This Day In 2004 – YEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!

Daily NewsOn Mickey Mantle‘s birthday the Yankees rolled out all the stops.  1978 hero Bucky Dent threw out the first pitch and the crowd was…well let’s face facts they were a bit tense.  The intensity of the previous night had given way to a level of tension.  For once it was the Yankee Stadium crowd looking tense and just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Illness notwithstanding it never occurred to me to change things up so I went to my friends’ house to watch the game.

Right away it went well.  Johnny Damon singled and stole second while Mark Bellhorn struck out.  Manny Ramirez singled and Dale Sveum foolishly sent him where he was gunned down.  The good cheer in the Bronx lasted one pitch as David Ortiz slammed a line drive over the right field fence for a 2-0 lead.  We remember so many of his walk-offs but this was a genuinely clutch homer picking up his club when they needed it.

Derek Lowe immediately answered questions with a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning.  After the Red Sox loaded the bases Kevin Brown was hooted off the mound and Javier Vazquez was summoned.  A year before Mike Mussina had entered a very similar spot and escaped unscathed with Damon hitting into a double play.  Vazquez threw one pitch to Damon and Johnny sent it over the wall in the corner for a grand slam and a 6-0 lead.

Javier  Vazquez Globe

OK, that shot is actually after Damon’s two run homer in the fourth but who cares.  After four the Sox had an 8-1 lead and things were going swimmingly.  When Damon launched his fourth inning shot Joe Buck screamed “and Johnny Damon is going off!” and Fox cut to a shot of a young girl, Red Sox fan, about 15 with braces and popcorn standing and screaming in a sea of Yankee fans.  I don’t know why but that girl is always in my mind.  Just such a great visual.

Terry Francona made one questionable decision in this game and that was the call to use Pedro Martinez in the seventh.  Pedro threw gas that night but the Yankees often sent it out as fast as it came in but Trot Nixon tracked down Miguel Cairo‘s liner that would have made things very interesting indeed and the Sox ended the seventh up 8-3.

My theory on Pedro pitching that inning is this;

The plan was to start Lowe, go to Curt Leskanic or Mike Myers if/when he got into trouble then go to Tim Wakefield.  That would set up Pedro around the 6th/7th inning then turn the game over to Alan Embree and/or Mike Timlin to close it out.  With Keith Foulke having thrown 100 pitches in three days and looking shaky the night before I think the Sox wanted to stay away from him.

Derek  LoweInstead Derek Lowe was BRILLIANT.  You cannot say that enough.  I think Tito and pitching coach Dave Wallace went into the game with a lot of plans but none of them included 69 pitches, 1 hit and an 8-1 lead after six innings and really you cannot blame them for that (side note: I love that I don’t have to look up the 69 pitches, I just know it).  So Tito sort of said “well, Lowe did what he and Wake were supposed to do so this is Pedro’s spot.”

If that seems like a bit of Ned Yost-ism that is fair enough.  I am not arguing this was right or wrong, just what I think happened.

The other aspect was that this pushed Pedro back to game three of the World Series.  Again I think there was some logic at work.  With his ankle there was no way to have Curt Schilling pitch in St. Louis so he was locked into a game two (and subsequent game six if necessary) start.  I suspect Francona then decided that Pedro in game three and ready for a game seven was enticing.

Baseball people also are often enthused at the idea of a knuckleballer messing up an opponent’s swing.  Starting Wake in game one would, in theory, have the effect of getting the Cards or Astros off their game.  I would not say that that particular bit of wisdom worked here but the Cardinals certainly did nothing offensively after game one.

Anyway, so here we were.  8-3, top of the 8th and the Stadium crowd into it.  Timlin and Embree were rested thanks to Bronson Arroyo‘s effort the night before but the Sox still had six outs to get.

Up strode Bullhorn and he rattled one off the foul pole for a 9-3 lead.  At that moment the life went out of the Stadium.  At that moment I sat back for the first time in about four days, confident it was over.  Timlin was not sharp atypically going 3-0 on Derek Jeter but came back to get him to ground out thanks to a great scoop by Doug Mientkiewicz with then going 3-1 on Alex Rodriguez before striking him out and A-Rod being hooted off the field.

