The Baseball Report Volume
IV Issue 15 - Playoff Edition!
October 20, 2000
From The Editor,
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The National League Beat by Eric D. Larson
Seemingly without warning, Major League Baseball's World Series evolved into a strictly New York affair. With subway tokens in hand, Big Apple baseball fans await an inter-city rivalry in the 2000 World Series. The Mets were the first to advance, waiting for their cross-town adversary to finally knock off the Seattle Mariners. Perhaps they were enjoying a little of that famous New York spotlight in the interim.
This season has not been easy for the Mets. New York spent the first part of the year battling the Atlanta Braves for the best record in baseball. After a late-season slump, winning the Eastern Division proved to be their primary goal. Finally, after conceding the division title to Atlanta at Shea Stadium, New York was happy enough to grab the wild card and the final spot in the National League Playoffs. They followed with a 7-2 post-season record against two of the toughest teams in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants.
The NL Championship Series showcased the New York team at its height, both offensively and defensively. New addition Timo Perez sparked run production, scoring 8 times in the five games against St. Louis. His hot bat at the leadoff position, coupled with speed and decision on the base paths, was a major factor in New York's control over the series. The Mets totaled 12 runs in the first inning against the Cardinals, and their pitching left little opportunity for catch-up. New York starter Mike Hampton won two games and pitched 16 scoreless innings in the process. His catcher, Mike Piazza, also ended a rough October descent. It seemed the whole team combined with its best overall effort against the previously energized St. Louis Cardinals.
"We're playing the best baseball we've played all year," remarked Mets pitcher Al Leiter after Game 5.
Perhaps a major part of New York's resurgence has stemmed from a complete emotional detachment from San Francisco and St. Louis. Without the taunting presence of the Atlanta Braves in the post-season this year, the Mets were able to play quality baseball in a more sterile environment. In contrast, New York has not proven strong in games marked by personal animosities and fan controversy.
Perhaps the playoffs have allowed this strong New York team a chance to regain their concentration, away from the influences of players like John Rocker and Chipper Jones and their usually derisive off-the-field comments. Personal vendettas will almost certainly play a part in the Mets' World Series match-up with the New York Yankees.
On the prospect of playing the Yankees in the World Series, Mike Piazza expressed mixed feelings. "Part of me is hoping for it, but part of me is kind of scared," he commented after the Mets clinched the pennant on Monday night.
Indeed, Piazza does have a history with the Yankees and, most especially, Game 2 starter Roger Clemens. It was not long ago that Clemens struck Piazza in the head with a fastball, fueling a stronger and more enthusiastic rivalry between both teams. Whether intentional or not, the stage is set for an emotional series. The Mets are hoping that this new energy will not reflect negatively on their current burst of momentum.
The World Series will open on Saturday in the Bronx. The Mets have proved themselves an excellent road team in this year's post-season, although neither team can depend entirely on a home-field advantage.
This is the first year that the Mets and Yankees have met in the World Series, but it seems a fitting scenario. New York is the cradle of baseball's fabled history. It claims the National Hall of Fame, as well as some of the greatest teams and players that ever existed. From the stickball streets to the landmark stadiums, no other setting can claim an equal amount of exuberance for America's pastime. This year, the Mets are playing for a little more than a world championship title. They are fighting for local
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The American League Side by Emily Liner
The AL Championship Series was quite exciting. The New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners battled their hardest. The marquee match-up of superstar shortstops Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, along with the Yankees' brilliant pitching, made it all the more thrilling. It took New York six games to defeat Seattle and win the AL pennant for the third year in a row.
The Mariners took an early lead in the series by winning the first game 2-0. Rickey Henderson hit a RBI single in the fifth inning, and Rodriguez added a solo homer in the sixth inning. The Yankees left eight runners in scoring position. Winning pitcher Freddy Garcia allowed three hits in his 6.2 innings. Kazuhiro Sasaki got a save, his third in the playoffs. Denny Neagle, who did not pitch in the ALDS, got the loss. The two teams combined for an ALCS record twenty-two strikeouts.
Orlando Hernandez turned in a great outing on his birthday as New York won the second game 7-1. Bernie Williams's RBI single catalyzed the Yankees' seven-run, eight-hit eighth inning, which also featured RBI singles from Jorge Posada and Chuck Knoblauch, a sacrifice fly from Paul O'Neill, and a two-run home run from Jeter. New York set an ALCS record with the eight-hit inning. Reliever Arthur Rhodes took the loss after spoiling John Halama's six shutout innings. Rhodes broke the Mariners' bullpen's streak of fifteen straight scoreless innings. Seattle had two errors. Their only run came from Stan Javier's RBI single.
New York won the third game 8-2. Closer Mariano Rivera got his fourth save of the playoffs and broke Whitey Ford's consecutive scoreless postseason innings record. Williams and Tino Martinez hit consecutive homers in the second inning. David Justice collected three RBIs. Knoblauch and O'Neill also had a RBI each. Williams added a sacrifice fly later in the game. Aaron Sele took the loss.
