Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Time For The GM Shuffle!

YESTERDAY IN POSTSEASON PLAY: Mets And Royals World Series Previews

METS: On the eve of Matt Harvey's start in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, one of his college teammates recalled the brash freshman who arrived on the campus of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2007. Harvey had just turned down $1 million after the Angels made him a third-round Draft pick, opting instead to boost his stock with a Tar Heels team coming off back-to-back appearances in the championship round of the College World Series. "We knew he could help us, but he hadn't been there those previous two years, and he might not have taken it as seriously as we were during those fall practices," said Rob Wooten, an ace reliever for those teams who made it to the big leagues himself, with the Brewers. "I think he thought he was going to come in and breeze right through college. It didn't work that way at the beginning. I think he got humbled pretty quick. But he put his head down and he got to work. "I love Matt. He's an All-Star and he's going to win a Cy Young Award someday and now he's pitching Game 1 of the World Series. I'm definitely going to be watching." It will be a well-rested, unrestricted Harvey who takes the Kauffman Stadium mound, the fascination with Harvey's workload having been stifled after serving as a source of controversy in August and September. The fact remains that Harvey, who missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, continues to push into uncharted innings. In August, Harvey's agent, Scott Boras, made the case for a hard cap around 180 innings, while the Mets insisted they would proceed on a start-to-start basis. Now, with the Mets on the brink of their first championship since 1986, the sides appear united. Including his two postseason starts (2-0, 2.84 ERA), Harvey has logged 202 innings since the start of the regular season. "We kind of cleared that up at the end," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "It goes back to after the Yankee game [on Sept. 20, when Collins removed Harvey after 77 pitches and five scoreless innings]. "Couple days later he walked in and said, 'Listen, we're going to get in the postseason and I've got to be ready, and I'm not ready.' He said, 'My next two starts I've got to throw at least a hundred pitches to get myself back where I need to be.'" Collins conferred with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who said it was Harvey's call. "It's pretty much been Matt and me ever since," Collins said. "I don't think we've needed to go elsewhere. As long as I know he's ready to go." Harvey indicated he's ready to go. "I think there were some people that threw me under the bus a little bit about what was going on," Harvey said. "But for me being out here with my teammates is all I want, and I couldn't be happier to be with them here now." In Game 1 of the National League Championship Series he delivered a vintage performance, holding the Cubs to two runs on four hits in 7 2/3 innings, with nine strikeouts. It marked the first time Harvey threw a pitch beyond the seventh inning since Aug. 11. That outing did come at a price. Harvey took a liner directly on his right arm off the bat of Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler, and there was more swelling than expected in his triceps two days later. But he improved to the point that he was slated to start Game 5 of the NLCS had the Mets not completed their four-game sweep. Harvey will pitch Tuesday on nine days' rest. "I think the best thing and the most positive thing is how I feel after the 200-inning mark, and quite honestly, it's probably better than I did at the 100 mark," he said. Said Collins: "I think in conversations with David [Wright] and some of the other veterans, he realized that the only way he's going to be that person he wants to be is to be out in the middle of that field. So he took the baseball back. He said, 'Give me the ball.' "So I salute that. Certainly we all realize any time you're out on the baseball field something freaky could happen and your career could come to an end, but it's about the competition side and being out there with your teammates, and he wants to do that. I'm not shocked by it. And I'm thrilled that he said, 'Give me the baseball,' because he's going to get it." His old Tar Heels teammate will be watching. Harvey and Wooten remain in touch, though the last time they had an extended conversation in person was last December in Orlando during Major League Baseball Players Association meetings. Wooten said Harvey expressed supreme confidence in his comeback from Tommy John surgery, and was bullish about the Mets' young starting pitching. "He told me they were going to win there," Wooten said. "And sure enough, there they are in the World Series."

ROYALS: Game 1 of the World Series is kind of a big deal, but Royals right-handed pitcher Edinson Volquez, preparing for his start Tuesday night against the Mets, smiles the same old relaxed way. "It's another game," said Volquez. "I don't have to do anything different than what I've been doing. I've got to stay focused in what I'm doing, especially this game, because this is a World Series game. You don't have too many chances to make a lot of mistakes in those games. So I've got to stay under control and pitch my game." Volquez's postseason has been up and down. He yielded five hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings of a loss to the Astros in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Then he beat the Blue Jays in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series by giving up just two hits in six innings of a shutout victory, before giving up five runs in five innings in a 7-1 loss to the Jays in Game 5. The results have swung, but Volquez has remained his happy-go-lucky self. "I don't think Dominican guys get nervous, ever," Royals catcher Salvador Perez said. "He just likes to compete, have fun and do his job -- keep the ball down, use the changeup, use his breaking ball, pitch inside." Volquez has found slightly more fastball velocity in the postseason. He is touching 97 and 98 mph. According to FanGraphs, Volquez's fastball is averaging 95.2 mph in the postseason, as opposed to 93.8 during the regular season. The Jays' Aaron Sanchez, the Mets' Steven Matz, the Cubs' Trevor Cahill and Royals teammate Chris Young have experienced greater bumps in average velocity (among pitchers with 70 or more postseason pitches), but Volquez's 1.4 mph increase is considered significant. Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland said the uptick is a testament of a clean, fundamental delivery that allows Volquez to direct his power toward home plate. At times during the regular season, he became rotational and lost power by spinning to the side. Volquez prefers to use humor over technical explanation of his newfound velocity. "I don't know, from the Gatorade," he said when asked for his thoughts on a reason. "A lot of energy helps me a little bit more. I think pitching the playoffs is more exciting. And everything I pitch, everything I've got, that's what I've got. I was throwing 97, 98 the other day. I don't do that very often, but I think I've still got it a little bit." Volquez's charge against the selective Mets will be to stay in the strike zone consistently, since he has walked 12 in 16 2/3 postseason innings, with 15 strikeouts. Eiland said Volquez's faster fastball is also a sign of a free mind. After a promising early career with the Reds, Volquez was discarded by the Padres and Dodgers in 2013, only to resurface as a competitive starter with the Pirates last year. He continued that trend when he joined the Royals this season. "This guy's been around," Eiland said. "He's been released a couple of times, bounced around, given up on. He's got nothing to lose. He's very fortunate and grateful to be in this situation. He's coming right at you. He's not going to let this opportunity slip away, throwing caution to the wind. "Usually when a player throws caution to the wind, you get the best out of him."