In the ninth the Sox plated another run and Fox began cutting around to various Yankee fans looking miserable.

I loved it.

The Yankees battled in the ninth. A Hideki Matsui single, a ground out by Bernie Williams, a pop up by Jorge Posada and a walk to Kenny Lofton ended Timlin’s night.  Embree came on and threw two pitches, Ruben Sierra hit the second one to Pokey Reese and just after midnight on October 21, 2004 the Red Sox had, in Joe Castiglione’s words, pulled the greatest comeback in sports history.

Bedlam followed, I hugged my friend and his wife, phones rang throughout New England and downtown Boston exploded into joy.  In Yankee Stadium the Yanks tastefully played the Sinatra version of “New York, New York” and left the lights on so Red Sox fans could enjoy the moment.  Wake stood on the mound and had champagne dumped on his head by Timlin.  Trot ran out to the bleachers with the trophy to salute the Sox fans there.

My friend and I then met my parents and his parents at a mutual friend’s home bar for champagne and cigars.  Personally I got to sleep about 2:30, the next day may not have been the most productive day I have ever spent in the office.

Elsewhere Jim Edmonds hit a walk off homer to set up a seventh game in the NL for the right to meet the Sox.  There would be more baseball to be played at Fenway Park in 2004.

Globe

Herald

Globe

****************************************************

The night was not without sadness.  The joy in downtown Boston turned ugly as joyous fans were joined by idiots.  Some cars were flipped and things got out of control.  Boston police were deployed and while using rubber bullets to try and disperse the crowd tragically struck and killed college student Victoria Snelgrove.

It has been ten years for this family and while nothing we do can ever bring her back and they likely will never read this page it deserves to be said that this young lady is still remembered.  Her smile would be on the video board at Fenway a few days later as she was remembered by the Sox and the city of Boston.  Having been in downtown Boston for seven World Series games since and in the city when the Sox won it all both the following week and last year things have been well organized.  Hopefully her legacy is the safety of millions of others since.

This Day in 2004 – The Bloody Sock

Just a hunch, I know who it was on October 19, 2004 (RLRS Photo).

Just a hunch, I know who it was on October 19, 2004 (RLRS Photo).

Red Sox 4 – Yankees 2 (series tied 3-3)

WP: Curt Schilling, LP: Jon Lieber, SV: Keith Foulke

Despite the crazy games the previous two days it is likely this game is the best remembered. This was baseball on its biggest stage making some noise. With the Yankee Stadium crowd absolutely electrified Curt Schilling took the mound with blood oozing through his sock and baseball fans wondering what he had in the tank. As it turned out he had quite a bit.

There was some chatter prior to the game about whether it would be dirty pool for the Yankees to bunt. I am more picky about “unwritten rules” type stuff than most internet driven fans but this is foolish. This is a playoff game with a trip to the World Series on the line, anything goes. The Yankees should not have gone crazy but how guys like Derek Jeter and especially someone like Miguel Cairo did not put one down was nuts.

After three shutout innings on both sides of the ball the Sox were facing a two out, bases empty situation. Kevin Millar doubled and after a wild pitch Jason Varitek singled him home. A single by Orlando Cabrera brought Mark Bellhorn to the plate. Bellhorn smoked one down the line that was originally ruled to have hit the wall for a two run double.

But not so fast. After Dale Sveum called the umpires on it the umps got together as a group. I really wish they would do this more often, a lot of the desire for instant replay would have been muted if umpires would use some common sense but Joe West’s crew finally got it right and credited Bellhorn with a homer.

Schilling was genuinely outstanding on this night. The Yankees did not fuss him much and a seventh Bernie Williams homer was the only blemish. As the eighth inning dawned the Sox had a 4-1 lead and turned things over to Bronson Arroyo. A Cairo double and an RBI single by Jeter brought Alex Rodriguez to the plate as the tying run.

A-Rod took a close 1-2 pitch to run the count to 2-2. You wonder how things might have changed in the public perception if he had simply been called out on strikes. Instead he hit a dribbler up the first base line that Arroyo and Doug Mientkiewicz converged on. Arroyo picked it up and realized no one was at the bag and went to tag Rodriguez. Suddenly the ball was out of Arroyo’s glove rolling down the right field line. Jeter raced around to score and Rodriguez was at second.

