Tag Archive | "Collapse"

Could the Royals make the playoffs?

Perhaps it’s the Royals fan in me, but I’m waiting for the Kansas City Royals to go on another losing streak and fall out of the Wild Card race. Or totally collapse and not even finish at or above .500. Sure, the Royals are 77-69 as of September 12 and it’s almost certain they’ll finish above .500 for the first time since 2003. But if any baseball team can have an epic collapse, it’s the Kansas City Royals.

JamesShields3

Yet the Royals are playing well and winning games. In the last 44 games over 44 days, the Royals went 26-18. They have one of the best post All-Star Game records in baseball. After a seven game losing streak around three weeks ago, their season appeared to be over. Since then, they’ve gone 13-5. Last Friday the Tigers, arguably the best team in the American League, beat the Royals 16-2, handing them their worst loss of the season. If anything would sink this young Royals team, it was that game. But the Royals shrugged it off and won the next two games, then took two of three games against the Cleveland Indians. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Royals being 8.5 games back of Detroit and seven games back in the Wild Card, with little chance of making the playoffs. Now they’re seven games back of Detroit and only two games back of the final Wild Card playoff spot.

As a Royals fan, I’ve discovered this phenomenon called September scoreboard watching and checking the standings. I keep checking the baseball scores and MLB division and wild card standings on my ESPN Scorecenter app. I start rooting for teams like the Boston Red Sox to win their games against the Orioles, Rays and Yankees, the teams ahead of the Royals in the Wild Card race. Every time the Red Sox beat them and the Royals win, the chances of a Royals Wild Card spot improves. I root for the Chicago White Sox, a team I don’t really care for, to win their nine games between the Tigers and Indians. If the Royals win and the Tigers and Indians lose, the Royals have a chance to move up in the A. L. Central standings.

In a way, this Royals playoff run is surreal. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting the Royals to go on another losing streak or a team ahead of them in the Wild Card gets hot. There’s so much recent historical disappointment and losing, I expect things to go bad. Until the Royals make the playoffs, I’ll still be skeptical. But if the Royals go on a 14-2 winning tear similar to what the Colorado Rockies did late in 2007… well, a guy can dream, can’t he?

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Cardinals/Phillies: Three Things To Walk With

The Cardinals leave the second leg of their 10-game road trip from Philadelphia in a series that wasn’t a complete loss, but also was an example of problems of both the past and current showing their head. Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn authored fantastic efforts in two wins, yet in the games in-between two winnable games were booted. On Friday, Jaime Garcia looked like the version of him that has been most criticized; the one that was killed on the road. However, Sunday night’s loss was the most detrimental, with another late inning failure that lost a winnable game and continued to keep the club floating around .500.

Carlos+Beltran+St+Louis+Cardinals+v+Philadelphia+kSa0KtCZqT6l

Yet at the same time, they did manage to split another series on this tough East Coast road swing, and remain close to the picture atop the National League Central. How long they can remain there however, considering the amount of issues that are being to peak late in games, is anybody’s guess. As they begin a return to Washington DC, here are three things to look back at from the series that was.

 

1. Bogged Down: The resounding moment from the weekend was yet another implosion from Mitchell Boggs on Sunday night. Entering a tie game in the eighth inning, Boggs was blitzed to the tone of four runs on four hits, including the game breaking RBI single from Ben Revere, and the following nail in the coffin, three-run homer from Eric Kratz (who entered the at-bat hitting .190 on the year). This raised Boggs ERA on the year to 12.46, and became his fourth late-inning collapse in three weeks.

If there’s one thing to take away from the sudden assault that ended Sunday night’s ballgame is that it cleared up the dilemma of who is going to close games down, because Boggs has to be out of the picture now. Whether it’s a mechanical issue or something more, it can’t be worked out in high pressure situations, and Mike Matheny has to recognize that. Boggs broke down and began throwing by the time Kratz hit his home run, and looked lost in the woods. The frustration of his effort has derailed him to the point where it’s clear that he can’t pitch the last inning, but what type of game situation will be safe to utilize him in at all? How this situation is handled in the upcoming games will show a lot about if there is potentially another long-term issue in the pen regarding utilizing Boggs in any capacity.

