So all of a sudden, they’re talking about the 2011 World Series as potentially being the greatest of all-time. Is that accurate? Well, maybe. Now, the two series that normally take up the top two spots on any list of greatest World Series ever are 1975 and 1991. 1975 was before I was born, though I have seen an abbreviated replay of Game 6 on ESPN Classic, and although I was alive in 1991, I have no memories of that Series; I was only two years old at the time. I do have some vague memories of 2001, one of the many that sometimes got put at the #3 position in the past, although I wasn’t quite the overall baseball fan that I am today and as such didn’t really watch a Series featuring the hated Yankees. Is this better than 2001? I’d say so. Now, I’ve got a book that covered the first 100 years of the World Series (not the first hundred series; it was only 98 of them, 1903-2002), and it had a top ten and bottom ten. Invariably, all ten members of the top ten went 7 games (except, of course, for 1912, which due to a Game 2 tie ended up going 8 games). Well, check. They mentioned a number of close games being an important factor—look at 1975; while Game 6 is the most famous, there were something like 4 or 5 one-run games. Game 7 was a one-run game, the winning run being driven in in the top of the 9th. Game 3 was an extra-inning walkoff win. 1991, the final two games were extra-inning affairs, walkoffs; high drama all around. Well, look at this series. Game 1, Allen Craig comes up as a pinch-hitter in the 6th inning and breaks a 2-2 tie. Game 2, he does the same thing in a scoreless tie in the seventh, but the Rangers come back with two runs in the top of the ninth and win it 2-1. Game Three, the requisite lone blowout, but Albert Pujols makes it worthwhile with a historic performance, 5-for-6 with 3 home runs. Game 4 was probably the least dramatic, final score 4-0 Rangers. Still a good performance by Holland, but it’s the weak link for now. Game 5 was another one that was tied at 2-2 late, and then Texas scored a couple to win it 4-2. And then, Game 6. An instant classic. Rangers score one in the top of the first; Cardinals take the lead with a pair in the bottom of the frame. Rangers tie it up in the top of the second, and thanks to some shoddy defense, they retake the lead, 3-2 in the top of the fourth. Then they make an error and St. Louis ties it in the bottom of the fourth. For the third straight half-inning, the leadoff runner reaches on an error in the top of the fifth, and Texas takes the lead a third time, 4-3. Then things fall apart in the bottom of the sixth, and Alexi Ogando walks Yadier Molina with the bases loaded to tie up the score. Matt Holliday then continues to make his case for 2011 World Series goat by getting picked off of third, and the Rangers escape with the score tied, 4-4. Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz go back to back to start the top of the seventh, the latter tying the record for home runs in a single postseason, and the Rangers push another run across to make it 7-4. Allen Craig, into the game after Holliday injured himself on the play where he was picked off, continues to carve his place in postseason history by hitting a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth. There’s enough turnover that in the ninth inning, Pujols came up and gets his only hit outside of that five-hit game, doubling with one out and none on, and Lance Berkman walks behind him to bring up Craig again. He strikes out. One out away. Two strikes. David Freese, NLCS MVP, dropper of an easy pop-up in the fifth inning, that ball is back-back-back and off the wall! Pujols will score! Here comes Berkman! Freese going to third! Would this have been an instant classic if Freese had hit a 3-run walkoff home run there in the ninth? Maybe—they were still one strike away from elimination, and would’ve been going to Game 7 in dramatic fashion. But instead, it’s a two-run triple, tying the score at 7-7. 1975 had Games 3 and 6; 1991 had Games 6 and 7. 2011 had plenty of drama, but lacked extra-inning games. So this is better. The game goes to the tenth. Josh Hamilton, the Rangers’ slugging star, playing hurt and held without a home run through the first 15 games of the Rangers’ postseason and the first nine innings of their 16th, and there he goes. Two-run homer, 9-7 Rangers. But the Cardinals don’t quit, and the struggling John Jay and Daniel Descalso work their way on, first and second with none out. Lacking position players, LaRussa sends up his best bunting pitcher to pinch-hit, and Lohse lays down a perfect bunt. Second and third, one out. A run-scoring groundout makes the Cards the first team in World Series history to score in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings of a World Series game, but they still trail 9-8. Pujols is intentionally walked, and Berkman gets into a 1-2 count, and base hit into centerfield! One strike away again, and the Rangers let it slip away! But Craig can’t deliver Pujols from third, and the Rangers’ Mr. Clutch, Nelson Cruz, is coming to bat in the top of the eleventh, and…something’s wrong…he’s injured! What is going on?! The Rangers don’t score, and leading off