World Series
New York at Kansas City
Game 1: Tuesday, October 27, at 8:00 PM


New GM – Andy MacPhail got his man. Matt Klentak, previously an Angels assistant general manager, was named vice president and general manager on Monday. The Phillies introduced him during a news conference at Citizens Bank Park. "I am honored, I am humbled, I am unbelievably excited to be here today," Klentak said. Klentak, 35, appeared to be the favorite for the job from the moment MacPhail joined the organization in June. Sources told MLB.com at the time that if MacPhail decided not to renew Ruben Amaro Jr.'s contract, Klentak would be his top target. The Phillies announced last month that Amaro would not return, opening the door for Klentak's arrival. MacPhail kept his GM search quiet, declining interview requests along the way. He conducted many of his first-round interviews in Chicago before holding second and final interviews this week. Those interviews involved Phillies ownership, which included John Middleton. Klentak, A's assistant GM Dan Kantrovitz and Rays vice president of baseball operations Chaim Bloom were the three finalists for the job. But Klentak evidently impressed everybody the most. "In Matt we found an executive with the keen ability to understand cutting-edge baseball analytics, coupled with superior scouting, player development and leadership skills," MacPhail said. "Additionally, his commitment and resolve to build the foundation for a championship-caliber team was evident every step of the way through the process. I trust Matt to lead the Phillies as we all rededicate ourselves to return championship baseball to Philadelphia." So who is Klentak? He grew up in Massachusetts and attended Dartmouth College, where he majored in economics and played shortstop. Following graduation in 2002, he took an internship with the Rockies before he joined Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department, where he helped negotiate the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement. He remained there until 2008, when MacPhail hired him as director of baseball operations with the Orioles, making him one of the youngest executives in baseball. Klentak worked with MacPhail in scouting, player development, contract negotiations and the construction of the 40-man roster. The Angels hired him as assistant general manager in late 2011, where he handled many of those same responsibilities. Klentak has an analytics background, but those who are familiar with him say he has a well-balanced approach to his duties. In other words, sabermetrics aren't the only thing he knows. He was former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto's No. 2 man, meaning he worked with scouts, agents and other general managers and assistant general managers. "We want to be the best at everything that we do," Klentak said. "We want to have the best scouts on the field, we want to have the best coaches, we want to have the best players, and we will. And we will use every form of technology available to us to have the best information in this industry." Scouts who know him seem to like and respect him. Field personnel seem to like him, too. He could be seen chatting in the clubhouse with Angels coaches and players following Dipoto's resignation July 1, which was a tumultuous time for the organization. Klentak is said to be likeable and a good communicator, which should help him early with a demanding Phillies fanbase and media. "This is a phenomenal sports town and the fans are equally phenomenal," Phillies partner John Middleton said to Klentak during the news conference. "As a group, we are passionate, we are knowledgeable, we are loyal, we have high standards and I think you will love be here. And when you win here, you will really love being here. There is nothing like winning in Philadelphia."

Old GM – The Red Sox took an unconventional route in the selection of a new first-base coach/outfield instructor, hiring former Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. on Monday to fill that role. Amaro, 50, has no previous coaching experience and went straight to the Phillies' front office after his playing career ended in 1998. Red Sox manager John Farrell was teammates with Amaro for a short period in 1995 with the Indians. Amaro will also assist in baserunning instruction. "I am truly honored to join the Red Sox, a first-class organization with a tremendous history," Amaro said. "I was honored that Dave and John would consider me for this opportunity and add me to this dynamic coaching staff. I am poised, focused and ready to bring anything I can in terms of experience and knowledge to this position, and I look forward to being a part of the Boston Red Sox." The fact that Amaro is ready to take an on-field job lends credence to a recent report that he might be interested in managing some day. Amaro became the general manager of the Phillies on Nov. 1, 2008, right after the club won the World Series. He took over for Pat Gillick. Under Amaro, the Phillies got back to the World Series the next year, losing to the Yankees. The Phillies won the National League East from '09-11, but didn't make it to the postseason the past four years. The Phillies announced on Sept. 10 that they would not be renewing Amaro's contract. Amaro replaces Arnie Beyeler as Boston's first-base coach and outfield instructor. Beyeler was the only coach not retained from Farrell's staff. An outfielder for the entirety of his eight-year career in the Majors, Amaro should be well positioned to teach defense to Boston's young and exciting trio of Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Phillies finally put an end to the season finishing in last place in the NL East with a record of 63-99. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances, this has ended up being one of the worst seasons in franchise history! However, there are some former Phillies still making headlines in the playoffs this year.

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