2. Crisis Averted: On Sunday night, Matt Adams stepped to the plate having already reached base twice on the night, and sporting a .565 average and with the bases loaded ahead of him. Although it has become nearly a habit for him to destroy the ball in any given situation, this time he struck out looking on a Chad Durbin cutter, which if he’d connected on in his usual fashion, would have taken the push for more at-bats to him to a code red explosion level. He’s hit in every situation thus far, and went 2 for 3 on Sunday with his third double of the year. While he continues to be a dangerous presence off the bench, and a once per series starter, the torches that his growing group of supporters for an everyday position are waving may have gotten thrown into Mike Matheny’s office if he’d come through in that moment. Considering the amount of controversy on the who’s, when’s and where’s that are already in play, that would have been the last thing needed right now for him.

3. Beltran’s Back: While the offense as a whole continues to struggle to get on the same page at the same time, perhaps Carlos Beltran had his turning point versus a team that he has been particularly brutal on over his career. Beltran launched three home runs in the first three games of the series, raising his career totally vs. the Phils to 30, his most against any team in his career. For the weekend, he hit .437 (7 for 16), and has hit .375 over the past week.

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Is Hands Off Best For Jaime?

Jaime Garcia has, at times, been one of the best pitchers the St. Louis Cardinals have on staff.  At other times, he has been erratic.

JaimeGarcia

It is a subject that has been poured over many times, but Jaime Garcia can go from “lights out” to “nobody’s home” with just a bad call or missed play behind him.  The lefty has shown moments of brilliance and moments of complete confusion, sometimes in the same game.  Much has been said about it and, behind the scenes, much has been analyzed about it.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has said in interviews that he fully believes that he could have helped prevent the amazing collapse of Rick Ankiel on the mound had he not been hurt and not on the field during the 2000 playoff run.  He has stated that earlier in that season, Ankiel had struggled and he was able to bring him back into focus and get through the situation.

Thirteen years later, Jaime Garcia has Matheny for a manager and the two are trying to find the best way to help the pitcher overcome mental lapses and realize his potential on the mound.

During a recent interview, Matheny has revealed that the team will attempt to take some pressure off of Garcia by not looking into every detail of the starter’s games.  It seems there is some concern that he tries to adjust his mechanics too often, becoming too much of a perfectionist and getting inside his own head.

“I’m not dissecting everything he’s doing,” Matheny insisted after the win. “I know everybody else likes to right now. I’m just watching him go out there and do his thing. He did a nice job of pitching without reading into every situation that he gets into or out of. … I made a commitment to myself not to microscope him.” –from StlToday.com

Garcia will need to continue to pitch at the level he projects at in 2013 for the Cardinals to remain successful.  In addition, with the young talent being developed in the system, Garcia may be pitching to secure a spot on this team in the near future.

Either way, getting Garcia out of his head and into a routine will be a good thing for everyone involved.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball
Follow him on Twitter here.

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Is this progress?

Barring a complete collapse, it looks as though the Kansas City Royals will not finish in fourth or fifth place for the first time in ten years and the second in fifteen. They need to play one game over .500 in their next 32 to finish with their best record since 2003. They should comfortably surrender their lowest run total since 1995 while posting an improvement in wins for the third consecutive season, something they haven’t done since 1992. All of this begs the question, is this progress?

In terms of “The Process”, you would have to say that yes, this is progress. The Royals will head into 2013 with nearly an entire line up of players that are either homegrown or traded for while they were still unknown quantities. Nearly all of these players will either be locked up under a club-friendly deals or not yet eligible for free agency. The only real exception is Jeff Francoeur, who will most likely get one last chance to start in right field and prove exactly who he is toDaytonMoore…at least until after next year’s Super Two deadline. Francoeur and Bruce Chen will both be back in 2013 at a combined cost of $12 million. Still, what Moore has always told us is that once you have a majority of the team composed of your guys, under contract on your terms, then you can have the resources to go out and spend free agent money on one or two pieces where you need them. Mr. Moore, you have exactly that heading into 2013 with a club that I’m certain you’ll sell to us as improving, so where do the Royals need pieces?

In terms of position players there are two clear weaknesses in the Royals lineup. One of them we’ve already mentioned, right field, will be manned by Jeff Francoeur, and has a clear succession plan in Wil Myers. In other words, there is absolutely no reason to go add a right fielder. The second, and more glaring, weakness is at second base. Johnny Giavotella would have to hit a ton to make up for his defense, and to this point he hasn’t shown the ability to do that in the majors. Chris Getz, the likely starter in 2013, would have to be a gold glover to make up for his bat and he is not. The most prominent free agent at second base is Robinson Cano…even if the Royals had all the money in the world; I don’t think he’s coming toKansas Cityunder any circumstances. There are no other guaranteed upgrades over Getz available on the free agent market so it seems unlikely the Royals will add a major contract for a position player in 2013.

