9/30/19 – Weekend in Review: Champions, Goodbyes, and Post-Season Previews

You know the feeling when you have so much to do and you’re so overwhelmed by it all that you just don’t know where to start? So then you just stare blankly at the tasks ahead of you and freeze? That’s where I’m at with all the baseball from the last few days. There have been so many newsworthy events that my head is seconds away from exploding, and I’m struggling to organize all of this into a neat and tidy package for my readers to digest. The whole point of Moonshots and Mustard is to bring you the big moments (i.e. the moonshots) and the extra (like mustard on a hot dog).. but there’s been so. effing. much of the extra lately. So I guess all I can say is buckle up, find a comfy seat, grab a snack.. because we might be here for a while.

Big Moments and Bigger Numbers

I feel like a broken record. I’m beating dead horses. Insert any other cliché you want to convey how many times I’m repeating myself when it comes to records. And of the guys I’m about to list.. well, I’ve been pretty much writing about them all season.

Pete Alonso celebrating his record-setting moonshot.
  • Pete Alonso, NY Mets – Alonso broke Aaron Judge’s Rookie HR record set in 2017 by hitting 53 total homers this season. Baseball fans everywhere knew he was something special as the season carried on, especially after he put on a show at the Home Run Derby. But now he’s made his official mark in the MLB record books by becoming the Rookie Home Run King. Congratulations, Petey!
Justin Verlander getting a smooch from wifey Kate Upton in the stands after recording his milestone 3,000th career strikeout.
  • Justin Verlander, Houston Astros – Justin is yet another guy I have mentioned oh so many times as a writer (and not just here, but back when I used to write for Babes Love Baseball as well.) He had himself yet another reason for me to bring him up this weekend, when he recorded his 21st win of the season.. and his 300th strike out for the season.. OH.. AND his 3,000th career strike out. Justin’s season has put him in line to perhaps beat out his teammate Gerrit Cole for the Cy Young award – correction: his fellow 300-strike-outs-this-season teammate Gerrit Cole. With his teeny 2.58 ERA, MLB leading 223 innings pitched, and his 3rd career no-hitter under his belt this year, it’s very likely that the 36-year-old hurler is about to win his 2nd Cy Young. The Astros rotation that also includes Zach Greinke (and a struggling Wade Miley) is going to be the most feared of all of the rotations heading into the post-season.
  • The ENTIRE Bomba Squad, Minnesota Twins – Again, I’m talking in circles here. The year of the home run. The juiced balls. The record setting. Their epic season was capped on Sunday by becoming the all-time home run hitting team with 307 home runs this season. I know I’m a homer when it comes to discussing the Twins, and it may seem like I bring them up more than other teams. But this year, they one-hundred-percent earned the respect of baseball writers everywhere, not just in Minnesota. After nearly a decade of disappointing seasons (see chart below), the Twins not only won 101 games, but they are actually making Yankees fans nervous going into the post-season. Again, if you reference the chart below, you’ll see that in the three times the Twins have made the post season since 2009, they’ve been swept out by the Yankees EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. In 2009 and 2010, New York swept them out 3 games to 0, and in the ALWC game in 2017, the Yankees came back from a 4-0 first inning deficit to beat them and go on to the ALDS. However, this year, not only did the Twins edge out the Yankees for the all time home run record (the Yankees ended up with 306), but the Yankees are limping into the post season against the Bomba Squad. And if you’ll remember back to the series these two teams played back in July, the battle was so epic that fans from both camps were hoping for a rematch in October. Oh, and the hero from the game of the year, Aaron Hicks, is injured. Might this be the year that David finally beats Goliath? God, I hope so.

A Whole Lot of Goodbyes

There were a lot of notable send-offs to end this season for both – players and managers – due to retirement or contracts ending or firings or ‘mutual partings’. Let’s start with the players first, shall we?

  • RETIRING: CC Sabathia, NY Yankees – I already covered this a bit last week, but it’s worth mentioning again. After announcing back in February that this would be his last season, the sun is setting on CC’s career. He had his big goodbye last weekend, and now the once-feared starter started his final game on September 18th, and is going to be watching the post-season from the bullpen. He’s battled knee issues all season, so how large of a role he’ll play in the post-season remains unclear. Sabathia finishes his 19-year regular-season career with a 251-161 record, an impressive 3.74 ERA, 3,093 strike-outs, 6 All-Star selections, and a Cy Young (during his days with Cleveland).

