When a team rises unexpectedly from the lower or mid-payroll ashes to compete or even win against the BIG payroll BOYS (ie, Skanks, Braves, Red Sox, Dodgers), then the other denizens of payroll hell feel a cool breeze of hope that their turn might be next. In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes seeks to disabuse the faithful of this notion:
- There’s no way the Tribe can dance with the Yankees and their $185 million payroll. It doesn’t matter that New York lost to the Marlins in six games Saturday. Their monetary edge is too great for any team in the big leagues to offer consistent resistance.
Did you catch that figure? $185 million. What about the Indians and Marlins?
- The Marlins approach the problem from a different angle. They started this year with a payroll of $48 million. The Indians were at an almost identical figure.
By the time the regular season ended, the Marlins payroll had risen to $54 million. The Tribe’s fell to about $45 million, but that kind of gap can be closed quickly.
….The Marlins won their second World Series on Saturday in their 11th year of existence. That’s as many World Series titles as the Indians have won in 103 seasons as a charter member of the American League.
Florida has had two winning seasons since becoming a big- league club in 1993. Each year they’ve won a World Series. The Indians have had 53 winning seasons since 1901 and appeared in five World Series.
True Indians fans are not surprised by this. But they do have the right to ask how the Marlins not only returned to the World Series, but won it, before the Indians. The two teams met in the 1997 World Series and were so evenly matched that a winner wasn’t decided until the 11th inning of the seventh game.
….anyone who thinks they’ll be able to re-create Florida’s October run in 2004 just because their payrolls are similar should compare the teams’ starting lineups from this year.
First base: Florida’s Derrek Lee vs. Ben Broussard and Travis Hafner.
Comment: Lee outhomered Broussard and Hafner, 31-30, and plays rings around them on defense.
Second base: Luis Castillo vs. Brandon Phillips.
Comment: Except for driving in the winning run in the World Series clincher Saturday, Castillo had a terrible postseason. During the regular season, however, he hit .314, scored 99 runs and played Gold Glove defense. Phillips played some defense and that was it.
Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez vs. Omar Vizquel.
Comment: After watching the postseason, it is clear that Vizquel’s defense has been wasted the last two years in Cleveland. The man deserves to be on center stage in October.
That being said, he’s 36 and coming off two knee operations. Gonzalez, from Venezuela like Vizquel, is a good defender and has more power.
Third base: Mike Lowell vs. Casey Blake.
Comment: Lowell is a bonafide power-hitting third baseman (32 HR, 102 RBI). Blake is bridging a gap until the Indians find someone better.
Catcher: Pudge Rodriguez vs. Victor Martinez and Josh Bard.
Comment: A 10-time Gold Glove winner like Rodriguez should be head and shoulders above two rookies. Rodriguez was.
Outfield: Juan Pierre, Miguel Cabrera, Juan Encarnacion vs. Milton Bradley, Jody Gerut and Coco Crisp.
Comment: Pierre stole 65 bases, the Indians stole 86 as a team. Bradley might be the best player in the group, but what does it mean if he can’t stay healthy? Gerut showed some power with 22 homers. The Indians haven’t had a young power hitter like Cabrera since Manny Ramirez.
Starting pitching: Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano, Brad Penny, Mark Redman and Dontrelle Willis vs. C.C. Sabathia, Jason Davis, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook and Jason Stanford.
Comment: Nobody on the Marlins staff won more than 15 games, but three of them won 14. Sabathia led the Indians with 13 wins. The other four starters are all about potential, not results.
Closer: Ugueth Urbina and Braden Looper vs. Danys Baez and David Riske.
Comment: If Riske had been pitching for the Red Sox this postseason, they might have been in the World Series instead of the Yankees. If he’d been pitching for the Yankees, they might be celebrating another world championship.
Um, Marlins win at every position other than closer, where it’s even. I’d still take Omar at short, I think the starting pitching is closer than Hoynes does, and if Bradley stays healthy (a very big IF), the Tribe outfield could be tough next year as well, but Hoynes’s point is made.
Meanwhile, the NY Times sees Zimmer’s departure as the beginning of a possible exodus:
- Don Zimmer, the Yankees’ bench coach, got the jump on George Steinbrenner yesterday by vowing never to return to Yankee Stadium because of the way he said Steinbrenner, the team’s principal owner, had treated him. Steinbrenner issued a statement that was essentially a call to arms for the front office.
….[Brad] Penny won Games 1 and 5 despite allowing 15 hits in 12 1/3 innings. The Yankees went 2 for 14 off him with runners in scoring position. For the series, they were 7 for 50 in that situation.
“In playoff baseball, there’s always playoff pitching,” said the Yankees’ hitting coach, Rick Down. “You can’t put the blame on anything or anyone. It isn’t like we stopped working or stopped preparing or did things we hadn’t done during the course of the season. It just didn’t work out, simple as that.”
The onus for the failure will probably fall on Down, who got his job after the Yankees’ last offensive slumber in the World Series. Down replaced Gary Denbo after the Yankees scored only 14 runs in their seven-game loss to Arizona in 2001.
And, after every baseball fan on the planet and their cousin shrieked in horror when Grady Little left Pedro in when he was clearly OUT OF GAS and cost his team a World Series birth, he has been shown the door:
- The Boston Red Sox said today that they would not extend the contract of Manager Grady Little, who was let go despite having guided the team to 95 regular-season victories and a berth in the American League Championship Series.
The team’s president, Larry Lucchino, and General Manger Theo Epstein said the decision was not based on Little’s ill-fated decision to leave Pedro Martínez on the mound during the eighth inning of Game 7 of the championship series against the Yankees. [NY Times]