Friday, July 21, 2006

Classic Shots - Part 1

by Rob Hyman

The home run derby has been a mainstay in All-Star week since 1985 when Dave Parker of the Cincinnati Reds won the competition in the Homer Dome in Minneapolis. In honor of that, over the next two columns, I’m going to attempt to showcase the most memorable home run for all 30 teams since 1985. Obviously for most teams, it will be a post-season home run as only three teams since 1985 have not seen the playoffs. Before we start, can you name those teams?

Give up?

Okay enough suspense:
From the AL - Only the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, though to be fair, they’ve only been around since 1998 – but, do you really think things will change in six years?

From the NL – You’ll have to wait until the next column to find out…

So here we go – every American League team’s most memorable home run since 1985:

AL EAST

Baltimore Orioles: October 5, 1996 – ALDS Game 4 at Cleveland (Baltimore up 2-1): Roberto Alomar led off the top of the 12th inning with a tie-breaking home run off of Jose Mesa, allowing the Orioles to win the game 4-3. The win topped off the upset over the heavily favored reigning AL Champion Indians.

Boston Red Sox: October 12, 1986 – ALCS Game 5 at California (California up 3-1): The Red Sox have had a lot of recent drama, but the home run that takes the cake is Dave Henderson’s series-saving shot against the late Donnie Moore. It came with two outs and two strikes in the top of the ninth. The Sox went on to win the series, and we all know the rest of that story…

New York Yankees: October 23, 1996 – World Series Game 4 at Atlanta (Atlanta up 2-1) Who knows how the Yankee dynasty would have gone had Jim Leyritz not hit a 3-run 8th inning home run to tie Game 4 at 6 a piece – Yanks went on to win the game in the 10th. If the Braves had ended up winning the series and if the Yanks still lost to Cleveland in the first round in ’97, maybe Steinbrenner would have given up on Torre.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: March 31, 1998 – First Game in Devil Rays history. Since the D-Rays have never won more than 71 games in a season, it’s tough to pin point a dramatic moment in their history. Only once in the team’s nine-year history have the D-Rays been over .500 after April (’99 D-Rays were 22-21 on May 22 before falling apart). That being said, the nod goes to Hall-of-Famer Wade Boggs who notched the franchise’s first ever home run. Fittingly, the Rays were down 11-0 at the time, en route to an 11-6 loss.

Toronto Blue Jays: October 23, 1993 – World Series Game 6 vs. Philadelphia (Toronto up 3-2): Joe Carter did what only had only been done one other time – end the World Series with a walk-off home run. The shot came in the bottom of the ninth with the Jays trailing the Phillies 6-5. It gave the Toronto its second straight World Series title.

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox: October 23, 2005 – World Series Game 2 vs. Houston (Chicago up 1-0) After White Sox closer Bobby Jenks blew a save in the top of the ninth, giving up two runs to tie the score at 6-6, the Astros brought in their stopper in the bottom of the ninth. Brad Lidge fared just as well, surrendering a solo home run to Scott Podsednick, giving the Sox a commanding 2-0 series lead. Amazingly enough, Podsednik had not hit a home run all season.

Cleveland Indians: October 15, 1997 – ALCS Game 6 at Baltimore (Cleveland up 3-2): One year after Alomar beat the Indians, Tony Fernandez answered back – hitting a solo shot in the top of the 11th inning off of Armando Benitez to win Game 6 1-0 and send the Indians to the World Series for the second time in three seasons. Fernandez had two of the Indians three hits on the day as they were stifled by Mike Mussina for eight innings. Baltimore could do nothing with the 10 hits and 14 men it left on base.

Detroit Tigers: October 4, 1987 – Until this year, the Tigers haven’t exactly been around in dramatic times. Going into the last weekend of the 1987 season, Detroit trailed Toronto by one game as the teams got set to meet. Detroit won the first two games and in the final game, Larry Herndon hit a second inning home run, leading the Tigers to a 1-0 division-clinching victory.

Kansas City Royals: October 27, 1985 – World Series Game 7 vs. St. Louis – After winning a dramatic Game 6 by scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it, the Royals wasted no time taking control of the deciding Game 7. With one out in the bottom of the second, Darryl Motely homered to give the Royals a 2-0 lead en route to an 11-0 complete game shutout by MVP Bret Saberhagen

Minnesota Twins: October 26, 1991 – World Series Game 6 vs. Atlanta (Atlanta up 3-2): “And we’ll see you tomorrow night” said Jack Buck. Tied 3-3 in the 11th inning, Kirby Puckett hit the most famous home run in Minnesota Twins history. His shot off of Charlie Leibrandt tied the series a three games a piece and set up the classic seventh game which the Twins won 1-0 in the bottom of the 10th inning.