  • FREE AGENCY: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners – King Felix has spent all 15 of his big league seasons with the Mariners. The 33-year-old’s 7-year/$175 million contract is up as of the end of the season, and it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be re-signing with the team for 2020 and beyond. The 6-time All Star has had a hell of a run with the M’s, but he’s never made it to the post season. Whether he signs with a contending team for next season, or decides to hang it up after two really disappointing seasons is still unclear. He had a 1-8 record this season and a career-high 6.40 ERA, and this coming off of a 8-14 2018 season and a previously-career-high 5.55 ERA. Despite the two forgettable seasons, the Mariners fans came out in droves to watch their former ace pitch his final game with their last-place team. I particularly love the end of the above video when Felix is wearing his King Felix shirt, standing among his fans, taking pictures and taking in all of the cheers and adoration. For a guy who won’t be back in a Mariners uniform next year, the love he clearly has for the organization and his fans, and the love they have in return (despite their frustration) is truly heartwarming.

  • FREE AGENCY: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants – More often than not, you see a pinch-hitter come in for a pitcher, not a pitcher come in as a pinch-hitter. But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday in what was very likely MadBum’s (likely) last appearance in a Giants uniform. (UGH.. I hate the nickname MadBum, by the way). Earlier in the week, Giants Skipper Bruce Bochy (more on him in a minute) announced that Bumgarner would not be pitching during the final series of the season as they faced the Dodgers, but Bochy still let the San Fran fans say goodbye to Bumgarner on Sunday when he pinch-hit against Clayton Kershaw. The move wasn’t completely insane, as Bumgarner has taken the badass Kershaw deep twice, and has pretty decent batting stats against him overall. Bumgarner was one of the biggest names tossed around during before the trade deadline, as his 8 year/$58 million contract was coming to an end. Most people assumed the Giants would want something in return for a pitcher that led them to three World Series championships, but would likely not return for 2020. But, at the end of July, the Giants still had hopes that they’d make the post-season, and didn’t want to run the risk of showing up without one of the most dominant World Series pitchers of our time. Remember Game 7 of the 2014 Series, when he came in for a 5-inning save after pitching gems for Games 1 and 5 and shut it down? That’s precisely why he wasn’t traded. But, here the Giants now sit, watching the post season from their couches, with no new players to replace one of the best pitchers they’ve ever had. Womp womp.

And now, let’s briefly recap the managers on their way out the door:

  • RETIRING: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants- In a pre-game ceremony full of emotions, Bruce Bochy said goodbye to current and former players and fans crammed into the massive crowd at Oracle Park. I mean, The Freak himself, li’l Timmy Lincecum made a rare appearance to say goodbye to his former skipper. THAT was enough to make me lose my shit. In any case, Bochy leaves San Francisco after 13 seasons as manager, and 12 seasons with the Padres before that, with a managerial record of 2,003 wins – 2,029 losses, 3 World Series titles with the Giants, and a NL Championship with the Padres. Watch Bochy address the crowd here:

  • RETIRING: Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals – I pretty much covered this all last week, but Ned Yost decided to retire before the Royals could fire him. Coming off of back to back 100+ loss seasons, the skipper went out on his own terms. At least the Royals won their last game with Yost at the helm, 5-4 in a walk off over the Twins in the 9th inning.
  • FIRED: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs – In what reminded me of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin ‘consciously uncoupling’ the Cubs announced that Joe Maddon and the team had parted ways. I mean, sure, he was fired, but it was made to sound like a pretty mutual agreement. And with the list of fired managers I’m about to hit you with, the 2015 Manager of the Year and skipper of the 2016 World Series champs will likely have a new manager’s job faster than you can say ‘There’s always next year.’
  • FIRED: Brad Ausmus, Los Angeles Angels – The Angels just announced that after just one season, Ausmus was on his way out. Ausmus had some huge shoes to fill after 19 seasons of the beloved Mike Scioscia, and in my opinion didn’t get a fair trial in his first year: He had to contend with some huge losses, such as the accidental overdose/death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs, and losing Tommy LaStella to a broken leg the very next game back from Skaggs’ death. (I was there in the crowd in Texas that night, and I can tell you that it was a terrifying injury). My guess is they heard Joe Maddon was available and wanted to make room for him in their manager role.
  • FIRED: Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates – Poor Pittsburgh. Their year sucked. I feel like the only thing they’ve made headlines for this season was their pervy mcpervington closer Felipe Vazquez sexually abusing a child. With their abysmal last few seasons, it’s no surprise that the Pirates announced that they’d fired Clint Hurdle before the game on Sunday. He was given the option to manage the last game of the season, but opted not to stick around. Once he said his goodbyes to his team, he left the ballpark before the first pitch. Hurdle leaves Pittsburgh after 9 seasons and a record of 735-720. So maybe the Pirates weren’t God-awful under his rule, but they definitely need to make some changes around PNC park to make their team relevant again.
  • FIRED: Andy Green, San Diego Padres – I covered this one when it happened over a week ago. You know things are bad when a team cans their manager before the season even ends. Next.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if by the end of the week a few more names are added to the fired list: Rick Renteria (White Sox), Ron Gardenhire (Tigers), Don Mattingly (Marlins), Scott Servais (Mariners), John Gibbons (Blue Jays), and Brandon Hyde (Orioles). They all had awful seasons at the helms of their teams, and it would come as a shock to exactly zero people if a few of them (specifically Gardenhire with 114 losses this season and Hyde with 108 losses) got their marching orders within the next few days.


