Perhaps the most fascinating matchup of this World Series is coming in the dugout, in the battle of old catchers. Kansas City manager Ned Yost is considered a doofus by the baseball cognoscenti, a guy not worthy of the October spotlight whose every move is second-guessed and often derided. San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy is the sage, the calm voice of reason in his fourth Series who is trying to join Joe Torre, Sparky Anderson and Tony LaRussa as the only three-time winners since 1970.
Of course, anybody can look good if you have a great bullpen and that’s how this series has gone so far. Yost’s three-headed monster was unbeatable in Games Two and Three. The Giants’ relief corps couldn’t get the job done in Game Two. While the pens tell a big tale, both skippers have pulled some head-scratchers.
Bochy is getting crushed by national media types for not starting ace Madison Bumgarner is Game Four and then a potential Game Seven. That’s despite the fact recent history on guys pitching on three days rest is not good, Bumgarner has never done it – and he has already thrown 32 more innings than any year of his career.
Bochy is right on this one, even with his team behind in the series. Guarantee you that every Giants player in that clubhouse supported the decision to start Ryan Vogelsong in Game Four.
“Watching and playing for ‘Boch,’ you just grow a tremdendous amount of respect for his courage and the way he handles situations,” outfielder Hunter Pence told this corner on media day in Kansas City. “In the utmost fires and difficult games we’ve been through, he’s steady. He’s always prepared and makes great decisions. He’s got a good feel for the vibe of the team.
“There’s decisions that are by the book and it’s tough to do what you think ... if it’s not by the book. It’s tough to take risks if you’re afraid to answer questions. ... To me it takes a lot of courage to make the move you feel is best. He has a knack for those things.”
In general, I’ve always liked Bochy’s demeanor. His raspy drawl has to be soothing to his team. He’s not flared-eyed and jumpy like Yost seems. And he’s been quick this postseason to deflect credit away from him and toward GM Brian Sabean.
“You have to look at the talent you have, and I pinch myself from the fact that I’m given the resources, the staff here,” Bochy said. “To have a group of guys who have that ability to get here, that’s what you’re fortunate to have. Again, it starts with Brian, – ownership gives us these resources – and of course, getting back to the players. What a group of guys and character. They found a way to do this and have a chance to maybe win the third time.”
“I have the utmost respect for Bruce Bochy. I just think he’s one of the top-tier managers in all of baseball,” Yost said. “You watch what he’s done over the last four or five years and how his teams can have ups and downs but in the end he always keeps the ship righted. I think he’s a great manager in terms of handling his bullpen, handling his players.”
For his part, Yost made several apparent gaffes in Game Three but still won the game. They were topped by not using on-the-bench-DH Billy Butler as a pinch-hitter in any spot.
Yost didn’t pinch-hit for Jeremy Guthrie when he said afterward Guthrie was coming out of the game, didn’t double-switch when it appeared called for and appeared to overuse Kelvin Herrera. But two moves that really paid off were starting his defensive outfield in San Francisco by going with Alex Gordon-Jarrod Dyson-Lorenzo Cain, and moving Gordon from No. 6 to No. 2 in the lineup and getting an RBI double from him.
It was easy to find people in Kansas City convinced that Yost was getting fired had the Royals lost the AL wild-card game in the face of his bizarre choice of Yordano Ventura in relief in the middle of that contest. And Yost was still in trouble had the Royals gone down meekly in the division series against the heavily favored Angels, a series that was marked by a stunning KC sweep.
Yost has been pretty good at deflecting criticism, and talked about the critics on Thursday when his team arrived in San Francisco.
“I understand how this game is, and I know that if something good happens, I’m going to look smart, all right,” Yost said. ‘My players won a ballgame yesterday. You know what I did? Nothing. I took Kelvin Herrera and put him in the ballgame in the sixth inning, and if that makes me a genius, then I’m a genius. But if I had taken Ventura out of that game and brought in Kel, and he gave up a three-run homer, I would have been a dope, right?
“So I don’t really pay attention to when people say I’m stupid, and I don’t really pay attention to when people say I’m smart, because I’m neither. I’m not a dope, but I’m not the smartest guy on the face of the earth either. So I just let all that go. I don’t pay any attention to it. I don’t read about it. I just want our team to win.”
Maddon mania grabs spotlight
Speaking of managers, bet your bottom dollar MLB officials are furious that Rays skipper Joe Maddon announced the opt-out on his deal on a World Series game day. That sent beat reporters from pretty much every city going into scramble mode in San Francisco, checking to see if their team might be interested in Maddon and thus diverting all attention from Game Three.
Teams are not supposed to make any major announcements on game days, and Bud Selig & Co. prefer things wait entirely until the Series is over. There’s no such hammer on individuals announcing things (see Rodriguez, Alex, 2007) but you would imagine the commish would have preferred the Rays waive Maddon’s two-week decision period on the opt-out following the departure of GM Andrew Friedman until after the Series was complete.
Maddon’s options seem pretty obvious: Sit out 2015 and head into broadcasting for a year, a la Terry Francona, and then go back in the dugout. Or simply sit out the start of the season and wait for someone to get fired, perhaps Don Mattingly in Los Angeles.
There’s plenty of talk the Cubs may simply make a pre-emptive strike and fire Rick Renteria to pick up Maddon. Cubs VP Theo Epstein, remember, interviewed Maddon before hiring Francona to replace Grady Little in 2003. What a hero Maddon could become in Chicago. ESPN.com reported late Friday night, however, that the Rays may look into tampering charges if the Cubs or others fire their current guy and hire Maddon.
Red Sox bench coach and Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Torey Lovullo is one of three finalists for the Twins job, along with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and former Twins first baseman and current Class A manager Doug Mientkiewicz. You wonder if Lovullo becomes a candidate to replace Maddon in Tampa.
That said, I wouldn’t wish the Tampa situation on anyone right now. David Price is gone. Friedman and Maddon are gone. Most of the fans are gone. The stadium situation isn’t going away. The Montreal chatter was growing at the World Series. Not imminently, but down the road. It sounds like last-chance mode for a stadium in the Tampa area to save the franchise before MLB looks elsewhere.
Guthrie on Herd grapevine
With his victory in Game Three Friday night, Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie became the 10th former Bisons pitcher to win a World Series game since 2000. Guthrie joined a list that includes Mike Adams (Texas 2011), Jake Westbrook (St. Louis 2011), Cliff Lee (Philadelphia 2009), Anthony Reyes and Jeff Weaver (St. Louis 2006), Freddy Garcia (Chicago 2005), Ramon Ortiz and Brendan Donnelly (Anaheim 2002) and Chad Zerbe (San Francisco 2002).
Many of those players actually played in the Series first and then become Bisons. Conversely, Guthrie became the seventh ex-Bison since 1998 to graduate from the Herd and then start a Series game – and joined Lee as the only ones to win their start. An oddity of Guthrie’s victory: He became the first starter to win a Series game without a strikeout since Bob Turley of the Yankees in Game Two at Pittsburgh in 1960.
The other Bisons starters since ‘98: Lee for Games One and Five for Texas in 2010 and One and Five for Philadelphia in 2009, Tim Wakefield (Boston) for Game One in 2004, Brian Anderson (Arizona) for Game Three in 2001, Denny Neagle (Yankees) for Game Four in 2000 and Rick Reed (Mets) for Game Three in 2000.