You'll have a hard time finding anyone in the press who can analyze Joe Torre's strategy better than Buster Olney. While covering the Yankees' championship three-peat for the New York Times, and writing a bestselling book about the dusk of that dynasty, no one more astutely broke down how Torre wins games.
Or loses them. "The last few years, he's been absolutely terrible in running the bullpen in terms of overusing guys," Olney said on Thursday's "Baseball Today" podcast. According to Olney, the only reason Torre won't do the same all over again is the Red Sox's collapse: "I think the lead," he said, "will allow him to do a better job [this] September."
From the surging (Yankees) to the purging (Red Sox), from Ryan Howard to Lyin' Pavano, we covered it all last week on Baseball Today, the Fastest 15 Minutes in Baseball. Here's just a taste of what you might have missed -- along with our top listener mail (click here to send us your thoughts to use on the show) and the standings in our Crystal Ball contest, the pennant race you never saw coming.
Quotes Of The Week
Aug. 28: Jerry Crasnick
On the Red Sox: "They just look like a tired team. I think you can only ride David Ortiz so far. And they didn't really get much in terms of reinforcements, and maybe they were a little demoralized with what the Yankees did."
Aug. 29: Jayson Stark
On Detroit calling up Andrew Miller: "The one reason I think this has a chance to work is Jim Leyland. Jim Leyland is as good at handling a pitching staff -- and especially finding roles for [a] young pitcher to enable them to succeed, and enabling them to know the manager has confidence in them -- as any manager I've ever seen."
Wednesday: Gary Gillette
On David Wells: "It ain't over till the fat lefty sings. … I don't really think Wells is likely to help somebody. He does have a 2.65 ERA in August. But opposing batters are hitting about .300 against him, and he's not shutting down the home runs."
Thursday: Buster Olney
On the Twins: "Their rotation behind Santana is all smoke and mirrors. They virtually have no margin for error with their rotation. If they somehow pull it off and make the playoffs, they would be one of the greatest miracle stories of all time."
Friday: Rob Neyer
On the Oakland rotation: "When you get into the postseason, having five good starters doesn't mean much. You want three good ones or great ones. Is Kirk Saarloos going to take over the postseason pitching the fifth and sixth innings?"
Best Listener Mail
(To contribute a comment for the show, click here.)
"I am an avid listener to the Baseball Today podcast. I am watching the Reds-Dodgers game online and cannot help thinking of Gary Gillette's remarks in Wednesday's podcast in which he picked the Reds to take the wild card and pretty strongly dismissed the Phillies' chances. I would sooner pick the team that leads the NL in runs (the Phillies) to make the playoffs than pick the team that only a few minutes ago as I write this gave up three mammoth home runs in an inning at Dodger Stadium, which is no hitter's park. Furthermore, Brett Myers pitched a pretty good game last night in Washington, and Cole Hamels was also good tonight. Then again, perhaps it is better for people to continue to not take the Phillies seriously, as they seem to do best when no one cares about them."
"What's with Carl Pavano? Looks like every time he gets near to returning to the bigs, he comes up with another excuse NOT to play. If I were the Yankees, I'd tell him that he's never going to pitch for them, but that he will have to sit in the dugout for the rest of his contract."
--Steve (Lake Charles)
"I know the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry is always a great story for everyone because of its rich history and bitter hatred between the two teams, but frankly it bores me. It's the same thing every year. Sox fade, Yanks win division, some completely different team wins it all (minus '04). What really has me is MVP talks. Why are people saying only an MVP can come from a team that makes the playoffs? That's not right. Personally, my vote is for Justin Morneau, playoffs or not for the Twins, because no one would even be talking about them if it weren't for Morneau. His numbers aren't far behind [David] Ortiz, plus his batting average is 20 points higher than Ortiz and he actually plays defense!"
--Erick (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.)
Crystal Ball Standings
Our own little pennant race is heating up faster than the NL wild card. By predicting two of three baseball events correctly last week -- if only Marlon Anderson hadn't gotten a pinch-hit single before David Wells won! -- Neyer squeaked ahead of 1-1 Stark into first place.
Neyer will take his cuts again on Wednesday's podcast, while Stark remains curiously absent. Meanwhile, we're just glad that Steve Phillips is back on Thursday, because we'll need a good chuckle by then.
Alan Schwarz is the host of ESPN.com's Baseball Today and the senior writer of Baseball America. His book, "The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics," can be ordered on Alan's Web site.