I had a longish and chewy postmortem with Louisville manager Rick Sweet after the game. He surveyed his team's season-long labor to emerge from its early struggle, and the maturation of his very, very young roster of talented but raw prospects as they seasoned themselves for the majors. Sweet ended that narrative with the ironic fillip that, as soon as Yonder Alonso, Juan Francisco, Travis Wood, Chris Valaika, Aroldis Chapman et al evinced sufficient signs of growth, they were all called up to the majors—flushing Sweet's roster anew with a fresh batch of Double-A youngsters for him to start polishing, which he and his coaching staff had just begun to do when the playoffs started. And although Sweet acknowledged—and embraces—that that shepherding of green talent is precisely his job, he called 2010 "by far the most stressful year I've ever had." His team was nine games under .500 and 13 games out of first place in early July, when Louisville was playing its regular-season series at the DBAP). At that low point, he said, "I made a total turnaround of how I usually approach this level [Triple-A]. I told my coaching staff. I said, 'We're going back to [Class] A-ball. Simply treated [the players] like they were in A-ball, and if they were gonna play that way, I was gonna treat 'em that way. I refused to lose. They had to learn. The way we were playing"—and, Sweet added, behaving off the field—"was unacceptable."
It must have been indescribably gratifying, then, for Sweet to preside over his team for the next several weeks. All of the friction and overheating of the early season led his team to catch fire, suddenly, right after the series in Durham concluded in early July: Louisville went an astonishing 32-6 from then into mid-August, and on the very last day of the season—decimated again by September callups, even more so than Sweet had been led to expect—the Bats beat Indianapolis to win the West Division. Sunday's season-ending loss to the Bulls, despite the apparent three-year "curse," barely even registers as a disappointment, comparatively. The Bats became the team they could have been but weren't for half the year, and they won another division title against long odds. Sweet, who is in his seventh year as the Bats' skipper (and fifth among active Triple-A managers with 1,515 career wins), has not been offered a 2011 contract by Cincinnati yet. Here's hoping he gets it, or a job in the big leagues.