The topics include the Joe Girardi's decision to stay with the Yankees, David Price's expectations of a trade, what makes players clutch and Championship Series predictions.
1. Despite a lot of rumours about clubs being interested in his services, Joe Girardi signed a four-year deal to stay with the New York Yankees. Given the uncertainty around the team, did he make the right baseball decision?
There are a number of considerations that every free agent has to consider at the end of his contract whether he is a player or manager. What is best for his family? What is best for his career? What is the best financial deal?
The Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs were the clubs with the most rumored interest in Girardi. Yet he chose the Yankees over both of them.
The Nationals may be better positioned to win their division next year than either the Yanks or Cubs. The Nats underachieved in 2012. They have quality starting pitching and a closer with whom he is familiar in Jose Soriano. They have a young ace in Stephen Strasburg and a young superstar in Bryce Harper. They need upgrades offensively but Washington definitely has the makings of a playoff team.
The Yankees have some rebuilding to do but they will always have one of the top, if not the top, payroll in all of baseball. They can land the most impactful free agents on the market, if they so desire. They can also compete for international talent in a way that other teams cannot.
The Cubs are several years away from winning. They have a few good prospects but they are not in any position to truly compete in the NL Central any time soon.
Girardi is originally from the Chicago area. He attended Northwestern University. It has long been speculated that Girardi would like to return his family to its Midwest roots. The Cubs job had a major advantage if the pull back home was a major issue.
The Girardi's have been settled in New York for more than a few years now. The kids are in schools and have a base of friends now that would be tough to disrupt. As far as family comfort goes, New York has the current advantage.
There doesn't seem to be any family ties to the Washington, DC area.
As far as finances, it is easy to distinguish between the three clubs. There will always be one more Yankee dollar than Cubs' or Nationals' dollars.
So Girardi could have gone to a better competitive team than the Yanks in the short term and he could have returned to his childhood home.
The Cubs job is one that is coveted because it has been so long since they have won a World Series. If Girardi were to win in Chicago, he would never pay for another meal there. He would be a hometown hero forever. Yet, he still chose to return to the Yankees.
Girardi is a perfect fit in New York. All of the traits that make him great in New York make him coveted by others. The reality is that you just don't walk away from the Yankees job, no matter who wants you. Whenever the Yankess decide they are done with Girardi, the Cubs' and Nats' jobs will be available to him again. Plus, the Cubs aren't going to win a World Series with their next manager. It will be the guy after that who wins. Look for Girardi to manage the Cubs in 2018.
Girardi is the right fit for the Yanks and the Yanks are the right fit for Girardi.
2. Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price told the Tampa Bay Times this week that he expects to be traded as he only has one year of team control left before he can sign a long-term deal. How robust do you think the market will be for the 28-year-old lefthander?
David Price is right to expect a trade. The reality is that a small market team like the Rays can't let Price go to free agency and not get something in return. The best chance that a small market team has of remaining competitive is to continuously re-invent themselves.
When Price reaches the free agent market, he will be a highly sought after commodity: a 28-year old lefthanded ace. He is a leader and competitor. He is well-spoken and a good representative of a franchise.
The market may vey well change by the time he hits the market as Clayton Kershaw will likely sign a mega-contract extension with the Dodgers.
The going rate for a young #1 starter is $25M/year. Felix Hernandez got that much for seven seasons from the Mariners. Kershaw's deal will surpass the Hernandez deal and he will assuredly be the first starting pitcher to earn a contract over $200M.
I believe that the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees and Nationals will battle for Price when he is a free gent and he will land an eight-year $200M deal. He may just be worth it, too.
3. Following his Game 5 win against the Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA with four saves (he was the closer for the 2006 World Series champions) in 15 career post-season games. What do you think makes him and others so clutch?
If I could bottle what makes a player clutch, it would be worth millions. The reality is that it is one of the intangibles in baseball. It is impossible to truly predict which players will perform in the clutch and which ones won't.
