Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Post Mortems

It was deja vu all over again for St. Louis Cardinal fans last night. In 1968 the Cards blew a 3-game lead. They did it again in 1985, and again in 1996, and, painfully, again this year, with 9-0 being a particularly rough way to exit. It's happened eleven times in all and St. Louis accounts for four of those. Ouch. It was an interesting series but one in which the lead changed hands only once in seven games, when Matt Carpenter hit a two-run home run in the third inning of Game 3.

Bravo to 36-year old Colorado Castoff and "Blockbuster" Marco Scutaro, His record-tying fourteen hit performance reminded me of another second baseman, namely Bobby Richardon in the 1964 Series. It was a fitting ending – after Matt Holliday's admitted late slide had injured Scutaro's left hip – when Scutaro caught Holliday's pop up in the pouring rain to close things out last night.

As for the other Championship Series ... you think the St. Louis fans are licking their wounds today. Yankee fans are looking for replacement parts after the Yankees were mauled by the Tigers. Their spectacular hitting (.157) was the worst by a team which played at least seven post season games. Just nineteen times in the 268 postseason series has a team scored fewer than the Yanks' anemic 1.5 runs per game. It's ironic that a lot of people worried about the Yankees pitching and it turned out to be just fine (a combined 2.76 ERA).

Starring for New York were Nick Swisher (.167), Russell Martin (,161), Alex Rodriguez (.120), Curtis Anderson (.100), and Robinson Cano (.075). "Break up the Yankees"? Ya, maybe, but not for the same reason people argued for it in the 1950s. This time it's to rebuild. But would anyone seriously contemplate getting rid of Granderson or Cano or Martin just because they slumped badly and made the Tiger pitchers look like Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Smokey Joe Wood. 

For Yankee fans, though the first three games featured close scores, painful memories of 1963 and 2001 came to mind. In 2001 Curt Schilling and Randy Johnston man-handled the Yankees. The Yanks got three hits against them in each of the first two games and then stormed back to win three straight only to fall 15-2 in Game six and watch as Mariano Rivero gave up two runs in the ninth in an excruciating 3-2 loss in Game Seven. After 9/11 it wasn't supposed to end that way for New York. 

In 1922 Babe Ruth went 2-17 (his .118 Series average was his worst by nearly 200 points) and the Yankees lost four straight (one game was a  tie) to the Giants. For the only time Ruth did not hit a home run in a World Series.

I was only eight years old when the Pirates beat New York in 1961 in spite of the Bombers shelling Pittsburgh pitching in their three victories. Amazingly, the scores in those games were 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0! Game Seven was tied 9-9 when Ralph Terry gave up Mazeroski's home run in the ninth. But then the Yanks won in '61 and ''62 so life was good again.

Then along came Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale to make the Bronx Bombers look like little leaguers in '63. The Yankees were outscored 12-4. They never had the lead. That's the only time that ever happened – until, oh ya – this year against the Tigers, who, by the way, are the only team to beat the Yankees in three straight postseason series.  The team hit just .171 against LA. Mickey Mantle was 2-15, Joe Pepitone went 2-13, and Clete Boyer was the biggest bum at 1-13. 

Then there was 1976. For Yankee fans, though the team finished just two games out in '74, it had been a long postseason drought. How would they do against the Big Red Machine from Cincinnati? Not too well. Leadoff hitter Mickey Rivers, expected to be the sparkplug, fired on no cylinders, going 3-18. Next up was Roy White, who went 2-15. Willie Randolph went 1-14.  Cincinnati pitching was not their strong suit, but their four starters (they used Gullett only in Game One) were plenty good enough.

Of course the most painful series of all was 2004 when the Yankees were up 3-0 against the Red Sox. We shall not speak of that disaster other than to point out that, in the four losses, Gary Sheffield was 0-5, 0-4, 1-4, and 0-4 and Alex Rodriguez went 1-5, 0-4, 1-4, and 0-4. Sound familiar?

I haven't heard. Are teams lining up to trade for A-Rod yet?

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