We've got Joe!
I have always felt that anyone who makes the playoffs can become World Series champions. I think this year is a great example of that. When the playoffs started, everyone felt that it would be Philadelphia and the Yankees playing for the world championship and with the Rays having an outside chance. But instead, we have the Rangers and the Giants. Neither were given much of a chance against the mighty Yankees and the two-time NL champions Phillies, but both the Rangers and the Giants have proven that if you can just get in the playoffs, you have a chance to be world champions.
Philly had the best record in baseball and with Roy Halladay seemed to be a lock for the World Series. What happened?
Well, first of all, there is no such thing as a lock in baseball. Maybe in some of the other sports, the best team will win a series. But in baseball, it's not always the best team, but also the team that's playing the best at that time. I felt that the Phillies were the best team in the NL and the Yankees were the best in the AL. But in this environment, neither was the best in their league.
Bigger home-field advantage... Arlington or San Fran?
I think they both are home field advantages, or pretty equal. San Francisco is relying on its pitching staff and AT&T Park is a pitcher friendly park. The Rangers are more of an offensive minded team, with good pitching. And Rangers Ballpark fits the Rangers team. Each will have an advantage in their home field.
Which will have more impact on the outcome of this series: Vlad's performance in right field or which bat occupies the DH spot for the Giants?
I think that Vladimir will always have an advantage, because he can carry his team offensively. He might not be as good defensively as he once was, but the Rangers are more of an offensive team anyway. His performance will be better than whoever the DH is for San Francisco. They had problems in finding a DH that could contribute during interleague play. So, I would say that the advantage would go to the Rangers.
The Yankees paid two players as much as the entire Rangers team made. How can other small-market do to mirror the Ranger's success?
When you have as much money to spend as the Yankees do, you can throw stuff up against the wall and see what sticks. You can make mistakes as far as free agents. What you have to do if you're a small market or mid-market team is make smart decisions. You don't have the luxury to make mistakes with money. Although some might say that the Giants made a mistake in signing Barry Zito to that big contract. But, it's clear that the Rangers did not make many mistakes, as far as payroll is concerned. You just have to make better decisions if you're a small market team.
Does the emergence of the Rangers prove that the Mets were wrong to give up on Jeff Francoeur?
Sometimes a change of scenery helps a player. When that change of scenery takes you from a team that's really struggling to a team that's in first place, it helps you focus better. I've always thought that Jeff Francoeur was a pretty good player, but he had not performed that well during the last year or so after being traded from the Braves. I can't say that they made a big mistake in trading him from New York, because he wasn't giving them much there. He does offer a certain skill to a championship team.
But I can't blame the Mets for trading him. That would be like blaming the Angels for not re-signing Vladimir. He did not play well there the last year and he had been struggling with injuries. They had to make a decision. Of course, Texas benefitted from their decision.
If the Reds could get a do-over on the Josh Hamilton and Volquez trade from 3 years ago, do you think they would keep Hamilton? Have the Rangers "won" that trade?
That's a hard question and I don't think it's been answered yet. Last year Volquez, when he was healthy, was one of the best pitchers in the NL. Hamilton was injured last year, but he had a big year last year. I think the jury is still out on who got the better end of that trade. But there is no doubt that Josh Hamilton has proven in two of the last three years that he's one of the best hitters in the game. When Volquez is healthy, though, he's one of the best pitchers in the game. I think it's one of those trades that helped both teams.
As I've always said, an every day player who is as good as a pitcher is always better because he can help in more games.
How much harder would it be for Cliff Lee to sign with the Yankees if Texas wins the World Series? How much harder would it be for Texas to watch him walk away?
That's a very good question. I can't answer either side. Cliff Lee will have to decide where he wants to spend the rest of his career, because he will sign a long term contract. The Rangers have to decide if one player will get most of their payroll. I would say that they would not want to do that. They have so many young players on that team that they will have to pay. I would think that they wouldn't put all of their eggs in one basket. The Yankees can afford to do that. I can't see the Rangers paying $150-$160 million to one player.
What do you think of Ron Washington? Like em? Hate em?
He's the reason that they're in the World Series. Not just this year, but when he took over, he changed the entire mindset of the organization. They had tried to just load up with sluggers and try to outslug you and that didn't work. He asked for a team that's more well-rounded. They put a lot of pressure on the defense with stealing bases, hitting and running, bunting. Hitting home runs is great, but what happens when you're not hitting them? Like we saw with the Yankees. I think he is by far the manager of the year in the AL.
Is Brian Wilson the best closer in the NL?
It's hard to gauge that. Heath Bell in San Diego is pretty good. It's hard to say that he's the best, but he's in the top two or three.
Do you think the best two teams made the WS?
Over the long stretch, Philadelphia was the best team in the NL and the Yankees or the Rays were the best in the AL. But when you get to a playoff system, it's different than a 162-game schedule. As we saw last year, the Yankees only used three starting pitchers over the course of the postseason. Over the course of 162 games, it's a test of consistency, but it tests your entire team, because you have to use all of your players. In a short series, you only use your best players and your best pitchers and that changes the outcome sometimes. To use another analogy, the regular season is a marathon; the playoffs are a short sprint. That takes two different skills.
Sometimes a team can adjust to both, of course, like the Yankees did last year. This year, the Giants and the Rangers were able to make the right adjustments.
What player's performance has surprised you most this postseason?
A lot of players have impressed me. Of course, Cliff Lee. Pitching was the dominant position in the playoffs. I was very impressed with Robinson Cano and how he handled the postseason this year. I was impressed with Josh Hamilton's performance in the LCS, after sitting out for a month of the season, it took him a while to get his timing back. In the NL, you had to be impressed with Halladay pitching a no-hitter in the first round and by winning Game 5 to extend the series against San Francisco. And you have to be impressed with the game by Tim Lincecum in his first playoff start against the Braves.
There are other players that have done well too. Molina and Uribe hitting game-winning home runs. There have been a lot of heros this postseason. I guess the unusual thing is that it's not any of the big names of the Yankees - Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira - had good playoffs. Same thing for the Phillies.
Do you think there will be any meterological concerns with this World Series; if so, which team could handle inclement weather?
First of all, we're not going to see a lot of inclement weather here. San Francisco might be cool, maybe a drizzle. Texas will be warm, even if it does rain. It won't be the same we've seen in the previous years in Philadelphia and New York. I don't think weather will be a factor.
Do you think replay needs to be used more in the playoffs?
I would not be against expanding some of the plays that can be reviewed. But I'm not for wholesale changes, because the game would last forever. One of the things they can do is take the two umpires down the right field line and left field line and put them in a booth where they can watch the replays. If they think something needs to be replayed, they can call down to one of the other umpires. To have to go in and review every close play, it would kill the pace of the game, which hurts the pitchers who have to stand around. There is a rhythm to a baseball game and I think we would destroy that rhythm if we expanded replay a lot.
I know they aren't the two biggest markets in baseball, but there are a lot of new faces and a lot of new names in the World Series. This could be a very competitive series. I'm looking forward the Rangers and Giants in the World Series.