Obviously, the Royals major hole is in the rotation. In fact, their two biggest holes are in the rotation. They have a nice collection of 4 and 5 starters, but no one that figures to be a 3 or better in 2013. With a bullpen that is set and a lineup that isn’t changing, this is where all of Dayton Moore’s attention should be focused this offseason and he’s said as much. There is no telling how much money Moorehas to spend, but let’s just use $20 million. Why that number? That’s the prudent estimate of profit for the club in 2012, and you know David Glass has always said he’s just looking to break even. There are a lot of Royals fans dreaming about Zack Greinke, not only do I think that would be a pipe dream, it would also be ill-advised. Greinke will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million, best case scenario about 100% of the Royals free agent budget. One pitcher with a 2.3 WAR does not make this pitching staff that much better. The Royals need to go out and get two pitchers at approximately $10 million a piece. I’m not going to get into who they should or shouldn’t be until the offseason, but the Royals should have them all scouted and should go hard after the two pitchers in that range they think best fit this rotation. Just throwing out two names off the top of my head, a rotation of Shaun Marcum-Jeremy Guthrie-Bruce Chen-Mendoza/Hochevar-Odorizzi/Smith could be a competitive rotation. Even better, the club would have the possibility of Danny Duffy or Felipe Paulino in July. That would be progress. But back to the question, is this progress? 2012? It is, but like everything else involving the Royals, it won’t mean a thing unless Glass and Moore take advantage of it.

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Sub-Par Cardinals – Right Where Royals Want To Be

Royals fans may not quite be giddy about their 71 wins, but they certainly are optimistic about the way their season ended, with their talented collection of youngsters rolling to 11 wins in their last 16 games.

And rightly they should be. They have had little to feel good about for years. And this young lineup certainly has potential.

But perspective is a funny thing.

You see, at the same time – August and September – that KC was celebrating the smallest of victories, St. Louis was muddling through what seemed like a disappointing season. Injuries and poor relief pitching had primarily undermined the perennial contenders, and at the end of August, the Cardinals trailed in both their division and in the Wild Card race by what seemed an insurmountable margin.

But miraculously, just when the season seemed lost, an Atlanta collapse suddenly became a possibility. Then it became a reality. And just like that, the Cardinals slipped into the playoffs, deservedly or not.

Now even though I lived in Missouri for years, surrounded by those annoying St. Louis fans, I never developed a full-blown case of Cardinal envy. In fact, I can honestly say I rarely paid enough attention to the National League even to develop a healthy appreciation for the Cardinals’ consistent success.

But this season provides a valuable lesson on the importance of perspective.

I hate to admit it, but this season proves more than just about any other that the Cardinals are where the Royals want to be.

Not because the Cardinals might win the World Series, even though they might.

No, the Cardinals are where the Royals want to be because even though they struggled and fumbled and limped their way through what was, for them, a sub-par season, they ended up in the playoffs anyway. The Royals meanwhile fielded an exciting collection of “prospects” (for the umpteenth time) and still ended up so far out of contention that we stopped paying attention to the standings mid-summer.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the difference. The Royals perennially field a few decent hitters, some horrible pitchers and some promising prospects. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have a few great hitters, and some excellent pitchers. Then they pull together a collection of solid role players that, in the hands of Hall-of-Fame caliber management, just win because that’s what you do when you are the St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s the getting there that seems to be the hard part.

Good luck in the playoffs, Redbirds. Win or lose, you are always winners. We in KC can only hope that someday we can have sub-par seasons like the one you’re having.

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Royals Roller Coaster

It’s not often that I put too much emphasis on one game. Baseball is a long season. I’d like to come up with a better cliché than: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. But that is what the baseball season is. However, Wednesday night’s ball game between the Royals and Indians was a great microcosm of what I believe this season will be like as a Royals fan.

Photo Courtesy of Minda Haas

Luke Hochaver comes out of the gate in puts the Indians away on 5 pitches in the first inning. Alex the Dominator continued his dominating by hitting a triple and then scoring a run. The Royals jump out to a 2-0 lead against a pitcher who has given up 3 runs all season. As the game goes on Hochaver is dealing, and eventually gets into the 6th inning having retired every hitter he’s faced. If you go back to his previous start, he’s retired 31 consecutive batters. That’s 10.1 innings of perfect ball. Hochaver is finally pitching like a number 1 draft pick who held out for money.