Terry Francona would later say the only reason he waited to come on the field was for the play to finish but that he saw it right away. Again the umps came together and again they got it right correctly ruling that Rodriguez and willfully interfered. A year before a similar play was engaged in by Atlanta’s Robert Fick who slapped Eric Karros‘ arm in an attempt to force the first baseman to miss the ball. I do not know if it mattered but the right field umpire in New York was Jeff Kellogg who was the third base umpire in the game with Fick.

In all the hubbub A-Rod does not get criticized for what a dumb play this was. Down by two runs in the 8th getting just a single run has great value. Because of his interference Jeter had to return to first. If Rodriguez had simply been tagged out Jeter would have been in scoring position for Gary Sheffield. Instead the pressure was taken off Arroyo a bit and with the boos raining down the Iron Sheff fouled out.

I was sick as a dog at this point. The previous couple of days had taken their toll on me but I had to pick up my friend at the airport that evening. We got back to his house for the second inning then sat and watched. His wife later would tease me that I was a little too wrapped up in the game, practically in the fetal position for the ninth. Foulke had NOTHING on the ball. He was running on fumes and I will always believe his career was adversely affected by this three day stretch. Two walks put runners on first and second with two outs for Tony Clark. One swing of the bat could send the Yankees to the World Series.

Ball one.

Ball two.

Johnny from Burger King was probably pretty pumped ten years ago (MLB.com photo)

Johnny from Burger King was probably pretty pumped ten years ago (MLB.com photo)

I have long believed that hitters need to be more aggressive in hitter’s counts and this was a great example. I do not know what Clark thought he was getting on 2-0 but he got a fastball right down the pipe. Mercifully he watched it go by for strike one. Finally the count went to 3-2 and Foulke wound up and threw one last fastball that Clark swung through for strike three.

That at bat was the single most intense at bat I have ever experienced as a fan. It was grueling but oh so worth it in the end.

After surrendering 32 runs while losing the first three games of the series the Sox were somehow going back to their hotel and getting ready to play a seventh game.

This Day In 2004 – Not Dead Yet

It was probably more the symbolism than anything else but I loved Varitek batting righty against the Moose.  Do what it takes to win (RLRS Photo).

It was probably more the symbolism than anything else but I loved Varitek batting righty against the Moose. Do what it takes to win (RLRS Photo).

Yankees 4 – Red Sox 5 (14) (Yankees lead 3 games to 2)

WP: Tim Wakefield, LP: Esteban Loaiza

I arrived at the ballpark after a short walk from work ready for the 5PM start. I remarked to my mother as I arrived that at least I would get to bed at a reasonable hour that night…little did I know.

The Sox jumped on Mike Mussina in the first with three straight singles and a walk plating a run. With two outs Jason Varitek came to bat against the Moose determined to literally turn around his career 4 for 47 performance against the righty by stepping in from the right side of the plate. The normally controlled Mussina issued a base on balls that gave the Sox a 2-0 lead.

After Bernie Williams homered to lead off the second the game stayed at 2-1 as Pedro Martinez and Mussina dueled like Hall of Famers should on a big stage. In the fourth Pedro dusted Hideki Matsui who at that point was a prime candidate for series MVP. Make as much or as little of it as you want but he came up empty in his next ten at bats not getting another hit until the Sox had an 8-1 lead in game seven.

Entering the sixth inning Pedro was on 82 pitches and everyone in the ballpark knew he was approaching the dreaded 100 pitch mark that was so often his bugaboo. A one out bleeder by Jorge Posada and a Ruben Sierra liner to center had the Yankees set up with two on and two out. Pedro plunked light hitting Miguel Cairo to bring Derek Jeter to the plate.

This game sort of gives you a little snapshot of the Jeter experience. He went just 1 for 7 in the game but he made the “1” count punching Pedro’s 100th pitch for a double down the right field line for a three run double. The Yankees had a 4-2 lead. Terry Francona stuck with Pedro and after plunking Alex Rodriguez and walking Gary Sheffield things were rather terrifying. One hit would have put the game away. Matsui ripped a sinking liner to right-center that was two, maybe three runs but Trot Nixon made a season-saving sliding catch. The Sox were down 4-2, but still alive.

