Oct 30

Game Six: What World Series History Will Be Made Tonight?

A classic World Series is usually defined as seven games, but it can’t be without a Game 6. As compelling as this World Series has been, if it ends tonight in Boston, it just won’t sizzle in our memories as it would if they played one more time.

One way or another, it ends after Game 7. Gone is the sense of urgency, of desperation, of finality, of the team behind in the Series entering Game 6. The feeling the game could turn on any play hangs like a cloud over the trailing team.

FISK: Author of a Game Six great moment.

FISK: Author of a Game Six great moment.

“Well, there’s always tomorrow,’’ says the team leading 3-to-2 if something goes wrong in Game 6. The trailing team has no such luxury.

Many of baseball’s most dramatic moments are born in a Game 6.

Red Sox manager John Farrell, when asked about the enduring image of Carlton Fisk waiving his ball fair to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, said both clubhouses have players wondering if they’ll be waiving their arms Wednesday night.

A Fisk-like moment isn’t reserved for just marquee names. October is fickle as to whom it shines its light on. David Ortiz has posted historic World Series numbers, but the Red Sox received game winning hits from the non-descript Jonny Gomes and David Ross in Games 4 and 5.

Will either be with the Red Sox next year?

The following are the most compelling Game Sixes in World Series history. Note: For this list, a Series must go seven games, which excludes Toronto’s 1992 championship over Philadelphia, which, despite ending on Joe Carter’s homer lasted just six games.

Also, excluded is the League Championship Series, which would include Curt Schilling’s “Bloody Sock,’’ game in 2004, the year the Red Sox snapped an 86-year drought known as “The Curse.’’ It would also exclude the 2003 NLCS, which featured Steve Bartman.

Finally, I would have had to seen these games.

Here’s my list:

IF IT STAYS FAIR:  One of baseball’s most enduring images, and perhaps its greatest game, came in the 1975 World Series on Fisk’s game-ending homer in the 12th inning as Boston beat Cincinnati, 7-6. Fisk’s homer was made possible by Bernie Carbo’s three-run, two-strike, pinch-hit game-tying homer in the eighth inning.

Fisk’s moment delayed what Red Sox fans would call the inevitable, as Boston lost Game 7 at Fenway Park. This time, it would be the Reds that rallied, when Tony Perez connected off Bill Lee.

Fisk, and another stalwart of that team, Luis Tiant, will throw out the first pitch to tonight.

THE CARDINALS STAY ALIVE: Pitch for pitch, this one compared favorably to the Fisk game as the Cardinals twice were one strike away from elimination, but rallied to tie with a two-run ninth and two-run tenth to stun the Texas Rangers, 10-9, and force a Game 7, which they won.

The title iced a remarkable season in which the Cardinals overcame a 10 ½-game deficit to reach the playoffs.

Local boy, David Freese, who tied it with a two-run triple in the ninth won it with a homer in the 11th inning.

The game turned heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.

That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like the above Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

The game turned heavyweight fight featured five ties and six lead changes, and nobody complained that it lasted 4 hours, 33 minutes.

That’s one of the beauties of baseball. When it’s compelling and dramatic like the above Game Sixes, the games can last indefinitely and will leave you wanting more.

THE BALL GETS BY BUCKNER:  Another moment etched in time is the ball that squirted through Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series. Down to their last out, the Mets rallied for three runs to beat Boston, 6-5, with the game-winner coming on Mookie Wilson’s dribbler through Buckner’s legs.

The Mets went on to win Game 7, and overcame a three-run deficit to do it. I went into more detail of that game in an earlier post today.

That game was made possible because the Mets prevailed against Houston over 16 innings in Game 6 of the NLCS. Keith Hernandez called it a crucial victory as it kept the Mets from facing Mike Scott, who beat them in Games 1 and 4.

MAYBE THE WORST CALL EVER:  One of the game’s most infamous calls came in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series that might have kept St. Louis from winning. Facing elimination and down 1-0 going into the ninth inning, umpire Don Denkinger ruled Kansas City’s Jorge Orta safe at first on a play in which he was clearly out.

The Royals went on to win that game, 2-1, then rout the Cardinals, 11-0, in Game 7.

