erik lundegaard

Sunday November 08, 2009

Lancelot Links—World Series edition

  • Let's start out with Joe Posnanski's Sports Illustrated piece, “The Best Team Money Could Buy,” since it's the best piece I've read on the Yankees and their $208 million payroll, and what this means year after year for fans of Major League Baseball. Posnanski writes about why we need to talk about this. (Because it's been so-talked-about we've stopped listening.) He writes about why the payroll issue gets masked. (Because baseball is a sport where even the best teams lose a third of their games.) And he talks about why it's the Yankees in particular that are the problem:
    • “The Yankees are not a big-market team. They DWARF big-market teams. They are quantitatively different from every other team in baseball and every other team in American sports. They don't just spend more money than every other team. They spend A LOT more money than every other team. The Boston Red Sox spend $50 million more than the Kansas City Royals? Who cares? The Yankees spend $80 million more than the Boston Red Sox.”
  • Keith Olbermann isn't just for stentorian and (let's face it) often pompous putdowns of (let's also face it) wackjob Republicans; he's also a baseball fan. And in this piece, in honor of Johnny Damon's double-steal-without-an-error in Game 4, he counts down the nine smartest plays in World Series history. Couple things I like. He doesn't number them, or bold-face them, so he forces you to, you know, actually read them. Plus, most such pieces tend to focus on recent years, but Olbermann, like a great centerfielder, ranges wide, going from '55 to '46 to '07 (1907) to '69 to '72 to '60 to '88 to '91 to, finally, last Sunday. When he first raised the subject I immediately thought of '91. But I haven't really thought about what might be missing. Anyone? Anyone?
  • Last Monday after Game 5, on the Facebook page of friend, a Yankees fan, I wrote the following: “What's interesting is that the Series is playing out like I feared it might: two even teams with uneven closers. Switch closers and the Series might already be over. In other words, no matter who they give it to, Mariano Rivera is always the Yankees' post-season MVP.” Here's dramatic evidence just how true that is. Rob Neyer even adds: “Purely in terms of increasing his teams' chances of winning, [Rivera] must be the most valuable pitcher in postseason history.” 
  • Here's even better evidence: The New York Times offers this cool, interactive chart on every batter Mariano Rivera has faced in the post-season: from Jay Buhner's swinging strikeout in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS (so that's why we lost that one) to Shane Victorino's ground-out to second base Wednesday night. I already knew one of the two post-season homers Rivera's given up—to Sandy Alomar in '97, which changed that ALDS around—but didn't know the other: to Jay Payton, with two men on, in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series. Overall: 397 outs, 82 hits, 14 runs allowed. Marquis Grissom scored the first run in Game 3 of the 1996 World Series (triple, single by Mark Lemke), and Chone Figgins scored the last in Game 6 of the 2009 ALCS (single, moved to second on ground-out, single by Vladimir Guerrero). Rivera's worst post-season for runs allowed? A tie: between 2000 and 2001 (4 each). Every other post-season, the most runs he's ever given up is 1. The good news? He turns 40 this month. The bad news? He wants to play five more seasons.
  • After all that, I figure you might need a laugh. The Onion gives it to you. Their headline says it all: “95-Year-Old Yankees Fan Afraid He'll Never Get to See Team Win 27 More World Series.”
  • Not good enough? How about some good, old-fashioned anti-Yankees moments? Here you go, courtesy of MLB (sorry for all the ads for the U.S. Marines. They may be few and proud but they're hardly brief):
    • October 17, 2004: David Ortiz's walk-off homer in the 14th inning beats the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALCS. The Yankees still lead 3 games to 1.
    • October 18, 2004: David Ortiz's walk-off single in the 14th inning beats the Yankees in Game Five of the ALCS. The Yankees still lead 3 games to 2.
    • October 19, 2004: Curt Schilling and his bloody sock mow down the Yanks in Game 6 of the ALCS. The Series is now tied.
    • They don't have Game 7 up? Damon's grand slam? For shame! But here's a “Baseball Tonight” rundown of the greatest ALDS moments.  Ignore #s 8, 6, and particularly 2. Pay attention to #7 (Joba Chamberlain and the midges in Cleveland in 2007), #4 (Sandy Alomar homers off Rivera in 1997), and particularly, yes, #1, baby, a game I was at (Swung on and lined down the left field line for a base hit! Here comes Joey! Here's Junior to third! They're going to wave him in! The throw to the plate will be...LATE! The Mariners are going to play for the American League Championship! I don't believe it! It just continues! My oh my!).
  • Before the Series ended, Tyler Kepner wrote a nice piece on why the final moments in baseball are more memorable than in other sports. Yes, it has something to do with baseball's timelessness. More importantly, he doesn't even mention Bill Mazeroski, Gene Larkin, Joe Carter or Luis Gonzalez. Instead he writes about your Eric Hinskes and Sal Yvarses, your Jackie Robinsons and Joe Jacksons. And your Jorge Posadas. That one was sweet. But not as sweet as Gonzalez's.
  • Finally, if you're looking for a good, hot-stove-league song, I'd recommend “Cooperstown” by the Felice Brothers, about Georgia in 1905, and Ty Cobb and baseball. It gets better every listen. Something about the last line below in particular gets to me: “And tomorrow you'll surely know who's won.” I keep coming back to it. I don't know what it means but it feels so right. Maybe because it suspends the action. It lays open all possibilities in the present and leaves true knowledge to tomorrow. And even then it doubts it. “Surely” implies that it's not sure at all:

I'm on first
And you're on third
And there are wolves all in-between
And everyone's sure that the game is over

The catcher's hard
He's mean and hard
And he nips at the batter's heels
And everyone's sure that the game is over

And the ball soars
And the crowd roars
And the scoreboard sweetly hums
And tomorrow you'll surely know who's won

Posted at 09:32 AM on Sunday November 08, 2009 in category Lancelot Links  
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