the bottom of the eleventh is David Freese, and again he gets a hold of one, deep to centerfield and GONE!!!!!!!! David Freese with a walkoff home run! I have to admit, at first I wasn’t sure what I had just seen, seeing something white in the dogpile at home plate, and then I saw the postgame interview and what the heck Freese’s jersey has been ripped off. Seriously, that’s just crazy. That’s strength, to just rip it apart like that. Who did that? Does it even matter? There’s a Game 7 coming up, and Game 6 was one of the greatest World Series games of all time. That cannot be debated. But will the Series as a whole be considered an all-time greatest? It’s definitely in the conversation, but…like I said before, 1975 had multiple extra-inning games. So did 1991. We’ve had three one-run games and a two-run game so far, and the one true blowout has a historic individual performance mitigating its lack of drama (and it actually was dramatic for awhile before the Cards just started pouring it on), but if tonight’s game is lopsided? It can’t make the number one spot. It’s definitely top ten regardless of what happens tonight, and if tonight’s game is tied after 9 innings? Then yeah, it should be in the conversation. And the teams involved help its case. St. Louis, wild card team, trailed by double-digits in late August and stormed back to steal the Wild Card on the final day of the season. Texas, first-wave expansion team, won a grand total of one postseason game in their first 49 years of existence, reached the World Series last year and making an encore performance. Fourteen of the original sixteen have won championships in the expansion era, so the Rangers have the third-longest drought. October: When legends are made.
Is there something we’re not hearing here? I was listening to the postgame interviews, and when Buster Posey was asked about Edgar Renteria, he mentioned how Edgar had been sitting on the bench for like four months or so and then he hit these two clutch home runs and he’s going out on top, and I was like, “Wait, did Renteria announce that this would be his last season, or did Posey just break a story? Or did he just misspeak and implied something that wasn’t true?” Edgar had a walkoff hit in Game 7 for the 1997 Marlins, his second season in the majors, and his three-run homer provided the Giants’ only runs in the clincher here. Two seasons, 13 years apart, and two Series-winning hits. In between, he made the final out of the World Series in the Cardinals’ loss in 2004–the second time he had the final at-bat. Renteria was named the World Series MVP. He joins a trio of Yankee greats as the only players with Series-winning RBI in two separate World Series: Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Berra. If this was his last at-bat–and the Giants went down quickly for him, only sending up one batter over the minimum after the two-out home run in the seventh to keep him from getting another at-bat–it’s been a great career. He might have been a disappointment whenever he went over to the AL, but I’m happy for him nonetheless.
(Note: He’s still a bit young to be retiring–only 34 in spite of the length of his career. Renteria debuted at the age of 19.)
Okay, full disclosure: As a Red Sox fan, I want the Phillies to win the Series, period. Heck, there’s even a good reason for that one, as a pure fan of the game. That reason, of course, is Chase Utley. With two home runs in Game 5, Utley now has five homers in the World Series, tying the single-series record set by Reggie Jackson in 1977–a Series the Yankees won. If Utley ties or even breaks Reggie’s record in a losing effort, it just wouldn’t seem right. (Then again, the 1960 Yankees still hold most of the records for team offensive production in a single Series, and they lost that in seven games, thanks to three double-digit wins and four losses by three runs or less. So maybe that’s not important.)
Here’s why the Phillies need to win Game 6: a return to the way things used to be.
Now, I may be young, but I’m not so young that I don’t remember a Series that went seven games. That last happened in 2002, and although I probably wasn’t paying attention to that one, I do remember 2001, probably the best Series of
my lifetime the period of my lifetime that I would reasonably be expected to remember (the only debate when limiting it to my lifetime would be 1991 vs. 2001, but I was just a toddler in ’91.)
I’m talking about pitchers making three starts in a series. I’m a fan of the history of the game, and way back when, three-man rotations in the postseason were the norm (and four-man rotations in the regular season, but that’s besides the point.) And when three-man rotations in the postseason were common, a pitcher would pitch Games 1, 4, and 7. (Okay, okay, that actually happened in the 2001 World Series, too, although the Diamondbacks did use four starters–Schilling in 1, 4, and 7; Johnson in 2 and 6; Brian Anderson in 3; and Miguel Batista in 5). If this series ends tonight, we’re denied that. But if the Phillies send it to Game 7, C.C. Sabathia makes his return for Game 7. I’d rather see the Phillies win that game, too, but either way, Game 7 is what I want to see.
