American League and prospered. However, it does bring up the silliness that we still have a major rule difference between the two leagues. Over the past few years, we’ve seen interleague play get expanded, to the point that each team now plays 20 interleague games a year. That is 1/8th the entire schedule. Also, while the interleague schedule used to be during a certain time of the season, it now goes on throughout the entire year, so we are now subjected to the rule difference basically every day of the season.
At some point, MLB needs to make a decision and stick with it. Either have the DH be the rule for both leagues, or get rid of it. Considering that the DH has helped extend or improve the careers or many players, it seems highly unlikely that the players’ union will go along with the eradication of the rule. Therefore, the league basically just needs to go ahead and extend the DH to the National League. Sure, it may piss off some purists of the game, but the game has evolved and changed a ton anyway. No point holding on to another relic of a bygone era.
But, it isn’t going away in the AL. It’s been there since 1973. Interleague play isn’t going away, either. In fact, we might see interleague play continue to be expanded. Considering the increased frequency of NL teams playing in AL parks, we just have to start getting used to the idea of the DH as part of the game and move forward.
Or, MLB can sit on its hands a little longer and continue to ‘study the matter’, which has been Bud Selig’s position on pretty much everything that involved any real decision making. As this seems to be the likely scenario, prepare to see more World Series games in the future where the AL manager has to sit a player so he can get his DH into the lineup somehow.