Got to make some other predictions! It will be interesting to take a look at these at the end of the year and see how many of them I got so very wrong.
But I got to get these in before the season starts tomorrow.
Here I go.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP: Vladimir Guerrero - Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim in Orange County With Garrett Anderson healthy this year, he should see more pitches and have a bigger year. And considering he was .329, 33 HRs, 116 RBI, .934 OPS last year... a step UP will be scary.
AL MVP candidate NOT named David Ortiz or Alex Rodriguez.
Joe Mauer - Minnesota Twins. How did Morneau win over HIM last year?
NATIONAL LEAGUE MVP: Albert Pujols - St. Louis Cardinals. Duh.
NL MVP candidate NOT named Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Andruw Jones or Carlos Beltran
Miguel Cabrera - Florida Marlins. I wonder what big market club he'll wind up on. I hope the Red Sox.
AL CY YOUNG AWARD Johan Santana - Minnesota Twins. Stay healthy Johan... you are about 1/3 of a way along a Cooperstown resume.
AL Cy Young candidate NOT named Johan Santana, Roy Halladay or Curt Schilling.
Boof Bonser - Minnesota Twins. Poised to become the greatest pitcher EVER named Boof
NL CY YOUNG AWARD Barry Zito - San Francisco Giants. Best decision he ever made was avoiding New York. Even better was going to a pitchers paradise.
NL Cy Young candidate NOT named Brandon Webb, Chris Carpenter, Dontrelle Willis or Carlos Zambrano
Ben Sheets - Milwaukee Brewers. I smell comeback.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR Mike Scioscia - Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim in Orange County I am predicting a lot of love in Anaheim this year.
AL Manager of the Year Candidate NOT named Guillen, Torre, Gardenhire or Leyland
Ron Washington - Texas Rangers. Especially if the Showalter factor kicks in.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR Bobby Cox - Atlanta Braves. I get the sense they are coming back this year. Sorry Mets fans.
NL Manager of the Year candidate NOT named Cox, LaRussa, Bochy or Randolph
Bob Melvin - Arizona Diamondbacks. It helps to have the Big Unit back.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Delmon Young - Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I know I'm supposed to pick Dice-K, but I think too few people consider him to be a rookie plus I think Delmon might just be one of those truly special talents like Ryan Howard who needs no adjusting time. Just hope he's done flinging bats at umps.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Kevin Kouzmanoff - San Diego Padres. I know he succeed just so fans in San Diego can call him "The Koooz."
FIRST AL MANAGER FIRED Mike Hargrove - Seattle Mariners. Especially if they think it will keep Ichiro aboard.
FIRST NL MANAGER FIRED Charlie Manuel - Philadelphia Phillies. There are high expectations on this Phillies team and some early failures might mean an early exit.
BEST SOAP OPERA - AMERICAN LEAGUE New York Yankees - Will A-Rod go? Will Jeter hug him? Who is pitching? And how dumb is Steinbrenner's son in law?
BEST SOAP OPERA - NATIONAL LEAGUE San Francisco Giants - Will people care when Barry breaks Hank Aaron's record? Who will snub him? And poor Bruce Bochy goes from giving the ball to Trevor Hoffman in the 9th to Armando Benetez! Once Benetez is dealt the closer Merry-Go-Round should be interesting.
It is mandatory for baseball bloggers to make their annual predictions, and Sully Baseball will be no exception.
If anyone remembers my playoff picks I went a whopping 0-7 in 2006 post season series while my wife who doesn't follow baseball went 4-0.
So what I am saying here is don't print this out and head off to Vegas or anything.
AL EAST - NEW YORK YANKEES Yeah I know I'm a Red Sox fan and I'm as anti Yankee a guy as you will meet. And yeah I know their pitching staff is a mess, they are a year older and the A-Rod soap opera will envelop the team... again.
And I know the Red Sox got a Japanese pitcher who has a pitch similar to Ray Milland in It Happens Every Spring. And Papelbon is mercifully back in the pen and Beckett should adjust.
But seriously... you don't pick against the Yankees in the regular season. It was like the Braves for that decade and a half. They are just designed to win the division. The Yankees will score 9 runs and the pitching staff needs to hold them to 8 until Rivera comes in. Very simple formula. They'll lose in the first round again, but it is another division crown for Torre... and more speculation of whether or not he should be fired.
AL CENTRAL - MINNESOTA TWINS The most exciting division in baseball, I got to pick the team with the Cy Young winner, the batting champ, and All Star closer and the MVP. The White Sox pitching staff better not have aged, the Tigers better not take a step back and the Indians better have taken that step forward.
AL WEST LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA ANGELS OF ANAHEIM IN ORANGE COUNTY The Gary Matthews "I was wondering how a bench player suddenly became an All Star" controversy not withstanding, this team can pitch (Colon and Weaver will be back and it will be like two major trades made) they have a legit MVP candidate in Vlad and lots of young kids who are about to blossom. The A's will as always make it interesting. The Mariners have some talent but not enough and look out for the Rangers. Every team that fires Buck Showalter wins the World Series the next year.
AL WILD CARD CHICAGO WHITE SOX The won 90 games last year and got younger this year. Kenny Williams is a sharp GM and will pull the trigger on the right trade to put Chicago in the 90-95 win collumn and edge out the Red Sox, A's and Tigers for the Wild Card.
NL EAST ATLANTA BRAVES I know, a risky pick. But is there any team that is without a hole? You trust the Phillies' bullpen? The Mets' rotation? You think the Marlins won't have a let down? Or the Nationals won't stink? The Braves have some talent, still have a Hall of Fame manager and the Mets, Phillies and Braves will all each finish within 85-88 wins. It's been a full season since Atlanta had a playoff team. Their fans have suffered enough.
NL CENTRAL ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Don't look now, but the Cardinals are making a case to be the team of the 2000s (the subject of a future post.) In 7 years they have finished in first or tied for first 6 times, made the NLCS 5 times, won 2 pennants including the 2006 World Series title. Not buying the Cubs influx of free agents (who is pitching?) the Brewers talent nor the Astros "We SWEAR Clemens is coming back" strategy. This is the Cardinals division (and decade) to lose.
NL WEST SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS This should be the most fun division to watch because all the teams have talent and almost all of them can pitch. I think Barry Zito will eat the NL alive and their droves of young pitching will keep them in every game while You-Know-Who will keep homering. The Dodgers have pitching talent to spare, but Grady Little managing. The Padres bullpen is as deep as any you will see, but will they have a lead to protect? The Diamondbacks have added The Big Unit to a pitching staff that includes the Cy Young award winner and even the Rockies have some talent. Look for the Giants to squeak it out.
NL WILD CARD ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Every year seems to have a team loaded with young players that makes it into the playoffs. And with future superstar Conor Jackson leading the lineup and a rotation with a one two punch Brandon Webb and a happier Randy Johnson... they are going to win a lot of games. And I wouldn't want to face them in a short series.
AL CHICAGO WHITE SOX def. NEW YORK YANKEES, 3-2 LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA ANGELS OF ANAHEIM IN ORANGE COUNTY def. MINNESOTA TWINS 3-1
LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA ANGELS OF ANAHEIM IN ORANGE COUNTY def. CHICAGO WHITE SOX, 4-1
NL ST. LOUIS CARDINALS def. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS 3-2 SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS def. ATLANTA BRAVES 3-0
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS def. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS 4-3
LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA ANGELS OF ANAHEIM IN ORANGE COUNTY def. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, 4-3
Well, I haven't posted in a while. Partly because it was the off season. Partly because a bunch of people couldn't even READ the postings because they couldn't read the iWeb program. Partly because I've been busy trying to get my career off the ground and raise my kids.
But let's face it. It's mainly out of laziness.
So we're now on the blogger site, all my old posts are on here as well.
Enough with the disclaimers! BASEBALL STARTS THIS WEEKEND! And the Red Sox have a pitcher with a magic pitch!