Tom Gordon allegedly was puking from nervousness in the bullpen but he got Manny Ramirez to ground into a double play to end the seventh. In the eight David Ortiz demolished a ball off the Sports Authority sign atop the Monster for a 4-3 game. Kevin Millar did his walk thing again and Dave Roberts came into run. Roberts sure as heck seemed to flummox Flash and with Trot up in the count 3-1 he alighted for second. Nixon smoked one that just eluded Cairo and sailed into center for runners on the corners and no outs. Mariano Rivera came on and Varitek’s sac fly tied the game.

We did not know it at the time but the Boston Red Sox would never trail another game in 2004.

In the ninth Tony Clark drove a ball down the right field line toward the Pesky Pole. Fortunately it bounced and skipped into the stands and Sierra who was already around third had to return to third allowing Keith Foulk to escape. In the twelfth Wake entered the game and Cairo’s single was misplayed by Manny to get him into scoring position but Jeter and A-Rod flew out ending the inning. In the bottom of the frame Papi was on first with a walk when he tried to catch the Yankees sleeping but was throwing out attempting to steal. As was once said about Babe Ruth, his head was full of larceny but hit feet kept him honest.

Sometimes you don't have to hit the ball far for a magic moment (RLRS Photo).

Sometimes you don’t have to hit the ball far for a magic moment (RLRS Photo).

Which brought us to the thirteenth. The Iron Sheff struck out but reached on a passed ball (1). For some reason Sheffield did not attempt to steal and was erased on a force and Williams flew out bringing Posada to the plate. A passed ball (2) sent Matsui to second and the tension ratcheted up. An intentional walk brought Sierra to the plate and a passed ball (3) moved everyone 90 more feet. If Matsui travelled 90 more feet Dan Shaughnessy would have a new chapter for “Curse of the Bambino” – “Unlucky 13”.

It was awful. We were standing, we were roaring and we were dying. I was physically exhausted. I do not know how Wake had the balls to throw another knuckleball but he did. It was outside and Varitek dropped it but kept it close enough to keep Matsui at third as 35,120 hearts stopped. Wake took a breath, Varitek said “throw it again and I’ll catch it”…Wakefield threw, Sierra swung and missed and Varitek…CAUGHT IT!!! STRIKE THREE!!!!

We exploded. It was bit of a delayed explosion as we made sure it was secure in Jason’s mitt. Wake pumped his fist I think more in excitement that ‘Tek caught it than anything else.

After a 1-2-3 bottom of the 13th and a similar top of the 14th the Sox came up. Mark Bellhorn, who had been defended by Tito saying “(he) is a very underrated, very underappreciated player. We have more confidence in him than you guys [reporters] do. He’s a pretty good player” struck out. Damon walked, Orlando Cabrera struck out, Manny walked and up stepped Ortiz.

Every inning the Sox came to bat from the ninth inning on we had stood up. Every inning the Sox had a chance to send our boys on a trip to New York Fenway “rose as one” as Don Orsillo would say. We were up and down like Catholic parishoners and I suspect praying just as much. Now we were standing, screaming, praying, begging, pleading, hoping that Big Papi could do it agin.

Pitch after pitch after pitch Ortiz hung in. Loaiza worked him away and Ortiz kept hitting foul balls. Loaiza came in once and Ortiz slammed it down the right field line but foul. We shrieked and Loaiza went back outside. Finally on pitch number ten Loaiza tried to sneak one over the inside corner again. Joe Buck, the floor is yours…

Ortiz fights it off center field! Damon running to the plate and HE CAN KEEP ON RUNNING TO NEW YORK! Game six tomorrow night!!!!

Fenway went spastic. Even when something great happens there is order to the cheering. On this day there was none. We were all over the place, hugging, screaming, making an unholy racket. I know “Dirty Water” was playing because it always does when the Sox win but we could not hear it. We stayed and screamed as the interviews went on, we wouldn’t leave.

Finally after either five minutes or five hours we streamed onto Landsdowne Street. On the entire stroll through up the street the chant was ubiquitous;

“SOX IN SEVEN” CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP

“SOX IN SEVEN” CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP

“SOX IN SEVEN” CLAP CLAP CLAPCLAPCLAP

Without question this was the greatest crowd for a sporting event I have ever been a part of. We were into it right from the jump. This was the game when it felt like something meaningful was being shared by players and fans. I do not know nor do I care if that was really the case, but it sure as hell felt like that.

