Seventeen seasons, six division titles, two Manager of the Year awards, and one of the most iconic World Series runs in baseball history. He's helped many young talents develop into stars. He left highly successful teams like the '95 Reds and '97 Orioles, only to see those teams tank immediately afterward.
Davey Johnson will end his career short of the standards set by wildly successful contemporaries like Joe Torre and Bobby Cox. He'll still go down as one of the best managers of his generation.
One way to evaluate the legacy of a successful skipper is to size up the coaching tree he's planted. In the NFL, winning coaches like Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick beget other head coaches with other teams. Chalk up that trend to football teams wanting to imitate others' success, to certain coaches imbuing their assistants with the qualities necessary to coach future winners, to simple longevity, to a bit of random chance, or maybe all of the above. Whatever the case, we've seen this many times in football. And it turns out Johnson's tree is enormous, with branches extending all over the league, thrusting many of Johnson's former players, and the coaches who served under him, into managing jobs.
It must be nice to make the playoffs. As a long-suffering Yankee fan, I probably won't get to experience that joy this season, and it's been a long time — almost a full year — since we've even sniffed the postseason. With six games left on the schedule, the Yankees are four games behind Cleveland for the final wild-card spot, and with Texas and Kansas City sandwiched in between, it's all over but the shouting.
But hey, you know what? The shouting might not be all that bad. Because even though the Yankees' destination (sadness, golf courses, boring family life) might be fixed, that doesn't mean they can't ruin someone else's fun. In fact, they have three games this week against Tampa Bay, a hated rival. Between 1918 and 2004, Boston fans showed exactly how satisfying it can be rooting for others to fail in lieu of your own success. But actually playing a part in that failure? That has to be 10 times better. As FDR said, it's better to pull the trigger than to cheer the gun.
So let's look at a few teams that can alter the playoff landscape as we move toward Sunday and the end of the regular season. Here are your potential spoilers.
Only two more weekends left in the regular season, and to use one of my favorite clichés, these guys have EVERYTHING to play for! Let's get to it.
10. How the Nationals Will Destroy the NL Central (MIA-WAS)
At exactly the moment in the season when it was pretty much too late, the Nationals started winning like fiends. Going back to September 3, they've put together a 13-3 streak and salvaged a very remote chance of snatching the final wild-card spot. It's still a huge long shot; with nine games remaining, they find themselves five back of the Reds. We're at the point where one Reds-win-Nats-lose night will basically sink them. On the other hand, the Reds have six games remaining against the Pirates, and as long as Pittsburgh has a shot at the NL Central title, thus avoiding the wild card, they won't be laying down for anyone. The Nationals don't have it much easier, finishing with the Pirates and Diamondbacks, but they do have three games against the Marlins this weekend. In theory, it's not insane to imagine that they could be two back with six to play on Monday. And that's a very different outlook.
So, this is how the Nationals could destroy the NL Central. First, they finish in a tie with the Reds for the final playoff spot. That would result in a one-game playoff. If the Nationals won that, they would then play the wild-card game against whoever loses the Pirates-Cardinals battle for the NL Central for argument's sake, let's say the Pirates. If they won that game, and St. Louis maintained a lead in the standings over the Dodgers, the Nats would then play the third NL Central team in the divisional round. It could be a clean sweep! Five games, and a whole division destroyed! If that happened, I would add the NL Central massacre to this Wikipedia page over and over until they let it stay.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. How is it mid-September? Did we even have August this year? Are the playoffs really sneaking up on us? This is getting serious, gang. Each team has about 15 games left to win, lose, bargain, plead, suffer, and despair. There are only three weekends of regular-season baseball left, starting today, and here's something important: A fancy word for "third-to-last" is "antepenultimate." Armed with that knowledge, it's time for the antepenultimate weekend countdown. Join me!
The main message I want to convey up top is that if you're a real baseball fan, you won't watch any college football this weekend. Anyone who watches even a minute of college football on Saturday is a traitor to baseball and shouldn't be allowed to watch the World Series ever again. And now that we understand each other, let's go to the top 10!
10. Laboring on Labor Day (Kershaw!)
Hey, everyone, it's a four-day weekend! If you're a traitor who will be indulging in college football on Saturday, the good news is that you can still get your second baseball fix on Monday. All 30 teams are in action on Labor Day, and most of the games are afternoon tilts.
The arrival of Labor Day means that awful, horrible summer is OVER. It's been rainy for the past three months in North Carolina, and when you combine that with the heat, it creates this terrible, steamy cauldron that reduces me to a giant walking sweat-man the minute I step outdoors. So hurray for Labor Day. Also hurray for baseball, because on Monday we get to see Clayton Kershaw. With an ERA of 1.72, he's looking to beat 2000 Pedro Martinez (1.74) for the best season-ending ERA of the millennium. (Doesn't including the word "millennium" introduce a nice gravity to the whole thing? Totally undeserved, but still.)