Andy Pettite returned to the Yankees last month, potentially helping to correct one of the biggest blunders in their recent history. When the Yankees low balled Pettite, a home grown big game winner beloved by the fans and the organization, his health was cited.
The Yankees replaced Pettite after the 2003 World Series with such paragons of health as Kevin Brown, Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Shawn Chacon, Al Leiter and the late Cory Lidle.
While Pettite did get hurt in 2004, he had a big Cy Young caliber second season in Houston as the Yankees were bounced from the playoffs with a weak pitching staff.
Of course, the Yankees are not getting the same player back. Pettite left as a 31 year old pitcher coming off a fantastic post season. They are getting a 35 year old pitcher and one who has pitched well the last two years but in front of inferior hitters.
The Yankees are hoping that Pettite will lure his now best friend in the world Roger Clemens out of his latest retirement, making him also a second act Yankee.
Clemens might be a freak of nature, but even Nolan Ryan eventually broke down... how many 44 year olds remain dominant?
But Pettite’s return and the potential return of Clemens shows an interesting pattern in Yankee off season acquisitions. And because I am a Red Sox fan, I naturally spend way too much time thinking about the Yankees and trying to analyze their next move.
Casual baseball fans assume the Yankees always try to go out and catch the biggest and most famous and expensive fish. But that is not always the case.
Neither Carlos Beltran nor Vladimir Guerrero, both the best offensive players in their respective free agent class, were gobbled up by the Yankees. Daisuke Matsusaka and Barry Zito went elsewhere this off season.
No, more often than not the Yankees make moves based on two apparent motives:
1. Bring back an old hero from a previous champion 2. Bring over players from a team that humiliated them
The first category is pretty easy to understand and Pettite and Clemens fit the mold to a T.
There is a glaring hole in the team and Steinbrenner says “Get me [FILL IN FORMER FAN FAVORITE HERE]! He was good!”
Since Joe Torre’s first Yankee title in 1996, there have been 12 players who played in the post season for one of the 4 championship teams that have had more than one tour of duty in the Bronx.
Some fared well in their return trip.
David Wells comes to mind. His second tour with the Yankees yielded a 19-7 and a 15-7 season. (Although he bombed badly in the 2002 playoffs and had to be pulled due to injury after 1 inning in a 2003 World Series start, a game the Yankees needed and lost.)
El Duque Hernandez returned after a year in Montreal to give the Yankees rotation a much need boost in the 2004 season.
Some gave the Yankees a little post season jolt.
Jim Leyritz kept on hitting post season homers in his second go round with the Yankees and Luis Sojo's 2 out 9th inning single won the 2000 World Series.
But the others, Tino Martinez, Doc Gooden, Ramiro Mendoza, Jeff Nelson, Brian Boehringer, Homer Bush and Mike Stanton, came up far short of their original Yankee glory.
However Pettite and probably Clemens end up, we'll see. But the Yankees aren't bringing them back for old time's sake. They have old timers day for that!
The other well from which the Yankees tend to draw from are teams that humiliated them.
I'm not talking about simply eliminating them from the playoffs. The Indians, Angels and Tigers have all sent the Yankees home in October... but they haven't seem keen to plunder those teams.
I'm talking humiliation. The kind that makes Steinbrenner's intense insecurities about the Yankees place in the world rise to the top.
It's not just that the Yankees need to win... it's that other teams can't be happy either.
I know what you are thinking... the Yankees didn't play the Mets! It was my Red Sox who were humiliated by them.
The Red Sox LOST to the Mets. But they took away the city from the Yankees. In one of the few times in their history, the Mets were the main baseball attraction in New York. The Yankees had some winning teams but they couldn't get into the playoffs. They had some solid players (especially Mattingly and Winfield) but nobody had the Mets swagger.
There was a tough "We kick butt and know it!" bad ass quality to the Mets and Steinbrenner's squad couldn't replicate it no matter how many times they brought Billy Martin back.
And at the heart of the team were the two home grown, cooler than cool, talking the talk and walking the walk superstars that captured the imagination of the city:
Guess where they ended up? And Steinbrenner did his Father Flanagan act to a T when their lives fell apart due to drugs... but he also made sure that everyone thought of them as Yankees, first and foremost.
Even the decision to sign Gary Sheffield over Vladimir Guerrero could be linked back to the 1986 Mets. Steinbrenner preferred Sheffield because he was a Tampa guy. He also just happens to be Doc Gooden's nephew.
When Edgar Martinez ended one of the best playoff series of all time with that 2 run 11th inning double, it marked the end of Buck Showalter's tenure as manager. It also ended Don Mattingly's only post season appearance and their first taste of post season since 1981. (Hard to imagine now the Yankees going so long between October trips).
In some ways Yankee fans should feel happy that Edgar won it. It ushered in the Joe Torre era, stability in the manager's office and 4 titles in 5 years and 6 pennants in 8 years.
But at the time, there was nothing but humiliation... and a team to plunder.
And there are always the Ken Griffey Jr rumors... Griffey... the guy who hit 5 homers against the Yankees in 5 games that series... the guy who scored the series ending run. He will someday atone for his sins in the Bronx!
Ah yes, 2001. The year that all of America (except your truly) were rooting for the Yankees in the World Series. The storybook finish was all written, complete with 2 run 2 out 9th inning game tying homers in the Bronx on consecutive nights.
Then with the Great Mariano on the mound, the Diamondbacks did the most unAmerican thing imaginable: They beat the Yankees.
There were two big heroes in that game 7:
Randy Johnson again was the Yankees nemesis, coming out of the bullpen a day after winning as a starter to go 3-0 in the series.
And pesky Tony Womack, whose game tying double in the 9th capped off a series where he confounded the Yankees.
When the Torre Yankees lost in 2001, 2002 and 2003, they lost to the Diamondbacks, Angels and Marlins.
Two 1990s expansion franchises and one franchise who can't decide what name to go by. Bad defeats to be sure, but there aren't a lot of Marlin fans hanging around in New York. Hell, there aren't a lot of Marlin fans in Miami!
But losing to the Red Sox... a team with a long history... one whose history tended to include the phrase "And then the Yankees beat them again in dramatic fashion"... one where the idea of a Yankee loss was inconceivable... that would be bad enough.
Up 3-0 with Rivera on the mound? Wow. A face plant with no precedent!
When the Red Sox won the World Series in St. Louis a week after dispatching the Yankees, I turned to a buddy of mine and said "Watch a bunch of these Red Sox will turn up on the Yankees soon."
Well the exodus began subtly with Ramiro Mendoza but who are we kidding? He was a Yankee in Red Sox clothing. The Yankees wanted him for old time sake, not for celebrating with Big Papi et al.
But soon more joined.
Mark Bellhorn hit two key homers in the ALCS... and was a Yankee the next year.
Alan Embree was the pitcher on the mound when the Red Sox clinched the pennant...and was a Yankee the next year.
Mike Myers (not the actor) was part of the bullpen crew that shut down the Yankees during the long extra innings of games 4 and 5... and was signed by the Yankees after the 2005 playoffs.
Johnny Damon... the very face and spirit of the Red Sox idiot crew and whose two homers broke the Yankees back in game 7... shaved his beard.
And now Doug Mientkiewicz... the man who caught the last out at first... donning the pinstripes.
And you are nuts if you think someday Manny Ramirez and possibly David Ortiz won't be a Yankee eventually.
Time will tell if the 2005 Angels and 2006 Tigers will find their way to the Bronx.
I have read on some bulletin boards that some Red Sox fans in their infinite wisdom are going to boo former Red Sox reserve 1B Doug Mientkiewicz because he signed with the Yankees.
How DARE he try to get a job after being cut by Kansas City?
But the booing isn’t just because of his new employer. Some people are still mad that he wouldn’t give the ball back that he caught to end the 2004 World Series.
He caught the last out of a Red Sox world championship... something we had been waiting for for our whole lives and then some... and we boo him because he wanted to keep the ball?
No wonder the rest of the baseball world hates us Red Sox fans!
We wrongfully blame Buckner because he couldn't field a ball and now we hate Mientkiewicz because he COULD field a ball!
