Red Pinstripes: It's a busy time of year
ALDS previews, Phillies post-season news, and more news and notes
Every year, I forget how busy October is for baseball. Not only do we have the playoffs, but teams that missed the playoffs have press conferences, fire coaches, and hire general managers. There’s a lot going on, and this week has been no exception.
The Yankees lost to the Red Sox Tuesday night, solidifying the AL playoff field. The ALDS games start tonight, with Boston going to Tampa Bay and the Astros hosting the White Sox in Houston.
Meanwhile, a lot has happened for the teams that missed the playoffs this week. The Mets have already fired their manager struck out on two high-profile candidates to run baseball operations. The Padres fired their manager, too. And the Rockies and Nationals re-signed some of their players.
And Phillies president Dave Dombrowski gave his season-ending press conference Wednesday, where he outlined the team’s needs for next season and put Joe Girardi and Didi Gregorius on the hot seat for next season.
So yeah, there’s a lot going on. And I’ll have even more to write about Friday, when I preview the NLDS and think about one-game playoffs. It’s just that time of year. Make sure you catch it all by subscribing to the newsletter.
Previewing the ALDS
White Sox (3) vs. Astros (2)
The ALDS kicks off this afternoon with the Central-winning White Sox taking on the West champion Astros. I have no idea what to expect from the White Sox, who have been on cruise control since August. Mostly, they were getting healthy as Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez came back from injuries that robbed them of most of their seasons.
The Astros had a bit more of a fight, with both the Mariners and the Athletics nipping at their heels, but by September it was obvious that Houston would win the division. And it was a kind of quiet season for the Astros. They had some rowdy receptions across the country that made headlines, but this was a team that just went to work and won its division again.
Thursday, 4:07 PM, FS1
Lance Lynn at Lance McCullers
Friday, 2:07 PM, MLB Network
Lucas Giolito at Framber Valdez
Sunday, 8:07 PM, FS1
Game 4, if necessary, Monday, FS1
Game 5, if necessary, Wednesday, FS1
The Astors come into the postseason as the obvious villains, given all of their trashcan shenanigans. And the White Sox are easy to root for with a collection of fun, young stars like Tim Anderson, Robert, and Jimenez.
On the other hand, look at the managers and your rooting options are reversed. The Astros have the great, loveable Dusty Baker in their dugout. He’s never won the World Series and I’d love to see him finally get that ring after memorable runs with the Giants, Cubs, and Nationals. In the opposing dugout sits Tony La Russa. He’s just as venerable and anything but loveable. He’s won a handful of rings and seems to stand in the way of fun in baseball.
On paper, it’s a close matchup. Both offenses can really slug, with veterans and young guys alike. I mentioned some of the White Sox young sluggers, but they also boast rookie Andrew Vaughn and veterans Jose Abreu, Cesar Hernandez, and Yasmani Grandal.
Houston’s lineup has Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, and Michael Brantley, all stalwarts of their winning ways. They also have younger players looking to win their rings, like Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker.
Both teams have strong back-ends of their bullpens. The White Sox have Liam Hendriks and Craig Kimbrel. The Astros have Ryan Pressly and Kendall Graveman.
It’s flown under the radar, but this should be a fun series to watch. I wish these young players could have more of the prime-time spotlight. Instead, we’ll have to settle for entertaining afternoon baseball this week.
Prediction sure to be wrong: Astros in 4
Boston Red Sox (4) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (1)
It’s the old guard vs. the new guard in the American League East. The Red Sox barely hung on down the stretch to make the playoffs, then put the Yankees away with ease Tuesday night. Their reward is the young, hungry Rays with seemingly endless depth.
Thursday, 8:07 PM, FS1
Eduardo Rodriguez at Shane McClanahan
Friday, 7:02 PM, FS1
TBD at Shane Baz
Sunday, 4:07 PM, MLB Network
Game 4, if necessary, Monday
Game 5, if necessary, Wednesday
I think this is the first thing you need to know about this series. Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz, the game 1 and 2 starters for the Rays, started their seasons at Triple-A and Double-A, respectively. (McClanahan threw out of the bullpen for the Rays in last year’s playoffs.) Drew Rasmussen, the likely game 3 starter, started the season in the Brewers’ bullpen. That’s how deep, how young, and how talented these Rays are. They rebuilt their rotation on the fly this season and it’s still a strength for this team. Baz especially could dazzle this month.