The weekend is here, and I don't know about you, but I'm ready to sit back, watch some baseball, cry, watch more baseball, think about exercising, back to baseball, cry, baseball, eat, cry, baseball, baseball, cryball, eat, cryercise, baseball, eat. WHO'S WITH ME?!
To approach this with sober objectivity: We might be dealing with the best weekend of baseball so far this season. There are no less than four incredible series matchups, a wonderful, tragic pitchers' duel, and a special bonus slotting in at no. 10
In case you were busy going another year without winning a major, here's what you missed in sports last weekend:
Despite Mariano Rivera's third consecutive blown save, the Yankees, powered by Alex Rodriguez's first home run of the season and Brett Gardner's walk-off, were able to beat the Tigers, 5-4, and salvage a series win. "I'm glad the team bailed me out. I just — I have no idea what's wrong with me," Rivera said as he stared into his locker, in which he had hung the parting gift he received earlier from Detroit, a case containing two airtight vials with dirt from the pitcher's mounds at Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park. Rivera then coughed deeply: "I feel weak, like I've been breathing wrong. Like somehow over these past few days poisonous vapors have leaked into my system, like another team wants me to be sick right now. I don't know, I'm probably just being crazy."
Jason Dufner won the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, outpacing veteran Jim Furyk and finishing 10-under for the tournament. "Some people argue the PGA Championship is the Jason Dufner of majors," Dufner said as he held the Wanamaker Trophy limply in front of him with a dead expression on his face. "To them I say, 'Yeah, you're kind of right, I guess.'"
In case you were busy getting weird on eBay with some Stanley Cup memorabilia, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
Another day, another win for Atlanta, as the Braves overcame an early Bryce Harper home run before topping the Washington Nationals, 2-1. The game was not without controversy as Harper was hit by the next pitch he saw, punishment for violating Statute 34.1.92 of the unwritten rulebook of baseball, which reads, "Thou Shalt Not Be Bryce Harper." The rulebook, which exists only in the frozen brain of Ted Williams, cannot be changed or challenged except, ironically, by written authority of Major League Baseball and its partners.
The NBA schedule was announced on Monday, with the reigning champion Miami Heat opening the season at home against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. From there every team will play 82 games, half at home, with its schedule distributed among other professional basketball teams and the Philadelphia 76ers, who have decided to field a team headlined by Kwame Brown and coached by no one. "We know that our fan base has the capacity to be patient while we retool and rebuild," said Sixers GM Sam Hinkie while his pants were being set on fire by Philadelphia superfan Gene Fallows. "And we hope to see growth from our young, OW OW HOT HOT HOT MY LEG!"
In case you were busy letting down the thousands of people who retweeted you by not getting yourself arrested at a public event, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Despite being suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball for violating the league's drug policy, Alex Rodriguez's appeal of the suspension allowed him to play his first game of the season, in which he went 1-for-4 in the Yankees' 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. "Tough game, but it's good to be out there with all my friends, fighting the good fight," Rodriguez said as he sat desperately alone both physically and spiritually at the team's postgame press conference. "I'm at home when I'm with my teammates, and while I've made some mistakes, we all agree that the punishment I'm facing is unfair. Right guys?" Rodriguez then nodded confidently while saying, "Sure thing, Alex. With you to the end," in a falsetto out of the corner of his mouth. Rodriguez then pulled out an acoustic guitar, and yelled, "OK boys, all together now," before launching into an off-key rendition of "This Land Is Your Land."
In more positive baseball news, Jeremy Guthrie threw a shutout while Kansas City's offense exploded in a 13-0 win over the Minnesota Twins. Guthrie, despite the win, was fuming after the game, saying, "'This Land Is Your Land'? Seriously? Son of a bitch besmirches the game, and now he besmirches my family's good name? He better hope he's suspended before the next time we face the Yanks."
The headline on ESPN.com right now is "A-Rod decries mix-ups, lobbies for Fri. play." My question is, do you think A-Rod knows what "decries" means? It strikes me as such a funny word to use in the context of a guy who allegedly owns pictures of himself painted as a centaur (and if he doesn't, he still let someone take this one). Anyway, the whole bizarre saga took an even stranger turn when A-Rod sought the advice of a second doctor (who never actually met him) because he didn't trust the Yankee team doctor. The second doc said his quad muscle was fine, and he could play pronto, and now A-Rod wants to be in the lineup tonight. Which implies, of course, that the Yankee team doctor was lying about the injury at the behest of the team, presumably to keep him off the roster so the Yankees could collect insurance rather than pay out his exorbitant contract themselves. It makes sense, because now the Yankees only have to sideline him long enough for Bud Selig to levy a Biogenesis/PED suspension on him ("all but assured," per CBS's Jon Heyman), which could happen any day. So the odds of the Yankees actually letting him play are somewhere in the neighborhood of nil, and it's hilarious that they might be lying about his quad to save money. Of course, they'd love it if A-Rod would just shut up and ride lamely off into the sunset, but what happens when you want A-Rod not to be annoying? A-Rod gets annoying! Because after all this, A-Rod has accepted the Yanks rehab plan. I'm a Yankees fan, but personally I hope he brings Cashman and the team doctor and whoever else down with him. My ideal team is just Jeter and Mariano playing 2-on-9, with Eduardo Nunez as the mascot.
