The World Series is almost upon us.
It's ironic that two of the oldest and most iconic teams have been taken to the Fall Classic by two men who are there for the first time in their careers and both of whom are relatively light in Major League managerial experience.
St. Louis Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny is in his second year with St. Louis after succeeding Tony LaRussa after the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series. This was Matheny's first managerial job, period.
John Farrell managed the Toronto Blue Jays for two years before getting "traded" to the Boston Red Sox this past off-season and this is only his third year managing in the Bigs.
Only four rookie managers have ever won a World Series, while six more won in their first full-season at the helm of a team.
The last rookie to turn the trick was former Blue Jays catcher Bob Brenly in 2001 when the Arizona Diamondbacks won their first and only World Series in that classic match-up with the New York Yankees.
The other are "the Major," Ralph Houk, who led the 1961 Yankees to a Series win over the Cincinatti Reds, Eddie Dyer, who was at the helm of the 1946 Cardinals when they beat the Red Sox in seven games and Bucky Harris, who lead the 1924 Washington Senators to their one and only World Series title.
Harris was only 27-years-old when he took over as player manager that season and won two more pennants over his 29 years as an MLB skipper and led the Yankees to a title in 1947. Of those four, Harris was the only one to make it into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
The group of six who won in their first full season as a skipper includes four Hall of Famers and one that in my mind should be.
In 1920, Tris Speaker led the Cleveland Indians to their first World Series crown as a player-manager. Rogers Hornsby did the same for St. Louis in 1926, also as a player-manager. Legendary slugger Bill Terry, the last National Leaguer to hit .400, won as a player-manager with the New York Giants. Frankie Frisch also won as a player-manager with St. Louis in 1934.
These four men refute the old argument that great players have a tough time becoming coaches or managers.
The other two on that list are Dallas Green of the 1980 Phillies, who was really more regarded over the years as a general manager. The final name is that of Tom Kelly, who won two World Series with the Twins in 1987 and 1991. Why he isn't in the Hall of Fame is beyond me.
This is the fourth meeting between the Cardinals and Red Sox in the World Series. In 1946 and again in 1967 (the Red Sox Impossible Dream Season,) St. Louis won in 7. But all of that was erased from memory by Red Sox fans when the BoSox ended their 86 year-long World Series drought by sweeping the Cardinals in 2004.
This is the Cardinals' fourth World Series appearance in 10 seasons (they own a 2-1 record in the previous three) and the Red Sox's third in the same decade (they won their previous two.) So essentially, this is for the bragging rights for best team since the start of the new millennium.
Bob Elliot of the Toronto Sun has word that the Blue Jays are on the lookout for a catching upgrade are aiming for either Chris Iannetta or Hank Conger of the Los Angeles Angels in a trade. Clearly, since they're not going to get into a bidding war for the likes of free agent-to-be Brian McCann, it shouldn't be any surprise that the Blue Jays would go back to the Mike Scioscia school of Catcher-nomics.
Over the past six or seven years, the Blue Jays have employed, or at least briefly owned, four other Angels catchers who learned at the knee of Scoscia.
Benji and Jose Molina were with the Angels when they beat the Giants in the 2002 World Series. Mike Napoli was acquired in the Vernon Wells trade and then was swapped four days later to the Texas Rangers for reliever Frank Francisco and cash and Jeff Mathis, who the Jays traded to Miami as part of that massive trade with the Marlins.
Iannetta and Conger wouldn't hit for any more power than J.P Arencibia, but both are considered superior defensively.