Accomplished managers poised to take center stage in postseason
Welcome to the postseason, where baseball hardly resembles what has been played for six months to get here. Runs are harder to come by, but not off days. Pitching is more important than ever, but paradoxically you need less of it. Here is the 2008 postseason in a nutshell: The Phillies played 13 games in 27 days while starting
So go ahead and try to figure out what's going to happen in the next four weeks, but just remember how the Cardinals won the 2006 tournament with 83 regular-season wins, a rookie closer and by giving six postseason starts to
What can we learn from last year? The early games of the Division Series are huge. For the third straight year, no Division Series went to a fifth game, a run of 12 consecutive series that ended in three or four games. Also, games were closer and lower-scoring than what we saw in the regular season; runs per game dropped by nine percent, while 18 of the 32 games (56 percent) were decided by one or two runs (compared to 46 percent in the regular season).
In such a climate, managers might have a greater influence on postseason games than regular-season games. That's why what is most interesting about this postseason is that it features some of the brightest, most experienced minds in the dugout.
There are 10 active managers who have won a World Series. Five of them are in this postseason --
And in the most prolific postseason matchup ever staged when it comes to career wins, La Russa, No. 3 on the all-time list, and Torre, No. 5, bring 4,798 victories -- and 8,939 games of experience -- to the St. Louis-Los Angeles matchup. (La Russa's 2,552 wins are just shy of the most regular-season wins by a manager to reach the postseason;
Just ask Scioscia (one World Series title, 10 years' experience) how that works. He still has people wondering why he tried a suicide squeeze in the last inning of the final game of the 2008 ALDS against Boston. (The play blew up when
"No, not at all. I think in that situation, the count, we've got who I think is the best bunter in our league at the plate, speed at third base. I felt very comfortable with that decision. It didn't work. If the same situation presented itself I would have the same play on and we would get it down this time."
Well, at least he gets another shot. The Angels drew the Red Sox yet again.
The eight postseason managers have combined for either 50 or 51 years of postseason experience, depending on whether the Twins'
Girardi does have plenty of postseason experience as a player and coach under Torre, the winningest postseason manager in history who makes a habit of managing aggressively in October, especially with his bullpen. Girardi will have the luxury of extra off-days so that he can use relievers
"I thought a great get for [GM]
"Nobody had it better than I did in '96, when my starters would pitch -- we'd get six innings pitched, and I had
The postseason is full of myths, many of which seem to be dying slow deaths thanks to analysis of the facts. We should know by now that it doesn't matter whether a team was hot or cold in September, that the team with the best regular-season record rarely wins it all (once this decade), that you don't absolutely have to have two aces (see 2006 Cardinals) or an experienced closer (
"The momentum swings in postseason during a ballgame or from game to game are huge and much more so than what happens during the regular season," Scioscia said. "But I really believe that once you start to understand what your team can do and what is the best way for you to go about trying to win a ballgame, you have to play that game whether it's a spring training game, whether its a regular-season game, if you're in a pennant race, or you're in a playoff game. You have to do what you can do best on the field. You can't be scared, can't be afraid.
"If you're a shortstop and you know you've got to make this play, you can't be tentative -- you have to get after it. If you have an opportunity to steal a base and all of a sudden you shut it off cause it's a playoff and there's some downside, I think you're not bringing your game onto the field. I know our guys believe in that, we believe in that, and every manager I've talked to believes in that, too. You have to bring your game, what you do best, onto the field and be willing to do it in any situation and in any game."
It's a brand new ballgame now. Postseason baseball, played under a different format than the regular season, surprises us because it winks at the conventions we came to know for the previous six months. This postseason is particularly engaging because of all that star power in the dugout. All of these managers are smart enough to know that anything can happen.