Baseball

Diamond Digest: Major League Baseball’s top story lines this week

Chicago Cubs players celebrate around pitcher Aroldis Chapman, center foreground, after Game 4 of baseball’s National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. The Cubs won the game 6-5 and won the series 3-1.
Chicago Cubs players celebrate around pitcher Aroldis Chapman, center foreground, after Game 4 of baseball’s National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016. The Cubs won the game 6-5 and won the series 3-1. The Associated Press

Here are five interesting stories in baseball this week:

History in Cubs’ favor after ousting Giants?

History suggests the Chicago Cubs will win the National League pennant. They can thank the Giants for this.

Since the Giants began playing in San Francisco in 1958, they’ve reached the postseason 12 times, including this year. In the years they were eliminated from the playoffs – not including their six World Series appearances (three wins, three losses) – the team that beat S.F. at least won the pennant. Granted, there weren’t multiple rounds within each league until 1995, when the League Division Series began, but you get the point.

That said, since the Cubs knocked the Giants out in the NLDS, Chicago is lined up to reach the World Series.

Winning the pennant doesn’t necessarily lead to a title. Only three of the five pennant winners went on to a championship: The Pittsburgh Pirates in 1971 and the Florida (now Miami) Marlins in 1997 and 2003.

Cubs aren’t only team looking to end long drought

A lot has been written about the Cubs’ 108-year title drought. While not as long, the Cleveland Indians are long starved for a championship, too.

It’s been 68 years since the Indians claimed the trophy. They’ve reached the World Series three times since then, losing to the New York Giants in 1954, the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and the Marlins in 1997.

Cleveland is two wins from reaching the Series for the sixth time in franchise history but must continue to suppress the Toronto Blue Jays’ high-powered lineup. Game 3 of the American League Championship Series is Monday at 5 p.m. on TBS.

Kershaw saves the day

Clayton Kershaw entered Dodgers lore Thursday, right alongside the last ace to lead the franchise to a World Series title.

In 1988, Orel Hershiser came out of the bullpen for the final out of Game 4 of the NLCS against the New York Mets. Hershiser, who had thrown seven innings the day before, helped Los Angeles even the series.

Kershaw did Hershiser one better, getting the final two outs of Game 5 of the NLDS against Washington. The Dodgers won 4-3 and advanced to the NLCS.

Some other notable starters to provide relief in a series include Boston’s Pedro Martinez in the 1999 ALDS, Arizona’s Randy Johnson in the 2001 World Series and, of course, the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner in the 2014 World Series.

Collins at a crossroads

Terry Collins recently lost two important figures in his life. On consecutive days this weekend, the Mets’ manager attended funerals for a high school coach who became a mentor and a peer from Michigan who became one of his closest friends.

At 67, Collins is the oldest manager in the big leagues. He has also reached a point of self-reflection, and he said that his recent losses served as a reminder of a decision he faces when his contract runs out. Will he manage past the 2017 season?

Collins has yet to make a call either way.

“I love what I do,” Collins told Newsday on Thursday. “It’s kept me young, it’s kept me energetic. But I just had two friends die and all of a sudden it hit me. They were retired and they got to enjoy it. All I’m saying is with what happened to me at Milwaukee, at the end of the year, I’m going to evaluate where I am.”

Collins had a health scare during a June series against the Brewers. He fell ill before a game, experiencing dizziness that prompted an overnight stay at a hospital. That episode, along with the passing of his friends, was reason enough for Collins to evaluate his own situation.

Braves hire Snitker as manager; Washington joins staff

Brian Snitker finally was given his most-cherished prize for four decades of service to the Atlanta Braves: He was hired as full-time manager on Tuesday, rewarded for helping reverse the team’s direction in his interim role this season.

The Braves finished last in the N.L. East but won 20 of their final 30 games under Snitker, who became interim manager on May 17 after Fredi Gonzalez was fired. Snitker had a 59-65 record, including 37-35 after the All-Star break.

Ron Washington was brought on as third-base coach. He spent the last two seasons on the A’s coaching staff after managing the Texas Rangers from 2007-14.

Editor’s note: Like 26 major league teams, the Diamond Digest’s season is over. It will return at the beginning of the 2017 season. Thanks for reading.

Compiled by Noel Harris with information from The Associated Press and Newsday

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