My personal policy is to never boo a member of the 2004 Red Sox... no matter who he plays for.
Doesn't mean I'll want Johnny Damon and any other former Red Sox to beat my boys... but I won’t boo them.
Frankly I feel that '04 wiped out almost all bad feelings.
I'd welcome Boggs back for a number retirement ceremony (lest we forget he was non tendered by the Red Sox after 1992) even though I thought he was a bit of a phony and led the league in late inning hits in 9-1 losses.
I'd applaud every member of the '86 World Series... Schraldi and Stanley included. (Only a moron includes Bill Buckner as one of the goats of that series, but that will be another post)
Mike Torrez? Sure, give him a pat on the back... even though he spends more times at YANKEE old timers days.
The memory of Harry Frazee? Good Broadway producer... not always the best personell moves, but God bless him anyway.
I even go so far as saying "Grady Little... you seem like a nice enough guy... probably would have made the greatest manager in Pawtucket history... but you were the wrong guy for the '03 Red Sox... but it's water under the bridge."
I might EVEN say "Johnny Mac... wake up... thanks for giving me my first taste of post season Red Sox baseball. Sure you managed the playoffs and World Series like Arnold Rothstein paid you to throw it... but you led us to one strike of a title and thanks... now go back to sleep."
Like Michael Corleone in reverse, the '04 World Series settled all grievances for the positive and having us all look forward instead of always painfully to the past and those black and white clips of Enos Slaughter and the sun warped images of Bucky Dent.
But only one name escapes. Only one man who still harbors my wrath as not only a Red Sox villain but as someone who should be in the pantheon of all time baseball idiots.
The man who sabotaged what was probably the greatest and most beloved assembly of Red Sox outside of 2004 of all time.
The man who forced Fergie Jenkins, Jim Willoughby and Bernie Carbo out the door prior to 1978 and got only one player, Jon Poloni back for that trio. (Think of that... a Hall of Fame pitcher, a solid reliever and a top pinch hitter brought back a man whose total of major league games was 2 prior to 1978 and who never pitched a game for the Red Sox).
This same man who sat Bill Lee, a Yankee killer, and started Bobby Sprowl, in the greatest pennant race of the last 30 years.
And who sabotaged the 1978 season to save face.
It's safe to say with Lee, Jenkins, Willoughby and Carbo on the squad over Sprowl and Poloni, the Red Sox could have won one more game.
They didn't and Rice, Yaz, Lynn, Burleson, Tiant, Evans, Fisk, Scott, Hobson and Remy remained ringless.
All because of the one man we should ALWAYS boo. We should ALWAYS point out is an ass. We should ALWAYS say "You are one of the great fools in the history of baseball."
Mr. Don Zimmer.
Not Mientkiewicz. I say thanks Mientkiewicz, now don't get any clutch hits.
The Hall of Fame voting came and went this year... Once again Jim Rice got hosed. Once again I need to grumble.
- A lot has been made about the fact that no player has ever been elected unanimously. But it is still mind boggling.
Some sports writers actually looked at his ballot and said "Babe Ruth... I don't know... we're reserving this for the BEST players."
More than one person thought "Willie Mays? Not sure about him. He was a one dimensional player."
"Jackie Robinson... not sure. Did he have the intangibles?"
"Joe DiMaggio... nah. Not a dominating player."
"Hank Aaron? He's a nice player but did he do anything to be placed among the best?"
Anyone who DIDN'T vote for Ripken and Gwynn should have their voting rights immediately rescinded and those voting privileges sent to me.
- Almost as crazy as not voting for Ripken is the fact that someone DID vote for Jay Buhner.
Jay Buhner. A decent power hitter who struck out too often and hit behind Ken Griffey Jr and Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez. Seemed like a nice guy with a shaved head and not a bad guy to have bat 5th or 6th.
How the hell did HE get a Hall of Fame vote. I really hope it was a sportswriter friend of Buhner who said "Hey! He's a nice guy! He doesn't deserve a zero next to his name. What's the harm in giving him one vote?"
I really hope someone didn't look at his stats and say "Wow! This guy had like 3 pretty good seasons. LET'S IMMORTALIZE HIM!"
And while there is no real harm in that vote... imagine if a bunch of sportswriters all did that. Imagine if there was a likable guy like Buhner and the required number of sportswriters, unbenownst to each others plans, put a check mark next to Buhner.
And suddenly Buhner is on the podium with Stan Musial and Hank Aaron looking on. His plaque would read "Um... he had three pretty good seasons."
And Pete Rose is put on suicide watch.
- It always baffles me that writers say things like "He's a Hall of Famer... just shouldn't be in on the first ballot."
Anyone who thinks that is an admitted a-hole. They are basically saying "You've earned it... I just won't give it to you yet." And then diabolically laughs while petting a white cat.
If someone is good enough, they are good enough. What are they going to do in between ballots? Play again and pile up some more hits? This isn't Mr. 3,000 for god sake!
- If getting into the Hall of Fame on your first ballot is so important, then why not have first ballot members in a special wing. And the more ballots it takes you to get in, the worse your spot is in the Hall.
Bruce Sutter's would be over one of the urinals.
- What always sucks about the Hall of Fame process is more time is always spent on who DIDN'T get in rather than celebrating who did. Whether it was Pete Rose's book coming out when Molitor and Eck got it, Buck O'Neill's snubbing and now McGwire's non election... it seems the way to get people's attention is to NOT get voted in.
My pal Ritchie Duncan, whose site http://americanhockeyfan.blogspot.com should be visited by everyone, hockey fan or not, says the hockey hall of fame is the best.
His reasoning is sound. They don't worry about morality. Cheats, drunks, criminals... they all are let in.
- Next year is a light year for the Hall's new class. I mean if Jim Rice can twist in the wind, then Tim Raines and David Justice can too.
It looks good for Rice and Gossage for next year. Sadly Buhner is off the ballot.
It’s Hall of Fame ballot time! Time to bust out the stats and compare different eras and have sports writers play God and decide who will be immortal... and take the whole process slightly more seriously than canonizing a Pope.
I agree with my dad who thinks football does it best. Basically they basically have the admission policy of “Hey! He was good! Put him in!”
Then again football doesn’t have the laborious statistical analysis that baseball has. What exactly is a pulling guard going to lead the league in?
Meanwhile stat heads spend an ungoldly amount of time crunching numbers, comparing Tinkers, Evers and Chance to Edgar Renteria and proving that the most feared hitter in baseball history was Juan Beniquez.
Every year some poor veteran waits by the phone, hoping for it to ring with the call of immortality, only to be denied by some geek with a caluclator questioning Dave Parker’s VORP.
I do not have a vote. I think we can all agree this is a tragic injustice.
If I DID have a vote, here’s who I’d vote in on this ballot:
RICH GOSSAGE TONY GWYNN JACK MORRIS DAVE PARKER JIM RICE CAL RIPKEN, JR
Gwynn and Ripken are no brainers.
Gwynn was the most consistent hitter I have ever seen... and I used to watch Wade Boggs regularly. The guy finished with a .338 Average, won a batting title at age 37, never left San Diego, got his 3,000 hits, played in 2 World Series for the Padres and was an inspiration for guys with big guts all over America. And not the least of his accomplishments was he managed to look like an All Star despite wearing the Taco Bell wrapper uniforms of the 80s and the brown and yellow jerseys of the 90s.
Ripken had the streak which a lot of people called selfish... but who was the great shortstop that he was denying playing time to? Juan Bell? Remember he was a pre-A Rod/Jeter/Nomar/Tejada shortstop, playing at a time when the shortstop was supposed to be the quick player who couldn’t hit... not the guy who averaged 23 homers and 91 batted in. Plus there is that urban legend about the streak continuing despite his discovering his wife in bed with Kevin Costner. I have no proof that that happened, but I believe it to be 100% true.