Roger Clemens, who had twenty-one regular-season wins against Seattle, pitched spectacularly in the fourth game, allowing only one hit and striking out fifteen in nine innings. His fastballs reached ninety-seven miles per hour. The three-run home run from Jeter off of losing pitcher Paul Abbott and two-run home run from Justice off of reliever Jose Mesa gave New York a 5-0 win.
Seattle managed to beat New York 6-2 in game five without even taking batting practice. Edgar Martinez and John Olerud hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth, and later in the inning Rodriguez hit a two-run single. Garcia got his second win of the series, and Neagle got his second loss.
The Yankees clinched the ALCS with their 9-7 comeback win in game six. Rodriguez went 4-5 with two doubles, a home run in the eighth inning, and two RBIs. Guillen hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning, Martinez hit a RBI double, and Mark McElmore hit a two-run double. However, the Mariners' offense could not rectify the mistakes made by their pitching. Halama, Seattle's starter, gave up a two-run double to Posada and a RBI single to O'Neill in 3.1 innings. Jose Paniagua, the losing pitcher, only threw .1 innings. Rhodes gave up a huge three-run blast to Justice. He also gave up a two-run single to O'Neill. He got his second blown save of the series without recording a single out. Rivera's scoreless streak ended. Hernandez got his second win of the series and became the first pitcher to go 8-0 in the playoffs.
Justice was named the ALCS MVP. The Bronx Bombers will be representing the AL in the fourteenth Subway Series. The last one was in 1956, when the Yankees defeated the Brooklyn Dodgers and Don Larsen pitched a perfect game.
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How Sweet It Is by Hollis T. Russell
It was all business as the New York Mets mowed down the St. Louis Cards in the NLCS last Sunday night at Shea Stadium. Mets starting pitcher Mike Hampton said before the game that he was going to throw a "career game" and that is exactly what he did. He had plenty of help, from both dugouts.
The Mets batted around in the first inning, scoring 3 runs. The Cardinals might as well have started Abbott and Costello as the two errors in the first inning by their infield kept the Mets alive. Speaking of Cardinal errors, the good news is that they only made nine in the Championship series. The bad news is that they made two in the first inning of game five. The official box score will reflect eight errors as one was reversed on Tuesday. During the first four games, the Cards stranded 35 base runners. Predictably, the Mets take the NLCS in five.
Tuesday night, the Yankees did something that they were not expected to do. They eliminated the Mariners. When the season ended, the experts said the Yanks looked old and tired, finished, washed up. Their bats were cold, they finished the regular season 2-13, the worst ever for a Yankee team. Zimmer wanted to quit and nobody trusted Clemens because his post-season record is iffy at best. Moral was at an all-time low.
Please. These are the Yankees. This is the team that has no personal names emblazoned across the backs of their uniforms, not even on the road! This is the team that has been in the World Series 36 times and won it all 25 times. Not your average Joes. Not by a long shot. This is the team managed by Casey Stengel during their furious run in the 1950's and early 60's. The legends of Ruth and Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. This is the team that Billy Martin managed four times. Lou Pinella tells of playing for Martin. After Steinbrenner fired Billy, Lou was asked to take over as the manager. Two years later, Lou was promoted to General Manager and Billy once again was hired as manager. When Billy was fired during the season, Lou put the pinstripes on again as manager. This is the Yankees, unpredictable and tough as nails. This team has never had the label of "loser" pasted on it.
Now we know who is playing in the World Series and the only people that wish the outcome were different are the airlines. Subway Series, here we come! Get on the 7 train to Shea, scalp yourself a ducat and hold on because this one is going to be a barnburner. Now a lot of people these days have never seen a Subway Series. Some have no idea what in the world that term means. As with most things in life, history repeats itself so let us go down memory lane for a spell and reflect on some of the great Subway Series of the past.
The first World Series between cross-town rivals was in 1906 in Chicago. Since there was no subway in Chicago at this time, the term was yet to be invented. The White Sox beat the Cubbies in six, four games to two. The next time two teams from the same city met in the World Series was in New York in 1921. This World Series coined the phrase "Subway Series" as the largest subway system in the world was opened there on October 27th, 1904. After the First World War, Major League Baseball went to a best of nine games for the World Championship and the Giants beat the Yankees five games to three. 1922 and 1923 saw the same scenario with the Giants winning in '22, four games to none as Kennesaw "Mountain" Landis came to his senses and went back to the best of seven format. In 1923, the Yankees finally put the brakes on the Giants and won the series 4-2.
These same two New York teams met yet again in a Subway Series in both 1936 and 1937. The Yankees had a rookie on that '36 team named Joe DiMaggio. Joltin' Joe did nothing but lead the Bronx Bombers to ten American League pennants winning nine World Series rings and losing only to the Cards in 1942. After that season, he spent three years in the military during World War ll. In '37, the Yankees beat the Giants four games to one.
In 1941, purists will say that because the Yankees and the Dodgers were not in the same city, it was not a Subway Series. There are five boroughs that make up New York City and Manhattan and Brooklyn are two of the five so the purists need to go pound sand faster than a resigning Nixon. The Bombers beat the Bums four games to one.