WE’LL SEE YOU TOMORROW:  That was Jack Buck’s great call after Minnesota’s Kirby Puckett homered in the 11th inning off Atlanta’s Charlie Leibrandt which kept the Series alive for the Twins with a 4-3 victory in the Metrodome.

Puckett’s drive set up Jack Morris’ ten-inning shutout, 1-0, in arguably, outside of Don Larsen’s perfect game, might have been the greatest Series game pitched.

HAIL THE RALLY MONKEY: I loved the Angels’ rally monkey, which began with a famous movie clip where the monkey was interjected at the critical spot. My favorite was the Animal House screen where John Belushi was on the ladder and instead of the girl undressing you see the monkey.

Often forgotten, perhaps because the game wasn’t decided on a game ending hit, Anaheim rallied from five runs down in the seventh inning to beat San Francisco, 6-5. The Angels scored three in the seventh and three in the eighth to win, then won Game 7.

ORIOLES STAY ALIVE:  The Orioles faced elimination when they returned home for Game 6 of the 1971 World Series. The Pirates started reliever Bob Moose, who took a 2-0 lead into the sixth. The Orioles chipped away to send the game into extra innings.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the tenth inning, but Dave McNally came out of the bullpen to snuff the threat, and Brooks Robinson won it, 3-2, with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.

This was Roberto Clemente’s World Series, which was noted for playing games at night for the first time.

I don’t know what is in store for tonight, but I hope it is compelling and produces a Game 7.

Here’s rooting for history,

Oct 21

Mets Would Do Well To Follow Cardinals’ Blueprint

The World Series is upon us in a matter of days and the New York Mets can learn from both the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox in building their team.

Today, I’ll examine the Cardinals and see where there any familiarities. Tomorrow, I’ll look at the Red Sox.

Mets Could Learn From Cardinals

Mets Could Learn From Cardinals

The Mets say they want to build with young pitching, which has always been the Cardinals’ way. A look at St. Louis’ rotation shows the rotation highlighted Adam Wainwright is entirely homegrown. Wainwright was drafted by Atlanta – another franchise that knows how to grow pitching – but was traded and never pitched an inning for the Braves. Wainwright pitched in the Cardinals’ minor league system before he pitched in the majors for them.. A testament to how deep the Cardinals are is rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller didn’t even pitch in the NLCS.

The Cardinals have been highly protective of Michael Wacha (the compensatory draft pick received for losing Albert Pujols), whose innings limit began on spring training and lasted through the season to the point of where he is ready for the playoffs without reservation.

St. Louis did this by not starting the innings limit in spring training but by backdating his projected starts from the playoffs. This made it easier because the Cardinals had a clear idea of how many innings Wacha would throw from each start and held firm.

Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Miller, Wacha and Joe Kelly are all homegrown and developed in the same system.

With Matt Harvey out for the year, logically more would be demanded of Jon Niese – coming off a shoulder injury – and Zack Wheeler, who was scratched from his last start because of a stiff shoulder. But, the Mets must be careful as to not have another injury like Harvey’s. That Wheeler complained after his last start is alarming.

The Mets are also looking at prospects Rafael Montero, Jacab deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Presumably, they will all have innings limitations, which should include restrictions on the minor league level and the major league level after they are promoted following the deadine to protect their Super Two status.

The Mets’ plan emulates the Cardinals. When Harvey returns in 2015, he Wheeler, Niese, Dillon Gee will form the nucleus of the rotation, with either Jenrry Mejia or Montero being the fifth starter.

It could be this way in midway through 2014 when or if Montero joins the rotation and possibly deGrom. Wainwright didn’t become a starter until his third season, and was a reliever when he threw that dynamic curveball past Carlos Beltran. This might be something for the Mets to consider with Montero.

The Mets tried Mejia as both a starter and reliever. He underwent elbow surgery this year, but should be ready for spring training.

Whatever the Mets do with him, they should pick one role and stick with it, something they failed to do under Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel.

The Cardinals believe strongly in building up the middle, which is why they chose to keep Yadier Molina and say goodbye to Pujols. One might have though Pujols would stay after the Cardinals won the World Series after the 2011 season.

The Mets are attempting to do the same with Travis d’Arnaud, who is a long way of becoming another Molina – any of them.

St. Louis has a reputation of being a small market team, but it has a big market swagger in that it has won more World Series than any franchise other than the Yankees.