In case you were busy enjoying the satisfaction of ripping the perforated sides off of dot matrix printer paper, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Despite blowing a four-run ninth-inning lead, Washington beat the Pittsburgh Pirates as Bryce Harper hit his first walk-off home run in the Nationals' 9-7 win. "These are the situations you dream of as a kid," Harper said after the game. "Two outs, bottom of the ninth, tie ballgame, you're on the Nationals, up against the Pirates, everything's on the line. Just you, a corner outfielder for the Nationals, and the Pirates' closer facing each other down with the whole nation watching. A mano a mano battle at Nationals Park, the house that Walter Johnson Didn't Really Build. The history, the tradition, the pressure, the rivalry: One nation, against Pirates, with liberty and justice for me."
Reds starter Mat Latos was sharp into the eighth inning as Cincinnati topped the Dodgers, 5-2, stopping Los Angeles's winning streak at six. The game was also Vin Scully bobblehead night, honoring the broadcaster for his 64th year with the Dodgers organization. Now as you know, we here at About Last Night are all about debate, but I think the Vin Scully issue is a clear one: It's time to call games for another team. Am I saying that Scully's career is suspect if he doesn't join up with the Red Sox or Yankees? Yes. Sure he used to call World Series games, but until a broadcaster has handled the heat of an entire AL East season, can we really call them the greatest of all time? In a career that has been so improbable, is it impossible to suggest that Scully hasn't joined up with the Yankees because he can't handle the New York heat? Go east young man, fulfill your destiny, and for once in your otherwise unblemished career, try working out of New York City, Vin. Then, maybe, when you're calling the greatest city in the world, we'll call you the greatest announcer in the world.
10. The 2013 "Oh Wait, They're Good?" Team (ARI-SFG)
Every year, it feels like there's one division-leading team that slips under the radar. This is often because the division itself is terrible, the team hasn't had much playoff success in the past decade or so, and they may or may not be out west in a city not named Los Angeles. In the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks, we've got a solid "all of the above" case. I'm not saying the D-backs have been very impressive — with a paltry plus-nine run differential, they have a huge target on their backs as we start the second half — but come on, shouldn't we give them at least a little credit? I mean, like, Patrick Corbin is really good. And hey, they have a 15-8 record against the NL Central, a.k.a. the best division in baseball. All I'm saying is that the D-backs are exactly the kind of team that could win a crappy division and then storm to a World Series win in the crapshoot that is the MLB playoffs, negating every piece of wisdom anyone has dispensed all season and making us all angry in the process. We should start learning their name.
You can name any one of seven or eight candidates and have a great argument, but Posey gets the slightest of nods. For starters, no National League player has put up better park-adjusted rate stats. That's doubly impressive given Posey is a catcher, the position at which offense is rarest. Posey hasn't quite played all of his games at catcher. But 75 out of 90, with the numbers he's put up at AT&T Park, still plays well. And no, we don't care one whit about the Giants being eight games under .500, compared to, say, some of the top players on winning teams like the Cardinals. Posey, like Yadier Molina and every other player in the league, has no control over the teammates his general manager picks to play with him.
Sometime after the All-Star break, Major League Baseball plans to suspend Ryan Braun along with as many as 20 other players accused of performance-enhancing drug use, ESPN's Outside the Lines reported Tuesday.
The report highlights the latest chapter in MLB's quest to take down Braun and others implicated in the ongoing investigation into Miami's Biogenesis clinic and its former proprietor, Tony Bosch. The Miami New Times first reported on the story in January. OTL’s own previous digging revealed the scope of baseball's investigation, MLB's attempts to suspend Braun and Alex Rodriguez for longer than the typical first-time offense would typically mandate, and Bosch's cooperation. The only morsel of new news this week is that MLB now seems to have a timetable for its targeted suspensions — though a cynic could argue that "sometime after next week's All-Star break" is an awfully open-ended estimate.
In case you were busy figuring out how to eat a hat after watching Raul Ibanez hit his 22nd home run of the season, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
The Atlanta Braves, powered by Justin Upton, put together a six-run 14th inning as they topped the Marlins, 7-1, in Miami. The loss sent the Marlins to 0-13 at home when their stadium's retractable roof is open, proving definitively that God really doesn't want to look at Marlins games until they put a real major league team back together.