My last entry was called “Ready for history”. The Rays and Phillies haven’t disappointed. Well, okay, some of them have, but that’s a different story. It has come to my attention that people have been complaining about everything about this Series.
“People” need to shut up and pay attention to the game’s magnificent history.
As I write this, I sit in the cafeteria of my beloved Drew University in Madison, NJ, looking out a window that takes up an entire wall. It appears to be snowing. Par for the course, eh? Yes, the weather has been one of the “problems” with this series–Game 5 shouldn’t have even been started, it should’ve been postponed earlier (before the Rays tied it up), etc. Weather happens. Some of the best World Series ever have been affected by the weather. Weren’t there like three days or so in between the fifth and sixth games of the 1975 World Series, which is always listed among the top two in any list of the greatest World Series ever? The fact that the Phillies have essentially lost the advantage that they had by having Hamels on the mound just adds to the mythos of the game. On the one hand, if they win in spite of Mother Nature, it’s a great story. On the other, if the Rays gain the momentum from this and triumph, they’re truly a team of destiny, one that the Almighty himself intervened to aid. (It’s always a good Series when you can invoke the Lord’s name in describing it and not sound completely blasphemous.) Also in the weather department–Game 3, delayed by rain, getting record lows in ratings as a result. Quite a shame, as it was a great game–a walkoff, in fact. Being a college student, and with it being a weekend, I of course was tuned in until the end.
The snow isn’t falling as hard now as it was when I first started writing, but it’s definitely snow–the flakes have increased in size. Another complaint about this Series, ironically, is the exact opposite–Tropicana Field. Even after the Philadelphia rain has screwed around with everything, the suggestion that it would be easier in a dome has been met with criticism. It’s unnatural, they say. Feh! There are plenty of domes out there. The other member of the consensus top 2 thus far, which is the one more commonly chosen as number one, was played in part in a dome–1991, Braves vs. Twins. If weather is a factor, domes should be a factor as well. Every park is different, and they all have their quirks. Are Tropicana’s catwalks really a bigger factor than a 37-foot-high wall with a ladder attached to it, an indentation in the outfield side wall with a garage door, the shortest distance down the right-field line of any park in the country, an extremely low wall out in right-center, and “the Triangle”? I doubt it, but no one complains about Fenway. Its quirks are “charming”.
Snow’s finally stopping, I think. Another complaint, of course, is that the teams aren’t interesting. The Rays and Phillies have no history. Well, uh, yeah. The Rays are only in their eleventh season, and the first ten, they were horrible! This is of course where Unpleasable Fanbase really comes into play. If big-market teams like the Dodgers and Red Sox make the Series, people complain about being sick of them. If they don’t, people complain about how nobody wants to watch small-market teams. MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MINDS!!! And, of course, Tampa Bay may be small-market, but Philadelphia is probably a larger market than, say, Minneapolis or Atlanta were. Not to mention, the Braves and Twins hadn’t been very good the previous year. The Twins, though World Champions in 1987, had fallen to last place in the AL West in 1990. The Braves, meanwhile, had been bad for numerous years and had the worst record in the majors in 1990–much like the 2007 Rays. Or 2007 Devil Rays, as it were–I’ve finally gotten used to calling them “the Rays”. Please, don’t tell me this isn’t an amazing story.
Finally, there have been complaints about the officiating at large. Part of this stems from the decisions in last night’s game, which really weren’t the umpires’ to make, but also, there have been complaints about bad calls. This mars the Series how, exactly? Need I remind you that 1975 had its high-profile potentially Series-changing umpiring blunders as well–namely, an interference non-call on pinch-hitter Ed Armbrister in the tenth inning of Game 3, the difference between a runner on first and one out and runners on second and third with no outs. Seeing as how the sac fly that scored the game-ending run of that game was the second of the inning, it’s probably safe to say that the game would’ve at least reached the eleventh, even if the Reds may have still won it anyway. So, yeah, let the umps continue to do their thing. Let people complain. But the Rays will have shutdown David Price on the mound for the resumption of Game 5, and then they go back to Tampa for Game 6 with “Big Game James” Shields on the mound. Chances of it reaching seven games: Very favorable. Where this will rank among the lists of all-time greatest World Series ever? Depends on how those games turn out. It’ll definitely help if the Rays win it, and while Game 3’s walkoff was nice, 1975 had two extra-inning games, both walkoffs, and three other one-run games, including the clincher in which the Reds broke a 3-3 tie with a run in the top of the ninth, while 1991 saw three extra-inning games, all walkoff wins, and two other one-run games, one a ninth-inning walkoff, the other seeing the winning run score in the eighth. Game 1 was a one-run game, and Game 2 a two-run game, and Game 3 the walkoff. Game 5 is tied after 5.5. 1975 and 1991 each had an abberation, so Game 4 can be excused if need be. So if the Rays win close in each of the next three games–tightly pitched games, and it might help if neither team scores in this resumption until the eleventh or so–this worst-to-first story could dethrone 1991 (or 1975, to some, although the fact that these two are 1-2 in some order is almost unanimously accepted) as the Greatest World Series Ever.