Gossage should be a no brainer as well, especially since Sutter did not pitch as long nor put up Gossage’s numbers. People who are quick to bestow the “Greatest reliever ever” title to Mariano Rivera should take note of the Gossages, Fingers and Sutters of the world. In his World Series clinching season of 1978 he threw 134 1/3 innings of relief in 55 games. Read that again. That’s more than 7 outs AVERAGE per appearance. Compare that to the coddled 3 outs with a 3 run lead save that most relievers pile up now. His ERA in that 134 1/3 innings? 2.01. That means most games were over in the 7th inning. That era of closer might be gone and he was one of the best. Plus he understood the need for bad ass facial hair in order to be successful as a closer. (Bonus points for wearing 1970s era White Sox and Pirate uniforms as well as the Taco Bell Padres uniform.)
Jack Morris never gets the support that I think he deserves. He won more games than anyone in the 1980s and ate up innings like Pac Man. Yeah his ERA was a higher than you would want it to be, but I bet he had a few 9-5 complete game wins that bulged the ERA but rested the bullpen along the way. Plus MAN was he a big game pitcher. Before stumbling in the 1992 playoffs and World Series with the Blue Jays, he was 7-1 in the post season including the epic 10 inning complete game shut out in game 7 of the 1991 World Series. Even with the poor post season in 1992, he finished his post season career 7-4 with 5 complete games and was the #1 starter for three different World Championship teams. Who would you rather have start a big game? Jack Morris or Hall of Famer Don Sutton?
Dave Parker, like Morris, never gets the love I think he deserves. Maybe I am voting because of the strong impression he gave me as a young baseball fan. Maybe I was awed by the fact that he was such an offensive force for so many years, getting MVP consideration from 1975 to 1990, winning in 1978. Maybe it was the batting titles, Gold Gloves and home runs hit out of sight. Maybe it was the fact that he was the MAN in the National League for so many years... or maybe I just loved that shot of him smoking while in uniform. Either way, color me a fan of the Cobra. And don’t talk to me about his drug use. Paul Molitor and Fergie Jenkins are in the Hall despite a checkered drug history. I say put Parker in.
Jim Rice is as emotional a choice as I can think of. People point out he didn’t pass certain numerical mile stones. I remind them that over 16 years he averaged .298 with 30 HRs and 113 RBIs back when that meant something. People point out his defense was suspect, as if the likes of Reggie Jackson are in the Hall for their slick fielding. Detractors point out he was surly and unliked. Gee whiz, I wonder why he was so tense? He was the only black person within 5 miles of Fenway Park most of the time, playing in Boston during a time of school bussing getting his checks signed by Mrs. Yawkey, who probably made his paycheck out to “cash.” This was an organization that LOST a racial discrimination case in 1985 (!) and there were whole years where Rice was almost the only player of color on the Sox. Why the frown, Jim? Here’s something to chew on... despite not being loved by the press, they still put him in the top 5 of the MVP 6 times (winning in 1978) over a time stretching from 1975 to 1986. So no, he didn’t put up the career numbers you would hope. But being the most feared right handed hitter in the AL for 12 seasons should count for something.
And that’s my ballot.
And yes I left off Mark McGwire. Yeah I know McGwire hit 500 some odd homers and saved the game of baseball. And yeah, he was the type of slugger who could change a game with each swing. But look at his numbers before his... ahem... comeback. He was a one dimensional low batting average home run or strikeout hitter. He was Dave Kingman. The defenders of how he saved the game in 1998 claim he should be let in for that reason. I say have a nice exhibit of the home run race and have McGwire buy a ticket.
Until they put Maris in, McGwire (nor Sosa) should be in.
Canseco was a better all around player than McGwire and at least he’s owned up to it. Not saying he should be in... but I was in the Bay Area for the Bash Brothers era. Canseco was the MAN! Plus he is hilarious.
All apologies to Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy, who dominated for stretches but not in the way Rice and Parker did.
Apologies to Lee Smith... you got a lot of saves and were a terrific closer. But a bullpen closer has to slam the door in the big games. In 4 playoff appearances you went 0-2 with an 8.44 ERA and your team never advanced. Sutter, Gossage, Fingers, Eckersley and Rivera all slammed the door on the World Series title. Should be a prerequisite (that will be tested when Trevor Hoffman makes his way on the ballot.
Apologies to Lee Smith’s nemesis Steve Garvey. You were a great player for a stretch, but not long enough. Besides Cooperstown doesn’t have enough hotel space for all your children.
Apologies to Don Mattingly. For 5 years you looked like a lock. Then your back acted up and you decided to retire JUST BEFORE the Yankees latest World Series run. Talk about lousy timing!
Like Mattingly, Eric Davis looked like a Hall of Famer... then everything went wrong from a lacerated kidney to cancer. Nobody has a bad word to say about you... then again nobody had a bad word to say about my grandfather. Nobody is putting him in.
Sorry Blyleven, I think aces should be in the Hall... not good pitchers who piled up numbers. Again, in a big game would you rather have Blyleven or Jack Morris.
Tommy John should be in as an innovator.
Hershiser and Saberhagen belong in the same category: A few totally dominating seasons. Both World Series MVPs. Each throwing a title winning complete game. Just didn’t do it for long enough. (Morris by the way also has a title winning complete game. Just saying.)
Alan Trammell has the World Series MVP and some great seasons. He was a poor man’s Ripken. I thought long and hard about him... decided not.
I know they won’t put all six of mine in... but give Gossage and Rice a shot! We’ll see.
This shirt I saw being sold on MLB.com actually made me feel sorry for Yankee fans.
Let me explain. As a rabid Red Sox fan who lived in New York from 15 years, I’ve been the recipient of all sorts of taunts from the Yankee fan base. And over the years, most of them were pretty concise and a lot of them landed.
For most of those years, all a Yankee fan had to say was “19-18!” and it was pretty much a conversation killer. There was no comeback. That was the flush to the Ace that no Sox fan could beat.
1 number. Four syllables. Stake to the heart of a whole region. And even when the Yankees stunk (during the Kevin Maas/Andy Hawkins years) their fans could still yell “19-18” when the Sox were in town.
Red Sox fans were Hiroshima. Yankee fans were Truman. And they had NO moral quandry on dropping that bomb repeatedly.
Oh there was also bringing up the Curse. And of course Pedro gave them a good one with “Who’s your Daddy?”
All very swift effective weapons tying down to a simple fact: The Yankees always beat the Red Sox... no matter who the Red Sox field and who the Yankees field... for GENERATIONS... when it matters... the Yankees win.
Don’t believe me? 19-18! (clap clap clap-clap-clap.) Trust me... I was in the trenches in New York wearing my red “B” on my cap. I heard it all.
And I was there that cold October night when Schilling was bleeding through his sock for game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Sitting with my pal Jon Griggs in the bleachers hearing the 19-18 chants.
And the guy in front of me kept turning to me and saying “You know you are going to lose, right. I mean it’s cool you root for the Red Sox, but you understand, it is written... you will always lose to the Yankees... that’s how it is.”
He said this 3 times to me.
How could I refute him? The whole game I was just waiting for the moment when the Red Sox would collapse... because as he said... it was written.
And they didn’t. In fact it was A-Fraud’s slap of Arroyo’s wrist and Tony Clark whiffing that seemed Red Sox like.
Being a good sport and not a gloater, I leaned into that guy and starting yelling “I THOUGHT IT WAS WRITTEN! I THOUGHT IT WAS WRITTEN!” (I’m a classy guy.)
Well we all know what happened... The Red Sox won game 7 in a massacre where the Yankees didn’t even show up... celebrated a pennant in the Bronx... and the World Series was more of an afterthought than the US hockey team beating Finland for the gold in 1980.
And all the sports writers started lamenting “What is going to happen to the Red Sox fans? They’ve lost their identity!”
Yeah, cause we all LOVED being the Wile E. Coyotes of baseball! How could we POSSIBLY deal with having what we wanted our whole lives?
We dealt with it by being just as obnoxious in victory as we were in defeat! And being greedy by wanting more.
But nobody asked the REAL question: How would this affect the Yankee fan’s identity?
