By Bob Elliott
KANSAS CITY _ So tell me once again ...
How good were the young and all powerful mighty Chicago Cubs managed by the Great and All Powerful Joe Maddon?
Kansas City Royals right-hander Johnny Cueto made the New York Mets look like Casey Stengel’s Mets Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. These were the same Mets who had swept the Cubs in the previous round,
Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at the non-waiver trade deadline, Cueto went the distance throwing 122 pitches on a two hitter as the Royals scored a 7-1 win for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven, 111th World Series.
He allowed an infield single to Jeff Duda in the second and a bloop, run-scoring single to left, again by Duda.
“Johnny was electric he feeds off this crowd,” said Eric Hosmer, who had a pair of hits and knocked in two runs. “That’s what an ace does. He put the team on his back. He allowed our bullpen to have a two full days off after playing 14 innings in Game 1.”
Pittsburgh Pirates fans chanted Cueto’s name so much two years ago in the wild-card game he dropped the ball on the mound, allowed four runs in 3 1/3 innings and lost. Royals fans chanted his name when he came out for the ninth and stood around for the post-game dunking.
“He’s had one bad start and two tremendous post season starts,” manager Ned Yost told reporters.
Against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre 10 days ago Cueto was touched for six hits and eight runs, allowing a three-run homer to Troy Tulowitzki and he pitched eight innings in a win against Houston.
Wearing his dreadlocks long enough to cover his name on the back of his jersey, he gyrates, shimmies and shakes with different variations of his delivery to throw off hitters.
He doesn’t seem a perfect fit for mid-America but as he came out for the top of the ninth he hopped over the first base line and into the hearts of Royals fans.
Cueto is the fourth pitcher ever with two outings of eight plus innings while allowing only two hits in their entire playoff careers. The other two: Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens.
And the Royals in an era of gnash and smash, a strikeout only counts as one out, the hit-the-ball-where it is, the Royals are carrying on a family tradition: from hitting guru Charlie Lau, to Hall of Famer George Brett to nine guys roughing up Jacob deGroom Wednesday night.
K.C. had 10 hits including doubles by Sal Perez and Alex Gordon along with an Alcides Escobar triple. The Royals scored four times in the fifth and three in the eighth.
“All of a sudden in the fifth the walk, base hit to centre, then he gets an out, next thing you know they go single, single, single. You’re sitting there saying he’s going to get out of this, this is where he’s going to put this guy away, but he never did,” manager Terry Collins said about deGroom.
“We’re seeing the effects that when we make bad pitches against a team that can hit, we’re going to get hurt.”
IF YOU’RE NOT TRYING, YOU’RE NOT CHEATING (OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT): When FOX cameras were plugged in and the generators were working they caught a close up of the right leg of Salvatore Perez in Game 1.
On the right shin pad of the Kansas City Royals catcher was what looked like a pine tar substance.
Is use of pine tar against the rules?
It is and it isn’t.
It is pitchers for pitchers and it isn’t for catchers.
Yet, what if there is enough goup of the ball by the time Perez threw it back to Edinson Volquez to help with movement on his pitches?
The city of New York and Mets fans may have been upset, but Mets manager Terry Collins was not before Game 2 of the 111th World Series Wednesday night.
Pine tar is as routine among catcher as neck guard and an athletic supporter.
“I don’t know if Travis d’Arnaud does it, he probably does,” Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters on Wednesday, “but I’ve seen it throughout baseball. Everywhere.”
Collins explained catchers have to be able to get a grip on the ball too, “especially on cold and damp nights,” as was the case in Game 1.
“They need a grip, so they use pine tar for themselves,” Collins said. “It’s so obvious, the umpires see it, too. And if it’s that obvious they would do something about it.
“But because (the rule) is only really concerned with the pitchers, I don’t think there’s really enough to put on that you can wipe it on, throw the ball to the pitcher to where it’s going to affect how the pitcher throws the baseball.”
Yost, a former catcher, was dismissive of the incident.
“They look for any stupid thing to bring up,” Yost told reporters. “It’s not illegal for a catcher to get an extra grip. A pitcher is illegal. But Sal is not putting anything on the ball for the pitcher.
“He uses it for his own, he taps it lightly so that he gets a better grip when he throws, which is completely legal.”
Collins, 66, recalled managing days the triple-A Albuquerque Dukes (1984-88).
“It was cold and dry, and I had pitchers, you couldn’t shake their hand because you couldn’t get your hand away from them,” Collins said. “The argument was, you can either do this or you can let this wild sucker throw some balls at 95 miles an hour with no command.
“I think any hitter would say, Let him have a little command on it, it’s okay.”
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa noticed that Detroit Tigers’ lefty Kenny Rogers had a sticky substance on his left hand in Game 2 of the 2006 World Series, but complained after the inning rather to the umps while Rogers was still on the mound.
The next half inning Rogers’ palm was as clean as a newborn’s bottom. And post-game Rogers was able to say it was merely dirt, rather than something sticky, like pine tar, or slippery, like dirty Vaseline, which would have meant an automatic ejection for Rogers.
REGIME COUNTDOWN: President Paul Beeston’s term comes to an end on Friday and Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro takes over.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos’ contract expires on the same day.
