Buck Showalter did an excellent job of guiding the Baltimore Orioles back into the playoffs. Bob Melvin had an equally fine effort with the Oakland Athletics.
So who should be the AL Manager of the Year? Both of them, Detroit skipper Jim Leyland said.
“Not to put the cart before the horse, but I hope that Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin are co-Managers of the Year this year,” Leyland said before Detroit tried for a three-game sweep at Oakland in the ALDS on Tuesday night. “I think if there’s a year there should be two guys getting the award, this is the year.”
The award, chosen by voters from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, will be announced next month.
Melvin, in his first full season with Oakland, managed the A’s to a 94-68 record. The surprising Athletics returned to the playoffs for the first time in six years. His erased a 13-game AL West deficit – including five games over the final nine – and overtook two-time reigning AL champion Texas on the season’s final day.
The A’s became the first team in major league history to win the division or pennant after trailing by five or more games with fewer than 10 to go.
Showalter, meanwhile, helped the Orioles end 14 straight losing seasons and four consecutive last-place finishes. They won 93 games to earn a wild-card berth and beat the two-time defending AL champion Rangers in a one-game playoff to advance to the division series against New York.
The Yankees and Orioles are tied one game apiece. Game 3 is Wednesday in New York.
Birds on a bus
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter was given an unexpected reminder of what it was like to travel in his minor league days.
The Orioles rode the bus to New York.
The alternate plans were needed when Baltimore’s train stalled because of electrical problems along the line early Tuesday morning after beating the Yankee 3-2, tying their AL division series at one game each.
“The way I understand it, I think the train ahead of us, I think it was the Yankees, clipped something,” Showalter said. “Finally we just got on a bus, and it was about a 2 1/2-hour bus ride from there to the hotel here in New York.”
The Orioles arrived at 9 a.m. about three hours after the Yankees returned – also by bus. Both teams began their journeys shortly after 1 a.m.
This wasn’t Baltimore’s first brush with transportation problems. Less than two weeks ago, the Orioles team plane had smoke in the forward galley and had to be diverted.
Firstpitches, Frank-ly speaking
Frank Robinson and Frank Howard – a pair of men with strong connections to Washington baseball – will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitches for Games 3 and 4 of the Nationals’ NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Robinson was the first manager of the Nationals, guiding them through their initial two seasons in the nation’s capital, 2005 and 2006, after having spent four seasons with them when the club was the Montreal Expos. The Hall of Famer get the honor before Wednesday’s game, the first baseball postseason contest in Washington since 1933.
“It’s cool. It’ll be fun to get to talk to him and kind of poke at each other a little bit,” said Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, who was drafted by the Expos in 2004 and switched his uniform from No. 6 to Robinson’s old No. 20 before this season as a tribute.
“When he signed up here, he had this in mind. He wanted to start something, and he did,” Desmond added. “He’s got a stamp on this organization forever and I’m forever indebted to him, and I think D.C. will be also.”
Howard will throw out the first pitch Thursday. He played for the Washington Senators from 1965-71, hitting 44 or more homers in three consecutive seasons during that span.
A Prince, indeed
Wherever, however, the Tigers found the money to pay slugger Prince Fielder’s hefty salary for nearly the next decade, Jim Leyland has no idea.
And the Detroit manager doesn’t much care – Leyland is writing him into the lineup each day now. Fielder is doing his thing to get Detroit back to a second straight AL championship series.
Still, hearing that $214 million, nine-year number caught Leyland’s attention, all right.
“The first thing I thought was that we found a whole bunch of money in a short period of time, because we couldn’t even sign a relief pitcher for a million dollars about a week before that,” Leyland said Tuesday before Game 3 in Oakland. “So, evidently we sold a lot of Little Caesars in a short period of time. And I’m damn glad we did. But it was amazing.”
Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is the Little Caesars pizza mogul.
With Fielder as the cleanup hitter following Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in the No. 3 spot, the Tigers have one of the most feared middle-of-the-order tandems out there.
It’s a big risk to pitch around both of them, too.
“It’s not an easy task,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You look at the numbers and they both have knocked in over a hundred runs and both of them hit 30-plus homers, so somebody is pitching to them. … There are times you can’t pitch around those guys and you have to go after them.”
That was fast
If there was any sort of silver lining to be found for the Nationals after they lost Game 2 of their NLDS against St. Louis by a 12-4 score, perhaps it was the opportunity to get to see several relievers.
Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia lasted only two innings – the lefty was replaced on the roster Tuesday because he has a strained rotator cuff and inflammation in his throwing shoulder – so St. Louis needed five members of the bullpen to get through the game.
The one who made the biggest impression? Trevor Rosenthal.
He struck out three batters in the ninth, topping 100 mph.
“Rosenthal came in throwing 101 last night. That’s absolute ‘fuego,’” Washington’s Bryce Harper said. “If you guys want to step in the box, you guys can go ahead.”
Said Adam LaRoche: “A mop-up guy that throws 100? We were saying: ‘Where do they get these guys? You’re kidding me.’”