We’ve seen how the greatest choke in the history of American sport has affected the team. George has become hellbent on acquiring every superstar in baseball with a “WIN ME ANOTHER SERIES BEFORE I DIE!” mandate... the team gets to the playoffs, tightens up and spends the winter wondering which other Alpha Dog is going to be inserted into the team.
But the fanbase is a different story.
Yankee fans I know have tried to shrug off 2004 like it never happened. Like I said in “Reverse the Curse of the Bambino” a Yankee fan came up to me and said “I’m still going to chant 1918.” Of which I replied “Then you are an idiot.”
I remember one fan, an older fan, explaining to me that “the difference between Yankee fans and Red Sox fans is that Red Sox fans root AGAINST the Yankees. Yankee fans don’t care.”
Oh really? Was the 19-18 chant a touching tribute to our boys who lost their lives in World War I?
Why didn’t Yankee fans chant “19-48!” when the Indians came to town? Or “Ne-Verrrr Neeeee-Verrrr” when the Devil Rays stopped by?
Which brings us full circle back to the shirt.
GOT RINGS? It says on the front.
The new rallying cry. Not exactly striking fear into anyone’s heart. Unlike “1918” there is a response.
The answer to the question is “Yes. Yes our team does have rings. Thanks for asking.”
But what is truly sad is the back. They have a picture of all the rings for the Yankees and all the rings of the Red Sox. (Remember this is the fan base that doesn’t root AGAINST the Red Sox... the Red Sox are just a remora.)
Yup... there are more for the Yankees. But the Red Sox have the most recent one.
But it keeps going. For god sake they have a paragraph written in what looks like 12 point Helvetica font. ON A T SHIRT! A T Shirt should have a quick statement that you can read as a person walks by... not the preamble to the Magna Carta.
If you get your reading glasses out and get Vinny to stop and allow you to read the latest taunt... it’s really pathetic.
“Hardware - There is no better feeling than a ring on your finger. The Yankees have more rings than you can shake a SOCK at. 26 to be exact. OH... One more thing, it won't be 86 years before our next one”
First of all, taunts should not include the phrase “OH.... one more thing.” They also shouldn’t have puns.
But the most telling is the end.
“It won’t be 86 years before our next one.”
There it is folks. The Yankee fan NEEDS that sense of superiority. They NEED that sense of “we always win for generations.” They need that “it’s written” smug sense of entitlement.
They NEED 1918.
And it’s been taken away from them.
They don’t have that one number, four syllable atom bomb. They’ve lost their identity.
I was thinking about the 2006 Red Sox team today as the off season is kicking into high gear, and it dawned on me why I had such a hollow feeling in my stomach at the end of the meaningless, non contending season:
It was a dreadful realization that the Red Sox were becoming the team of my youth.
Most people long to have things back to how they were when they were a kid... but not me in terms of my team.
Last year the Red Sox had several All Stars (Manny, Papi, Varitek, Papelbon and Loretta (!)) and other familiar names (specifically Schilling, Wakefield, Timlin, Foulke and Trot).
They hit some big bomb homers and had some exciting games and for a while looked like they were going somewhere... but by the end of the season they faded, they played a lot of rookies in September where they were far out of contention and the season sputtered to a halt. In the end, they won more than they lost and gave us a few thrills... but were undermanned in the pitching staff and were not a factor in the pennant race.
They have too many veterans to rebuild, but they can not seriously be considered a World Series team for the next year.
Sound familiar Red Sox fans? Sounds like MY YOUTH!
I started following the Red Sox day to day in 1979 (thankfully I was too young to appreciate the collapse of 1978.)
Between 1979 (when I was 7) and 1985 (when I was 13) I was as faithful a Sox fan as you could find. And only once in that stretch did the Red Sox have a losing record... 1983, which basically was a year long “farewell Yaz” celebration.
So while I witnessed winning baseball year in and year out, I also NEVER experienced a team in real contention entering September, which I define as being 4 games or fewer behind first place entering September 1. In other words a 4 game September sweep from the top.
Starting in 1979, here is where the Sox were each September 1.
79 3rd place 8 ½ games back 80 3rd place 6 ½ games back 81 4th place 4 ½ games back 82 2nd place 4 ½ games back (finished 3rd) 83 6th place 15 games back 84 4th place 14 ½ games back 85 5th place 19 ½ games back
I must add that in the strike shortened 1981 season they were only 1 1/2 games back with 4 to play... but they were still in FIFTH place as Milwaukee and Detroit were tied, the Yankees were 1/2 a game out and Baltimore was a game out.
In other words they needed 4 teams to collapse in 4 days to get in. So while it was exciting in 1981, there was also a sense of reality working against them.
In 1982 they were in second place, only to finish in third behind Baltimore and the eventual champion, the Brewers
Seven season... winning baseball... big hits... and no memorable Septembers.
And they’d have the steady players like Jim Rice and Dwight Evans every year to root for. And guys like Hobson, Lynn, Remy and Fisk were there at the beginning of the inglorious 7 year run.
And Boggs, Barrett, Armas and Gedman were there at the end.
And we got to say goodbye to Yaz and hello to Clemens.
But we also saw a steady diet of pitching staffs where Tom Burgmeier and Bob Stanley were team stat leaders.
We saw year in and year out of hung over Eck being the nominal staff ace. (If only the Sox thought of putting him in the pen.)
We saw year in and year out of Mike Torrez losing with an ERA approaching 5.
We saw stiffs like Allen Ripley and Luis Aponte be the supposed be the saviors of the pitching staff.
For God Sake, I learned how to spell Remmerswaal!
There were too many games started by Chuck Rainey and Steve Renko.
Too many September recalls like Roger LaFrancois.
And too many weak spots in the lineup as well. There is a problem when Dave Stapleton became a regular on the cover of the team yearbook!
The team would win... but not contend. They’d be filled with familiar names to root for... but have no depth.
They’d be fun in June and July... and irrelevant in September.
I’m getting a flashback with the current team. I don’t need to see the next Mark Clear coming out of the pen.
I want the Red Sox to pick a side!
Either put together a team that is going to have pitching depth and strength in the lineup and bullpen to win the 2007 World Series... or blow it up and play young kids.
Straddling the fence the way they did in 2006 isn’t going to cut it! One minute, they are going for it by dealing off prospects like Sanchez, Ramirez, Meredith and Marte to bring in Crisp, Beckett, Lowell and Dougie.
Next minute they are trading Arroyo, the only healthy starting pitcher for an outfielder with potential.
Then the team is in contention in midsummer... and they get no reinforcements saying “We’re keeping our prospects.”
If you were going to keep prospects, then why not keep the franchise shortstop and no hitter throwing starter you shipped off at the start of the season.
It’s smelling like the late 70s to mid 80s around here and it stinks.
I’d rather stink for 2 years with kids and have a young hungry team ready to win it all in 2009, 2010 and 2011 than sit through another 7 years of irrelevance.
If they fire Francona and bring back Ralph Houk, I’m going to lose it.
Was that not the most lackluster World Championship celebration you have ever seen?
Wasn’t it bad enough we had possibly the least dramatic World Series I have ever seen? I mean seriously, what are people going to remember about this series?
Kenny Rogers’ hand? The fact that the Tigers clearly didn’t run fielding practice for the pitchers during their off days?
It has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t really care about either team. I am not a Braves nor a Twins fan, but I can remember almost every pitch of the 1991 World Series.
This series was dullsville.
But there was one potential glimmer of hope for something memorable. This was, after all, a chance to see a home team win the World Series. The last three series were won on the road, which is always kind of depressing. You see the players happy jumping up and down... cut to the crowd and some kid is crying in his father’s arms.
And the only time we see the fans of the team that won are those awkward shots of some local bar.
Winning on the road can be so lousy that I remember a couple of my fellow Red Sox fans actually saying to me before Game 4 of the World Series “I hope they lose these next two so they can win at Fenway.”
I of course beat both of them with a crowbar, but the point is winning at home is so much more special.
