Wednesday, October 5, 2016

MLB Postseason Conversation With Pedro, Sheff, J-Roll

Jimmy Rollins, Casey Stern, Gary Sheffield, and Pedro Martinez on the new TBS set. Courtesy Turner Sports.

Major League Baseball legends Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield, and Jimmy Rollins will be in the studio, along with host Casey Stern, for MLB on TBS' Postseason coverage.
TBS will be the exclusive home of the American League throughout the 2016 MLB Postseason. 
The network’s exclusive American League Division Series (ALDS) Coverage on TBS presented by T-Mobile will begin Thursday, October 6, at 4 p.m., with MLB Postseason Pre-Game on TBS presented by the All-New Chrysler Pacifica.  At 4:30 p.m., the No. 1 seeded Texas Rangers with aces Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish will host the Toronto Blue Jays, who beat the Baltimore Orioles in the A.L. Wild Card Game, followed by Boston Red Sox, featuring AL MVP candidate Mookie Betts and slugger David Ortiz opening their series on the road against 2014 AL Cy Young Award Winner Corey Kluber, second-year standout shortstop Francisco Lindor and the Cleveland Indians at 8 p.m. 

Sports Emmy-award winner Ernie Johnson will provide play-by-play for the Red Sox vs. Indians series, with analysts Ron Darling and Cal Ripken, and reporter Sam Ryan.  Brian Anderson will call the best-of-five Blue Jays vs. Rangers series with analysts Dennis Eckersley and Joe Simpson, and reporter Matt Winer.
TBS will also exclusively televise the American League Championship Series (ALCS), scheduled to begin Friday, October 14.
Martinez, Sheffield, Rollins, and Stern participated in a conference call on Tuesday afternoon just hours before TBS' broadcast of the American League Wild Card game between Baltimore and Toronto.
Here is a sampling of the conversation:
Pedro, do you like this playoff format with two Wild Card teams and the one-game playoff to move on?
Pedro: For the fan bases, it's really important that they get to see their team with an opportunity, another chance to move forward. For the players, it's really wearing. It takes a toll on the players. Those trips that come up, you have to play in one city and then, you never know, you have to fly to the next city. That's mind-boggling.
Sheffield: I know for me, we won our World Series with the Florida Marlins from it, because of the Wild Card, but I think it's run its course. You see all the injuries that's happening to pitchers, these guys going deeper into games, you know, especially in playoff time, because they don't want to take that ball out of the star pitcher's hand. So, I think now it's run its course. Fans got to see teams they normally don't see and they'll move on from it.
Jimmy, you won five division titles in a row with the Phillies, so you didn't have to deal with this.
Rollins: I dealt with it because St. Louis beat us and won the World Series (in 2011). I like it, I definitely do like it for the fact that it keeps  those teams in those cities more interested. The more interest in baseball, revenue, World Series money, we all know when you get there and win it, that's a big check. But more than anything, you keep more teams in it down the stretch. You want baseball to still be alive. Baseball's still going on? Yes, baseball's going on and more teams involved trying to get to the championship.
Stern: The last ten days of the season, we would have had what to talk about, really? The division was done in the NL West, the Central was the Cubs, and the Nationals had it, the Rangers, the Indians, the Red Sox clinched with a few days to go. We would have had nothing to talk about...Actually, Papi and Vin Scully and Mark Teixeira, and Dick Enberg.
Pedro, you have some history with a Red Sox-Indians series. You closed out Game 5 of the Division Series in Cleveland in 1999. What do you remember about that and your thoughts on Terry Francona?
Pedro: I would like to congratulate Tito. I remember the way the city embraced that moment I had in Cleveland. Didn't expect it to go that way, didn't expect it to have so much success, but at the same time I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to represent Boston, to do it the right way, start building my name in the postseason, and also building a reputation. Because of how well I did against Cleveland, I think that was the biggest reason I had success because I did not have my stuff when I came out of the bullpen. Everyone expected 97, I had 88, so as I got in the game, I just risked it all. I went out there, I was in terrible pain, but I battled through it, adrenaline takes over.  Now you see the end of the road, so close, and my stuff got better as I got later in the game. Without a doubt, just the impression I was able to leave on the Cleveland Indians players, and they did not know how bad I was hurt, and I was really, really hurt.
