Who Said Five Games Isn't Enough?
By Jim Henneman
So, can we put to rest all talk about five games not being enough for the division series? Let's wait until we have a few good five-gamers before we start more idle chatter about needing seven games for a true test.
You know what baseball really needs in these opening rounds? Faster series with fewer days off. As it is now, teams are able to play a different game than they do during the regular season.
All 30 teams in the major leagues work with a five-man starting rotation, then go to the postseason using no more than four, and in some cases only three. If the NLDS between the Phillies and Reds somehow manages to go five games, there would be three off-days in the process. With a schedule like that, Charlie Manuel could probably use Roy Halladay three times if he had too -- and that's without a rainout.
Nobody is going to suggest the pitching matchups had anything to do with Tampa Bay losing the first two games to Texas, but Rays manager Joe Maddon has some explaining to do about why he nominated James Shields to pitch Game 2. Granted, Shields was Tampa Bay's anointed ace when he drew the opening day assignment, but that was more a nod to his seniority and not wanting to push David Price's expectation level too high.
By the time the season ended, Shields was no better than Maddon's fifth best starter behind Price, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis. He could've best served the Rays as a long reliever, or maybe as a designated hitter.
Please, let's not get carried away with the notion the Rays spent themselves winning the Eastern Division. In fact, both the Rays and the Yankees did a poor job jockeying for second place in an effort to avoid Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers, a duel the Yankees finally won by default.
Considering the postseason problems the Twins have had with umpires the last two years, it was a certainty manager Ron Gardenhire would get tossed last night after Lance Berkman's double that changed the complexion of the game -- one pitch after taking what looked like strike three. At best, the pitch was too close to take with two strikes, as was the case the night before when Alex Rodriguez appeared to "sell" the call on a 3-and-2 pitch with a flip of the bat and a quick jog toward first base.
For the umpteenth time, let it be said baseball does not need six officials to work a game. Proof positive, again, coming on what should have been the last out of the Yankees' Game 1 win over the Twins when a line drive to right field was clearly caught, only to be ruled a "trap" by the umpire working the right field line, who had the worst possible angle. Under the normal four-man setup, that play would've been routine for the first base umpire.
Incidentally, don't read anything into Jim Joyce, the umpire who famously missed the call on the infamous semi-perfect game, not working any of the four divisional series.
With 24 umpires working the first round, 12 more working the League Championship Series and another half dozen the World Series, if Joyce doesn't show up later, you can draw your own conclusion. And it won't be without precedent if one or more of the umpires working the divisional series, most like the retiring Jerry Crawford, show up for the finals.
Posted October 7, 2010 at 11: 15 p.m.