First off, we have to start with congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on the World Series championship. While given their regular season record it should have been expected they’d win it all (and I did call them as the champs at the end of the regular season, although I had expected a Houston/LA rematch World Series way back in spring training), a lot can happen in October and the Red Sox never lost focus or let up a notch. Exactly what a championship team needs to do. What they also need is for an unexpected hero to step up, and they had that in Steve Pearce.
The 35 year-old journeyman, traded over from the Blue Jays mid-season had been a solid but unremarkable 12-year veteran backup player, conversant in hitting, playing outfield and first but never becoming a “star” at any of the above. In 50 games with Boston after being traded, he hit a decent .279 with 7 homers and a .901 OPS; on the year in total, he was .288 with 42 RBI and a .890 OPS. Both those numbers were second-best in his career, behind his 2014 campaign in Baltimore.
But when the pressure was on, it was Steve who rose to the challenge. He outhit the Sox duel MVP-candidates, Mookie Betts and JD Martinez in the entire post-season and really cemented the Championship last week. While Mookie hit a rather anemic .210, with just 1 homer and 4 RBI through the playoffs, JD fared somewhat better, going 15 for 50, a .300 average, with 3 HR and 14 RBI. Pearce through 13 games in the playoffs hit .289, added 9 walks leading to 12 runs scored. Of course he also hit 4 homers, three in the final two games of the year to seal the Dodgers fate, and tallied a huge 1.083 OPS. A rightful Series MVP if there ever was one.
A tip of the cap to the Dodgers too; they looked shaky at times this season but came through when they had to right up to the final week. Two straight league pennants is nothing to sniff at, though I expect many LA fans are doing that this morning.
On the homefront, the big news of course is the Blue Jays hiring Charlie Montoyo as their new manager. this came as rather a surprise, both in that it took them very little time and that his name really hadn’t been much in the mix of guesses from MLB pundits. More surprising, the amount of confidence shown in him by Toronto, giving him a 3-year deal right away for his first big league managing gig.
They rightfully point out that he’s not unqualified. He had 18 long years of minor league managing behind him and he was Kevin Cash’s bench coach this year with the far over-achieving Tampa Bay Rays. No one expected them to win 90 this year, especially when the Sox and Yankees got red-hot right out of the gates and when Tampa traded their supposed “ace”, Chris Archer in July. but win 90 they did, and as Ross Atkins of our guys points out, that’s largely because they are among the best teams at being “ahead of the curve” in using stats to analyze and stategize every at bat.
Montoyo’s bilingualism is also pointed to as a plus, definitely a consideration on a team with so many Latin American players including the top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
I hadn’t heard much of Charlie before but he does seem like he’s probably a good man for the job. I didn’t “like” the Rays ways this year, with their oddball pitching choices such as starting a reliever for one inning and severely limiting innings pitched for any hurler, and their reliance on defensive shifts. But you can’t argue with success, and succeed they did while Toronto and more traditional manager John Gibbons just didn’t live upto anyone’s expectations. So fingers crossed, and good luck Charlie Montoyo.
An interesting sidenote to that- the Jays website lists all the ’18 coaches as rostered still except for a hitting coach. Presumably this means they quietly let Brook Jacoby go, something that’s unfortunate but something I’ve argued has needed to be done for some time now.
Next up, we’ll be picking the deserving AL award winners.