And that hadn’t happened since 2002... in Anaheim. That’s right, the last time the home team won the World Series it was for the franchise whose identity is so confusing that they have had 3 different city names since the start of the 1996 season... AND THEY HAVEN’T MOVED!
This is a team whose fans don’t know when to get excited unless a monkey appears on the diamond vision. The last time a home team won the World Series, we were treated to a shot of Michael Eisner jumping up and down because he realized how much more he could get for the team when he put it on the market. And he was joined by John Travolta, also jumping up and down, even though his only connection to the Angels was he starred in the film “Michael.”
Not exactly a goosebump inducing moment.
The time before that was 2001, when the Diamondbacks won one of the best and most emotional World Series of all time. But COME ON! Arizona? That was only the team’s fourth year of existence. And yeah, it was the first championship ever for the city of Phoenix but long suffering were the baseball fans in those 4 years?
Before that was 1999, when the Yankees completed a sweep of Atlanta to win their second of three straight titles. A nice celebration, but Yankee fans were reconnecting with their smug entitlement to titles by then.
Before that was 1997... the Marlins. Again, another great game 7 and the fans seemed genuinely happy. I bet if you polled those same fans in August of 1997 “name one member of the Marlins” they’d be at a loss. Again, like the D-Backs, 5 year old teams don’t have long suffering fans.
Which brings us to 1996... the last really great emotional home team winning the World Series moment. An unlikely underdog Yankee team (when was the last time you heard THAT?) stunned the Braves. I was in New York then, and the thrill of the city to have the Yankees reclaim the title of World Champions was palpable.
People forget it had been 18 years since that had happened... a lifetime in Yankees years. And Steinbrenner’s presence (and money) was looked on as a drawback. Remember there were “George Must Go!” chants and thoughts that they will NEVER return to being World Champions. Yankee fans lamenting Don Mattingly (the player with the WORST timing in baseball history) never getting a ring.
And suddenly, after getting whipped in games 1 and 2... and losing big in game 4.... they came back... won the elusive title. And the celebration in the stadium was so emotional even I, Mr. I Hate The Yankees, could sense the relief and joy of the fans. (Little did I know it would unlock a new dynasty.)
Which brings us back to the Cardinals... a title being won in St. Louis... a baseball mad city. An unlikely team bringing home the title for the first time in nearly a quarter century. A chance for the best and most emotional victory celebration since the Angels were the CALIFORNIA Angels.
And what did we get?
A half ass group hug? Albert Pujols, a certain Hall of Famer now knowing he will never have the yoke of “He never won a ring” on his neck, gave a little fist pump.
A LITTLE FIST PUMP? I do that when I realized I cooked the spaghetti just right. This guy just validated a career! Seriously, all Albert has to do is pile up some serious stats for 4 more seasons and rehearse his Cooperstown speech. Where’s the arms in the air leaping of Pedro Martinez? Where’s the tears of Paul Molitor? Where’s Wade Boggs dropping to his knees in prayer and then riding a horse around the ballpark?
And the fans? The rabid baseball loving fans? Yeah they seemed happy. But compare it to just a few weeks before. The Tigers win the Division Series (THE DIVISION SERIES!) and the rabid spontaneous ceremony was so emotional and genuine from the player’s victory lap to Kenny Rogers with the police officer on the dugout steps. It was a celebration of a return of Detroit’s love of baseball and it beautiful and sincere. And this was in a place called HOCKEY TOWN!
They cheered in St. Louis... they clapped. But it could have been an August win over the Cubs. There was no sense of Pujols and LaRussa joining Stan the Man, The Gashouse Gang, Medwick, Alexander, Hornsby, the Dean Brothers, Gibson, Brock, Schoendienst and Ozzie as Hall of Famers who brought a title to St. Louis.
COME ON PEOPLE! They players couldn’t deliver anything emotional! It was up to you!
In the words of Jack Buck, “GO CRAZY FOLKS! GO CRAZY!”
Last Thursday's game 7 between the Cardinals and Mets, to the shock of probably every baseball fan on the planet Earth, was a terrific game.
Even though the end result wasn't what I was hoping for as I was rooting for the Mets, it had the twists, turns, unpredictablity and a genuine "Holy Cow! Did you see that!" moment that game 7 showdowns should have.
That got me thinking about game 7s from my recollection and trying to see how many of them were great, how many were good and how many were completely unmemorable.
Like Mark McGwire not talking about the past, I am not going to bring up game 7s from before my baseball watching days.
Grover Cleveland coming out of the pen to strike out Tony Lazzeri in 1926, Johnny Podres shut out of the Yankees in 1955, Bill Mazeroski's homer in 1960, Bobby Richardson catching Willie McCovey's line drive in 1962... all great to be sure.
But they were before my time and I didn't experience the moment of "What is going to happen next?" that comes from watching the game live.
The first World Series I remember watching was the 1979 World Series. I remember Pops Stargell and Dave Parker in those ungodly yellow uniforms and hats covered with stars. I remember the crowd singing "We Are Family" and I remember Kent Tekulve's glasses.
So using 1979 as a starting point... there have been 20 game 7s. (I am not including game 5s in this post... that will be a future one)
Some game 7s were great, some were good, some were completely forgettable and anticlimactic and 4 I am too emotionally attached to and therefore can not analyze with any sense of objectivity.
here are how I rank the game 7s that I watched live.
The 5 great ones –
1. 1991 World Series TWINS 1 BRAVES 0 (10 innings)
Undoubtedly the greatest World Series I ever saw. If that series featured the Red Sox or Yankees vs the Dodgers, Cubs or Mets and the games unfolded in the same way, people would be talking about it still as a turning point in baseball history... maybe American history.
Each game got better and better with extra inning collisions at the plate, unlikely heroes (Mark Lemke? Jerry Willard? Gene Larkin?) and Kirby Puckett winning game 6 with his glove and a walk off homer. I remember being exhausted after game 6 (the 3rd extra inning game) and thinking "They can't top that!"
They did. Jack Morris and John Smoltz exchanging shut out innings. Lonnie Smith, a veteran of three World Series, being faked out by a decoy play that would have scored the potential title clinching tun. Both teams exchanging unlikely inning ending double plays. Little used Gene Larkin winning it all with a base hit to left... and Jack Morris throwing ten (TEN!) shutout innings. Best World Series I ever saw... Best game 7 I ever saw.
2. 2003 American League Championship Series YANKEES 6 RED SOX 5 (11 innings)
I can write about this without cutting my wrists now, thanks to 2004. And while I hemmed and hawed about putting this in the "Not emotionally qualified to talk about it" category. But I can admit, this was an amazing game. Pedro's early dominance and Clemens flopping made it feel like the foot that Yankees had been putting on the Red Sox throat was finally lifting. And then the 8th inning happened. 1 out, nobody on, Jeter doubled, Williams singled, Matsui hit a ground rule double... the Yankees couldn't hit Embree, Timlin or Williamson all series... Pedro was a 7 inning pitcher... and Grady leaves him in.
Posada dunks a double. Rivera shuts down the Sox for 3 innings and Aaron Boone sees one knuckleball... and Grady Little gets a well deserved pinkslip and the Curse lives for just one more year.
And my wife (who had married me just 2 weeks before) thinks I am an idiot for following this team. Tough game to stomach. But a great one nonetheless.
3. 2001 World Series DIAMONDBACKS 3 YANKEES 2
The first moment of Yankee hater glee came in the 9th inning of game 7 of the 2001 World Series. The Yankees were winning thanks to Soriano's homer off of Schilling and despite Big Unit's solid relief, the Yankees had Rivera on the mound. Ergo the series was over. The idea of Rivera not being able to seal the deal was impossible to comprehend.
And then it happened. Single. Error. Fielder's choice. And Tony Womack's double ties it up. By the time Luis Gonzalez blooped that single over Jeter's head, the D'Backs celebrated not only a World Championship, but a victory that seemed physically impossible, because Rivera was invincible until that moment.
