- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN Insider
BALTIMORE -- Two days before his interview to become the next manager of the Cleveland Indians, Terry Francona explained how the job seemed different to him. "It's like family to me," he said, talking about his relationship with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti and president Mark Shapiro.
Francona probably strengthened his case with his presentation: Before his interview, he sent the Indians a 16-page breakdown of their team, their organization and what he sees in their future, and the response had been very positive. The Indians wanted Francona, and Francona wanted the Indians.
And there are a lot of people around who believe that he's crazy to take the Cleveland job, and that if he had waited until next season, some much better opportunity for success would've presented itself to him. Maybe in Texas, where Ron Washington's job status will become the subject of much speculation next summer if the Texas Rangers struggle early, or in Anaheim, if the Los Angeles Angels get off to a bad start. These are just two of the possibilities, in places where the teams might be closer to winning than the Indians.
Only the Colorado Rockies had a worse staff ERA than the Indians last season, and the worst of those numbers were constructed by the Cleveland starting pitchers, who compiled a 5.25 ERA. The Indians were at their best in the past decade when they had CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee leading their rotation, but there is no clear rotation now: Justin Masterson took a step back in 2012, slipping to a 4.93 ERA, and Ubaldo Jimenez's decline from a pitcher who went 15-1 in the first half of 2010 to one of the worst starters in the majors remains one of the sport's great mysteries. Zach McAllister was the team's most effective rotation piece in the second half of the season, posting a 4.24 ERA in his 11 starts.
Cleveland went 68-94 this season, after a horrific second-half collapse, and the Indians' attendance has suffered greatly. It helps that the Indians play in what is generally regarded as the weakest division in baseball, and perhaps Francona's positive personality and experience will help something good form. He wanted this job, badly, to work with some executives he really likes and considers to be really good people.
He might be the only manager with his resume quality who would have considered the Indians.
Francona has a lot of roots in Cleveland, writes Paul Hoynes.
I don't know exactly what Tracy was thinking, but you'd have to think that the Rockies' delay in resolving his status formally was an issue. The Rockies could have announced quickly that Tracy was coming back, but that didn't happen. Even if the Rockies had ultimately decided to keep Tracy for next season, he had to have known that he would've gone into the 2013 season on double-secret probation -- just one stretch of losing away from being fired.
From ESPN Stats and Info: Arroyo became the first Reds pitcher to throw at least seven scoreless innings allowing one hit or fewer in a postseason game.
Seven scoreless innings, two baserunners or fewer (postseason history)
2012 NLDS: Bronson Arroyo vs. Giants
2010 NLDS: Roy Halladay vs. Reds
1967 WS: Jim Lonborg vs. Cardinals
1956 WS: Don Larsen vs. Dodgers
1945 WS: Claude Passeau vs. Tigers
One of the great benefits enjoyed by the Reds as they eased to the NL Central title was that they were able to give their injured players time to heal -- most notably, Ryan Ludwick, who had a groin problem. There was no pressure on Ludwick to get back in the lineup, so he got treatment daily, regained his health and clubbed a monster home run to start the scoring in Game 2.
Dusty Baker deserved credit for what happened Saturday.
When the media was allowed into the Yankees' clubhouse after their win against the Orioles late Sunday night, Russell Martin was planted in front of a video unit, and he was watching a replay of his ninth-inning at-bat against Jim Johnson, the Orioles' closer who is coming off a spectacular season. Johnson's sinker seems to move a couple of feet on its journey to home plate, usually leaving hitters only the top half of the baseball to swing at. But whether it was because of the adrenaline or the first real chill of the fall, Johnson's command wasn't close to what it normally is in his first pitches of the ninth inning. A fastball veered inside, to run the count to 2-0, and then Johnson fired a chest-high fastball -- and as Martin watched the video, he saw himself get on top of that pitch, somehow, to mash a tiebreaking home run.
But Martin had already done exceptional work before that at-bat, in a sequence of plays earlier in the game. With the score tied 2-2 in the fifth, Chris Davis singled to open the bottom of the inning for the Orioles, and then Lew Ford bounced the ball out in front of the plate. CC Sabathia couldn't get to the ball, and for an instant it appeared that the Orioles would have first and second and nobody out. But Martin -- who has done UFC-style training in the past year to stay in shape -- rushed out from behind home plate to attack the ball.
"Off the bat it just kept getting away from me further and further," Martin told reporters later. "I just tried to get there in a hurry, and the ball was actually pretty wet, so I picked it up and threw it as quickly as possible. It was kind of in no man's land. CC when he throws, he kind of falls off to, well, his right side and I knew off the bat that I was going to be the one to have to make that play and Teixeira made a sweet pick like he always does, it seems, at first base over there. It definitely was a big play. It changed that inning."
After a Robert Andino single, Sabathia tried to spin a breaking ball to strike out Nate McLouth -- and Martin smothered it. With two outs, he did the same on a pitch in the dirt to J.J. Hardy, and Sabathia got through the inning without allowing any runs. "He's so good at that," Sabathia said later. "You have all the feeling in the world he's going to keep the ball in front of him."
From ESPN Stats & Info: Martin is the fourth Yankees player to hit a postseason go-ahead home run in the ninth inning or later on the road, joining Joe DiMaggio (1950 WS), Gil McDougald (1958 WS) and Roger Maris (1961 WS).
Johnson and the Orioles unraveled, writes Eduardo Encina.
The Oakland bullpen couldn't get the job done, as Susan Slusser writes.