As the 2013 MLB postseason begins, ESPN MLB commentators share their reflections on the regular season and insights on the postseason. Commentators Aaron Boone, Rick Sutcliffe, Tim Kurkjian, Chris Singleton, Alex Cora, Mark Mulder, Jim Bowden and Pedro Gomez cover a variety of topics, including the best performances and biggest surprises of 2013.
ESPN will provide multi-platform coverage of the 2013 MLB postseason beginning with Wild Card coverage on Tuesday, Oct. 1.
Postseason Team Strengths:
|Best Rotation||Best Lineup||Best Bullpen||Best Defense|
|Aaron Boone||Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit Tigers||St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox||Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics||Cincinnati Reds, Tampa Bay Rays|
|Rick Sutcliffe||Los Angeles Dodgers||St. Louis Cardinals||Atlanta Braves||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Mark Mulder||Los Angeles Dodgers||St. Louis Cardinals||Atlanta Braves||St. Louis Cardinals|
|Chris Singleton||Los Angeles Dodgers||Boston Red Sox||Atlanta Braves||Atlanta Braves|
|Alex Cora||Detroit Tigers||Detroit Tigers||Los Angeles Dodgers||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Tim Kurkjian||Detroit Tigers||Boston Red Sox||Oakland Athletics||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Jim Bowden||Detroit Tigers,
Los Angeles Dodgers
|St. Louis Cardinals||Atlanta Braves||Tampa Bay Rays|
|Pedro Gomez||Los Angeles Dodgers||Boston Red Sox||Cincinnati Reds||Tampa Bay Rays|
Boone: One of the biggest surprises to me is the Cleveland Indians. I didn’t see the pitching staff coming together as well as it did, and despite some of the offseason improvements, I just didn’t think they’d be a contender, which they most certainly are.
Singleton: My biggest surprise is how Cleveland played into a Wild Card spot. It was also surprising to see how drastically the Dodgers turned it around this season and how badly the Nationals lost the NL East.
Sutcliffe: As I saw the Boston Red Sox the first month of the season, it was amazing how it all came together. I think the players they brought in reminded the guys who were there of what it took to win, and all of a sudden, I think that’s what brought them together. They knew that’s what it would take to win.
Cora: The way the Red Sox struggled on the field and in the clubhouse last year, it was hard to see where they were going. I thought this year was going to be an okay year, not a great year, but a step in the right direction. I thought they had a competitive team but they’d have to wait for Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks to develop and next year was going to be a great year. They kind of beat that to the punch.
Bowden: The biggest surprises for me this season were the rapid fall of the San Francisco Giants, the Washington Nationals not making the playoffs and the Indians playing in October. Pittsburgh Pirates starter Francisco Liriano also had a surprising season going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA.
Manager of the Year:
Sutcliffe: All you have to do is look at how long it’s been for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I really think the way Clint Hurdle handled Gerrit Cole is important too. The plan that they had was unlike what the Washington Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg last year. The Pirates hoped to be good in September and October. They hoped and planned to have him available and it worked.
Kurkjian: There were several, but I’ll take Clint Hurdle in a close vote over [Red Sox manager] John Farrell and [Cleveland Indians manager] Terry Francona. You can hear Hurdle wherever he is – his voice resonates. He is totally in charge of that team. The Pirates went from 20 straight seasons below .500 to securing a playoff spot. I don’t know anyone that picked the Pirates to make the playoffs at the beginning of the year.
Cora: With Clint, we can say it’s a surprise because they haven’t made it to the playoffs in 21 years but these are the finishing touches of a great run. [Pirates general manager Neal Huntington] did a great job putting all the pieces together, but since day one, Clint Hurdle has been very positive. He kept preaching the process. They really took it to heart and they did it on the field. And when you talk about the Pirates, although they have great talent, I think about Hurdle. He’s the leader of that team. He deserves all the credit.
Best front office moves:
Singleton: Two of the best front office moves that made an impact this season were [Red Sox general manager] Ben Cherington signing Shane Victorino and Huntington trading for Marlon Byrd.
Kurkjian: You have to look at all those moves made by the Red Sox: John Farrell, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, etc. The Red Sox didn’t win 70 games last year, but were the first team to 70 wins this year, and came close to winning 100 games for the first time since 1946.
Cora: The best front office move was Cherington trading with Toronto. That was it. He traded for his manager – the guy he wanted to lead the team and the rest is history. He wanted John to be part of the plan they had. Not too many people think of that trade, but for me it was one of the biggest moves of the offseason.
Sutcliffe: I think, to me, the best move was the Red Sox trading for Jake Peavy. That’s when the Red Sox said ‘hey we have a chance to win this thing.’ They gave up an outstanding young player knowing Peavy would immediately fit in and he did.
Boone: I said at the trade deadline, I think [Detroit Tigers general manager] Dave Dombrowski getting [Jose] Iglesias was a great move – not only from a short-term standpoint, but getting out ahead of the realization that [Jhonny] Peralta might be suspended. He got himself, in the short term, a really good defensive shortstop that made big contributions to their team and I think Iglesias becomes the long-term answer at shortstop as well. I would expect to see him there for the next eight years as the Tigers shortstop.
Best player in the game:
Kurkjian: Mike Trout somehow improved on last year’s spectacular season. He won’t win the MVP because his team didn’t even finish .500, but when it comes to all parts of the game, he is the best player.
Sutcliffe: It’s Mike Trout and it’s not even close. And I’m a pitcher. I would normally say Clayton Kershaw. He’s always been my guy. If I were to start an organization and have any player, it would be Kershaw. But as far as overall talent, I personally have never seen anything like Mike Trout.
Cora: The best player in the game today is Mike Trout. Without a doubt, what he’s doing on the field is amazing. He can beat you in so many ways. There’s no doubt about it. There are some great players, but he’s the best player on the planet right now.
Teams that underachieved in 2013:
Boone: The Toronto Blue Jays were definitely underachievers this season. I picked them to win the AL East and nothing seemed to gel from the get go. Obviously they had some injuries, but the guys that we expected big seasons from did not have them. In the end, a last-place finish is disappointing.
Cora: The Washington Nationals didn’t play defense for half the season and didn’t hit. That was it. I think their defense killed them in the beginning of the season. We all know that 27 outs are hard enough in the big leagues. When you give a big league team more than 27 outs, you are going to get beat. They couldn’t catch the ball and it hurt them. But they are going to make a run next year. For everything we can say negatively, they are still the same team we picked to win the National League before the season started. There’s no change in that lineup. They are a year older with a bad taste in their mouth. There will be a new manager, but the core will be together. For me, they are still the most talented team in the big leagues. They are going to turn it around.
Kurkjian: The Angels are underachievers this season with all that money spent the last two years, no trip to the playoffs and a sub-.500 record.
Teams that can make a comeback in 2014:
Boone: I think the San Francisco Giants can rebound quickly. They are going to lose some guys to free agency and free up money. I don’t think they’ll hesitate to jump right back in and be a player for certain guys and I would expect the Matt Cains of the world to bounce back and be what they’ve been their entire careers.
Sutcliffe: I think the Seattle Mariners could be a comeback team in 2014. For the last two years, one of the best three players that I’ve seen at the Futures Game, which is my favorite game of the year, has been Taijuan Walker. Throw him into the mix with King Felix and [Hisashi] Iwakuma. It all starts with that rotation and they have a chance to have a good one.
Defining moment of the season:
Kurkjian: There were two, both involving Mariano Rivera. First, the 2013 All-Star game when he stood on the mound alone before the top of the eighth so he could have his moment. And second, his final night at Yankee Stadium, hugging Andy Pettitte.