Some high-ranking Jays assistants were given contracts through 2016, but there is a great feeling of apprehension moving throughout the rest of the Jays organization which goes something like this:
“If the new regime is unsure of bringing the GM back, what are my chances?”
One name mentioned at the World Series as possibly accompanying Shapiro from Cleveland to Toronto is Ross Atkins, Indians vice-president, player personnel.
SIGNS, SIGNS, EVERYWHERE: Thanks Zac (Greinke), two LCS MVPs (Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar) for one Cy Young ... Doubling the Winning in Half the Innings ... I Love NY (Ned Yost) ... You’ll Dread Johnny’s (Cueto) dreads ... KC Barbecue $17.95, NY deli expired ,.. Superman wear Lorenzo Cain pajamas ... I’ve got 1,738 problems, but the Met aren’t one of them.
WHO WAS BETTER: Ok, now that the Blue Jays have been eliminated we can go back to the August/September argument of which was the best team?
The 1992 World Series champion Blue Jays, winners of eight of 12 games?
The 1993 Series champion Jays, winners of eight of 12 games?
Or this year’s Jays who lost in the American League Championship Series to the Royals, who had five wins in 11 tries?
It’s like Devon White said in September “as soon as this year’s team has back-to-back Series banners hanging from the rafters we’ll sit down, talk and compare.”
NEW-BOY NETWORK: Scott Servais, who has never managed or coached, is the new manager of the Seattle Mariners. Gabe Kapler, who managed class-A Greenville in 2007, is the leading candidate to take over as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
FOX’s Ken Rosenthal’s notes the trend with a slew of first-time managers getting their first job in the majors:
St. Louis Cardinals’ Mike Matheny, Detroit Tigers’ Brad Ausmus, Miami Marlins’ Dan Jennings, Chicago White Sox’s Robin Ventura, Colorado Rockies’ Walt Weiss and A.J. Hinch who struggled with the Arizona Diamondbacks before having success with the Houston Astros this year.
Both Yost and Collins managed in the minors and coached in the majors before getting their chance. Collins was asked how much better a manager he was because of the path he took?
“I don’t know if I’m better than those guys, Matheny has done pretty good,” Collins told reporters. “The game is different today. There are assistants to GMs where there are conversations about the team every day, GMs are hearing that these guys are sharp.
“Years ago you had to go through the minors to manage.”
Collins was a minor league director as well as a manager in the minors for 11 seasons and two years in Japan with the Orix Buffaloes.
“Lineups are being written for them. This guy has to pitch today at this amount and you can’t pinch-hit. These guys got to hit the whole game. They don’t manage anymore. It’s dictated what goes on,” Collins said. “I don’t look at it and say, ‘Wow, they should have done this.’ I wish they would have, because they’ll appreciate managing here a lot more.
“They’ve forgotten a lot of times when you are a big league player for as long as some of these guys are, you forget about that bus ride from Williamsport to Three Rivers, Que.”
Collins is quick with a quip and a witty 66 years of age, but we’re not sure what year he took the bus from Williamsport to Trois-Rivieres.
He played for the class-A Niagara Falls Pirates in 1971 and they visited the Williamsport Red Sox. That year the Trois-Rivieres Aigles were in the double-A Eastern League.
Collins was in the Eastern loop playing for the 1973 Sherbrooke Pirates and the 1974-75 Waterbury Dodgers making numerous trips to Trois-Rivieres, but Williamsport was never in the league.
All the bus trips Collins has made he can be forgiven for getting putting two burgs in a league where they don’t belong.
PRE-GAME: Sara Evans sang the national anthem ... Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman presented relief awards to Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees in the AL and Mark Melancon of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL.
GAME DAY WARDROBE: Collins was asked about the Mets wearing blue and orange in Game 1 and grey in Game 2. The commissioner’s office decides what uniform colors are worn, “so it’s pretty hard to be superstitious,” Collins said.
“There were times when you didn’t wash your stuff,” Collins said. “Now it’s on eBay the next day. Those superstitions are kind of gone. I wear the same stuff every day. Now I can’t do that anymore, it’s all gone.”
FAREWELL: The Rogers Centre press box won’t be as happy a place to be next season. For that matter it also won’t be as grumpy or argumentative either.
Our Mike Rutsey has decided enough is enough and is headed into his retirement years. Rutsey has seen a ground ball in his day and the last few years has been given the honor of asking the first question at manager John Gibbons’ post-game media sessions. Like the late Helen Thomas of United Press International asked the first question during White House press conferences, Rutsey hit lead off.
Most were insightful, some were pure “Ruts” with his off-the-wall sense of humor: “John, could you tell us why Drew Hutchison doesn’t pitch this well every start at home?”
He was respected by every manager from Cito Gaston, Jim Fregosi, Buck Martinez, Carlos Tosca to Gibbons for more than two decades, general managers Gord Ash, J.P. Ricciardi and Anthopoulos as well as players ... from stars like Carlos Delgado, Shawn Green and Roy Halladay to back-ups.
We wish him all the best. And we wish his tee shots stay in the middle of the fairway, the wind is at his back, he finds parking spots for his Avis rent car, has email service and a fully-charged cell phone where ever he may roam.
Good luck bud.