AL WEST

Los Angeles Angels: October 26, 2002 – World Series Game 6 vs. San Francisco (San Francisco up 3-2): Russ Ortiz was cruising to what seemed to be a series-clinching victory. He had only given up two hits over the first six innings and the Giants led 5-0. Then with one out, he gave up back-to-back singles and was pulled. Scott Spiezio then came up against Felix Rodriguez and hit a three-run home run to get the Angels back within two. The Angels scored three more times in the eighth to win the game and won the series the next day.

Oakland Athletics: October 15, 1989 – World Series Game 2 vs. San Francisco (Oakland up 1-0): In what was a rout of a series – interrupted half way through by the Bay Area earthquake – it’s tough to pinpoint one moment that made the difference. Terry Steinbach’s 3-run home run in the 4th inning gave the A’s a 5-1 lead, which turned out to be the final score. Oakland never looked back, sweeping the Giants in four games.

Seattle Mariners:
October 7, 1995 – ALDS Game 4 vs. Yankees (Yankees up 2-1): Everyone remembers Edgar Martinez’s double to end that series, but it may never have gotten there had Martinez not hit a tie-breaking 3-run home run in the 8th inning of Game 4. Edgar owned the Yanks in that series, hitting .571 with 2 HRs and 10 RBIs.

Texas Rangers: October 1, 1996 - ALDS Game 1 at Yankees: The Rangers were stifled by the Yankees three times in the ALDS in the 90s – in ’98 and ’99, Texas managed just one run in each series while being swept. In ’96, however, the Rangers were very competitive thanks to Juan Gonzalez’s five home runs in the four game series. The Game 1 home run gave the Rangers a 3-0 lead en route to their only win of the series.

Rob Hyman's column, "The Weekend Warrior", appears alternate Fridays

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Time for Jose Canseco to Disappear

by Scott Silversten

To paraphrase Ray Liotta’s character Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas, "Jose Canseco should get to live the rest of his life like a schnook."

At the initial publication of his book Juiced two winters ago, Canseco was criticized by many around baseball for his claims about steroids and the national pastime. In the days and months that have followed, we have all learned that the truth can sometimes come from the most despicable of sources. Feel free to call Canseco every name in the book with the exception of "liar."

However, let’s get one thing straight...Canseco is no hero. Whatever his reasons for telling the truth, his admissions and claims today do not erase his crimes of the past. Remember, he claimed in the book that 1) he was one of the big reasons steroids became prevalent in baseball, and 2) steroids were good and the wave of the future in all aspects of life.

Famed boxing promoter Bob Arum once proclaimed, "Yesterday I was lying to you, but today I’m telling you the truth."

Essentially, that sums up Canseco. For years he claimed all his skills were natural, but now he is asking everyone to forget his past lies as he attempts to reveal the truth about the sport that made him rich and famous. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

Most recently, Canseco has expressed a desire to join the investigation into steroids being run by former Senator George Mitchell. It’s an investigation that seems to be targeting Barry Bonds specifically, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Mitchell owes it to his own credibility to take any information Canseco is willing to offer, give him whatever immunity he wants, and then telling him to "get lost and lose my phone number."

Speaking last week, Canseco’s attorney, Rob Saunooke, said the following: "Until someone like Jose is part of the investigation as an investigator, they aren’t going to get much cooperation. Jose could meet face to face with some of the individuals, use his own friendship with them and knowledge of them and talk with them comfortably. If Jose sits down face to face with you and reminds you of all the good times, then he says, 'It’s time for us to come clean with these things.'"

One must often wonder if lawyers actually believe the drivel they spout. While no one has ever accused ballplayers of being geniuses, I’d like to find the one former teammate or friend that is going to welcome Canseco into their home to reminisce about the "good times."

After turning state’s evidence and testifying against his fellow criminals, Hill was forced to disappear. One can only hope the same fate befalls Canseco.

