A Golden Moment, A Golden Anniversary
In the 50th year of their existence, the Texas Rangers (who were born as the second coming of the Washington Senators in 1961) became the last team to win a playoff series in the divisional era when it toppled the top-seeded Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday to win the ALDS. The Rangers had previously made the playoffs only three times between 1996-99 and lost all three series, to the New York Yankeeswho they’re now facing in the ALCS.
Even with the divisional series triumph over Tampa Bay, the Rangers still had never won a postseason game at Arlington until Game Two of the ALCS, when it knocked off the Yankees, 7-2. They had lost seven previous playoff games at home.
Every Pitch Does Count
Texas reliever Darren O’Day threw just one pitch in Friday’s ALCS opener against the Yankees and was pegged with the 6-5 loss when Alex Rodriguezwhose single O’Day had allowedscored the eventual winning tally.
With two terrific performances in the ALDS, the Rangers' Cliff Lee established a postseason series record with the most strikeouts (21) without a walk.
Wet, But Dry
So as not to leave Josh Hamilton out in the cold turkey, the Rangers celebrated their ALDS triumph in the clubhouse using ginger ale instead of champagne.
$16.5 Million a Year For This?
This was not a good sign for the Yankees as they’re counting on struggling A.J. Burnett to deliver when he starts Game Four of the ALCS; in a short simulated game before the start of the series, Burnett plunked fellow Yankees Greg Golson and Austin Kearns with his pitches.
Game One of the NLCS between the Giants and Phillies was blacked out in portions of the Philadelphia area because of an ongoing dispute between Cablevision and Foxwhich wants to double its fees for its various channels on the cable outlet. The deadline for an agreement passed on Friday without a deal, and negotiations continued into the weekend as Cablevision users were unable to watch the Fox broadcast of the Giants’ 4-3 win.
Hey, the Stanley Cup is Only Eight Months Away
During the late stages of an early NHL contest played Saturday in Philadelphia next to Citizens Bank Park, local hockey fans emptied out of Wells Fargo Center as the hometown Flyers were losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-1, and filled up the adjacent AT&T Pavilion to watch Game One of the NLCS on a big screen. Apparently the facility wasn’t subscribing to Cablevision.
Dumb TBS Quote of the Week
In Game Four of the NLDS, with the Giants’ Jose Uribe at the plate and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, TBS analyst Bob Brenly noted that Uribe was 4-for-7 in bases-loaded situations with two home runs. Long-time play-by-play man Dick Stockton quickly added, “And those two home runs were grand slams!” Very enlightening, Dick.
Win or Fight
Cleveland outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is said to “owe” two years of military service to his homeland, South Koreabut if he plays for the South Korean team in the Asian Games this November and helps the team win the gold medal, he’ll be excused from his military obligation.
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Changing of the Old Guard
The average age of a major league manager is dropping like a rock following this year’s retirements of Lou Piniella (age 67), Joe Torre (70), Cito Gaston (63) and, of course, Bobby Cox (69), whose outstanding managerial career came to a quicker end than he would have liked as his Atlanta Braves were dismissed from the postseason by the San Francisco Giants in the NLDS. At upload time, there also was no decision as to whether Tony LaRussa (67) would return to the St. Louis Cardinals for 2011.
Assuming LaRussa does retire, the combined numbers between these five managers are staggering: Nineteen pennants, ten world championships, 10,195 wins (a figure surpassed by the all-time total registered by just two major league teams: The Giants and the Chicago Cubs), and 380 ejections.
For Cox, the entrance into the postseason and his bitter exit in the early rounds serve as a microcosm of his career success in general. He was the man at the helm for Atlanta’s record 14 straight postseason appearances (it might have been 15 had it not been for the 1994 season-ending strike), but this amazing run was tarnished with October disappointment as the Braves lost five first-round NLDS series, four NLCSs and four World Series; Cox’s lone hurrah at the finish came in 1995 when the Braves outlasted the Cleveland Indians in six games.
For a man who consistently grumbled and cursed in the dugout as if he couldn’t stand his job, Cox was highly revered by players past and present, and perhaps by umpires as wellalthough arbiters gave Cox the thumb a record 158 times and three more times in the postseason, his last ouster occurring in Game Two of the NLDS at San Francisco (during, ironically, the Braves’ only victory of that series).
Cox will be replaced by Fredi Gonzalez, the former Florida manager and, from 2003-06, a third base coach for the Braves.
He's My Thigh Guy
Andy Pruett, a 23-year old photography student in Georgia, spent $300 to get an illustrative likeness of Cox inked on the front of his right thigh. Why? “He’s the only manager I know,” said Pruett to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Nobody has ever spoken a bad word about him…. He’s a good guy.” If Pruett has a girlfriend, let’s just say she’s happy the Cox tattoo wasn’t placed on the inner thigh.
Wags and Wrinkles
Wagner finished his career with 422 saves, which ranks fifth all-time and just second among southpaws behind John Franco, who had 424. His postseason experience is clearly to be forgotten, however; in 14 playoff appearances, Wagner produced a 10.32 ERA in 11.1 innings.
Along with Cox, the NLDS loss to San Francisco did not provide the ideal finale for Atlanta closer Billy Wagner, who followed through on his plans to retire at the age of 39. Wagner strained his oblique muscle fielding a ball in Game Two of the NLDS and was declared out of the rest of the series and the NLCS, had the Braves gotten there; they didn’t, in part because of Wagner’s absencewithout him, the Atlanta bullpen blew a 2-1, ninth-inning lead in the critical Game Three of the NLDS against the Giants.
Home Bittersweet Home
The Braves have lost eight straight postseason elimination games at Turner Field.
It's What Happens in October That Counts
The Giants won their second consecutive NLDS-clinching game at Atlanta despite the fact that they’re 18-36 in regular season action at Turner Field since the ballpark opened in 1997.
Never a Dull Moment
How tense was the NLDS between San Francisco and Atlanta? Each one of the four games was decided by a run, the first time that’s ever happened in baseball’s postseason. Overall, the Giants participated in seven straight one-run games to tie an all-time playoff record, ending Sunday when the Phillies beat them in Game Two of the NLCS, 6-1.