As fan I’m watching Hochaver dispatch the Indians in the 5th. I don’t even care what the Royals do in the bottom of the inning. I think we’re really watching something special. Then the wheels fall off. Hochaver gives up his first hit, and then pitches like the fifth starter for the Ft Worth Cats. Hochaver even committed 2 balks, doubling his total for his professional career. You couldn’t even blame the balks on every fans favorite umpire to criticize; Joe West. Hochcaver eventually ends up giving up 6 earned runs, on 5 hits. And the Royals eventually lose 7-5.

Luke Hochaver pitched 10.1 IP of perfect baseball

I was so mad after Hochaver’s collapse I hardly wanted to watch the rest of the game. It’s just one game. But I feel like this one game displayed the range of emotions Royals fans will gor through the rest of this season, and maybe next season. This is the second youngest team in baseball. There are going to be plays with 2 errors, innings with 2 balks, and other comical stuff that we Royals fans have come to expect over the years. As I’ve written earlier. This team is entertaining. There are reasons to watch. We’re also going to see flashes of brilliance that have us holding our breath with every pitch. When was the last time that could be said about a Royals team?

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20 Games In: More Meaningful Than You Might Think

19 games into the season, and the Royals have pulled off a surprising stretch of winning baseball. Fans have found themselves walking a tightrope between excitement and skepticism, with the memory of 2009′s 18-11 start and ensuing collapse still fresh. Personally, I will never complain about wins, and the 2011 Royals have been a blast so far, but my hopes for the remainder of the season remain tempered with a healthy dose of wait-and-see.

The Royals, now at 12-7, will have their first winning record after 20 games since 2003, and only the second since 1989. How much of a team’s true talent level is revealed after 20 games? Looking back at the Royals past, the answer could be “more than I expected.” In a surprising number of years, the team’s winning percentage after 20 games has been fairly similar to their final tally. Only once has a Royals team had a winning record after 20 contests but finished the season with a losing mark (1983). (If you are wondering where that 2009 team is, they just missed the cut by being .500 after 20 games.) And only five teams have dug themselves out of a losing 20 game start to finish above .500 (’84, ’87, ’91, ’93, ’94). That means 86% of Royals teams (36/42) have finished above or below .500 when having a similar winning or losing record after 20 games.

Getting a little more technical, the statistical correlation between the winning percentage after the first 20 games and at the end of the season for Royals teams is .42 (0 meaning no correlation, 1 meaning perfect correlation). So obviously there is still a lot of wiggle room after 20 games. But to a larger degree than I expected, teams that are winners after 20 games tend to be winners at the end of the season, and teams that are losers after 20 games tend to be losers after 162. Let’s hope that holds true this year.

Royals seasons 1969--2010

Best 20 Game Start: 16-4 in 2003; Final record: 83-79

The surprise to me in this exercise has been how few fluky starts the Royals have had, but of course there have been a few. Clearly, this was one, but fluky or not, it did lead to a fun summer of contention and the only winning Royals season in the last two million years.

Worst 20 Game Start: 3-17 in 1992; Final record: 72-90

A flukily bad start, but in the broader sense, correctly reflective of an actually bad team.

Limiting this exercise to Royals history may skew things a little. Because their history is generally drastically split between very good years and very bad years, perhaps it should not be surprising that Royals teams usually are showing their colors after 20 games. Looking at the more varied pool of all 2010 teams, seven squads flipped from above or below .500 after 20 games to the opposite at the end of the season, meaning 77% of teams finished on the same side of the .500 line. In 2009, eight teams flopped between winners/losers after 20 and 162 games (73% stayed the same).

We are moving out of the embryonic stage of the season, with win-loss records compiling to the point where teams will be trying to build on a good start or dig out of a bad one from here on out. Whatever the rest of the year may hold, it is nice for the Royals to be in a position of strength after 20 games for a change.

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How June 1st Has Changed In April

When the season started many Royals fans circled June 1st. June 1st is date that almost without a doubt means Mike Moustakas will arrive in Kansas City to stay. Some think he will save the franchise. Some (me) think these kind of people are crazy. This team is awful! They get rid of all their greats like Zack Greinke. Wait, they haven’t lost any of their 4 series yet? Oh that’s right this team is better than expected, WAY better.