Their lineup has also steadily improved. Former Maryland Terrapin Brandon Lowe started his season slow, but has become one of the best hitters on the team again. Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco are both impact rookies hitting in important roles in the lineup. Mike Zunino put together his best year at the plate this year.
The Red Sox, I think are a weak team. Outside of Chris Sale, their starting rotation has its question marks. Nathan Eovaldi has been a good playoff performer. Eduardo Rodgriguez has two options -- great or disastrous -- and he’s just as likely to give you either one. The bullpen has a lot of good options, but no great options.
The lineup is better, but a lot depends on the health of J.D. Martinez, who rolled his ankle while taking the field in Washington last Sunday. Without him, the Red Sox have the good (Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Kike Hernandez, Kyle Schwarber, and Hunter Renfroe), the bad (Bobby Dalbec, Kevin Plawecki, and Christian Arroyo), and the ugly (Alex Verdugo).
I think the Rays are clearly the better team and are probably the AL favorite to reach the World Series. But this is baseball and anything can and will happen.
This prediction will definitely be right: Rays in 3
Phillies offseason sneak preview
I’ll get into more about the Philies’ offseason later this month. But Dave Dombrowski gave his season-ending press conference Wednesday and there were a couple of important highlights.
First, Joe Girardi is definitely sticking around next year, but he has an option for 2023. The Phillies have not committed to picking that up. I’ve made my feelings about Girardi clear. He hurts the baseball team far more than he helps it. And these aren’t new to his time in Philadelphia, either. They’re the same issues that cost him his job as manager of the Yankees. I’m worried that keeping him around next season will continue to hurt this team, but the Phillies clearly feel differently.
Second, Didi Gregorius is under contract for next season, but he’s not guaranteed the shortstop job. This is the right call. Didi was one of the worst players in baseball last season. Both his offense and his defense were bad. So he shouldn’t be guaranteed a job. But, while Dombrowski said the Phillies like Bryson Stott as a shortstop, the minor leaguer won’t arrive on Opening Day next year unless he blows the team away in spring training. So Gregorius will be necessary next year. But he has to earn his role.
Third, Alec Bohm is still a third baseman. The Phillies are committed to making Bohm at third base work. I disagree. I think no matter how hard Bohm works (and he works very hard), he’s just too big for the footwork necessary to play a good third base. But I think he could be a good defensive left fielder. He can track fly balls well and has a strong arm. The right move would be to get Bohm working in the outfield this winter, but the Phillies are saying they’ll keep him at third.
Finally, Dombrowski identified the following needs for the Phillies: middle of the order bat, leadoff hitter, at least one outfielder, and a closer. That’s all.
Other news from around baseball:
There’s a lot going on for the Mets these days. They still need a president of baseball operations, but it won’t be Theo Epstein. Billy Beane has also reportedly rebuffed the Mets overtures.
Whoever does take over will have a lot of work to do. He has to hire a manager after the Mets moved on from Luis Rojas. And there are a bunch of free agents, including Michael Conforto, Javier Baez, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard.
Ownership might have changed, but it still feels like the Mets are the Mets, doesn’t it?
Jayce Tingler, as expected, is the fall guy for the Padres extremely disappointing season. After A.J. Preller hired inexperienced managers in his last two attempts, it looks like a veteran manager will be the next option in San Diego. Ron Washington could be a strong contender for the job.
The Rockies have signed 1B CJ Cron and RHP Antonio Senzatela to multi-year extensions. I’m not sure how much these players really help or hurt the Rockies, but it’s always good to have players under contract. The important player, though, is SS Trevor Story, who will be a free agent once the World Series ends. He should receive a qualifying offer from the Rockies and after a somewhat disappointing season, he just might take it.
Alcides Escobar re-signs with Washington Nationals (Washington Post)
Escobar was mostly fine filling in at shortstop for the Nationals once they traded Trea Turner. They’ll need vets like Eski next year, when they field a full-on rebuilding team for the first time in nearly a decade.