The baseball playoffs are just around the corner and lots of teams are gearing up for what they hope is a championship run. But one team that is certainly going to be around for the late October games is the TBS studio crew of Ron Darling, David Wells and Cal Ripken Jr. I caught up with the baseball lifers in Grand Central, where the guys were unveiling the TBS Times Square shuttle train that will run throughout the baseball playoffs this year. Here’s what they had to say about the playoffs, each other and of course, the Baltimore Orioles!!!
Brain: Is it becoming old hat to see a team go from worst to first? Could the Orioles be the team to do it in 2011?
Ron Darling: I think that’s what’s great about baseball. Right now, there’s no perfect formula. For a time it was if you bought all the best players you would win. But that’s not the case anymore. A lot of teams have become very creative in how they sign and develop young talent and I think that’s where baseball is going.
Cal Ripken, Jr.: I think everyone in Baltimore is really encouraged. It’s been a long time since they played this well, this late in the season. Taking series from winning teams. They have talented players. But whatever Buck Showalter is doing, he’s getting them in the right direction.
Brain: What’s better, fighting for a playoff spot or cruising in with a big lead?
RD: I think for the Twins and Rangers, its good that they get a chance to rest their players and I think the Yankees would love to have that. But historically the teams that play hard to the finish are the ones most prepared for the playoffs.
David Wells: You want to coast into the playoffs with breathing room. When I played in New York we had a veteran team, nothing fazed us, and we knew someone would be there to pick us up if we didn’t do our job. That’s how they need to play.
Brain: Everyone talks about the pitchers, but how important are the managers in the playoffs? How to this year’s playoff managers stack up?
CR: There are two different types of managing. One is when you’re playing every day and one is playing a short series against one team. You have to change a little. One way you’re managing for the long haul and the other you’re playing for the moment. I think it’s important to be able to do both because any team can beat any team and its good to have had a model for winning during the season.
RD: I think the position has never been more looked at. Joe Girardi is so confident that he changes his number year to year to match the title they’re going for. Then there’s Ron Gardenhire and the Twins; they’re built for 162 games but haven’t proven that they can win in the playoffs. In the West, Ron Washington was almost fired but he’s proven that he’s one of the great managers. And Charlie Manuel is one of my favorites; he’s like an old grandfather type. Bruce Bochy used to be my locker mate in AAA so I am always interested in what he’s doing. But I think for Dusty Baker, he came so close before, he won a world championship as a ball player and would love to do it as a manager. I think the Reds are one of the great stories of the season and I think for him, it would be great.
Brain: The Yankees and Phillies are back in the playoffs. Do you think they have what it takes to meet in the World Series again?
RD: I think both teams are a little alike because they had to fight to get in to the playoffs and those teams tend to be better prepared for the playoffs because they’ve never had a let up, as opposed to resting players. I think only because the Phillies are younger, they might be in a better position but the Yankees are World Champions until someone knocks them off.
DW: Obviously the Yankees are the team to beat as the reigning World Champs. Pettitte is coming back, we know what CC can do. A.J. is struggling and Hughes has some controversy. So I think it’s all in how they handle that third rotation spot. But you gotta give them the opportunity, they have to play tough. And you know, there’s always Jeter to worry about. He wreaks havoc in the playoffs.
CR: I think the Phillies are dangerous. Their pitchers line up well, their offense is coming back and they seem to have a little momentum. Just looking at those three power pitchers, you gotta think they have an advantage.
Brain: What about the other teams? Are we due for any surprises?
DW: In a five game series sometimes the worst or least looked at team is the most dangerous so I’d have to say that’s Cincinnati. Everybody is talking about how they’re not good enough. But I think they’re a sleeper. I’ve seen clubs that barely got in go all the way and the Reds should not taken lightly.
Brain: The Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers who saw their teams miss the playoffs for the first time in a while. Should those fans start to worry?
RD: I think for those teams it was injuries or letting players go. I think for good teams, like the Dodgers, Angels and Red Sox, they have an inch to go, not a mile. They don’t have to overhaul. They just have to oil the gears. There are 15 teams every season who are good enough and there’s always a surprise, so with all those teams, you’re going to have some that miss it every year.
Brain: What do you think about the idea of adding another Wild Card teams to the playoffs?
CR: I can see the logic of creating another round of playoff and some of the merits, but the wild card took some getting used to. I like that there’s one wild card so you avoid a team winning 100 games and not making the playoffs. But I think if it gets expanded you’d have to give some advantage to the division winning teams.
Brain: Why did you all choose to become broadcasters?
RD: I think it’s the closest thing to being a player again. When it comes to the postseason every pitch and play is crucial.
DW: I love being a part of it because you get to be a part of the atmosphere. The fans going crazy, you’re proving your points on TV, we don’t get rings, but we get to be there. But you gotta hide your notes from Cal because he will steal your notes and then you have to ad lib like a deer in the headlights.
CR: I love that I get to watch and live every single pitch. I enjoy the process of watching. And being around the other guys, good baseball people, good baseball conversations, and I really enjoy that part too. But I do not steal notes. It’s totally inaccurate. That happened one time. Harold Reynolds is the one who steals.