Stern: Because he asked about Francona, Six Degrees of Pedro. You got Tito in Cleveland, Dave Roberts managing the Dodgers, Papi (David Ortiz) and the Sox, Dusty your teammate here, the Nationals, you got (Jon) Lester and Theo (Epstein), those guys with the Cubs. I want to know who you're rooting for.
Pedro, how do you think of the job the Mets have done reaching the postseason?
Pedro: We overestimated the team that the Mets have, I think, because we all were jumping on the bandwagon of the young arms that they have there. Guess what, a lot of those guys got hurt, the Mets somehow, Terry Collins has done an outstanding job, and I think the biggest reason for the Mets to have success this year has been the acquisition of Jose Reyes. A guy that nobody wanted because of the incident, I know it that none of us wanted to see happening, but the way he bounced back, the way he injects energy into that team is humongous, and then having a guy like (Yoenis) Cespedes in the middle of the lineup helped the team a lot. You have to tip your hat to the old G.O.A.T., Bartolo Colon. He's doing an outstanding job, you know I saw him in the Cy Young kind of race along with the other guys. He's got unbelievable numbers, and he's been durable for the Mets. If you think about (Steven) Matz, (Jacob) DeGrom, (Matt) Harvey, losing those three guys and still finding yourself in the postseason, you have to give the team a lot of credit, and Terry Collins as well.
They have plenty of arms, and I think Thor (Noah Syndergaard) is not going to actually back off from any challenge. The rest of the team will say it's all about fun. Asdrubal (Cabrera) has been there all the time, so he's a veteran, he knows how to deal with it. Cespedes, what can you say about Cespedes? The young players they've been able to bring up, a couple of young starting pitchers that have held the Mets them afloat, and obviously, (Jeurys) Familia at the back of the bullpen. You've got a lot of people when you have Familia.
What are your thoughts on the Yankees, Gary Sanchez, and their rebuild towards the end of the season?
Pedro: I was really impressed, but not surprised. I saw this kid when he was drafted in the Dominican, not drafted, signed as a free agent, and he got a lot of money from the Yankees. Everybody wanted this kid, but you know the top franchises are the ones that flex those muscles and use the money.
I think the Yankees did a great job waiting for this kid to finally mature as a catcher and also as a hitter, and develop his body, his body is huge. He seems to be poised to handle a pitching staff, and his bat really, really surprised me even more. The display of power, he always had it. Ever since he was a young kid, he was able to pull the ball, hit it out of the stadium. The Estadio Quisqueya in the Dominican is a big stadium, and he used to hit balls out, and that's why the Yankees gave him all the money. You saw the kind of arm he has. This is probably a dream come true for the Yankees to build their team around, starting from the catching position. You want someone that can handle the pitching staff, especially the young pitchers that they're bringing up, also a guy that's really confident to say "we're not here just to be here, we're here to hit some bombs! We're here to make life difficult for you," and they have done that.
For Jimmy, you are seeing some of your old Phillies teammates facing off in the Dodgers-Nationals series, with Jayson Werth on Washington and Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Joe Blanton on the Dodgers. How surreal is it to see that? it could be the last chance for some of these guys to win and how much do you want to see them win?
Rollins: I thought about that the other day actually, and I was like wow, these guys have a chance to win again. Then I think about the one ring I have and teammates I've had, Hunter Pence, who has a couple; Shane Victorino, who has a couple; Pat Burrell has a couple. When I left, I was like 'this is my chance to get a second ring.' Both these teams are great teams that have a chance to get it done. I can't pull either way, but it shows you how much in baseball from year to year, you don't know what's going to happen, you don't know when you're going to lose a teammate if a trade happens, et cetera. I'm glad to see them in it, and I just hope they all do well when its their turn at bat, but I can't pull either way. If I had to lean, oh man, the Dodgers broke my heart way back in '88, but I don't know, I don't know.
What's the national perception of the Texas Rangers?
