- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
Don Denkinger, an umpire who had one of the most famous blown calls in history, tells Bob Klapisch: It's time to go to replay.
Here's the thing: Eventually, expanded use of replay is going to happen. It's as inevitable as a Democrat or Republican winning the next presidential election. The technology is greatly improved and immediately available, and there is tremendous sentiment growing within the sport for more replay use.
Major League Baseball might as well do it right now, in an effort to make the game better. If the Yankees win Thursday night, there will be five days until the World Series starts, and MLB should use that time to define the parameters of expanded replay use and determine how the communication will work.
Commissioner Bud Selig would be applauded for making an aggressive push to correct the kind of mistakes we have seen time and time and time again this postseason, and while there would be a lot of hand-wringing over the mechanics of expanded replay, about how to make it happen, it should be very simple: Just get it right.
On calls of fair or foul, on calls of safe or out, on all calls not involving balls or strikes, just get it right.
Don't put the onus on the managers to throw out some silly red challenge flag -- just get it right. If an umpire such as John Hirshbeck were to oversee the replay booth during the World Series, he could be in communication with the crew chief, and if replay were to show that a call was wrong, just stop the game and fix it. Anyone watching on television knows, in almost all cases, whether a call was wrong or right within 20 seconds of the play concluding. MLB should give the umpires those same tools.
The backbone of the Phillies is stars like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cliff Lee, but what separates Philadelphia this time of year is the incredible quality and depth of its lineup and roster.
Vicente Padilla made the tactical decision in Game 5 that he was not going to let the red-hot Howard beat him, and he whizzed fastballs inside to Howard until he walked the slugger in the first inning.
And then Jayson Werth wore him out, patiently taking pitch after pitch, getting ahead in the count three balls and no strikes. Werth fouled off the sixth pitch of the at-bat, and on the seventh, Padilla fired a 96 mph fastball to the outer half of the plate, and Werth just leaned on it, driving it into the right-field stands for a three-run homer.
After the Dodgers put up a run in the top of the second, Pedro Feliz, the No. 7 hitter, smashed a home run. The No. 8 hitter, Carlos Ruiz, hit .385 in the series, with a .579 on-base percentage. The Philadelphia bench is potent, with guys like Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs and Ben Francisco. Presumably, in the World Series, Stairs or Dobbs will be the designated hitter against right-handed pitchers (like A.J. Burnett), and Francisco will start in left field against left-handed pitchers (like CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte), with Raul Ibanez serving as the DH.
The Phillies' depth also showed up on the pitching side. As Jeremy Mills of ESPN Stats & Information notes, the Phillies' bullpen performed much better than the vaunted Dodgers bullpen. Conventional wisdom said the Dodgers had a deeper bullpen than the Phillies, but once the series moved to Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies' bullpen dominated the series.
Ryan Howard is still growing in stats and status, Rich Hofmann writes. He joined elite company, as Jason McCallum of ESPN Stats & Information shows:
These players have won the rookie of the year award, a league MVP and a League Championship Series MVP:
Ryan Howard -- Phillies
Albert Pujols -- Cardinals
Fred Lynn -- Red Sox, Angels
Cole Hamels might or might not be tipping pitches, but he is struggling, Paul Hagen writes. The Phillies are absolutely capable of winning back-to-back titles, writes Sam Donnellon. These Phillies have it all over the 1980 Phillies, writes Bill Conlin. Now comes the real test for the Phillies, writes Bob Ford. This is the greatest team ever from Philadelphia, writes Phil Sheridan.
Vicente Padilla just couldn't do it again, Dylan Hernandez writes. The Dodgers were not quite ready for the next step, writes Ramona Shelburne. In the end, the Dodgers just didn't have what it takes, writes Bill Plaschke. The Dodgers squandered everything and wound up back where they were in 2008, writes T.J. Simers.
Padilla lives and dies with his fastball, as Mr. Mills notes: After struggling to make solid contact against his heater in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, the Phillies struck for two early home runs off Padilla's fastball in Game 5. Perhaps he would have been helped by a little more variety -- his first time through the order, Padilla threw fastballs on 29 of 31 pitches.