Finally ending at 11PM the game was so long the Astros-Cards pitchers’ duel was in the 7th inning by the time we were done.  I am pretty sure I learned about Jeff Kent‘s walk-off in that game as I walked by the Boston Beer Works.

Sox fans were often portrayed unfairly as pessimistic. You do not keep coming back after the stomach punches like Sox fans did if you do not have hope but this was off the charts. 23 hours earlier Kevin Millar dug in with the Sox down to their final three outs. Now everyone piled onto trains, into cabs and behind the wheels of their cars convinced that the Sox were winning the series.

I was so excited at the game winning hit I forgot to record Ortiz’ game winning hit.  I did not realize this until I got myself ready for (spoiler alert) Game One of the World Series.  I thought about updating my scoresheet but I think the blank field tells the story better than anything else could have.

Game 5 Scorebook

 

This Day In 2004 – It All Starts To Change

Every time I watch this I hold my breath, it seems to get closer each time and if I watch it too often he is going to be out (jjtoothman.net photo)

Every time I watch this I hold my breath, it seems to get closer each time and if I watch it too often he is going to be out (jjtoothman.net photo)

Yankees 4 – Red Sox 6 (12) (Yankees lead 3 games to 1)
WP: Curt Leskanic, LP: Paul Quantrill

Don’t let us win tonight.” – Kevin Millar…repeatedly

I will admit it, I did not think it was going to happen and I did not want to see this team I loved go down. Prior to the game I had called my mother asking her if she wanted to go to this game with my brother (I had gone with my father to game three). She said “no, we are coming back and winning this series.” She was 59 then and a few weeks later she got her first tattoo, a Red Sox logo on her ankle in celebration. She’s a little nuts.

Getting there was the trick of course. As midnight loomed the Red Sox season that had started with so much promise was going to come up short of its goal. The Yankees led 4-3 and had uber-closer Mariano Rivera on the mound. A few rows in front of my brother and I a couple of Yankee fans lit up cigars. Normally I’m a bit persnickety about such things but I said nothing, this was their moment.

Then it all changed.

Prior to games at Fenway the Sox play a video tracing the history of the club set to The Beatles “A Day In The Life” At the moment in the song when the alarm clock goes off the video is showing Dave Roberts‘ headfirst slide into second base. Bill Mueller singled him home and the Sox built a rally around a bunt and an error on Tony Clark. Orlando Cabrera fanned (you will never see a worse at bat in your life) and a walk to Manny Ramirez Chokin’ David Ortiz popped up.

In extra innings the Yankees threatened. In the 11th a Miguel Cairo single and a sacrifice set up Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod smoked a liner but Cabrera made a terrific and forgotten sliding grab. Walks both intentional and unintentional gave Bernie Williams a shot but no need for panic, it was time for Leskanic and he got the guitarist to fly to center.

After both teams left a man at second Ortiz got another shot in the twelfth. He made sure there was no need for another one slamming a liner to right that Gary Sheffield pursued but watched helplessly as it landed in the Yankee bullpen. I promptly updated my scorebook.

Game Four Scorebook

It is a simple little thing that picture. Just a few lines and some shading with a time hastily added as the euphoria of the moment erupted. I do not know why I wrote the time down but I remember stealing a glance at the scoreboard clock (probably not the best steal of the night I would say) and noting the time.

I am not dumb. Intellectually I knew the Sox were still up against it but the mindset espoused, at length by Millar, was prevelant throughout the park. By winning this game we had Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling lined up to try and force a game seven where anything could happen.

As Terry Francona would later say, the goal was just to keep playing another day. The late night ensured that the Sox would actually keep playing later today but grammar was not a big concern as we joyously pranced out of Fenway.

As we said our goodbyes at our cars my brother looked at me and said “no matter what happens the rest of this series watching those Yankee fans shove those cigars up their asses made my year.”

LCS Thread – Day Seven

The Cardinals need a big night from their big righty (RLRS Photo).

The Cardinals need a big night from their big righty (RLRS Photo).

