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Phillies Might Never Be the Same Again
PLUS: 2022 ASTROS WON'T BE FIRST PERFECT POSTSEASON TEAM SINCE 1976 REDS
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Did you know…
Without the designated hitter added permanently to the National League this year, Bryce Harper couldn’t have come back from his June 25 thumb fracture. He missed two months, returning Aug. 26 without his usual power but regaining his form just in time for his prodigious performance in the playoffs . . .
San Diego was the third team to score four runs in the top of the first inning of a post-season game it lost, along with Cleveland (1997 ALDS) and the original Washington Senators (1925 World Series) . . .
Whether or not they sign Aaron Judge, the Dodgers seem serious about moving Mookie Betts from right field to second base . . .
Gerrit Cole (Yankees) and Brandon Crawford (Giants) are brothers-in-law . . .
Disappointing Josh Donaldson has $21 million remaining on his Yankees contract . . .
Roger Maris had four hits, including two homers, in his first game with the Yankees . .
When the Baltimore Orioles (later the New York Yankees) incorporated in Jan. 4, 1901, their manager was John McGraw.
Philly Fall Might Never Look Like This Again
By David Blumberg
Nick Castellanos might best be known as a meme at this point. It’s a good meme, one I’ve used several times myself.
Castellanos the baseball player, however, is emblematic of the 2022 Phillies approach. Philadelphia clearly wanted to hit the ball hard, even at the expense of a solid defense.
The Phillies posted a -34 defensive runs saved metric this season, which ranked 25th in the league, and posted -37 outs above average, which ranked second-to-last. Their World Series counterpart Astros ranked fifth in defensive runs saved and second in outs above average. The two teams almost couldn’t be more different in this regard.
We hear all the time how defense wins championships. It’s a long-held axiom in just about every team sport. The Phillies have a chance to show that it’s not always true, though.
The playoffs are a bit random in baseball. After all, one team only has to have its best or worst week for things to go in an unexpected direction.
Most fans probably wouldn’t have predicted the Phillies would be here right now. They barely made the playoffs in the first place and there were clearly stronger teams. However, this is October where anything can happen and the ‘anything’ in this case has been the Philadelphia Phillies.
We need to appreciate what the Phillies are doing right now because it probably won’t happen again.
The shift ban comes to MLB in 2023, likely eliminating the best tool a team like the Phillies has to cover up their atrocious defense.
As Eno Sarris points out, players such as Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm will find the new shiftless world very trying. No longer will defensive positioning allow his deficiencies to be as hidden.
The Phillies have lineup regulars such as Castellanos, Bohm, and Kyle Schwarber, who are all extreme liabilities in the field that they might not be able to hide in 2023 and beyond.
I love baseball when it’s strange, and so I love what the Phillies have accomplished this season. I know it probably won’t happen again, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.
When Kyle Schwarber launches another massive home run or Nick Castellanos creates a highlight play out of his own lack of range, I’ll no doubt be captivated.
I implore all of you reading this to do the same. Savor this World Series because it might never look the same as this again.
David Blumberg is a long-suffering Cubs fan. You can find his baseball opinions on Twitter and other musings on Medium at DGBlog. Follow him on Twitter @DGBlumberg.
Red-Hot Houston Astros Couldn’t Run the Table This Postseason
By Dan Schlossberg
Baseball is totally unpredictable.
Even after covering the game for more than half-a-century, there’s no sure thing — especially in the postseason.
But that doesn’t stop me for publishing my picks every year anyhow.
Even knowing how slumps, injuries, and a myriad of other factors can subvert any semblance of logic, I love going out on a limb — or several limbs, thanks to this year’s expanded playoffs.
With the Wild Card Series now a best-of-three, it was easy to pick the home team — especially since the higher seed had all three games on its home field.
So much for good ideas: the Padres beat the Mets, the Phillies crushed the Cardinals, the Mariners beat the Blue Jays, and the Rays lost to the Guardians (the only home team to win the Wild Card round).
Then came the best-of-five Division Series, loaded with heavyweights that won more than 100 games. Only the Houston Astros, last year’s American League champion, survived.
The suddenly red-hot Phillies upended the defending world champion Braves and the upstart Padres beat the Dodgers after finishing 22 games behind during the regular season. In the American League, Houston beat Seattle (with an 18-inning, 1-0 game) and the Yankees beat the Guardians, who certainly could have found a better nickname. But the format here was 2-2-1 with the higher seed getting the home-field advantage.
In the best-of-seven Championship Series round, Houston continued its mastery over the Yankees, sweeping all four games, while Philadelphia capitalized on mistakes by San Diego’s manager — letting his closer watch an eighth-inning calamity he might have prevented — and its over-anxious hitters, both swinging at first pitches with the team’s season on the line.
That leads us to the World Series, another best-of-seven contest, and the chance that the Astros could become the first team since the 1976 Cincinnati Reds to run the table and go undefeated in postseason play.
Houston jumped on Aaron Nola — questionably chosen over Zack Wheeler to pitch the opener for the Phillies — for five runs in the first two innings last night. And Kyle Tucker joined Andruw Jones and Gene Tenace as the only players to homer in their first two World Series at-bats — although the FOX broadcast team totally ignored that fact.
But the Phils kept chipping away at Justin Verlander, who has never won a World Series game (he’s 0-6), and eventually pulled out a stunning 6-5 win on the road.
Should it go a full seven, the Astros would have four games at Minute Maid Park, where they are normally unstoppable. My hunch is it won’t get that far — or even close.
Nobody expected the Phils — a third-place team that finished 14 games out of first place while suffering from bullpen and defensive woes — to last this long. Yes, they got hot at the right time but they may be the Team of the Month rather than the Team of the Year.
With all due credit to Rob Thomson, in his first season as a major-league manager, we salute Dusty Baker, who has taken five teams to the postseason but never won a ring as a manager. At age 73 — the elder statesman of acting managers — he’ll fill that void this year and do it rather handily. But he won’t do what the Big Red Machine did 46 years ago.
Astros in six.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is notorious for bad baseball predictions. But he’s still written or co-authored 40 baseball books. Dan covers the game for forbes.com, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Latino Sports, and Memories & Dreams. E.mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“There’s a pot of gold there. It’s yet to be determined how much it weighs but it’s a pot of gold, no doubt about it. It was already a big pot and obviously it’ll be bigger.”
— Yankees GM Brian Cashman on free agent Aaron Judge
As teams prepare for the Aaron Judge bidding war, there’s no guarantee the 31-year-old slugger will top Mike Trout’s record guarantee of $426.5 million or Max Scherzer’s record annual average of $43.3 million . . .
The Yankees have more pennants (40) than any other franchise but have not won one since 2009 . . .
Like Derek Jeter, Anthony Volpe is a New Jersey native likely to be the next long-term shortstop for the Yankees — with fellow freshman Oswald Peraza a jack-of-all-trades if not a regular at second or third . . .
Ticket prices for Phillies World Series home games at Citizens Bank Park reached an average of $3,200 this week, trailing only those of the 2016 Chicago Cubs games at Wrigley Field . . .
Nestor Cortes, a 27-year-old pitcher born in Cuba but raised in Miami, rode the subway to Yankee Stadium all season but was never recognized . . .
The White Sox just might bring back Ozzie Guillen, who managed the team to a world championship in 2005 . . .
Carlos Correa won five Twins postseason awards but may sign elsewhere for 2023.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.