2006 baseball regular season over :-(
Yesterday was the final day of the regular season in Major League Baseball. If opening day is the happiest day of the season (and it is) then for most fans the season ending is one of the saddest days. Eight teams are continuing their season in the playoffs hoping to advance to the World Series. The other 22 teams start the off season assessing what went wrong and deciding how to make sure they are one of the eight teams in next years playoffs. Some teams will decide their general manager made poor talent decisions and fire their GM. Other teams will decide their field manager failed to get the most out of the talent he was given to lead. Because there were so many managerial changes last year, I don't expect very many this year since teams will usually give a guy at least a couple years to turn a team around. Here are the managerial openings I expect to see in the next few days:
Giants: Felipe Alou has already said he is not coming back. Good decision. The Giants are old and not heading in the right direction.
Nationals: Frank Robinson is not returning. Congrats on a great career, enjoy your retirement.
Cubs: Dusty Baker is all but gone.
Marlins: It has been reported that Joe Girardi will be the casualty of a power struggle with the general manager. Many people claim Girardi won a lot more games than he should have with that team. I disagree. Girardi did well but the talent on that team was much better than the "experts" thought.
There could be one or two more, but I think the four listed above will be the only ones. I wanted to include Cleveland's Eric Wedge in the "about to be gone" group. Last years performance probably gives him enough protection from the axe.
As far as the 2007 Indians go, I'm optimistic (as always). This time there are valid reasons for my optimism. First the team finished strong winning their last four games and 8 of their last 10. Beyond that, no team in the American League is truly dominant. Detroit started the season great, but stumbled down the stretch. The Yankees had the best record in the league, but have a lot of question marks going into next season particularly on the pitching staff. The main reason to feel positive about next year is the core group of players. Offensively the team scored 870 runs, good for second most in the American League. The center fielder, Grady Sizemore, led the majors in extra base hits and hustles on every play. The designated hitter, Travis Hafner, led the AL in OPS and is considered one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. The starting pitching is reasonably solid with quality pitchers in the minors set to compete for back of the rotation spots. Biggest area to shore up is infield defense. The Indians defense committed the second most errors in the AL with 118. Not to pick on Aaron Boone, but his departure will help considerably. Boone and Peralta combined to cover what appeared to be the least amount of range of any left side of an infield. Improve the defense and the pitchers will throw with more confidence.
Here is a little goofy trivia: With the Indians sweeping Tampa Bay to end the season, the Devils Rays became the first teams with a winning record at home and a road record below 25% in over 60 years. Who was the last team with that kind of disparity between home and road record?