Oh, and while the wind is still blowing, it appears that it’s not even raining anymore.
If it wasn’t such a pressing issue that the AL is horrible this year,
the title of this entry would probably be a reference to the scorching
start that Jay Bruce has had in the major leagues. Thought I should
mention him before things get depressing.
I am one hundred percent certain that a team that doesn’t deserve to
make the postseason will make it anyway. Why should that be so? They
give out four postseason berths per league. The AL doesn’t have
four worthy teams. Before the season started, I wouldn’t have been
surprised to hear that Ozzie Guillen was in a state of constant
foul-mouthed frustration by the time Memorial Day came around. However,
that’s because the place that I expected them to be trying to hold off
the Twins for was fourth, not first. Okay, maybe third–Royals, White
Sox, no difference to me. The Royals have shown their true colors once
more, as evidenced by their recent twelve-game losing streak, but the
Indians and Tigers…well, the Indians at least still have a chance. If
everyone gets healthy, they could become a worthy fourth. The West, on
the other hand, has already been won…almost. Seattle, my preseason
pick to edge out Los Angeles for the division, is mired in last place,
the worst record in the American League. The rebuilding Athletics won’t
hold up long, which leaves the Angels’ only threat…Texas. I’d say
that this was crazy, but they’ve got the offense to do it…and their
pitching has improved…and in this season, anything is
possible. The AL East champion and the wild card are playing each other
right now, though I’m not sure which one is which. This is because the
Central is clearly no threat, with only one decent team that happens to
be in third place right now, and, well…Texas. This is also because
the Orioles have taken to their “rebuilding” tag much more readily than
Minnesota or Oakland. The Yankees, whose starting pitching was expected
to be a question mark at best, has been infinitely worse. The highly
hyped first start by Joba Chamberlain (They held out until June. Guess
I was wrong about them making the desperation move by the end of May)
was nothing short of…well, it wasn’t abominable. He only gave up two
runs, one of them both unearned and scored after he left. The problem?
That was in the third inning. In the first, he walked the leadoff
batter, who then ended up on third following a balk and a passed ball
and scored on a groundout, the second out. The passed ball, though not
Joba’s fault, did not make the run unearned, as he then proceeded to
give up a single and walk the bases loaded. He was then pulled after a
one-out walk, and the runner on first then stole second and went to
third on a throwing error by the catcher on the steal, scoring on a
groundout. No hits followed and the bases weren’t loaded, so that was
unearned…but two-and-a-third innings? Toronto has the potential to be
decent if they ever get healthy, but they haven’t had a healthy team in
Toronto since the nineties. I think that both of these teams can make
it through the LDS round to face each other. The Rays match up well
with the Angels, I think, and if they face the Central champion
instead, it means that they’re the AL East champion and have home field
advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Boston, like Tampa Bay, is all
but unbeatable at home and is good enough to handle the Angels–aren’t
they always good enough to handle the Angels in October? However, if
home-field advantage runs out when the ALCS is over, I have my doubts
that even those two titans could take the NL champion in the World
Series. Chicago or Arizona, I think? While as a Red Sox fan I of course
want Boston to repeat, I think the funniest possible scenario would be
the Cubs finally making it back to the World Series and losing to the
Tampa Bay Rays. You know, it’s theoretically possible for the Cubs to
go all the way to the World Series and play a trio of teams with less
combined seasons in the majors than the length of time since the Cubs
last played in the World Series. It wouldn’t happen as the standings
are now, but it wasn’t long ago that the Marlins were the ones in line
to play the Cubs in round one (instead of the Phillies)…actually, the
problem is that the Marlins were almost destined to fall, and it would
have to be a trio of teams that were founded in the LCS era. Extend it
to the length of time since they last won a World Series, though, and
you could get away with Mets–>D-Backs–>Rays (still unlikely, I
think, but it could happen–especially because I’m not convinced the
Cardinals will hold up as the wild card). Actually, come to think of
it, you wouldn’t be off by much with Mets–>D-Backs–>Angels. Now