Toronto Blue Jays third base coach and Orono native Brian Butterfield said there is a reason the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals are in the World Series.
“[St. Louis’] Tony La Russa and [Detroit’s] Jim Leyland are the two best managers in baseball,” said Butterfield. “They can say what they want about La Russa. Nobody is more prepared and has his team more locked in to play a game than him. And Jim Leyland has the Tigers acting completely different than they have the last couple of years.
“[The Tigers] had ability but they were more interested in style points and outdoing each other,,” said Butterfield referring to home run trots and hot-dogging. “They didn’t play hard.
“Jim has them playing the game right. Playing it with respect. Sliding into second base hard, running out ground balls. He laid down the law in spring training. He changed the whole culture of their team. Anyone who doesn’t think the manager and the coaching staff have a big influence on how a team plays is badly mistaken,” said Butterfield. “I’m a big Jim Leyland fan. I love everything about him.”
Butterfield expects the Tigers to win the series and is rooting for them.
Lefthander Kenny Rogers pitched the Tigers to a 3-1 win in Game 2 but did so in a controversial manner as camera angles showed a dark substance in his hand.
Rogers claimed it was dirt. La Russa said it was something else, something that could have been illegal.
“I know people are making a real big deal about it but I don’t think it was that big a deal,” said Butterfield. “His stuff has been good all year long. He has relied on his curve and dynamite changeup. I don’t know if he cheated or not. But if you go around the league over a 162-game schedule, guys are cheating all the time.”
The Blue Jays finished a distant second to the New York Yankees in the American League East and just ahead of the Boston Red Sox.
He feels the Red Sox and Yankees will have a bunch of new faces next season.
“There will be more in Boston than New York,” predicted Butterfield.
He was glad that Joe Torre will be back to manage the Yankees, saying, “He has done a great job. Managing a club that’s expected to win with a lot of high-priced players and keeping them on the same page is more difficult than managing a club that isn’t supposed to win and getting them to win.”
He thinks the Yankees will try to deal Alex Rodriguez.
“It has become uncomfortable for him in that town. He isn’t accepted by the fans,” said Butterfield, a former Yankee coach. “It’s a tough situation.”
He said the Red Sox should have a “real good top three” in their pitching rotation with closer Jonathan Papelbon joining Curt Schilling and Josh Beckett in the top three.
He expects Beckett to pay dividends after an up-and-down first year in Boston.
“He’s just 26 and he’s only going to get better,” said Butterfield who also feels center fielder Coco Crisp will bounce back from a difficult season that included a thumb injury that sidelined him for quite a while.
“In time, the deal for Crisp will more than offset the loss of Johnny Damon [to the Yankees],” said Butterfield. “He didn’t swing the bat nearly as well as I thought he would but I’d give him another year. He’s still young (26). He can really run and he runs ball down better in the outfield than Damon does.”
Larry Mahoney can be reached at 990-8231, 1-800-310-8600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.