4. 1997 World Series MARLINS 3 INDIANS 2 (11 Innings)
Widely considered to be one of the least interesting World Series ever played, the spectacular finale redeemed it. I was rooting for the Indians and hoping the city of Cleveland would get a well deserved championship parade. It has been since 1948 for the Tribe and since the mid 1960s since ANY Cleveland team has won a title.
And with Jaret Wright cruising with a 2-0 lead in the 7th it looked good. BAM! Bonilla homers. Then Mesa allows a 1 out sac fly to tie it in the 9th, sure handed infielder Tony Fernandez makes an error in the 11th and Edgar Renteria wins it to ease the suffering of the Marlins fans. I had the good fortune of watching that game with my friend Steve who was from Miami and rooting for the Marlins, whose fans would have to wait only 6 more years for another title.
Poor Cleveland still waits.
5. 1992 National League Championship Series BRAVES 3 PIRATES 2
I really was rooting for the Pirates in 1992. The Red Sox were stuck in last place and in the post season I adopted Jim Leyland, Barry Bonds et al. Everyone knew the team was going to be broken up because of free agency so this was the Pirates last chance to make it to the World Series. And if the Pirates won, a buddy of mine (a Blue Jays fan) and I were going to go to Pittsburgh for game 1 of the World Series. We had our tickets reserved.
It looked bleak when the Braves took a 3-1 series lead, but Bonds woke up and helped the Pirates force a game 7. Drabek and Smoltz dueled but Drabek took a 2-0 lead to the 9th. A few hits and an unlikely Jose Lind error later and the lead was 2-1, but 2 outs and the Braves turned to Francisco Cabrera.
All series I made fun of Cabrera, who was on the roster only because they needed a 25th player and catcher Greg Olsen was hurt. He only played in 10 games during the season and whenever there was a key situation, I would nudge my friend and say “They should bring in Cabrera.”
Well here he was… in the biggest situation imaginable… and he slams a hit that ties the game and sends Sid Bream, running as if he was carrying a safe, home for the winning run.
Cabrera had the last laugh… and I got a refund for my World Series tickets.
The Four Good Ones
1. 2006 National League Championship Series CARDINALS 3 METS 1
Now this was a game for the overachievers. Oliver Perez, who got less respect than Charlie Brown as a big game pitcher, throws the game of his life… as does maligned Jeff Suppan. Endy Chavez makes possibly the best catch I have ever seen, Yadier Molina makes his claim to NOT be the Zeppo of the Molina brothers, Adam Wainright shows the world his amazing curve ball and the Mets try their best to replicate the 1986 come back.
If Beltran swung the bat, it would be included among the great ones
2. 1979 World Series PIRATES 4 ORIOLES 1
I was seven years old, watching this game in the upstairs of Mrs. Bianchi’s house in Weston Massachusetts. It was the first World Series clinching I ever saw. And the first time I watched a game 7 thinking “Man! What’s going to happen next?”
I remember Stargell hitting a two run homer over Ken Singleton’s head in the 6th and then Earl Weaver using what seemed like 100 pitchers in the 9th until finally Tekulve and those thick glasses looking like one of the Hansen brothers.
And then when the Pirates won, the magnificent celebration. Needless to say, it made a big impact on me.
3. 1987 World Series TWINS 4 CARDINALS 2
I remember watching this game while I was in the school play. Every time there was a scene in “The Diviners” that I wasn’t in, I’d rush back to watch the game. The Twins came back from behind and with Viola’s strong performance clinched the World Series.
I remember thinking it was funny to say “World Champion Minnesota Twins.”
The Twins didn’t seem like a team that COULD win it. But there was something so likable about that team, which resembled a slow pitch softball team and had only 3 good pitchers. They were the living argument AGAINST the axiom “pitching beats hitting.”
4. 2004 National League Championship Series CARDINALS 5 ASTROS 2
Someday the 2004 NLCS will get its due credit for being a great series. Everyone (including yours truly) was transfixed on the Red Sox comeback against the Yankees... and I bet they missed back to back games ending with walk off homers. Great pitching and a showcase for Albert Pujols and Carlos Beltran.
Roger Clemens had a lead in the 6th inning of game 7, setting up the possibility of an Astros/Red Sox World Series. But Scott Rolen's home run high lighted the comeback and the Cardinals won the pennan.
The 7 forgettable ones
1. 1985 World Series ROYALS 11 CARDINALS 0
I know Don Denkinger screwed up that call in game 6. I know the Cardinals got hosed and it possibly cost them the World Series title. But there was still a game 7 to be played! If the Cardinals won game 7, then the Denkinger call would have been an obscure memory.
Besides they had John Tudor pitching who had a chance to go 3-0. I remember being so excited for this game after coming home from school.
By the 4th inning I was doing home work
The Cardinals didn’t even show up.
Sports Illustrated had a picture of Cardinals’ catcher Darrell Porter laughing after letting an easy pop up drop. What was going to be a war between two proud franchises turned into the biggest anti climax and worst game 7 I have ever seen.
2. 1996 National League Championship Series BRAVES 15 CARDINALS 0
The 1996 Cardinals had a 3-1 lead over the defending champion Braves and LaRussa’s first season in St. Louis looked like a miracle season. Then the Braves forced a game 7…
Any hopes for a showdown ended when Tom Glavine, the freaking pitcher!, tripled home 3 runs in a ridiculous, remote control grabbing 6 run 1st inning. And later, LaRussa ended Ozzie Smith career by sending him out as a pinch hitter instead of letting him play the field one more time. Both teams emptied their bench as game 7’s box score resembled a split squad spring training game.
3. 1987 National League Championship Series CARDINALS 6 GIANTS 0
What is it with the Cardinals playing lousy game 7s? The 1987 NLCS was underatedly exciting. It was my first year of living in the Bay Area and hard not to get swept up in the excitement for Roger Craig’s Hum Babies. The Cardinals and Giants swapped hard fought victories, including a heart breaking 1-0 Cardinals win in game 6. A showdown seemed evident for the finale… but instead Danny Cox shut out the Giants (who didn’t score the final two games) and reserve second basemen Jose Oquendo homered.
Worst of all, the scoring all happened early, so the Cardinals took a big lead and the rest was a dull waiting game.
This series deserved better.
4. 1988 National League Championship Series DODGERS 6 METS 0
Series rarely have the unexpected drama as the Dodgers/Mets series, which had the Mets have two improbable come from behind wins in games started by Hershiser and the Dodgers’ top reliever suspended for putting pine tar in his glove. Then Mike Scioscia and Kirk Gibson homer in game 4 and Hershiser comes out of the pen to stunningly tie the series. When the Mets forced a game 7 and a Hershiser-Darling finale, it seemed like there was one more great moment up this series’ sleeve.
There wasn’t. The Mets made a bunch of errors, the Dodgers took a big lead early and neither team scored again, taking any drama out of the game in the second.
5. 1991 National League Championship Series BRAVES 4 PIRATES 0
Like the Giants/Cardinals series in 1987, the first Braves/Pirates match up was a terrific and underrated match up. Unfortunately, the finale was snooze.
Brian Hunter homered early and John Smoltz couldn’t be hit. The Pirates were held scoreless for 26 of their last 27 innings and there were 10,000 empty seats at a lifeless Three Rivers Stadium
6. 1985 American League Championship Series ROYALS 6 BLUE JAYS 2
I had to think real hard about what happened in this game, which is a problem for a game 7. I remember rooting for the Blue Jays and thinking it would be cool to see Canada in the World Series. Jim Sundberg tripled home 3 in the 6th and then the teams went through the motions through the end.
Not exactly a game to replay on ESPN classic.
7. 2003 National League Championship Series MARLINS 9 CUBS 6
This looked like it had “classic” written all over it. A day after the infamous game 6 (Steve Bartman’s excessive blame for this game will be addressed elsewhere) the Cubs, like the 1985 Cardinals, had a chance to wipe away any bad memories.