The Cardinals signed slugger Matt Holliday, which was a gesture to Pujols of their intent to keep him and protect him in the lineup.

The Cardinals built with prospects – a reflection of a strong scouting system and minor league system – with first baseman Allen Craig, who could be activated for the World Series; second baseman Matt Carpenter; third baseman David Freese; and outfielder Jon Jay.

This enabled them to add what they needed from the outside, notably right fielder Beltran and shortstop Rafael Furcal.

The difference between the Mets and Cardinals isn’t so much in philosophy as it is in talent. The Mets are hoping Ike Davis or Lucas Duda could be as productive as Craig. Life would be simpler for the Mets if that occurred.

Offensively, the Mets don’t have a Holliday, and there are no similar players currently in the projected free-agent market.

Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury is a proven outfielder, and could thrive in spacious Citi Field. Red flags are his health, potential salary and the reputation of production of Red Sox players after they leave Fenway Park. He also doesn’t have Holliday’s power.

Potential free-agent outfielders include Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson and Nate McLouth.

McLouth could come the cheapest; Granderson strikes out a lot and his power numbers must be carefully examined because of Yankee Stadium and the protection (outside of last year) he had in the lineup; Choo could be a one-year wonder and is a risk for a multi-year deal; and Cruz has the PED flag,

None, outside of Beltran, offer the stability of Holliday. If Beltran doesn’t stay in St. Louis, the Mets would have to consider his age and salary demands (he’ll want at least two years).

The Cardinals are an ideal blue print for any franchise and the Mets would do themselves good if they build that way.

 

Oct 08

Ten Positives From The Mets’ 2012 Season

John Delcos and Joe DeCaro have collaborated before on several projects and are contributors to each other’s blogs. We will be working again this offseason beginning with today’s feature on the Top Ten Positives to take away from the Mets’ overall disappointing season. Tomorrow we’ll examine the Top Ten Negatives. So in no particular order we give you our top ten positives you can take away from the 2012 campaign:

Dickey Has Remarkable Season

R.A. Dickey entered the season as one of the more consistent Mets’ starters over the past two years. Maybe he was a No. 3 starter at best, but with a tantalizing knuckleball emerged as the unquestioned Mets’ ace while going 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, 230 strikeouts and 1.05 WHIP in 233.1 innings. The numbers made for arguably one of the top ten seasons for Mets starter. Dickey also led the NL with five complete games, including consecutive one-hitters in June.-John D.

Wright Holds The Records

Wright is the unquestioned face of the Mets and ends the season as their career hits leader, and first in several other categories. Perhaps, he was the NL’s best player in the first half, but struggled in the second half under the pressures of trying to carry the offense. Wright finished at .306 with 21 homers, 93 RBI, .391 on-base percentage and .492 slugging percentage. GM Sandy Alderson said re-signing him and Dickey were the off-season priorities.-John D.

Tejada Replaces Reyes

One on the key concerns entering the season was whether Ruben Tejada would be able to replace All-Star shortstop. Reyes can be a dynamic offensive presence and a dropoff was to be expected. Tejada played an outstanding shortstop and had three hits in the season finale at Miami to finish at .289 (Reyes finished at .287), giving the Mets more production than they could have expected. Will Tejada surpass Reyes as a player? Probably not. But, did he give them one less thing to worry about this offseason? Yes.- John D.

Madoff Settlement Comes Early

The Bernie Madoff scandal was a black cloud over the franchise for two years and threatened to be so again this year. The Mets’ financial distress was instrumental in the team cutting ties with Reyes and trading Carlos Beltran at last year’s trade deadline. The fear was the possibility of dealing Wright hanging over the team as a storyline in the first half. The Mets received a positive outcome in the Madoff case and won’t have to begin paying for two more years. The Mets still won’t be big spenders this winter, but it could have been a lot worse.-John D.

Harvey Makes Strong First Impression

There was initial debate as to whether Matt Harvey was ready, but he more than dispelled that concern in ten starts where he gave up three runs or less in nine of them and went at least into the sixth in six. Harvey pitched with a guile and poise beyond his years, and statistically was impressive with a 70-26 strikeouts-to-walks ratio and 1.15 WHIP. Harvey was so impressive with his composure that the Mets already penciled him into their 2013 rotation.

