SVEUM SONG—I’m not sure who didn’t see this coming, but Dale Sveum—the man with no managerial experience at any professional level (not counting his quick interimship and postseason trip with the Brewers) whom the Cubs chose over Ryne Sandberg two years ago—has been executed. Sveum was going to be judged on development more than performance, but some of the key Cub developments didn’t exactly go as intended, like Starlin Castro staying prone to defensive lapses while his hitting has dipped significantly enough, or Jeff Samardzija pitching like an All-Star one moment and a 1962 Met the next.
Dig a little further into just what transpired between Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez and practically the entire Atlanta Braves team Wednesday night. The deeper you dig, the more you begin to get the impression that the Braves’ idea of enforcing proper field decorum is to look even more stupid than the enemy offender does.
And you may also have fallen upon a big key to beating the Braves out of the postseason in the early going, too. Get them rattled enough over actual or alleged infractions against the unwritten rules, actual or alleged, and they’re yours. Just make sure you don’t get any of your players hurt.
The game meant nothing to the Yankees otherwise. They staggered out of the postseason picture one day earlier. These mostly old and mostly battered Yankees had nothing but will to get them far enough that they held onto postseason hopes by a frayed thread at best. Behind 4-0 to the Rays Thursday night in Yankee Stadium, a deficit that would hold up, there was only one reason for manager Joe Girardi to bring in his closer at all, never mind in the top of the eight.
Say this much for the Atlanta Braves: They don’t necessarily take things easy after they secure a division title. That doesn’t mean they’re allergic to crossing a line or two when someone on the other side crosses a line. Or forgets to take the A train around the bases on a home run.
Realistically, the New York Yankees’ 2013 was probably sealed in the opening game of last year’s American League Championship Series. When Derek Jeter went down with the broken ankle trying to make a play he usually makes in his sleep, that was really the first scene in a play that ended its run Wednesday, and with no known cheer other than that the nightmarish presentation was finally over.
One day earlier, the Mariano Rivera bobblehead dolls arrived late to Yankee Stadium. Wednesday, the Charlie Brown bobbleheads arrived only too cruelly on time. The sad part is that Charlie Brown’s fastball is probably less hittable than most of what the Yankees have been throwing this season.
I said it last October, when the Washington Nationals imploded in a division series Game Five they had practically in the bank. And I’ll say it again, John Feinstein be damned. (Only kidding, sir.) The Strasburg Plan had nothing to do with the Nats going no further than the division series last year. And it had nothing to do with them going nowhere but home when the regular season ends this weekend.
Two years ago, Terry Francona was on the threshold of taking the fall for his Boston Red Sox’s E.C. Now he has a reasonable chance of meeting the Red Sox in the postseason. Only he’s on the bridge for the Cleveland Indians. And among the thank-yous he owes is one to an old man who looked last fall as though he might be hanging up his bat in favour of becoming a manager himself.
The one thing his coming departure has in common with his previous departures as a major league manager is that most his players aren’t in that big a hurry to see Davey Johnson leave the dugout.
Presented with a striking Tiffany crystal on his appreciation day in Washington Sunday, Johnson is about to finish his tenure on the Nationals’ bridge by his choice. For the first time since he became a major league manager. The only part of the equation that isn’t his choice is stepping down before October.
A year ago, the Red Sox were playing out a disheartening string, just hoping to finish the season with whatever was left of their dignity. They played under the lash of a front office who’d become something like lost souls, and a manager whose idea of quelling the gases remaining from that stupefying September 2011 collapse was to light matches.
Today, the Red Sox sit, stand, scamper, and strut as the American League East champions. And one of the keys was shown by pitcher Ryan Dempster, in the middle of the champagne-spraying clubhouse celebration, after they nailed the division on the arm of Jon Lester’s 100th career win.
Concerning the Los Angeles Dodger’s pool party to celebrate clinching the National League West in Arizona, a few observations:
1) There was a point during the season when the Dodgers had hit rock bottom, or close enough, while the Diamondbacks were hitting the high notes and the high standings. It isn’t exactly out of the bounds of reason to suggest that, on the assumption that the Dodgers had a resurrection in them, which wasn’t an assumption many were willing to make at that point in time, there could be nothing sweeter than to finish it at the Diamondbacks’ expense. Especially considering . . .