When Cabrera homered off of his shoe tops, it looked bad, but the Kerry Wood (!) homered himself to tie the game, Alou homered to give the Cubs the lead… Chicago goes crazy! Then Pudge Rodriguez leads the rally for the Marlins in the 5th.
5 innings in, this looked like it was going to be best game 7 ever. So what happened?
The Cubs seemed crushed after giving back the lead. Josh Beckett came out of the pen for 4 innings and save for a Troy O’Leary homer, couldn’t get anything started.
Wrigley Field was a morgue after that. A quiet, disbelieving morgue.
The 4 game 7s where personal emotions cloud my ability to judge them
1. 2004 American League Championship Series RED SOX 10 YANKEES 3
To a non Red Sox or Yankee fan this game would probably be thrown into the anti climax pile above. After the Red Sox jumped ahead to an 6-0 lead in the second and an 8-1 lead in the 4th, it felt strange for me as well.
Sure it was a big lead, but it was the smallest seven run lead imaginable. We kept waiting for the other shoe to fall. Not even Pedro’s bizarre and ill conceived cameo could bring the Yankees into striking distance.
So in truth it was kind of a lousy game. But maybe that was what made it feel so sweet. The Red Sox finally beat the Yankees… and it was so decisive that there wasn’t even one Boone/Bucky Dent moment to point to.
Either way, it’s the only 10-3 game that I have watched from beginning to end 5 times.
2. 1986 World Series METS 8 RED SOX 5
Was this a good game? It had big homers, the Red Sox winning by 3, the Mets tying it and taking the lead, the Red Sox coming back to cut it to one, the Mets pulling ahead…
It seemed like at least a good game. But it was so numbing to watch, especially when Schraldi was inexplicably brought in in the 7th inning instead of Oil Can Boyd, and to the surprise of nobody let up the series winning home run. An underratedly heartbreaking game.
3.1986 American League Championship Series RED SOX 8 ANGELS 1
This was NOT a good game. The Angels played a sloppy, despressed game and seemed to have phoned in the entire series starting in game 6. They were most dejected team up 3-2 in a series I have ever seen.
But I was jumping like it was Mardi Gras. It had never occurred to me as a kid that I would actually get a chance to see the Red Sox in the World Series. And seeing Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, two of the last remaining Red Sox of my youth, smack homers… Marty Barrett winning the MVP... it was a perfect boring game.
4. 2002 World Series ANGELS 4 GIANTS 1
This is the only game in this category not involving the Red Sox. But my dad is a die hard Giants fan and has been one since before Willie Mays played for them. I was rooting for the Giants in 2002 as hard as if they were my own team because of my dad.
And just a day after improbably blowing a late 5-0 lead, game 7 loomed as their last hope. And for some reason, even after they took a 1-0 lead, it seemed hopeless. By the time the Angels were up 4-1, the Giants looked hopeless and limped across the finish line.
Giants fans, especially my dad, deserved better.
So there you have it, all two of you who got this far. Let’s hope that St. Louis and Detroit will give us a game 7 worthy of the first category.
By the way, if you DID read all the way through, shoot me an e mail email@example.com
So my wife was so good at picking the League Championship Series winners that I decided to have her pick the World Series.
She is 2-0 in picking playoff winners this year, and so far I am a big fat 0-6 in series picks... so I think there might be some method to her madness.
We sit down to discuss the upcoming World Series.
WIFE: OK, so who is playing? ME: The St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. WIFE: Mmm hmm. ME: You liked both of their uniforms. Especially the Cardinals’ red hats. WIFE: Right. ME: So who is your pick? WIFE: Well, tell me about the teams. ME: Well, the Tigers have some of the best young power pitchers in baseball and they shut down the mighty Yankee line up and a strong A’s team. The Cardinals just finished a seven game series with the Mets, but Albert Pujols is always tough to stop.
My wife waves her hand in the air.
WIFE: I don’t care about any of that.
True... I’ve been using studying the game of baseball to make my picks and that hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Better listen to the master.
ME: Well, the managers are old friends and each have won a World Series before. WIFE: Let me see them.
I go onto Google and look up pictures of Jim Leyand and Tony LaRussa. My wife takes a look at them.
ME: Jim Leyland did an amazing job turning the Tigers around in just one season. WIFE: I don’t like his facial hair. ME: He’s also a chain smoker. WIFE: Yuck. Who is the other one.
I click over to LaRussa’s picture. He is clean shaven, which bodes well for the Cardinals chances of winning the World Series.
I then clicked to another picture... the one that I have on the top left of this page... The one of Tony LaRussa holding up a puppy and a kitten.
WIFE: Awwww.... I LOVE him! ME: Yeah, he does lots of work for animal shelters. WIFE: This picture was on SoyHappy.com.
She clicks on the link and reads all of the vegetarian sites that LaRussa endorses.
WIFE: That’s it! It’s the Cardinals! They’ll win.
And if my wife picks a team, they’ll win. So a little puppy, a little kitten and some soy burgers will turn out to be more devastating to the Tigers than any home run hit by Albert Pujols.
Of course I picked the Tigers to win in 4.
And of course what happened in game 1? The Cardinals won.
SWING THE BAT, BELTRAN! I know Adam Wainwright’s curve ball was unbelievable tonight... but take a cut!
A game seven that nerve wrecking with the bases loaded in a 2 run game in the bottom of the 9th shouldn’t end on a called third. It seemed like such a cheat.
As I watched the Cardinals win the pennant and Shea Stadium quiet to a librarian’s standard, I felt badly for the fans at Shea, for Willie Randolph, who had a chance to have his team win the city’s heart, for the players who had never made it to a World Series and for baseball fans everywhere for having to sit through the upcoming Tigers/Cardinals World Series.
But I REALLY felt for Endy Chavez. His catch was one of the most incredible plays I had ever seen. And not just the physical play, but the circumstances leading up to it and following it.
A game 7 is tied. A pitcher, who everyone in the media has declared as the worst game seven starter in history, is pitching the game of his life... but is in trouble.
The manager comes out and asks how he is doing, which is always a stupid question to ask. What pitcher in the world would say “I’ve got nothing, Skip. Better replace me!”
Nobody! Not even Mike Mussina! Only a moronic manager make a decision whether or not to remove a pitcher based on how a pitcher claims they are doing... especially in a game 7. (See “Little, Grady”)
So Willie turns to LoDuca and asks him, who says he’s OK to go.
The very next pitch... the slugger hits a sure fire home run which the outfielder, who is only in there because the regular left fielder was hurt and would have turned and watched the ball leave the park, make a perfectly timed leap, snag the ball in the web of his glove, and fire back to force a double play.
Entire team comes out to congratulate him before he hits the dugout step and he does a defensive curtain call.
This is a scene out of Major League. Imagine manager Lou Brown (the gravel voiced James Gammon) and Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) coming to the mound with Wild Thing Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) struggling.
LOU: How’s the heater, Vaughn? WILD THING: I think I can get this guy. LOU: What do you think, Jake? JAKE: I think he can get him to hit into a double play. LOU: You’d better be right, Taylor!
Lou goes back to the bench, crowd cheering... next pitch... deep... a sure fire home run... and Willy Mays Hayes (either Wesley Snipes or Omar Epps) leaps, makes an amazing catch and fires it back for the double play.
Jake walks up to Lou in the dugout.
JAKE: Told you.
Actually if I saw that scene, I’d say “C’mon! It wouldn’t happen like that... on the NEXT PITCH!”
But it did.
And if the Mets had won, Endy Chavez would have been a folk hero forever in New York. Yet another obscure player who unexpectedly shone in the post season and will become an unlikely immortal.
Don Larsen, Bobby Thomson, Johnny Podres, Gene Tenace, Bucky Dent, Jim Leyritz, Dave Roberts etc...
Endy was going to be one of those names. One of those guys who despite not being a superstar will always be treated like one by the home fans.
And now, he will be a nice ESPN highlight... but his name will probably be forgotten. In 10 years that clip will be shown and all but the most die hard Mets fans (and lunatics like me) will say “Who made that catch?”