Scott Silversten's column, "Age of Reason", appears every Thursday

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Best YouTube Baseball Videos

A few weeks ago, ESPN’s Bill Simmons listed his favorite YouTube videos. It was a great article, and I encourage anyone who likes Simmons’ writing to read it. However, we here at Baseball For Thought primarily only care about one thing...Baseball, of course! And while we appreciate Simmons throwing in classic YouTube videos from the Entertainment world, or other sports, our baseball crazed readership doesn’t want to have to sift through countless entries to find the good baseball clips, the only ones they care about. Thus, as a favor to our dear readers, this week’s Wild Card Wednesday provides you with the top YouTube baseball videos, many of which were mentioned in Simmons’ article so you don’t need to bother reading through his epic column to find the clips that matter:

* indicates YouTube video not mentioned in Simmons' article, but that we dig nonetheless


Arkansas Batter Wins an Oscar
This is pretty hilarious. Arkansas batter Brian Walker fakes getting hit by a pitch…by a ball that misses him by a mile. I am curious what he said to the medical person who runs out and checks on him. Amazing how fast he recovers from his devastating elbow injury as he is able to strongly toss the bat away a few seconds later when he strikes out.


*Minor League Manager Goes Nuts

This one got some national airtime, as I even saw it on CNN. It puts some of Lou Pinella's meltdowns to shame.


*An INCREDIBLE Throw.

One word: Wow.

2004 ALCS, Game 4
Yankee fans, turn away. Everyone else, click the link. Listen closely…I love the smart fan who screams, “No bunting. No bunting!” The only thing missing from this great clip is perhaps the most famous stolen base in the history of baseball, which occurred right before this video starts. Still, goosebump inducing. Great stuff.


2004 ALCS, Game 5
The next night, more Ortiz heroics, and another classic YouTube video. My only question with these videos is why is someone watching a tense playoff game through a camcorder lens?


1986 World Series, Game 6 Re-Enactment
Combine Nintendo’s classic RBI Baseball game with perhaps the most famous baseball moment of them all and what do you get? Pure genius. I’m so curious how much work went into creating this, but it was worth the effort. Conor Lastowka, whoever you are, take a bow. You created the best YouTube video ever.

"Wild Card Wednesdays" appears every Wednesday

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Politics and baseball in the nation’s capital…Part II

by Jeremy Bird

In my first column of the year, I wrote that it would be a long summer for Washington Nationals fans. Today, the team is 16 games below .500, and I hate to write an “I told you so” column. I guess it is not like I was some sort of prophet. Most people who know anything about baseball know you aren’t going to win many games with no real ace pitcher, Jose Guillen as your clean up hitter and Royce Clayton as your opening day starting shortstop.

Still, I didn’t think it would be this bad. As of Tuesday, the team’s ERA ranks 27th in MLB at 4.90. The Nationals are 25th in the majors in hitting with a team average of .259. The team is 26th in RBIs. In fact, the only offensive category in which the team ranks in the top 10 is in strikeouts.

At least they play good defense, right? Nope. 28th in the league in that category as well.

For a team that opened their new DC act with an impressive 81-81 record in 2005, the second stanza has been more than a bust. True, injuries have made things worse. Pitchers Luis Ayala, John Patterson, Ryan Drese, Brian Lawrence, Pedro Astacio, Zach Day and Joey Eischen have missed 400 games combined.

All that aside, the problem with the Nationals is the same problem with DC in general – too much politics and not enough problem-solving and hope. The political infighting between the city’s Mayor and City Council left the team ownerless and unable to attract new talent in the offseason. The ownerless Nationals failed to attract fans as well. The team sold 5,000 fewer season tickets this season. Attendance has dropped nearly 5,000 per game at RFK. (Take away the 145,000 who came to the three-game Yankees series and that figure would be worse).

Some commentators claim that DC fans should be ashamed of the drop in attendance. I am one of those fans. But, I am not ashamed. I have gone to more games in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Colorado while traveling than I have in DC. Frankly, there is not much to see. After driving up to Philly for a game, it is sort of depressing to go to a Nats game. The stadium is a disaster, Soriano only bats four times a game and the pitching is atrocious. Can you say Kansas Cityesque?

But, enough DC cynicism. The future could be getting a lot brighter in DC (and not just because Bush’s poll numbers are dropping). This week marked the departure of the outgoing Nationals President Tony Tavares and the beginning of a new era. The team’s new owner, Theodore N. Lerner, and President Stan Kasten have taken over the ball club this month.

One of Kasten’s first pledges to the fans has been to decrease ticket prices for next season. Not a bad start. His second move involved an eight-player trade that brought in some new talent, including Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez (no All-Star shortstop but, hey, we are comparing the guy to Royce Clayton so he looks like a Hall of Famer right now). Kasten even says they’ll improve the food, music, aesthetics and scoreboards at RFK. Drop the beer prices and you’ll be a legend already my man.

The new owners and the city continue the political wrangling around parking at the new stadium and other issues. Some things will never change.

But, the new stadium will be ready around ’08. With more solid trades in the second half of this year and a focus on building young talent and spending some offseason money, some things will change in the near future.