The first time CC Sabathia met with the Yankees' officials, in Las Vegas, Reggie Jackson was in the room, and so were Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman, and the conversation was pleasant and chatty and polite. The next day, Cashman went to meet with Sabathia again, and he recalled Wednesday that he could see that Sabathia was wrestling emotionally with the decision and that he wasn't enjoying the process. The pitcher got down to business, asking Cashman about what most concerned him: He had heard that the Yankees had a fractured clubhouse culture.
"He said he wanted to be part of something where people get along -- a team -- and there were rumblings out there on the street that this was a problem for us," Cashman said. "He wanted to make sure that he could come to an environment that was conducive to camaraderie."
Cashman was direct in his response: "I told him that I had been part of scenarios that we didn't have that and part of scenarios when we did have that. I told him that one of the reasons why I wanted him was that he was the type of person who could bring things together."
When Sabathia played in Cleveland, he was the player who usually hosted the team get-togethers, and it was his mother, Margie, who cooked all the food. "I want you to come here and make that happen," Cashman told Sabathia.
After weighing offers from the Brewers and the Angels (something in the area of $120 million), Sabathia took the Yankees' offer -- a $161 million deal that was significantly greater than any other offer because the Yankees knew they had to separate themselves financially to make Sabathia comfortable with the idea of going to New York. After Sabathia signed with the Yankees, Brewers GM Doug Melvin reached out to Cashman. "Hey, you just got a great one," Melvin said.
The deal has worked out well for the Yankees, of course, but also for Sabathia. Late Tuesday night, after beating the Angels, Sabathia told a friend: "I'm really happy."
Cashman proved to be a closer, John Harper writes. There's only one Mr. October, writes Wallace Matthews. A.J. Burnett will try to pitch the Yankees into the World Series, writes Peter Botte. Pitching is the difference for the Yankees, writes Tyler Kepner. From Baseball-Reference, there is this about what A-Rod could be playing for Thursday night:
John Lackey has a chance to show he's the man, Mark Whicker writes. The Angels are hitting only .201 against the Yankees in this series, Bill Plunkett notes. The Angels will try to extend the series tonight, writes Mike DiGiovanna.
Dings and dents
1. Albert Pujols can't wait for spring training, after surgery, Derrick Goold writes.
2. Tim Wakefield's surgery went well.
From Arizona Fall League
Some talent evaluators are raving about Cubs shortstop prospect Starlin Castro, who is just 19 years old. So far, Castro is hitting .522 in the AFL. "He's the most exciting kid here," one evaluator said. "He's got a chance to be a superstar. He's got the bat speed, the strength, and he's somewhere between a Jose Reyes-type of defender and a Hanley Ramirez type of guy. He looks pretty special."
Castro figures to arrive in the big leagues full time in 2011, but keep in mind that Lou Piniella has never been afraid of aggressively promoting very young players with superlative talent -- such as Alex Rodriguez.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Tony La Russa is nearing a decision on whether to return to the Cardinals.
2. Aroldis Chapman is ready to meet with teams, writes Michael Silverman.
3. All signs continue to point to Jed Hoyer as the next GM of the Padres.
4. Next up for the Indians in their managerial search, Paul Hoynes writes: Bobby Valentine and Torey Lovullo.
5. The Cubs landed a heavy hitter in Rudy Jaramillo.
6. The Rays hired Derek Shelton, who is regarded by some as one of the best in the business.
7. The Braves cut ties with three pitchers, writes David O'Brien.
8. The Nationals are looking for a manager, writes Chico Harlan.
• Rick Peterson got the impression that the Brewers are going to upgrade their rotation.
• Carlos Guillen and Jim Leyland have reconciled, writes John Lowe, and Guillen will be the Tigers' full-time left fielder next season. Guillen whiffed in the court of public opinion, writes Tom Gage.
• The TV ratings are up in the postseason, writes Tim Lemke.
The playoffs have been marred by bad calls from umpires -- some they could have called better, some they might have had little chance of getting right. So if we had the technology to get this right last week, why not start now, asks Buster?