By Sweeny Murti
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It’s all over. So here are some post-World Series thoughts:
*Congrats to the Giants, the first team that had to win 12 postseason games to win the World Series. Including the Wild Card game, that’s four different must-wins, although the Giants faced elimination only twice before capturing their third championship in five years.
Are the Giants a dynasty? I’m not sure I can say that, only because they have never won back-to-back titles and thus have never successfully defended their crown. Think of any dynasty in any sport, and they all have back-to-back championships in there somewhere: Yankees, A’s, Celtics, Bulls, Islanders, Canadiens, Steelers, Packers, Patriots, UCLA. At some point in time they defended their title.
The Giants’ run is a great one, but I think of it the same way I think of the Spurs’ multiple rings — a cut below the other great dynasties in their sports.
Oh, and Madison Bumgarner is simply the best pitcher in World Series history. It’s hard to say any more, isn’t it?
*Congrats to the Royals for a spectacular run. It was fun to see their brand of baseball, even though it came up just a bit short.
As KC gained momentum I detected a groundswell among Yankees fans who wanted to know why their team couldn’t be more like the Royals. You know — young and athletic, capable of manufacturing runs and with a bright future ahead.
But remember that Dayton Moore just completed his ninth season as GM of the Royals, whose 89 wins were their most ever in that span. Only one other time (86 wins in 2013) have they even finished over .500. They have never won a division title, and back on September 30 they were down by four runs in the eighth inning of one-and-done Wild Card game, six outs away from not even playing an October game.
What followed was a great run. A comeback and extra-innings win over the A’s, a rout of the Angels in the ALDS, a wipeout of the Orioles in the ALCS and then the march to Game 7 of the World Series. They were just good enough to make the dance and got hot. If they had won the whole thing they would be Villanova or NC State. Instead they are Butler. Yes, that’s what the baseball playoffs have become: Fall Frenzy, an NCAA-style tournament packed with a month of madness.
*That the Royals did finally make it to the World Series is a wonderful story. It’s a run that should be remembered for a long time because it may not happen again. Ask the Tampa Bay Rays, who in recent years assembled better teams than the one that reached the World Series in 2008, yet still have just that one pennant to show for it.
*These playoffs have proven that there is no exact formula. The team with the highest payroll and the best pitcher (Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw) didn’t win. The team with the most feared hitter in the game (Tigers, Miguel Cabrera) didn’t win. The team with the best young player in the game (Angels, Mike Trout) didn’t win. The team that made the boldest trade acquisitions (A’s, Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija) didn’t win.
Yet, it’s not a signal that the Yankees will start doing business differently. Yes, they will try to improve and get younger in spots. And they do have at least a couple of similarities to the Royals. Their outfield defense with Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury rates favorably, and their version of the Wil Myers-for-James Shields-and Wade Davis trade (Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda) got them a considerably younger pitcher with high-end potential.
The present Yankees roster needs some fixing, for sure. But the Bombers won’t become the Royals overnight. Nor should they. Because the Yankees play half their games in a ballpark built for left-handed power, their lineup will always be built around certain kinds of hitters.
*Hey, A-Rod is officially back. In your best John Sterling voice, “Ballgame over! World Series over! A-Rod suspension over!!”
Yankees win? We’ll find out. He will tell us he’s in great shape. Baseball shape is a different thing altogether. At age 40. After two hip surgeries. And a full year away from the game.
As I wrote a few weeks back, I think he is best suited to be the Yankees’ full-time DH in 2015.
*Back to the Rays, a team in major transition, to put it mildly. Andrew Friedman and Joe Maddon are gone. And nobody really saw either one coming. It makes me feel as if they both saw a team that has seen it’s window in the AL East close, and were happy to drive off with Tropicana Field in their rear-view mirrors.
*The Yankees are still looking for a hitting coach, and minor-league hitting coordinator James Rowson is still a candidate. But it appears more and more unlikely that he will get the big-league job, and maybe that’s not a bad thing. For him, I mean.
Rowson has drawn raves from folks in the Yankees’ front office, but he probably has greater value to the organization by continuing to work with high-end prospects like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Eric Jagielo, Jake Cave and Tyler Austin. He can help them continue to develop and ultimately reach the major leagues. The other choice is to let him work with veteran players like A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, and probably have minimal impact on their 2015 seasons.
Rowson deserves a chance at some point, but he might not be in the best position at the present time. It’s similar to the way some of the veterans on the 2001 team reacted to Gary Denbo, a good hitting coach who lasted only one season.
*Free agency is about to begin, and we will get into all that in the coming days and weeks. But I’ll leave you with this: It was fun to watch Ichiro Suzuki play up close for the last few years, even if he wasn’t in his prime. His work ethic showed on a daily basis, and his flashes of brilliance were enough to make you think of how much fun it was to watch him play in Seattle (or even in Japan.) Wherever he ends up in 2015, be glad you got to see him.
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