Cardinals win the NL Central
The only race worth watching on the final day of the season around the league was the race for the top spot in the NL Central. Both the Cardinals and Brewers had clinched a playoff spot, but the chance to avoid the Wildcard Game was up for grabs. After Milwaukee lost a heartbreaking game on Saturday, they now needed St. Louis to lose on top of their need for the win. Unfortunately, they didn’t get any help from the Cubs. The Cardinals jumped out against Derek Holland early and never looked back, eventually finishing a dominant 9-0 win to clinch the division.
Sox Spin: There really isn’t any Red Sox-specific spin I can put on this one, so I’ll cheat a bit and call this our spin as baseball fans. This was a bummer of an outcome, as a Cardinals loss and Brewers win — Milwaukee did lose in extra innings on Sunday, for what it’s worth — would have resulted in a game on Monday. Now, we have no baseball today. The field is set, though. On Tuesday we’ll have the NL Wildcard Game between the Brewers and Nationals while Wednesday’s AL Wildcard Game will have the Rays traveling to take on the Athletics. We’ll have a rooting guide for the entire postseason tomorrow.
Joe Maddon out as manager in Chicago
The Monday after the season ends is generally Black Monday for managers, but this year we learned of some decisions before the final game. That included the fate of perhaps the biggest name among managers, Joe Maddon. The Cubs legend who brought them their championship in 2016 is not going to be back for the 2020 season. He and Theo Epstein held a joint press conference to announce they had decided to part ways after the season. It was described more as a mutual decision than a firing. This is clearly a big deal, though it’s not much of a surprise. The potential of this has been speculated on for months now with the Cubs being one of the most disappointing teams in the game.
Sox Spin: There’s two angles I want to look at here. For one thing, this could be bad news for those who want Theo Epstein back in Boston. Nothing is set in stone, of course, and the Cubs could still change course with their front office. This at least could, however, be a sign that Epstein will get one more chance to get things back on track. The second point is that the Cubs in general are a lesson for the Red Sox, and really everyone. Chicago, after winning that World Series in 2016, was supposed to be a dynasty. Now, they still have their core in place and are talented enough to keep winning, but things clearly haven’t gone according to plan. It’s a reminder that nothing comes easy, and the Red Sox have to keep pushing year after year to win. It’s not just going to happen.
Pirates to make coaching changes, too
Among all teams in baseball, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger mess than the Pirates. They aren’t the worst team in baseball, but they’ve made two all-time horrible trades — Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow/Austin Meadows — in recent years, they haven’t won, they’ve had fights in their clubhouse, they had their closer arrested for statutory sexual assault among other charges, among other issues. It’s a disaster, and they need to clean house. They aren’t going that far right now, but they are going to make changes in the dugout. Clint Hurdle has been let go, and Ray Searage may not be far behind.
Sox Spin: I want to focus on Searage for this one. The Pirates (perhaps soon-to-be former) pitching coach is perhaps the most famous pitching coach in the game. He’s long been known as a guru in his field and has a long history of turning around pitching careers. The Red Sox, meanwhile, could have an opening here. Nothing has been announced, but given the way the pitching went this year Dana LeVangie could be in danger of losing his job. That’s just speculation, but it’s worth considering. In the event he is fired, Searage will undoubtedly be touted as a good hire by many. However, at this point his reputation outweighs his skills in the job. The fact is he hasn’t been the guru he’s known as for years. The Pirates just haven’t been good, and he failed to unlock someone as talented as Gerrit Cole while also not taking advantage of perceived talent in Chris Archer. Perhaps he needs a change of scenery, but I’m not sure he’s the guy the Red Sox would want in 2020 if that job does indeed open up.