Bring on the Post Season!

With the 2019 regular season in the rear-view, it’s time for the post season! I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that there wouldn’t be a game 163 between the Cardinals and Brewers for the NL Central title, but I suppose those guys all need a day off before the Wild Card games begin. Here’s how things line up:

Tuesday, Oct 1:

NL Wild Card game: Brewers at Nationals

Wednesday, Oct 2:

AL Wild Card game: Tampa Bay at Oakland

Thursday, Oct 3:

NLDS: Brewers/Nationals at Dodgers, St. Louis at Atlanta Game 1

Friday, Oct 4:

ALDS Tampa Bay/Oakland at Houston Game 1, Twins at Yankees Game 1

NLDS Brewers/Nationals at Dodgers Game 2, St. Louis at Atlanta Game 2

Saturday, Oct 5:

ALDS Tampa Bay/Oakland at Houson Game 2, Minnesota at Yankees Game 2

Sunday, Oct 6:

NLDS Dodgers at Brewers/Nationals Game 3, Atlanta at St. Louis, Game 3

Monday, Oct 7:

ALDS Houston at Tampa Bay/Oakland Game 3, Yankees at Minnesota Game 3

NLDS Dodgers at Brewers/Nationals Game 4 (if necessary), Atlanta at St. Louis Game 4 (if necessary)

Tuesday, Oct 8:

ALDS Houston at Tampa Bay/Oakland Game 4 (if necessary), Yankees at Minnesota Game 4 (if necessary)

Wednesday, Oct 9:

NLDS Brewers/Nationals at Dodgers Game 5 (if necessary), St. Louis at Atlanta Game 5 (if necessary)

Thursday, Oct 10:

ALDS Tampa Bay/Oakland at Houston Game 5 (if necessary), Minnesota at Yankees Game 5 (if necessary)

LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Friday, Oct. 11: NLCS Game 1,
Saturday, Oct. 12: ALCS Game 1
Saturday, Oct. 12: NLCS Game 2
Sunday, Oct. 13: ALCS Game 2
Monday, Oct. 14: NLCS Game 3
Tuesday, Oct. 15: ALCS Game 3
Tuesday, Oct. 15: NLCS Game 4
Wednesday, Oct. 16: ALCS Game 4
Wednesday, Oct. 16: NLCS Game 5 (if necessary)
Thursday, Oct. 17: ALCS Game 5 (if necessary)
Friday, Oct. 18: NLCS Game 6 (if necessary)
Saturday, Oct. 19: ALCS Game 6 (if necessary)
Saturday, Oct. 19: NLCS Game 7 (if necessary)
Sunday, Oct. 20: ALCS Game 7 (if necessary)

WORLD SERIES
*Games 1-2, 6-7 at club with better record – if Dodgers are in, they’ll be the only NL team to get games 1, 2, 6, 7, otherwise ALCS champion will host.

Tuesday, Oct. 22: World Series Game 1
Wednesday, Oct. 23: World Series Game 2
Friday, Oct. 25: World Series Game 3
Saturday, Oct. 26: World Series Game 4
Sunday, Oct. 27: World Series Game 5 (if necessary)
Tuesday, Oct. 29: World Series Game 6 (if necessary)
Wednesday, Oct. 30: World Series Game 7 (if necessary)

What say you, readers? Leave a comment below.