Photo by Erika Lynn

If you have followed me on twitter for any time or made the mistake of defending Greinke to me at the stadium, you know I have no love loss for him. I think the trade made has been fabulous and suddenly the need for Moose to save the franchise is so necessary. That trade has been a critical part of this team being above .500 and leading the wild card. As long as the Royals continue to not lose a series this team will be in the mix for the central and people in Kansas City are going to get excited. If the Royals can come out of their next 5 series without a lost series they will get into May with an above .500 record and only a month from the magical June 1st date. Notice I don’t say the Royals have won all their series because that wouldn’t be true. The Royals are 2-0 in three-game series but settled for splits in their two, two-game series this year.

This has been one of the best starts for the Royals in recent memory and some of us are believing this could be for real, maybe a little too much. Now June 1st has changed. June 1st is now more about a date for many to really start believing this team has a shot instead of just about top prospects joining the team. April has changed June 1st from a big day for a lost season to a day when this team could be making a legit run.

Now with that being said, even if we go 9 for 9 with no lost series’ by May 1st there will still be a month for the team to collapse before June 1st but I hate that kind of thinking. Yes, I get it, we have a habit of sucking but why think that way? Many people want to find the negative in the team regardless of how good things are. Yes I know we went 18-11 at a point and finished a season under 70 wins. Yes I know we have several 100 loss seasons since we last saw the playoffs. Yes I know we blew a 7 game lead and missed the playoffs. To all of you I say: SO WHAT! Why not enjoy the good times. I am so glad to ride this train right now and see what this team is doing. This Royals team is at least a year ahead of schedule. They play with heart and soul and are FUN to watch. We may win .500 we may not but It’ll be fun to watch. IF we finish April above .500, it’ll completely change the expectations of June 1st. It may still be circled, it may still mean the arrival of Mike Moustakas but it may also mean the day this team takes on a face of legitimacy. This team jumped to 14 in some power rankings this last week. 12 teams make the playoffs, to be considered 14 means this team is legitimately a fringe playoff team. We aren’t New York. We have different expectations. We had expectations for great prospects to filter in this year. With a solid April we can switch those expectations to maybe just maybe we’ll be good June 1st and instead of filtering into a bad team those prospects can be needed pieces to add to a playoff push when many thought we’d lose 100. This team has surprised, it can continue to surprise and April wins bring May hopes into June legitimacy. Come on April! Be good to us! No losses in 9 series to open the year. Do this Royals. Do it for all of us. All of the Royal Nation. Lets stop being a joke and bring in some legit baseball!

Troy can be found on Twitter as KCRoyalman. He also can be heard Sundays from 7-8p at royalmanreport.com and here on i70baseball.com with Bill Ivie, Mondays 10p-11p

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UCB Ballot: End Of The Year Awards

For the fourth straight year, the United Cardinal Bloggers will recognize the best from on the field and in the blogging community.

The rules are simple. The ballot has to be posted on the website of the voter and you cannot vote for yourself.

Here is the Ballot for I-70 Baseball:

Cardinal Bloggers Awards
2010 Ballot

1. Player of the Year
–Matt Holliday
Holliday put together an impressive campaign. I would have to say that my vote here may be influenced by the desire to not just vote for Albert every year. Holliday did post the highest average on the team, first time that has happened for anyone not named Albert since 2001.

2. Pitcher of the Year
–Adam Wainwright
Wainwright put together a season that solidified him as the ace of this staff and started the process of the Cardinals moving past the era of Chris Carpenter.

3. Game of the Year
–August 10 at Cincinnati–Brawl, home run from Molina
I am not sure how any other game can be voted above this one? The shin guard tapping, the brawl within a brawl, the shot by Yadi, the ensuing sweep and then the total collapse of the team immediately after? Other than Wainwright’s first ever shutout, I cannot think of another game that sticks out as much as this one.

4. Surprise Player of the Year
–Jon Jay
My first instinct was to vote for Jaime here, but I really was not surprised by his performance. He has been dominant before and surprised at every level during his minor league days. I honestly did not see Jon Jay performing like he did, despite the fall off. I’m anxious to see what he does over a full year.

5. Disappointing Player of the Year
–Brendan Ryan
Brendan was a huge let down this year. A player that the Cardinals were relying on to anchor an offense and defense was sporadic at best in both at times this year. Reyes was supposed to be a strong reliever and I never believed in Lohse, but Ryan let us all down on a much greater level.

6. Rookie of the Year
–Jaime Garcia
I would have preferred this to be a two horse race between Garcia and David Freese, but Cinderella can’t keep his glass ankles safe and Jaime will be finishing in the top 3 in the National League voting this year.