Soriano now says he will stay. Hope is in the air in DC once again.

Jeremy's column, "Bird's Eye View", appears alternate Tuesdays

Monday, July 17, 2006

Remember When - Subway Series 2000

Michael Carlucci's Column, "Yankee Diary," will appear here in its regular slot in two weeks. Today, in its place, we take a look back at one of our first columns at Baseball For Thought - columnist Doug Silversten's look back at the 2000 World Series between his beloved Mets and hated Yankees.

From time to time, I'd like to think back at what I was thinking during some of the big moments in Mets history...all 3 of them! Of course, I jest. The Mets have had countless big moments...unfortunately many of them just have unhappy endings, including the moment we will look back on today.

So, for today's column, let’s look back at October 2000. Let’s take a look at some old saved emails so we can witness how a Met fan deals with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Anyway, fellow Baseball For Thought columnist Matt Sandler and I were lucky to witness the Mets clinch the NL pennant at Shea Stadium. As soon as I got home, I quickly had to start reading the coverage (Matt and I get more enjoyment from "reading the articles" than from the games themselves). I sent this to Matt when I got home:

(Note: I have made no edits to any of these emails, other than omitting some non-baseball stuff)

From: Doug
Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2000 1:00 AM
To: Mathew
Subject: WHO LET THE DOGS OUT???????????????


I have to admit, after reading this stuff, a subway series would be so much fun. What a week it would be! I hope you watched sportscenter when you got home. Lots of great interviews, especially one with Leiter. You gotta love him. I swear I get chills reading our articles. My personal favorite (very chillworthy): http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/17/sports/17METS.html

The headline itself is chiller.


Ah, notice the excitement and satisfaction in my voice! A day later, the Yankees finished off Seattle and we had a subway series! Optimism was running high…

From: Doug
Date: Thursday, October 19, 2000 8:55 PM
To: Mathew
Subject: best news yet!


From a yahoo article:

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
Baseball has talked with Billy Joel about signing the national anthem before Saturday's World Series opener.


I think Game 1 (the “Run Timo Run!” game) must have been too painful, as I don’t have any noteworthy emails after that one. I remember watching the game with my father and brother, both Yankee fans (which I will discuss in a future post), and it was definitely one of the more painful moments of my life. Game 2 was no less painful…

From: Doug
Date: Monday, October 23, 2000 12:05 AM
To: Mathew
Subject: fascinating


I am watching the postgame report and Al Trautwig and Michael Kay are defending Clemens like crazy and Howie Rose and Keith Hernandez are all over him. To me...I watched it 100 times by now and I ADMIT I am biased, but I really am trying to be objective and I SWEAR it is SO obvious to me. He was looking RIGHT AT HIM! Ridiculous. He threw it at him. But it is fascinating how the Met reporters are on the Met side and vice versa.

From: Doug
Date: Monday, October 23, 2000 6:54 AM
To: Dad; Mathew
Subject: from espn.com (Jayson Stark)


"Freedom of thought is what makes America great. So feel free to believe Clemens' explanation for firing a jagged piece of bat at a hitter who has openly professed to dislike him.

Feel free to believe that he was so emotional that he didn't know he'd just broken Mike Piazza's bat in 16 billion pieces and therefore was unable to distinguish a baseball from a flying piece of ash.

And while you're at it, feel free to believe that Ed McMahon is dying to come to your house and give you a million dollars, too, even if you don't subscribe to "Modern Computing and Home Decorating."


From: Doug
Date: Monday, October 23, 2000 11:30 PM
To: Dad
Subject: to be fair


Bob Murphy didn't think he was aiming for Piazza. But he is senile.

To this day, I am still dumbfounded by anyone who actually believes Clemens didn’t purposely throw the bat at Piazza. But enough about that. After winning Game 3, the Mets still had life and I sent this before the critical Game 4:

From: Doug
Date: Wednesday, October 25, 2000 11:40 AM
To: Alan; Mathew
Subject: Guys…


"We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive!"

Game Four
Tonight.


Game Four final score: Yankees 3, Mets 2. Columnist Alan Eliot then replies to my note:

From: Alan
Date: Thursday, October 26, 2000 1:54 AM
To: Doug, Mathew
Subject: Re: Guys…


"If we lose another one-run game, I am no longer a Met fan"
-Anonymous heartbroken Met fan


Doug Silversten's column, "The Big Picture," usually appears on alternate Mondays. His next new column will appear on Monday, July 24th
"I've had a pretty good success facing Stan (Musial) by throwing him my best pitch and backing up third base."
- Carl Erskine

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