St. Louis (1) at San Francisco (3) – 8PM – FS1

Pitchers: Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38) vs. Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98)

This Day In 2004 – Yankees 19 – Red Sox 8 (Yankees lead 3 games to none)
WP: Javier Vazquez, LP: Ramiro Mendoza

Quite simply this was the worst single day of my life as a Red Sox fan. 1978, 1986, 2003, they were all bad but this…sitting there for 4 hours and 20 minutes of misery watching a team that had been built to break “the curse” go down so emphatically. It was awful.  It was the first and only time in my life that I seriously questioned if I would ever see the Red Sox win a World Series title.

When Dan Duquette took over in 1993 he took over a team that was going in the wrong direction. Over his near decade at the helm he acquired some high profile pieces and shrewdly signed players like Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek to long term deals. When Theo Epstein came in he was able to fix some holes and sign players like Curt Schilling, David Ortiz and Keith Foulke the Sox had a potent but soon to be disbanded team.

After all the team had been through.  After all the highs, all the lows, Pedro in the 1999 playoffs, Hideo Nomo‘s no hitter, Derek Lowe‘s no hitter, Aaron Boone, Bryce Florie, every moment of Nomar’s Red Sox career, the comebacks against Cleveland and Oakland, Papi’s walk-offs…and now it was not going to happen.  Leaving the ballpark that night I could not see it ever happening.  The Sox took their best shot, they made all the right moves and still came up short.  Maybe there was something to all this curse stuff.

As the saying goes…if I knew then what I know now…

Ten Teams That Turned The Narrative Into ‘In Your Face Pencil-Pushers’

Some GMs are viewed a little differently than others when it comes to the stat head community (RLRS Photo).

Some GMs are viewed a little differently than others when it comes to the stat head community (RLRS Photo).

Hey, I am not too proud to steal ideas. Dale Sams asked for this post during the omni-chatter during game four of the ALCS.  I gave it a bit of thought and came up with this list.  This is all about narrative, not facts so keep that in mind as you read through my perception of the narrative around these teams

I stuck to the post-”Moneyball” teams since that is when this thing really got geared up;

1. 2005 Chicago White Sox

Pale Hose GM Ken Williams was one of the “villains” of the book “Moneyball” being openly mocked.  He got the last laugh (or at least the best one) three years after the events of that book by being on the podium as his White Sox team, guided by Ozzie Guillen, won their first World Series in 88 years.

2. 2005 Los Angeles Dodgers

It was not a good year for the “Moneyball” kids.  While Williams was living the high life and getting free deep dish all over Chicago* Dodger GM and Billy Beane protege Paul DePodesta was presiding over a Dodger team going pffft.  One year after a division title the Bums rolled over going 71-91 and finishing 4th in the division and 14th out of the 16 National League teams.

* – Deep dish sucks, gimme thin crust every day and twice on Sunday.

Alex Rodriguez is always worth a few thousand page clicks no matter what your opinion (RLRS Photo)

Alex Rodriguez is always worth a few thousand page clicks no matter what your opinion (RLRS Photo)

3. 2006 New York Yankees

Not really the team you think of when you think of the plucky underdogs of “Moneyball” but the Yankees were your classic lead-footed, no-defense, all offense bashers who flopped in the post-season.  As if that were not enough Derek Jeter “earned” his third consecutive Gold Glove and had a five hit day in game one of the ALDS.  Meanwhile Alex Rodriguez was terrible then found himself shoved to eighth in the lineup for game four.

4. 2007-2011 Oakland Athletics

Hey, if you are so smart maybe you should make the playoffs or at least finish over .500 once in awhile.  Only in 2010 when they finished 81-81 did the A’s even have a whiff of that lower bar.  Beane seems to have righted the ship.

5. 2008 Minnesota Twins

The Twinkies actually came up short but they overcame the difficulty of trading Johan Santana and rolled with Nick Punto at shortstop and Delmon Young in left field en route to a one game playoff in Chicago.  Yeah they lost it but prophecies of doom proved incorrect.

6. 2008 Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Howard overrated say you nerds?  Get back in your mother’s basement and count the ringzzzz!!! (um…ring).  The Phils made a few curious moves that year and had notoriously unhip Charlie Manuel at the helm but the only thing that slowed them down was the rains in game five of the World Series.

