Red Sox Pull Out Victory in 13th Inning

Boston prevents a three game winning streak by the St. Louis with a thirteenth inning home run, some thoughts on the firing of Mets manager Willie Randolph — all part of The Bryant Park Project's round-up the weekend in sports with Bill Wolff.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host: For some reason good thins come in threes. For the Chicago Cubs, it's a three game sweep. Besting cross town rival the White Sox in interleague play over the weekend. For others not so good things come in threes, like three big ball clubs last week, all their top mangers summarily sacked. Time to talk inside baseball and some other sports stuff too. With whom better to have this conversation that BPP sports analyst Bill Wolff. Hi Bill.

BILL WOLFF: And good morning Rachel.

MARTIN: Good morning.

WOLFF: How are you?

MARTIN: I'm doing OK. How are you guys doing?

WOLFF: We're fi - great, tremendous, fantastic.

MIKE PESCA, host:

What's going on, it keeps getting better. Keep listing adjectives.

MARTIN: I'm glad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Euphoric!

MARTIN: Let's start with your home town, St. Louis. Cardinals couldn't quite pull it off. Well the three game sweep, rather, I guess last night there was also.

WOLFF: Yes. Well the Cardinals, we are in - Major League Baseball has the American League and the National League, of course.

MARTIN: Of course they do.

WOLFF: And the last many years they used to never play, the American League and the National League, but in order to make a lot of money, they changed that and every year around this time National League teams play American League teams in what is called, appropriately, interleague play. And this weekend's interleague matchups included the mighty Boston Red Sox and home, at Fenway Park, where they are very good, playing the injury ravaged St. Louis Cardinals, who are hanging on by a thread to any hope of post season success.

MARTIN: Now you saw that like injuries somehow might be responsible for the loss, but did they just not play very well?

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: You talking about yesterday?

MARTIN: yeah.

WOLFF: Nah.

PESCA: For two wins, the injuries didn't factor in, but the loss it does. I know how it works.

WOLFF: The Cardinals did, the Cardinals went 13 innings yesterday. The Cardinals won the first two games of the series Friday and Saturday. Most people didn't notice that because nobody cares when the Cardinals win. But they were able to win Friday and Saturday which, what can you say, they must be termed amazing historic upsets.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WOLFF: Well, I don't know, as far as I'm concerned. And they blew it, and the game went 13 innings when Boston's Kevin Youkilis hit a home run, and the Red Sox won five to three, to salvage one game against the mighty Cardinals. So, you know, the Cards took two out of three at Boston, which I found to be almost good enough. But because of the action in Chicago, it really wasn't good enough, because the Cardinals' grip on hope is slipping.

PESCA: Oh, come on! If the season ended now, I think they'd still make the playoffs, which is overachievement for, like you say, all the injuries the Cardinals have. So don't despair, Bill, don't despair.

WOLFF: Oh, no, I won't. Despair is how we start in Saint Louis. We start with despair, and if we get any better than that, we feel good about it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Is that on the town slogan? Saint Louis: Where despair is the jumping-off point?

WOLFF: I shouldn't speak for all Saint Louisans. I can only speak for myself.

PESCA: OK.

WOLFF: But I assume the worst is going to happen to everything I hold dear. And then when it doesn't, I feel fantastic about it, so.

MARTIN: There you go.

WOLFF: Anyway the Cardinals took two out of three from the Red Sox. The Red Sox won on Sunday in extra innings, which maintain their lead in the American League East. You know, the New York Yankees have gotten, have suddenly gotten very hot. And they, too, lost two of three, like the Red Sox did, the Yankees lost to the Cincinnati Reds. But again, on Sunday, having lost the first two games of the series, the Yankees salvaged the third to keep pace with the Red Sox.

(Soundbite of deep sigh)

WOLFF: Great stuff, isn't it?

PESCA: Yes. So if - you know who's despairing, or at least - three ex-Major League managers who were recently fired. This is the time in the season where owners and general managers say, well, we've been really bad for a long time, we're in last place, so you're fired, you're fired, and you're fired.

The Toronto Blue Jays' manager, Gibbons, he was let go. They're in last place. Seattle Mariners' manager, he was let go. Seattle's been terrible this year. But the one I want to talk about for a second is the Mets' manager. They're not in last place, they are under-achieving, but it was the way that Willie Randolph was fired.

They fly the guy out to the West Coast, so they play at home - everyone's talking, maybe Willie will get fired. Then they play a home stand, he doesn't get fired. Then they fly the team out to the West Coast, they play a game, and then he gets fired right after that big road trip. Did that make any sense to you, Bill?

WOLFF: None at all. And not only did they fly - first of all, Willie Randolph was rumored to be fired for weeks.

PESCA: Yeah.

WOLFF: Then they play this home stand, and in fact they get to the Weekend Series, it was against the Texas Rangers at Shea Stadium in New York, and the Mets won two of three of those three games. And they don't fire him on that Sunday, which happens to be Father's Day.

PESCA: Right.

