Jul 10

Five Ways To Fix The All-Star Game

When I was growing up I used to love the All-Star Game. The game meant something to me because it was clear it meant something to the players. When two of my favorite players – Pete Rose and Ray Fosse – met at the plate during the 1970 All-Star Game in Cincinnati, it was clear it was not just another game. At least to those two.

FOSSE/ROSE: When the stars played with passion.

At one time they played two All-Star Games. These days there’s not too much of a game at all. It stopped being special when the vote was returned to the fans – ironically, in 1970 – because that’s when it became a popularity contest. Any election where a person can cast an indefinite amount of times is a farce by definition.

As far as I’m concerned, the game officially jumped the shark with interleague play. Soon after, MLB did away with the league offices and merged the umpires. And, of course, let’s not forget the farce of having the two leagues play with different rules regarding the DH.

Baseball’s All-Star Game is by far superior to other sports, but that doesn’t mean changes aren’t necessary. It doesn’t need tinkering, but an overhaul of serious proportions.

Here’s what I would do:

1. It is a pipe dream, I know, but the first thing would be to eliminate interleague play, thereby creating a distinction between the leagues. The leagues will always be blurred to some extent because of free agency and movement of players. Interleague play is a gimmick that has taken luster from the All-Star Game and World Series.

2. Knowing MLB will keep interleague play as long as Bud Selig is around, the next step would be to cut the nonsense about the winning league having home field in the World Series. As long as the fans vote and it is a popularity contest, having it have such an impact in the postseason is a contradiction. The notion of a fan vote, having each team represented and trying to play everybody is the opposite in essence of having the winner determine the Game 7 site of the World Series.

3. Take away the fan vote. Another pipe dream, but I’d rather eliminate the popularity contest angle. Maybe the managers and coaches, or players, or scouts, or media. The stipulation being you can’t vote for your own players.

4. Why should every team be represented? It’s like everybody getting a trophy in the second grade. The only caveat being the host city having a player on the team. Assuring each team being represented often ends up having a deserving player being snubbed.

5. Expand the rosters to include a lifetime achievement participant. If a player is at the end of his career and has been a perennial All-Star but is having a sub-par year, include him on the team. For example, had Chipper Jones had not made it as a late entry, then a spot should have been reserved for him. Give the public a chance to say good-bye.

Dec 19

Endy Chavez Signs With Orioles

Former Met Endy Chavez is headed to the Baltimore Orioles according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

Chavez will earn $1.5 million in 2012 with the potential to earn another $500,000 in performance bonuses.

Chavez, 33, played in 83 games last season with the Texas Ranger, batting .301 with five homers, ten stolen bases and 37 runs scored in 256 at-bats.

The Mets were reportedly interested in bringing Chavez back, but Endy may have become too costly for the cash-strapped Mets who seem to be at their spending limit.

Chavez enjoyed his best year as a Met in 2006, when he drove in 42 runs, stole 12 bases and set career highs in batting average (.306) and on-base percentage (.348), but is best known for making one of the greatest defensive plays in postseason history; a leaping catch at the wall to rob Scot Rolen of a home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Chavez then threw the ball into the infield for an inning-ending double play.

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.

 

 

 

Oct 27

Game 6: Will history be made tonight?

Game 6 is more than a count of what has been played, more than a bookmark to the World Series. Game 6 has its own mystique. The most dramatic World Series usually go seven games, but it can’t get there without a Game 6.

One way or another, it ends after Game 7, which takes away part of the suspense. However, there’s a sense of urgency, of desperation, for the team behind entering Game 6.

FISK: As dramatic a moment as there ever has been.

It is why many of baseball’s most dramatic moments are born to that game. I’ve chosen five, with the criteria being I saw the game and it produced a Game 7. I know there are others.

I’m wondering who will play big for the Cardinals tonight if Texas continues to pitch around Albert Pujols. Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman haven’t done much so far.

Here are my top five Siixes. In each of them the home team won, which might be an omen for the Cardinals. I know there are more, but the criteria is that I saw the game and didn’t read about it. I ask you to chime in with your favorites.

IF IT STAYS FAIR: One of baseball’s most enduring images, and perhaps its greatest game, came in the 1975 World Series on Carlton 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.

THE BALL GETS BY BUCKNER: Another moment etched in time is the ball that got by by Bill Buckner 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.

BUCKNER: That ball is for sale.

 

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 1991 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, in 2002. 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. The rainout seems to favor the Cardinals because it would allow them to start Chris Carpenter on three days rest for Game 7. But, we won’t see Carpenter without a Cardinals’ win in Game 6.

Here’s rooting for history.

 

Oct 27

Today in Mets History: Pop the corks.

I was driving this morning when I heard Bob Murphy’s call: “He struck him out. He struck him out. The Mets win the World Series.”

It was a chilly Monday night. The Giants were at home to the Redskins, but the real show in town was Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. Game 7′s are usually always a gem, and this was no different, as for the second straight game the Mets rallied to beat the Red Sox.

Everybody remembers Game 6 for the Bill Buckner play, and the conventional wisdom was the Boston would be devastated and fold like a cheap tent. Not so.

A rainout Sunday gave the Red Sox another day to get over the lost and give Bruce Hurst another day of rest. What people forget was the Red Sox taking an early 3-0 lead on Rich Gedman’s homer.

But, the Mets scored three in the sixth and seventh, and two more in the eighth to put away Boston, 8-5.

It was after this game when The New York Times’ George Vecsey became the first to mention a Babe Ruth curse. He didn’t phrase it, “the curse of the Bambino,” but he was the first to associate a curse with the Red Sox.

This was a Mets’ team full of brass and it was supposed to win a string of World Series, but it never happened. Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry had drug problems, Mike Scioscia’s homer off Gooden in the 1988 NLCS derailed the Mets that season, Len Dykstra was traded and the team started to unravel.

What was going to be a dynasty never happened and the Mets wouldn’t reach the World Series until 2000 when they were beaten in five games by the Yankees.

Even so, Murphy’s call was the soundtrack for Jesse Orosco striking out Marty Barrett for the game’s final out. Orosco throwing his glove in the air and falling to his knees as he was mobbed by his teammates has been one of baseball’s most enduring images since.

There was no middle-of-the-road with the 86 Mets. You either loved them or hated them. That was the year I moved to New York from Ohio and started following the Mets. They were a cocky bunch which I didn’t like at first, but they grew on me. I loved how Keith Hernandez and Lenny Dykstra played, and grew to admire Gooden’s dominance. Strawberry, I remember, was a player you couldn’t take your eyes off when he came to the plate. After hitting the scoreboard clock in St. Louis, with every at-bat you wondered how far he’d hit the ball.

Some would say this was the Mets’ last great moment, but I dispute that with their pennant run in 2000 and Mike Piazza’s homer after 9-11. The Piazza homer, Endy Chavez’s catch and Carlos Beltran taking a called third strike to end the 2006 NLCS all provided enduring images.

But, 1986 was the zenith for the Mets, and it is true that they haven’t been the same way since. Makes you wonder if the Buckner play started another curse.