7. Acquisition of the Year
–Jake Westbrook
Westbrook may not have had a major impact, but his arrival was too little too late. Penny might have got my vote had he stayed healthy. Whoever put Miles on this ballot needs to be drug into the street and shot.

8. Biggest Off-Field Story
–Colby Rasmus’s trade request
You couldn’t turn on the radio, tv, read a blog, or a newspaper without being infected with this story. What was lost in the whole mix was that the manager broke it to the media. Everyone conveniently forgot that and openly wondered where it came from.

9. Most Anticipated Cardinal
–Zack Cox
Word out of the Arizona Fall League is that he was overrated and not going to be quite what we have expected. I’m anxious to see how fast he gets here. Not to mention, living in Springfield, I will see him sooner than later.

10. Best Individual Cardinal Blog
–Write-in: C70 At The Bat

11. Best Team Cardinal Blog
–Write-in: Pitchers Hit Eighth
The guys over there have a great balance of new statistics, good commentary, and solid humor. The team is great and we have featured most of their writers at various times because of it.

12. Best Media Blog
–Obviously, You’re Not A Golfer
I like Leach’s mix of baseball and pop culture along with music. He is to the point and not too wordy and has some good insight.

13. Best UCB Project
–Roundtables
I enjoy these tremendously. The questions that come out, the various opinions and the respect shown across the board is tremendous.

14. Most Optimistic Cardinal Blog
–Write-in: Cardinal Diamond Diaries

15. Funniest Cardinal Blog
–Write-in: Joe Sports Fan

16. Rookie Cardinal Blog of the Year
–Cardinal Diamond Diaries
The ladies do an amazing job. It is different, it is uplifting, it is staffed by some amazing talented people, and it has become one of my most visited bookmarks over the course of this year.

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Baseball Bloggers Alliance Ballot: NL Manager Of The Year

Every year, the group known as the Baseball Bloggers Alliance places their ballots for various awards to be announced at the end of the season. This year, it is my pleasure to place the votes for the St. Louis Chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance in the category of Manager Of The Year. The award is officially titled The Connie Mack Award.

The National League this year has shown some diversity amongst the teams. Highly competitive races came down to the last few weeks of the season, highlighted by three teams and the men that guided them. In my mind, the top three managers to be considered for the award are listed here….

3 – Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds
I know, as a Cardinal person I should not even utter his name. However, all things considered, I think you have to acknowledge the job that Baker did in Cincinnati this season with a team that most did not expect to even finish above .500. I am personally not a fan of his management style, and honestly should probably put Walt Jocketty’s name in parenthesis behind Baker’s, but all things considered he took a team that should not have been in playoff contention and turned them into division champions.

The only thing keeping Baker from climbing higher into this list is the team’s collapse down the stretch. A team that had every opportunity to bury the Cardinals and seal the division very early on, the Reds resembled the World Series Champion Cardinals from 2006 that were known for “backing into” the playoffs. The Reds capitalized more in the month of September from the Cardinals inability to win then they did from their ability to do so.

2 – Brad Mills, Houston Astros
Speaking of teams that everyone picked to lose, the Houston Astros were picked by many to challenge the Pirates for the opposite end of the division race. A very young team that had some financial problems with veteran stars, the Astros were viewed as a franchise that was in turmoil. Locked into rebuilding with very talented youngsters, the team was mired in the back end of contracts to star players that needed to be replaced.

Brad Mills took a young group of players, watched talent like Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman be traded away, and somehow put together a season that suggests that the Astros could be competing sooner rather than later for the division title. A team that most picked to finish dead last was capable of posting a record that ended a mere 10 games below .500. Mills was rewarded with an extension to his contract, showing faith in his ability to lead the players through the remainder of the rebuilding process. With Mills at the helm, the rest of the National League Central should take notice of the Houston Astros.

1 – Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
There are teams that overachieved and there are teams that went above and beyond. Bochy took a Giants team that many picked to be contenders, but not playoff ready, and has led them into the playoffs and past future Hall Of Fame manager Bobby Cox’s Atlanta Braves and into the National League Championship Series to take on baseball’s latest dynasty, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Most pundits did not think the Giants were quite “there” at the begining of this season. But behind Bochy’s leadership, the team leveraged great play from rookie cornerstones and solid play from veteran leaders to put themselves in a postion to steal the Postseason away from everyone involved.

There you have it, my picks for the Connie Mack Award for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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