Clutch usually means that a good player performs at the same level in the postseason as he does in the regular season. Or he produces in critical situations, just as he does in non-critical situations. Pressure doesn't change the level of production for a clutch player.
Wainwright is one of those rare individuals who actually performs better when the games mean more. Wainwright is 99-57 with a 3.11 ERA in his career which is very good. His postseason numbers of 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA are remarkable.
Wainwright has a unique ability to control his emotions and stay in the moment. Emotional control and mental toughness are what separate the mediocre players from the good players. The ability to keep the moment small and to slow the game down are crucial to success in critical situations. It is a mindset and belief in oneself.
The entire Cardinals team is clutch. They hit .330 with runners in scoring position. The team with the second highest batting average with runners in scoring position is the Tigers at .282. Nobody is even close to the Cards.
The Cardinals have a clubhouse and bench atmosphere that feeds each player. There is a belief that they will succeed. Confidence is contagious and leads to better performance for everyone. Wainwright is a leader in St Louis. He sets the tone that allows his teammates to thrive. Not only is he better when the situation is the biggest but his teammates are too, thanks to him.
Fair or Foul
Now that we have the participants determined for the League Championship Series, we look ahead to the matchups.
I got lucky with my predictions. All four of the teams I anticipated would advance, have advanced.
In the NL, I predicted the Dodgers would beat the Braves and the Cards would beat the Pirates. The Dodgers had the better starting pitching and that proved to be the difference over the Braves. Give the Pirates credit. They showed tremendous resiliency after a Game 1 romp by the Cards. I thought it could be a St. Louis sweep but the Bucs had a different plan. Experience proved to be the difference and it was best seen in the Game 5 matchup with Adam Wainwright defeating young Garrett Cole.
In the AL, I had the Red Sox beating the Rays. The Sox showed their balance and depth in the series and what jumped out the most was their ability to score runs in a number of different ways. They have the power to slug the ball out of the ballpark and the ability to manufacture runs with speed and contact. A nice combination.
The Tigers were the final team to make baseball's final four. They defeated the A's in a very tough series as anticipated. Justin Verlander was the difference as he dominated the A's hitters and gobbled up innings. Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer in Game 5 was the game winner. Verlander and Cabrera are the best duo for any team in the playoffs. The Tigers have great starting pitching depth but do have some offensive questions and have to be a bit insecure about the end of the game as Joaquin Benoit seemed shaky.
With the additional information from the Division Series, I want to alter my previous picks.
NLCS - Dodgers vs. Cardinals
This will be a series of two experienced teams that also have young impact talent. The Cards are the best at continuously re-inventing themselves over the years. Their young players always come to the big leagues prepared and ready to produce. Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig is the best young player still playing and maybe the most exciting player, regardless of age. The Dodgers have an edge in pitching while the Cards have an edge offensively. Wainwright having to start in Game 5 of the NLDS pushes his start back in this series and doesn't help the Cards' chances. I will take the pitching over the hitting and choose the Dodgers in six games in the series.
NLCS MVP: Yasiel Puig
ALCS - Tigers vs. Red Sox
The Tigers have pitching depth but so do the Red Sox. The fact that Justin Verlander pitched in Game 5 for the Tigers on Thursday is a disadvantage as it pushes him back in this series. Despite his homer on Thursday, Miguel Cabrera is not quite himself. The Tigers are struggling to score runs and don't have the speed to manufacture runs. The Red Sox offence can score any number of different ways and their starting pitching is very good. Verlander is the best pitcher in the series but he may only get one start. The Red Sox are just too strong for the Tigers. The Red Sox win in five games.
ALCS MVP: David Ortiz
This will set up a great World Series: Dodgers vs Red Sox. The two teams that made a blockbuster deal last year will square off against one another. It was a rare trade that worked out extremely well for both teams. Baseball fans everywhere will get a Series to remember.