Randy Arozarena

Randy Arozarena is the 2020 American League Championship Series’ Most Valuable player.

This time last year the name Randy Arozarena was known for live streaming manager Mike Shildt’s fiery and profanity-filled tirade directed at the Atlanta Braves.

He is now known as the 2020 American League Championship Series’ Most Valuable player.

The Cardinals could have used him this season, but he was deemed expendable and was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.

I won’t say he got the last laugh on the Cardinals because he hopefully has a grand career ahead of him with many more good times - beginning with the Rays taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2020 World Series.

The Dodgers cruised to an 8-3 victory in Game 1 on Tuesday night.

After losing three consecutive games to manager Dusty Baker’s Houston Astros, the Rays were in danger of blowing a 3-0 lead in games in the best-of-seven ALCS. The pressure was on.

Arozarena’s first-inning two-run home run energized the shaky Rays, and his team went on to win 4-2 and advance to the World Series.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said, “For him to have a bat in his hand with an opportunity for a big home run, really, I think it settled a lot of people in the dugout. It certainly did me.”

That homer, his seventh of the postseason, put Arozarena in the MLB record book for most by a rookie during a playoff run. Headed into Tuesday’s opening game of the World Series, his 20 hits in the 2020 playoffs left him one short of Hall of Famer Derek Jeter’s record of 21 he established during his 1996 rookie postseason.

Arozarena is not bashful. He proved that during his wild dance-off with teammates after the Rays downed the New York Yankees in the AL Division series. His exuberance after home runs are a tribute to soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal celebrations. He fires up his team and it loves him.

You don’t hear as much from “The Cuban Rocket” as might be expected because he does most interviews through an interpreter.

“I wouldn't say I was chasing MVP, but I was just trying to do everything for the team, anything to allow us to win,” Arozarena, 25, told the media through his translator.

With at least three more World Series games after Tuesday’s opener, Arozarena needed one home run to tie the Major League record of eight homers in any single postseason. He would be in great company with Barry Bonds, Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz. He is only the ninth player to homer seven times in a single postseason.

For what it is worth, Arozarena told USA TODAY’s Juan Toribio that his speaking Spanish led to last year’s live steam foible and he called it “a learning experience.”

“I was filming because it was my first season in the Majors. I’m just happy and excited … I went live to celebrate us winning and (Shildt) came in. I don’t know what the manager is saying.

“I think he’s just congratulating us, and I am just happy and excited to be there. I genuinely didn’t know what was happening. Then once I uploaded it, that’s when people told me what the manager was saying. I just took it as a learning experience so it never happens again.”

The 2019 postseason episode is long forgotten. No MLB fan will forget this rookie sensation’s 2020 playoff run.

Black NFL coaches excelling

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says what he means and means what he says. That is his calling card and he doesn’t care what you think about it.

My gosh, I wish he was the Dallas Cowboys head coach – but I digress.

After a 38-7 thrashing of the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, Tomlin’s Steelers are 5-0 and suddenly a favorite to win the AFC title and reach the Super Bowl.

Tomlin called his team’s effort “varsity ball” and went back to his defensive coordinator roots in praising his team.

“Part of being good in this league is identifying problems and eliminating them, hopefully before they happen but once they happen you have to eliminate them quickly,” Tomlin said on the Steelers website in response to his team’s poor defensive effort against the Eagles a week earlier.

“It was necessary to slow down a dangerous Browns attack, one that had been ringing up a bunch of points per game. Just can’t say enough about the effort all the way around in all three phases of the game.”

Meanwhile in Miami, second-year head coach Brian Flores has his Dolphins at 3-3, one game behind the Buffalo Bills for first place in the AFC East and in the playoff hunt.

After many predictions that the Dolphins would go 0-16 in Flores’ first season, he led the Dolphins to a 5-11 record.

The Dolphins, who faced a tough schedule through the season’s first six weeks, are at .500 for a first-time during Flores’ tenure at 3-3. But the stoic head coach isn’t celebrating.

“There are a lot of things we can improve on,” Flores said. “Really that’s where my focus is — just to get this team better. We’ve got a long season ahead of us.”

The Tampa Bay Bucs gave head coach Raheem Morris just three seasons to right that raggedy ship before firing him after the 2011 season. He narrowly missed the playoffs in 2010, but was let go a year later.

He was defensive coordinator and assistant head coach before being named interim coach of the Atlanta Falcons after Dan Quinn was fired. He promptly led his winless team to a resounding 40-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings last week.

His first message to his team after taking over was that no player’s job is safe.

“It helped me to realize that now they know what being uncomfortable is like. It’s time to be comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s time to turn it up every single week,” Morris said following the game.

“It’s awesome when we asked those guys to stand up and they did it. Today I gave those guys the keys, they took it and ran with it. We were able to get a good win.”

After falling behind early, interim head coach Romeo Crennel watched his Houston Texans rally to take a late lead against the undefeated Tennessee Titans.

A win would have made Crennel 2-0 since taking over for the fired Bill O’Brien, but his team lost in overtime. In part, because Crennel called for a two-point conversion – that failed – instead if kicking an extra point that would have given the Texans an eight-point lead late in regulation.

He said he wanted “to put the game out of reach,” because a successful two-point conversion would have given his team a nine-point advantage.

“I think I would do it again because you know what? You’re on the road against a division opponent who is undefeated, and if you can get a two-point conversion, you shut the door on them and you win the game,” Crennel said.

“I think that when you have that opportunity, if you want to win the game, you go ahead and you try it at that time.”

Unlike when O’Brien was at the helm, several players, including defensive end J.J. Watt, took responsibility for the loss and defended their head coach.

Anthony Lynn’s San Diego Chargers were off last week, but he had the guts to name rookie Justin Herbert as starting quarterback over Tyrod Taylor two weeks ago.

A team doctor punctured Taylor’s lung while administering a pain-killing shot to his injured ribs earlier this season. Taylor has been unable to play since that incident.

"It was difficult because it wasn't something of (Taylor’s) own doing," Lynn said.

“It was difficult under these circumstances. But after three weeks of watching Justin and this is why we brought him here, to be our franchise quarterback, and I just think it's time now."

It’s not fair, but Lynn knows it’s the NFL – and that he needs wins to keep his job.

The Reid Roundup

The Tampa Bay Rays’ first-and-only trip to the World Series was in 2008, where they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies and homegrown hero Ryan Howard in five games…After interim coach Raheem Morris led the Atlanta Falcons to the team’s first win last Sunday, owner Arthur Blank was asked if Morris would be considered as the permanent head coach. “If he goes 11-0,” Blank said. That is the outrageous standard that Black NFL coaches are held to in comparison to their white counterparts…While his team battled back from the brink of elimination three times, Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker was again denied a chance to win his first World Series title as a manager… The NBA would reportedly like the 2021 season to begin on Jan. 18, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The bubble concept would be dropped and, hopefully, some fans would be allowed. The schedule would be heavy on divisional games to cut down on travel…NBC Sports compiled an NBA 2021 Power ranking. Its top five teams are the L.A. Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets (Michael Porter Jr.) and (drum roll, please) the Golden State Warriors. The Boston Celtics (Jayson Tatum) are seventh behind the Miami Heat…As the 2020 NBA Draft approaches, Washington Wizards all-star guard Bradley Beal’s name is being mentioned in a possible trade to Golden State. It would involve sending Andrew Wiggins and the Warriors No. 2 pick in the draft to Washington and future draft picks, as well.

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest, is a New York Times contributor and freelance writer. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, “Donnybrook”, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is #aareid1

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