By Mike Harrington
Here's a lesson learned by one of the many people who picked the Tigers to win the World Series: Never again will this corner pick the team coming off a long break. There's simply too much evidence building up against them in recent years.
The Tigers did all they could to keep active this year after sweeping the Yankees. They played intrasquad games against their Instructional League players and actually considered heading to their spring training base in Lakeland, Fla., for a couple of days of work had the weather in Detroit turned bad.
Didn't matter. In the NFL, teams are desperate to earn byes and get two weeks off. Teams in the NBA and NHL (remember that league?) love getting several days off after wrapping up one series before starting the next one. In baseball, it's proving to be a kiss of death.
This is an everyday sport. Especially in the postseason, teams prefer to play every day. It keeps hitters sharp, keeps starting pitchers on their regular days of rest. Throw that routine off and teams get sorely out of whack. By all accounts, the Giants should have been exhausted after recovering to win the final three games against the Cardinals.
They were back at AT&T Park just 14 hours after the clincher for World Series Media Day and started the series the next day. They looked completely ready to go and played like it, right from Pablo Sandoval's three home runs in Game One that put the Tigers on their heels for good.
The Rockies sat for nine days in 2007 after sweeping Arizona in the NLCS to complete a stunning 21-1 run -- and then were fruitless in the World Series. They endured a 13-1 pounding in the opener and dropped four straight to the Red Sox by a total count of 29-10.
The Tigers went through the same issues this year that they did in 2006, when they sat a week after sweeping Oakland in the ALCS and then made eight errors in a five-game loss to St. Louis.
So when picking future World Series winners, consider one team having too much rest. And here's another point to ponder: Look for teams with momentum. The Giants, remember, won their final seven games of the season, counting the NLCS and World Series. The Red Sox won their last eight in 2004 and their last seven in 2007. The White Sox also won their last seven in 2005. In recent years, teams that get through the ALCS and NLCS on big rolls seem to carry that through the World Series.
Near miss for MLB
• Good thing the Tigers beat the Yankees in the ALCS. With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on New York, Game Four almost certainly would not have been played last Sunday had it been slated for Yankee Stadium. MLB likely would have had to put the Series on hold for at least 5-6 days and finish it this weekend.
• Plenty of parallels growing between the careers of Derek Jeter and Giants catcher Buster Posey, who has won two World Series in his first three seasons.
As pointed out by New York Times national writer Tyler Kepner, five teams passed on Jeter in the 1992 draft after the Yankees had gone 71-91 the previous season - and four teams passed on Posey in the 2008 draft after the Giants had gone, yes, 71-91.
• I took it on the chin from many readers and Tweeters about writing during the season-ending series in Toronto that the Yankees wouldn't be long for the playoffs with a home run-or-bust offense, which was certainly borne out in the ALCS.
But here's more proof: Which team finished last in the majors in home runs in the regular season with 103? The Giants. Next case.
This year's World Series earned a record low television rating of 7.6 but I'm sick of hearing that lower ratings on FOX is a sign interest in baseball is waning. It's a poor argument. First off, it was a four-game sweep and anyone can tell you interest in watching on TV builds with the drama of a series.
For those who think nobody cares about baseball, there were 74.8 million tickets sold during the regular season -- the most since 2008. From a TV standpoint, Games Six and Seven in St. Louis in 2011 had a 12.7 and 14.7 rating, respectively, and averaged 23.3 million viewers; Game Seven was the most-viewed game since Boston's historic Game Four victory in St. Louis in 2004. This series would have certainly earned those numbers had it gone the distance.
Baseball is an intensely local sport, especially on television. Who has a national following? The Mets and Yankees, the Red Sox, the Cubs, maybe the Dodgers. Anyone else? Most teams have local followings or at best, in cases like the Cardinals, a widely regional base.
Game Four drew a 38.7 rating in San Francisco, the highest rating for any game in that city since Game Seven of the 2002 Series in Anaheim. Game Four drew a 37.9 in Detroit, that city's top rating since 2006. And those are two of the top 11 television markets in the country, so those numbers are hardly insignificant.
FOX is hardly complaining. The network, remember, has an eight-year deal with MLB through 2021 at about $500 million per year. And there are a few more things to watch on TV and to do on other devices these days than in, say, the 1970s. To that end, MLB reported 1.2 million social media comments on Game Four - the most of any game in history.
Spare me your Super Bowl comparisons on TV, too. One game, one night you can plan for months in advance. And, remember, many of you watch it for the commercials more than the game. Enough said.
My quick take on the John Farrell-to-Boston story is I'm disappointed. The whole scenario is an ugly one, which reeks of Farrell managing the Blue Jays with one eye and keeping tabs on the demise of the Red Sox, first last September under Terry Francona and then this year under Bobby Valentine, with the other.
I've known Farrell a long time, dating to his 11-victory season as a pitcher for the Bisons in 1995 and his sensational work as the Cleveland farm director who built Buffalo's 2004 championship team. I think he worked as hard as he could in Toronto and didn't shirk on the Blue Jays' responsibilities because he might have been thinking about Boston. I believe him when he said Boston was a dream job and the only one he would have left for.
Still, the Blue Jays are understandably not happy. They proved to be nothing more than a stop in the road for a guy to go to a division rival - and take top coaches like Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Torey Lovullo with him.
It's a disappointment to the Bisons, who were thrilled Farrell and Lovullo were in Toronto as they open a new affilation. Now the Blue Jays need to find someone who considers Toronto a dream job. With the Jays' playoff drought at 19 years and counting, that's no easy task.
Bell rings for '95 Herd
The Chicago Cubs have hired Louisville Bats manager David Bell to be their third-base coach and the 40-year-old Bell is yet another member of the 1995 Bisons making their way up the big-league ladder in a second career.
Of course, Farrell and Lovullo were key members of that team. Outfielder Ruben Amaro Jr. is now the general manager of the Phillies. Lloyd McClendon is Jim Leyland's bench coach in Detroit and the former manager of the Pirates. Jesse Levis is a special assignment scout for the Phillies. Billy Ripken is a prominent commentator on MLB Network.
That '95 Buffalo team, the Herd's first as a Cleveland affiliate, was filled with veterans and lost to Louisville in the decisive Game Five of the American Association finals.
Around & About
• When I called Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Graham during the World Series to talk about Marco Scutaro, our conversation turned to Orioles rookie Manny Machado. Graham, Baltimore's coordinator of minor-league instruction, has watched Machado grow from the day he was drafted into a potential star.
“Pretty good, isn't he? For him to do what he did in the playoffs it shows exactly what kind of talent he has,” Graham said. “Manny is the same type of makeup of a Marco Scutaro. When you get tough kids who have a feel, they're gonna compete and have success. Manny is a tough kid. Extremely talented. And to step in in a pennant race was unbelievable.”
• More spinach for “Popeye”: The Rays have announced that Don Zimmer will return in 2013 for his 10th year with the club as a senior baseball advisor. He serves as a coach during spring training and for all pregame practices at home. Zimmer, 81, will be embarking on his 65th year in professional baseball, a run that includes his 1967 stint as a player/manager with the Bisons. He joined the Rays in 2004 after leaving Joe Torre's side with the Yankees.
• I hear from plenty of you who enjoy going to New York-Penn League games at tiny Dwyer Stadium in Batavia, and you can now mark your calendars for 2013. That's because the Muckdogs announced their home opener will be Tuesday, June 18 at 7:05 against Auburn, a Washington affiliate. The Muckdogs will be playing in 2013 as a Marlins affiliate and will continue to be operated by the Rochester Red Wings.