Manager's toughest call: sitting a slumping star


Manager's toughest call: sitting a slumping star

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Pete Rose sat in the World Series. So did Reggie Jackson, Barry Zito and Paul O'Neill. Tim Lincecum lost his spot in the San Francisco Giants' rotation this October, and Jose Valverde forfeited his role as the Detroit Tigers' closer.

Finessing slumping stars with enormous egos and prodigious paychecks is part of a major league manager's mandate, and sensitive situations can turn radioactive come October.

``It's one of your most difficult things you have to do as a manager, particularly when you're talking to a star player,'' Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, ``and you have to tell him that you're going to go another way as far as the postseason.''

Yankees manager Joe Girardi set off storm when he parked Alex Rodriguez for three playoff games this October and pinch hit for him in three others.

``Any time I'm in any lineup, I think that lineup is better and has a better chance to win,'' said the $275 million man, baseball's highest-paid player. ``Any time I'm in the box, the game can change, and everyone knows that.''

But a string of strikeouts earned A-Rod his own private brig on the bench.

Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young Award winner for the Giants, won the Series opener and the Game 5 clincher against Texas two years ago. Dropped as a Series starter this year following a 10-15 regular season, he came out of the bullpen in Game 1 and retired seven straight batters, striking out five.

``A different vantage, a different kind of feeling,'' he said of his `pen appearances this October, ``a whole different experience for me.''

A World Series benching that brought a particularly resentful response came in 1983. Then 42, Rose had started 31 consecutive World Series games before Philadelphia manager Paul Owens banished him against Baltimore ace Jim Palmer in Game 3. Tony Perez, Rose's 41-year-old replacement, went 1 for 4, and the Orioles overcame a two-run deficit for a 3-2 win that gave them a Series lead en route to a five-game victory.

``I'm hurt and embarrassed,'' said Rose, who went on to become baseball's hits king. ``There are 65,000 people in this stadium tonight, and the two most surprised and astounded people are Pete Rose and Tony Perez. I didn't think that's the way baseball should be played.''

Yankees manager Joe Torre removed four-time All-Star Chuck Knoblauch for Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series after an 0 for 12 start, put him back in the lineup for a night and then took him out again for Game 7.

``I'm just fiddling with it to see if we can stimulate some offense here,'' Torre said.

He also sat five-time All-Star Paul O'Neill against Curt Schilling in the opener and O'Neill was joined by two-time All-Star Tino Martinez in the dugout for Game 2 as Torre went with eight right-handed hitters plus Andy Pettitte against Randy Johnson.

Torre's moves didn't work. Johnson pitched a three-hit shutout to give Arizona a 2-0 Series lead. He restored Martinez for Game 6 but not O'Neill, and Arizona won 15-2 to force a Game 7.

``I liked the days when I didn't have to look at the lineup,'' O'Neill said.

In 1981, Reggie Jackson missed the final game of the AL championship series and the first two games of the World Series because of an injured calf. He said he could play in Game 3, but manager Bob Lemon held him out against Los Angeles Dodgers rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela.

``The best left-hander in the National League was pitching against us,'' Lemon said, ``and Reggie hasn't been at bat in quite awhile. It wasn't fair to him, and it wasn't fair to us.''

New York lost 5-4 that night and the Dodgers won the Series in six games. Jackson, in his final year with the Yankees, returned the following night and went 4 for 12 with an RBI over the rest of the Series.

Zito, a Cy Young Award winner with a $126 million contract, was dropped by Bochy from San Francisco's postseason rosters in 2002.

``The way he handled it was so impressive,'' Bochy said. ``I think he threw a bullpen that day and throughout the postseason he kept himself ready in case something happened. He didn't hang his head and he even threw to hitters. He said, `I'll keep myself ready. If you need me, I'll be ready.'''

And the manager maintained Zito's respect.

``He's always communicated,'' the pitcher said. ``Sometimes the truth was not what I wanted to hear, but it was the truth.''

Willie Mays, in the last of his 22 seasons, started the 1973 Series opener for the New York Mets and then entered Game 2 as a pinch runner. He fell down on Deron Johnson's fly ball leading off the ninth as Oakland rallied for two runs that sent the game into extra innings, then hit a tiebreaking single in the 12th. After Mays pinch hit in Game 3, manager Yogi Berra didn't use him in the final four games. And Mays didn't cause a fuss.

``Just because it was my last game, it didn't make any difference to me if I played or not,'' Mays said then.

By then, Mays was 42. Rodriguez, at 37, stills thinks of himself as a power. Girardi's move paid off when Raul Ibanez batted for A-Rod in the ninth inning of Game 3 of this year's division series and hit a tying home run. Ibanez homered again in the 12th to win the game.

``Those were tough moves to make - pinch hitting for a guy that's going to be a Hall of Famer,'' Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. ``But it certainly turned out to be the right thing to do.''

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

The 2018 Major League All-Star Game is less than a month away. Fan votes are well underway and early frontrunners are close to locking their position in the Midsummer Classic.

Yesterday, we projected how the National League roster will play out. Today it is time to look at the American League roster projection.

For five straight seasons, the AL has had the upper hand in the MLB All-Star Game. In 2018, it does not appear that will change as the American League roster will be loaded from top to bottom.

As a reminder, here is how the process shakes out, first with the fan vote, players’ ballots, and the MLB Commissioner’s Office:

  • Fan vote: nine position players in AL (DH)/ eight in NL; plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 17 players in AL/ 16 players in NL; (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: five AL players (four pitchers, one position player) and seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players)

One player from each team must make the initial roster (before injury withdraws, etc.). Below is how it looks the American League roster will play out, considering the latest fan vote returns:

American League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Wilson Ramos, Rays (Fan Vote), Gary Sánchez, Yankees (Player Ballot)
1B – José Abreu, White Sox (Fan Vote), Joey Gallo, Rangers (Player Ballot)
2B – Jose Altuve, Astros (Fan Vote), Jed Lowrie, Athletics (Player Ballot)
3B – José Ramírez, Indians (Fan Vote), Yangervis Solarte, Blue Jays (Player Ballot), Mike Moustakas, Royals (Commissioner’s Office)
SS – Manny Machado, Orioles (Fan Vote), Jean Segura, Mariners (Player Ballot),
OF – Mookie Betts, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Mike Trout, Angels (Fan Vote), Aaron Judge, Yankees (Fan Vote), Michael Brantley, Indians (Player Ballot), Eddie Rosario, Twins (Player Ballot), Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (Player Ballot),
DH – J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Shohei Ohtani, Angels (Player Ballot)

SP – Justin Verlander, Astros (Player Ballot), Luis Severino, Yankees (Player Ballot), Corey Kluber, Indians (Player Ballot), Chris Sale, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Gerrit Cole, Astros (Player Ballot), Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Edwin Díaz, Mariners (Player Ballot), Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Aroldis Chapman, Yankees (Player Ballot), Joe Jiménez, Tigers (Commissioner’s Office), Delin Betances, Yankees (Commissioner’s Office), Chris Devenski, Astros (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Jeff Luhnow, Astros

Based on this projection, the New York Yankees will have the most representatives with six. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox will both have four.

Ensuring no snubs, there will be five players selected for the final fan vote to get one more All-Star into the game for a total of 32 for the American League. As you can see, no matter how the AL roster plays out, it will be a dominant team once again as they look for six straight All-Star wins.

Four of those five wins were inside a National League stadium and that will not change as the Washington Nationals will host this season.


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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs


Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.