Sheffield: I know for me, now they got Carlos Beltran, now they're being taken seriously. I think when they lost Prince Fielder, everyone thought their season was done, but for some reason, these guys just find ways to win ballgames. They get good pitching and timely hitting. With Beltran there now, it changed that whole face of the team, bringing that leadership and everyone knows his track record in the playoffs. That's going to make a big difference for the team.
Martinez: I think this team is really dangerous. They play defense,they know how to do it, they have been in this situation. They can slug with anybody in the big leagues when they get hot. Sometimes, it seems like they get into little streaks,but not too long, because guys like (Rougned) Odor, that's a strong package in a small frame. The Texas Rangers can punch anybody in the league. Pitching, they have three guys that they can throw at you, and that's all you need. For four games, you throw three guys that are very valuable, and then you use the rest of the staff to make up the little space. They have Carlos Beltran, probably one of the best postseason performers in history. I think they have it all, I just hope that everything clicks at once for the Texas Rangers.
Stern: I had an opportunity to be with them for a couple of weeks in March, and I hosted and produced a documentary with the team. Adrian Beltre, Papi (David Ortiz) is the only other guy that I've heard as revered as a leader as this guy is. You talk to Elvis Andrus about Adrian Beltre, it's like somebody talking about their father. Legitimately, and we throw that kind of thing around, he carries a different weight in terms of leadership and that's why he's going to the Hall of Fame someday in a different way than most players do in terms of leadership.
This playoff field features the Cubs, who haven't won since 1908, Indians, who last won in 1948, a 56-year old Texas Rangers franchise that has never won it, and the Cubs and Indians have "curses" to contend with. Pedro, you were part of the 2004 Red Sox that broke that team's curse, did you ever let those external factors interfere?
Martinez: Don't forget, the team we had in Boston was called the "idiots" because we had a short mind for adversity and different things we had to face. I didn't believe in curses. I believed that if you were able to play the game the right way, you were going to be able to come on top. The thing I didn't see in Texas that I see now is a couple of guys that can absolutely dominate the game, Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels, whose been there, World Series winner, He's been outstanding for Texas. Texas has no way to panic. You've got Hamels, Darvish, Beltran, Beltre, and now the rest of the guys who have been in the postseason. I don't think Odor is going to hide from anything. I believe this team is the complete package and I don't think those guys are really thinking about curses. We talking about the Cubs being cursed, we saw them really close to the World Series last year and now we see them with more confidence. I saw Texas run away with the West. There hasn't been any hesitation  on behalf of Texas when it came to taking the division over Anaheim, over Oakland, everybody. They steamrolled over everybody. This is a different team, and I believe this team is capable of making a good impression.
Jimmy, what are your thoughts on Corey Seager, who you had to make way for last season while playing with the Dodgers, and what a star he has become?
Rollins: It wasn't a secret, I think they knew that right away. I know there were some things going around, was he going to outgrow shortstop? But, he seems to be like Cal Ripken, an extremely large individual that can cover ground, make plays and he makes them look easy, I got to see firsthand. I got to see him the spring training he came up. He does things that you would tell a guy not to do, but he does it so easy, it's like well he could do, so why tell him not to. Yes, he has lived up to the hype, and I'm happy for him because he's a good kid, first and foremost, respects the game, loves the game. He goes around the clubhouse like the typical rookie when I saw him, he's quiet, you don't see him until you see him in the dugout. That's respect for those that have come before you. That doesn't happen a lot. I was kind of like that in-between stage where I respected the others, but when the game started, you know, I was all over the place like it was a concert. He's handling himself well, he's handled his rise well. He's handled the fans, the LA life well. Sheff can attest to what that's like. I'm happy for him and he's had one hell of a season. He's going to have a great career, trust me.

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