In 1944, the purists pop up again with the theme of "War Years." They have a point, with 168 players in the American League in uniform and 174 from the National League; dilution of talent was a problem. Adding in the fact that the teams were from St. Louis and being unable to ascertain if St. Louis even had a subway system then, as Fred Astaire sang, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off".
Next comes a plethora of Subway Series years. 1947, 1949, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1956. All Yankees in the American League and with one exception, the Giants in '51, "dem bums" in the National. Talk about a dynasty, only the Dodgers in 1955 were able to wrest the Championship away from the Yankees, but it took them all seven games to do it. Had Bobby Thompson not hit "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" in that unbelievable finish in the 1951 National League playoff game between the Dodgers and the Giants, it would have been Brooklyn crying in their beer every year but '55.
The question of why has it been 45 years since the last Subway Series begs to be asked. The answer is simple, expansion and Television. But that is another story; stick around, pitchers and catchers report in February.
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Playing The Short Hop by Michael Frankel
Every sign points the same. The Bombers struggled to win the Division Series, after falling backwards into the playoffs. Then, they fail to finish off the Seattle Mariners, forcing a game six, perhaps displaying for the first time that this years' Yankees lack the killer instinct that made so successful in 1996, 1998, and 1999.
At the same time, the Mets fly by the St. Louis Cardinals in NLCS, taking the series with ease, only after showing the world how insignificant the Wild Card status truly is when they beat the San Fransisco Giants, the best record in the NL Giants, in a quick four games.
The time has come for the Mets to dethrone the Yanks as the team of New York.
The Mets feature arguably the best offensive catcher the sport has ever seen in Mike Piazza. The starting pitching is lead by two of the best left-handers in the game today, one of whom will be the premier pitcher on the market this winter. The bullpen has one of the top all-time closers…as a setup man. With an infield defense featuring probably the best second baseman in the game not named Roberto Alomar, and a perennial gold-glove winner at third base, the 2000 Mets do not have many holes, if any at all.
But for some reason, it seems like this has all been said before.
In 1996, the Yankees, underdogs the entire season, shocked everyone by winning the division. Then, they manhandled the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles to capture the AL Pennant. For those who recall, that was an Orioles team featuring Mike Mussina, Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, 50 HR Brady Anderson, and so on. Then the Bombers met their toughest opponent, the defending champion Atlanta Braves.
That was tough. The Braves were four pitchers deep, with the top two, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine likely being on their way to Cooperstown, not to mention the NL CY Young Winner that year, John Smoltz. They had Chipper Jones. They had Andruw Jones. They had Fred Mcgriff and Javy Lopez. Mark Wohlers shut the door, and the Yanks were never supposed to have a chance. Then, they fell down 2-0, and a Braves sweep was imminent.
In Atlanta, the Yankees won three in a row. David Cone beat Tom Glavine, the Yankees came back miraculously after a Kenny Rogers disaster (yes Mets fans, he had those for the Yankees as well), and Andy Pettitte beat John Smoltz in what Smoltz would later call the "best game I ever pitched." Jimmey Key then beat Greg Madduz in game six, and the Yankees won their first trophy in 18 years.
In 1998, the Yankees completed one of the greatest seasons of all-time by sweeping the Rangers in the ALDS, beating an offensive minded Indians team in the ALCS, and then sweeping a San Diego Padres team lead by the then premier pitcher on the Winter market in Kevin Brown. The Yankees beat him twice.
In 1999 though, the questions came up. The pitching was not as good. The players were hurt and tired. Many thought the Yankees would fall, be it to the Rangers in the Division Series, the Red Sox in the Championship series, or the Braves in the World Series. Again, the Yankees rampaged through, losing just one the game en route to their 25th World Championship. Yet again, they beat Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz.
But maybe this is not the same Yankees team. Sure, the core group is the same. But Paul O'Neill is hurt, David Cone probably could not get out a pitcher, and the bullpen and bench are not nearly as deep.
Or maybe they are.
As written in the season preview edition ("The Yankees Mistake"), the Yankees, as any team that wins consistently, lacked edge. They lacked a need to win every game that made the 1998 team so good. The let themselves fall back on their heels. They failed to show up for games that were not "big games." They knew they would make the playoffs and they did. They just did not make it as easily as other years because there was no need. Now the playoffs are here. Now they turn it on.
Yes, maybe this it too much credit to them. But, 1-0 in the ninth inning of ALCS game one, the feeling was there that they would come back. In game two they did. In game six, down 4-0, the feeling was there again, not of probability but of certainty. It almost seems as if the Yankees ran through the motions.
This is a team that knows how to turn it on. Be it the 8-0 in October Orlando Hernandez, the out-pitched Kevin Brown, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine in Andy Pettitte, or the big game proven offense with clutch October homeruns by virtually the entire lineup. Not to mention a Yankees bullpen, that outside of 2000 ALCS game five, has been dominant in October, with the same cast of characters.
Which brings the final point. People talk about questions heading into the Subway Series. Well, the question should not be whether these are the Yankees of 1997 or 1999, but rather, are these the Yankees of 1999, or are they better?
Yankees in five.
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