WOLFF: Then the team flies on Sunday all the way to Los Angeles, to Anaheim more specifically, to play the Angels, who are excellent. Then the Mets not only play the Angels, they beat the Angels, so suddenly Willie Randolph's charges have won three out of four, and they fire Willie Randolph, not on Tuesday morning, or even immediately after the game on Monday, they fired him at midnight Western time, three o'clock in the morning. Everyone in New York woke up to like the wire story that Willie Randolph had in fact been fired in the middle of night.

It made no sense at all. I'm not sure whether or not it made sense to fire him at all. But it certainly made no sense to fire him in the way that they fired him.

PESCA: I think…

WOLFF: If they really wanted to fire somebody, they could fire all of their players who aren't playing well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Well, they have to suck up those contracts, is the problem.

WOLFF: Well, right. I mean it's an unfair position baseball managers and perhaps managers of all kinds, are put in. The Mets have very - a lot of talent, a lot of high-priced talent. They've made a lot of bold moves for big names, and they pay them a ton of money, but they are not a disciplined or a super-professional team.

And so, they can't get rid of the players, they owe the players tens of millions of dollars, so they have to blame somebody, and it's - part of taking a job as a baseball manager is, you will one day be fired for the failure of others. And that's what happened to Willie Randolph.

MARTIN: And he was...

WOLFF: By the way, the Mets are good. And the Mets may wind up in the playoffs. The Mets - I think over time, the Mets will prove to be a very good team, but they felt they had to make a move, to shake things up and Willie was the scapegoat. So, goodbye, Willie.

PESCA: That's the good thing about baseball, 162 games. It all….

WOLFF: That's right.

PESCA: It all...

WOLFF: That's why firing a manager in mid season, it sometimes works, teams sort of turn it around when they're shocked into paying attention when the manager gets fired, and it could happen with the Mets, but you know, it's - if Willie Randolph had - my own opinion is if Willie Randolph had stayed the manager of the Mets, the Mets would've performed up to their average, which is very good, and they would have wound it up in the playoffs, and Willie Randolph would've been hailed a genius, but there wasn't much patience in the ownership class, and away went Willie.

MARTIN: Let's close these final couple of minutes and talk about golf. Tiger Woods, last week announced he's sitting the rest of the year out, because of his bad knee. Bill, I was so excited when I was gone, I actually watched the U.S. - it's not the U.S. Open...

PESCA: Say it, yes.

WOLFF: Yes, it is. Yeah, the U.S. Open.

MARTIN: Oh, it is the U.S. Open. OK, the U.S. Open. I watched it. I watched even the second day, the playoff thing, and I wasn't working, so I didn't get to talk to you, and prove to you that I was watching this stuff.

WOLFF: I believe you now.

MARTIN: I was so excited, he made that really exciting putt, I had all these interesting things to say. Alas.

WOLFF: Yes.

MARTIN: So now, Tiger, he's won this big tournament, and now he's sitting out.

WOLFF: Yes.

MARTIN: Is this a good thing for golf?

WOLFF: No.

MARTIN: Why?

WOLFF: No, no, no, no, no.

MARTIN: I mean, getting - I was kind of excited for Rocco Mediate.

WOLFF: Rocco Mediate was one of the great stories. This paunchy, middle-aged guy, who had quit the game some time ago, and somehow hung in there with Tiger Woods, went toe-to-toe with the best in the world, and took him to extra-extra-extra time, before losing by a stroke.

MARTIN: So now if Tiger's out, there will be more people like Rocco who get their chance in the sun. No?

WOLFF: Yes, but you've eliminated Goliath. So, whereas…

MARTIN: It's an authentic win, if they win.

WOLFF: Well, no, it's - look, a win is a win is a win, and the prize money will be the same, and guys who haven't won a lot, will win, because Tiger's not there in their way. However, a great sports usually comes down to the David-and-Goliath model. There's usually an underdog, and there's usually a favorite, and you choose up sides, and away you go.

You know, the New York Yankees, no matter what they do, are Goliath. They're Goliath. They always win. Well, Tiger Woods is Goliath. And so it makes for great storytelling. Every time - the reason Tiger Woods versus Rocco Mediate was great, was you had Goliath - Tiger Woods - probably the greatest player of all time, against - how could you find a better David than Rocco Mediate?

A guy most - people who haven't watched golf, don't know who he is, and he's 45, and he had his back operated on in such a way that he had to, you know, quit the game. No, I think it's bad for golf. Fewer people will watch. It's good for guys who want to make more money who play golf, because they'll have a better opportunity.

But there's just - you know, you lose the best player in the world, not good for your game.

MARTIN: Well, I have a feeling he'll probably be back. As will you next week, hopefully, Bill Wollf, BPP's sports analyst extraordinaire.

PESCA: Sports Goliath.

MARTIN: Sports Goliath.

WOLFF: Thanks for not bringing up the Cubs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: The current Goliath, the current Goliath. Don't be fooled, America. They're the Goliath.

MARTIN: Thanks, Bill. Stay with us. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

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