The battle we've all been waiting for, is here. And it's not even the finals match.
The semifinals began yesterday, between Omar Vizquel and Bruce Bochy. The lead changed hands multiple times, but Vizquel pulled out the 40-33 victory (55% to 45%), and moves on to the finals to face the winner of today's epic.
It's ironic that I call this the match we've been waiting for without it even deciding a champion. Of course, maybe it IS deciding a champion...because either candidate that wins today could very well win in the finals tomorrow. Like yesterday's match, one of the competitors actually played under the other's coaching regime. Let's go!
DARIN ERSTAD (NCAA) vs. JOE MADDON (TBR)
Darin Erstad is a Cornhusker, but made his name as an Angel. The first overall pick of the 1995 draft--ahead of gems like Todd Helton, Kerry Wood, Roy Halladay, Juan Pierre, A.J. Burnett and the ever-beloved former Angel known as Brian Fuentes--would go on to be a franchise cornerstone with Trout-like hype before his post-2000 devolution. No doubt he could be an apt manager for the Angels, but questions have risen as to his managerial philosophy. Having played under old-school managers such as Terry Collins, Mike Scioscia and Cecil Cooper during his career, could he have simply absorbed that style of play--one that might not go very well with the current roster the Angels have? Could he be the second coming of Mike Scioscia and wind up a regrettable move? Or could the fact that his tenure with the University of Nebraska has been subpar be a sign that he could be better with an older, veteran-filled team?
Joe Maddon is a Ray, but made HIS name as an Angel. In fact, he made his name as an Angel at the same time Erstad did, but as a coach and twice as an interim manager. He was never fortunate enough to have the "interim" tag removed, but was certainly fortunate enough to finally get an opportunity with the Tampa Bay Rays, who've made him almost the center of their organization--more so than any player they currently have. The organization is filled with top young talent that could fit Maddon's style of play, which begs the question: Are the Angels currently built to Maddon's style of play? Could he come in and do exactly what he did in Tampa Bay? No Angel is left on the team from the 2005 season, which was Maddon's last in a Halo uniform, so would a lack of familiarity amongst the players be a detriment to Maddon's attempts at reviving the club? Or does he have the same managerial magic that folks like Tony La Russa do, able to change any club with which they grace their presence?
After today, is the finals. After tomorrow, is the fight to end Scioscialism. Let's do this. Vote. Discuss. Oh yeah.