7. 2010 San Francisco Giants

Another popular whipping boy among the internet crowd was Brian Sabean.  He sat back with a satisfied look and got to enjoy seeing his team win a World Series for the first time since their move to the left coast.  They made some heavily questioned moves including acquiring Pat Burrell mid-season and when it was over they had their silverware.

It was all about heart and grit and passion...right? (RLRS Photo).

It was all about heart and grit and passion…right? (RLRS Photo).

8. 2010-2013 Boston Red Sox

The Sox probably deserve two entries here; one for the 2010-2011 teams and one for the 2013 team.  The 2010-2011 teams were supposed to be reconfigured contenders with big ticket signings focused on defensive metrics with Mike Cameron and Carl Crawford being inked largely for help on that side of the ball.

Then after the year that did not happen the 2013 Sox rode a wave of emotion to a World Series title.  As Jonny Gomes so eloquently and humbly put it “I’m not a guy who worries about WAR, I’m a guy you wanna go to war with.”

9. 2012-2013 Houston Astros

Hiring Jeff Lunhow as GM and committing to a stat-based focused was supposed to turn the organization around.  Instead the first two years went poorly with the Astros winning less than 60 games each year.  That this was largely a function of the complete fiasco the organization had been or that it laid the groundwork for what looks like could be a pretty good team is a minor inconvenience.  Remember, when in doubt print the legend.

10. 2014 Kansas City Royals

Lastly of course is everyone’s favorite sacrifice bunting, base stealing, small ball wonders.  Led by pinata/manager Ned Yost the Royals are headed to their first World Series in 29 years playing a style of baseball that many find confounding.

LCS Thread – Day Six

A happy photograph.

Here is a little inspiration for Dan Duquette’s men (RLRS Photo).

Baltimore (0) at Kansas City (3) – 4PM – TBS
Pitchers: Miguel Gonzalez (10-9, 3.23) vs. Jason Vargas (11-10, 3.71)
The Orioles are obviously a long shot to come back.  The only team to come all the way back from a 3-0 deficit (who could it be?) benefited in part from having a pitching edge in the series.  The Orioles do not have that so they will need to bash their way back into the series.  I suspect Bowling For Soup are looking at some additional ASCAP royalties coming their way soon.

The underrated aspect of this series is that Ned Yost has outwitted Buck Showalter every step of the way.  In my opinion Showalter mismanaged his bullpen in game one and then yesterday Yost’s decision to go to Jason Frasor for the sixth rather than trying to milk another inning from Jeremy Guthrie was an underrated bit of wisdom. I am no fan of Yost as a manager but he is pushing the right buttons this week.

St. Louis (1) at San Francisco (2) – 8PM – FS1
Pitchers: Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74) vs. Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00)
The Giants scored early (4 in the first) and late (1 in the tenth) and that was enough.  The Cardinal bullpen is really killing them right now.  Mike Matheny cannot feel comfortable any time he walks to the mound but unlike Brad Ausmus in the ALDS with Detroit he is not sitting on a wealth of starting pitching that he should be trying to manipulate.

This Day in 2004 – OFF DAY

The Sox and Yankees were left cooling their heels when the rains came in Boston. Dan Shaughnessy was in prime form though with the Sox down 2-0 he was counting royalties from another winter of “Curse of the Bambino” sales with this lede;

Now they are face to bearded face with a game that will define them. If the Sox lose to the Yankees again tonight, they effectively are done for the season. No baseball team has recovered from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Losing to the Yankees without putting up any kind of a fight would earn them a place of disgrace in Boston sports lore. It would dissolve all of the team’s accomplishments. It would make them look like cocky, dopey slobs who folded when it counted most.

While Shaughnessy was doing his trolling best Jackie MacMullen fairly noted that the Sox needed Johnny Damon to return to form. Meanwhile game three starter Bronson “Saturn Nuts” Arroyo talked about the importance of coming inside on the tough Yankee lineup. Arroyo would be taking the mound with his new nickname courtesy of Curt Schilling who posted over at SoSH “Friday is going to be a legit struggle, got a team fighting for its life against a kid making his first ever post season start, FWIW I take the kid Friday night, he’s got nuts the size of Saturn.”