Johan’s No-hitter and Whitestone Mike

June 1, 2012 will forever be remembered as the day that New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana tossed the first no-hitter in franchise history. When the Mets ace rallied from a 3-0 count to strike out Cardinals third baseman David Freese to end the game, Met fans everywhere erupted with emotion as 50 years of Mets no-hitter futility had finally come to an end. Santana struck out eight batters as the Mets handily beat St. Louis 8-0, but if not for a spectacular catch in the seventh inning by outfielder Mike Baxter, this story could have had an all too familiar and unhappy ending. However, there was plenty of joy in Mudville on this day.

Scott Hairston Busted Out In 2012

Hairston has produced at a level that far exceeded anything else any Met outfielder did in 2012. His 20 homers ranked third on the team and he enjoyed the most productive season of his nine-year career. With a slugging over .500 and an .803 OPS in just 377 at-bats, he proved to be an absolute steal at his $1.1 million price tag. He’ll fetch a nice payday this Winter and will most likely not be with the Mets, but either way, he provided some nice thrills and some big hits for us in 2012.

Niese Was Very, Very Nice

Some may have questioned the decision to give Niese a five year $25 million dollar extension at the start of the season, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find any doubters now. The Mets’ young left-hander turned in his most solid effort of his career establishing career highs in almost every single pitching category that matters. More importantly than that was the fact he logged a complete season and pitched effectively at the end as he did in the beginning of the season. Niese finished with a 13-9 record and posted an impressive 3.40 ERA and a 1.172 WHIP in 190.2 innings and has entrenched himself as one of the most dependable arms in the front of the rotation.

Ike Davis’ Second Half

It was a tale of two seasons for Ike Davis in 2012. After battling rust from a year-long layoff and suffering the effects of Valley Fever, Davis ended the first half with a slash of .201/.278/.388 in 295 plate appearances. Terry Collins resisted the calls for sending him down to the minors as they had done with Lucas Duda, and Ike rewarded Collins with a huge second half comeback that saw him slug 20 of his 32 home runs while posting an .888 OPS. Davis became an intimidating presence at the plate and his strong finish bodes well for what could truly be a tremendous breakthrough season in 2013. But will that happen in a Mets uniform?

Murphy Proved To Be Capable At Second

Nobody imagined that Daniel Murphy would last the entire season as the Mets everyday second base and yet he did just that while drawing raves from Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson who proclaimed the experiment a success. At the plate Murphy did what he always does and that is hit a ton of doubles (40), make good contact while scoring and driving in a bunch of runs. He finished the season batting .291 and when you compare that to other second baseman in the game, he was in the top third. If nothing else, he makes second base less of an urgent need for now plus increased his trade value to other teams.

Those are the positives as we saw them, and of course there are plenty of negatives as well. We’ll consider those tomorrow.

Oct 28

We got what we wanted.

Short of the Mets playing the Cardinals’ role, we got what we wanted from this World Series. Close games, heroic performances from both sides, and building drama and tension.

For those of us who have been paying attention, we’ve witnessed one of the great World Series, which is often defined by a Game 7.

We have seen the best baseball has to offer, and last night could have lasted another three hours and I wouldn’t have minded. Both teams have played excellent, sharp, crisp baseball and both teams have been sloppy and wasted numerous opportunities, which only adds to the suspense.

Basketball, football and hockey have their own suspense, but it measured by the clock so – barring sudden death – you know when it will end. Baseball’s drama slowly builds, then subsides between inning and rises again. Have there been better played games? Sure, but few that were more compelling and exciting. Last night was frozen in time by a player named David Freese.

There are endless story lines for last night, but what makes a Game 6 so special is the sense of desperation by the trailing team. Several times the Cardinals were presumed dead – down to their last strike in the ninth and tenth innings – but refused to flatline. Five times they trailed in the game; five times they came back.

There are several things to look for tonight emotionally. Will the Cardinals subconsciously exhale and think they’ve won it just because they have Chris Carpenter going for them? How deflated are the Rangers after letting it get away twice?

Texas had several chances to put away the Cardinals, but couldn’t get to the throat. That doesn’t mean they choked. They were beaten by a team which refused to let go of its season.

Was last night the best game in history? I don’t know, but it was epic, one to be remembered for a long time. I don’t want to be greedy, but I hope tonight is half as good.