Friday, August 04, 2006

Classic Shots - Part 2

by Rob Hyman

This time we look at the National League's most memorable home runs of the last 25 years. But first I know you are all on the edge of your seats to gthe answer to the questions who are the only NL teams who have not seen the postseason since 1985.
- Milwaukee Brewers, who haven't seen the postseason since the 1982 World Series
- Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals who last made the playoffs in 1981.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: October 28, 1995 - World Series game 6 vs. Cleveland (Atlanta up 3-2): In a classic game in which the Indians were only able to muster one hit off of Tom Glavine in eight innings, the only run of the game was a result of David Justice's bat.

Florida Marlins: October 26, 1997 - World Series Game 7 vs. Cleveland: Jaret Wright completely owned the Marlins for the first six innings as his team led 2-0. Then Bobby Bonilla started the comeback for the Marlins, leading off the inning with a solo shot to cut the lead in half. The Marlins tied the score in the ninth and won it in the 11th - partially thanks to Bonilla as well, who led off the inning with a single.

New York Mets: October 21, 1986 - World Series Game 3 at Boston (Boston up 2-0): Everyone knows how the 1986 World Series ends, but it almost didn't get there. The Red Sox won the first two games in New York and were looking to make quick work of the Mets back at Fenway. Lenny Dykstra sent a message right off the bat - telling them that they wouldn't go down easy. Dykstra's lead off home run sparked a 4-run first inning as the Mets went on to a 7-1 win.

Philadelphia Phillies: October 11, 1993 - NLCS Game 5 at Atlanta (Series tied 2-2): On the verge of falling behind 3-2, the Braves scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie up the game. In the 10th, however, Philadelphia came right back as Lenny Dykstra hit a solo home run with one out to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead which they were able to hold onto. Philly went on to win the series in six games before losing to Toronto in six in the World Series.

Washington Nationals (Expos) : April 4, 2005: Not much to say for one of the worst franchises in history. So this honor goes to the first home run for the team after its move down to Washington. That honor goes to Terrmel Sledge - it was his only home run of the season.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: September 28, 1998 - NL Playoff Game vs. San Francisco: Veteran Gary Gaetti hit a two-run home run off of Mark Gardner in the 5th inning of this scoreless game paving the way for the Cubs to clinch the wildcard. Steve Trachsel got the win, giving up only one hit in 6 1/3 innings as the Cubs beat the Giants 5-3 only to get swept by the Braves in the NLDS.

Cincinnati Reds: October 9, 1990 - NLCS Game 4 at Pittsburgh (Cincinnati up 2-1): Chris Sabo put the Reds ahead to stay, smashing a two-run home run in the 7th inning off starter Bob Walk. Co-MVPs Randy Myers and Rob Dibble were able to shut down the Pirates after that, giving the Reds a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, which they ultimately won in 6 games before sweeping Oakland inthe World Series.

Houston Astros: October 9, 2005 - NLDS Game 4 vs. Atlanta (Houston up 2-1): Chris Burke's 18th inning home run off of Joey Devine clinched the series for the Astros, who went on to the World Series. The home run ended the longest postseason game of all time and was the 7th walk-off homerun in history to end a post-season series.

Milwaukee Brewers: April 2, 1998: Not much to say about a team that has only been in one pennant race since their 1982 American League pennant. So the best I can do is a trivia question - who was the first Brewer to hit a home run after the team moved over to the National League? The answer: Jeremy Burnitz who hit a solo shot off of Tom Glavine in the 5th inning. The Brewers eventually won the game in the 11th inning thanks to a Grand Slam by Jeremy Burnitz.

Pittsburgh Pirates: October 13, 1992: The Pirates lost in the NLCS three straight years from '90 to '92 with the '92 loss being the most memorable. It was then that the Braves scored three runs in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 to win 3-2. That classic game may never have come about had Barry Bonds not sparked the Pirates with his early home run in Game 6 to get the team rolling on their way to a 13-4 win.

St. Louis Cardinals: October 14, 1985 - NLCS Game 5 vs. Los Angeles (Series tied 2-2): Ozzie Smith, who hit only 28 home runs in his 19-year career, made the Hall of Fame for his fielding credentials. But his one career post-season homerun is one of the most famous of all time. Tied 2-2 in the ninth inning, Smith won the game with a shot into the right field corner off of Tom Niedenfuer. The Cardinals ended up taking the series in six games thanks in part to another famous Cardinal home run off of Niedenfuer. Will Clark's three run shot in the top of the ninth of Game six to win the game 7-5.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: October 28, 2001 - World Series Game 2 vs. Yankees (Arizona up 1-0): Matt Williams' 7th inning home run off of Andy Pettitte broke open a 1-0 pitchers duel, giving Randy Johnson more than enough breathing room en route to a 4-0 win.

Colorado Rockies: October 1, 1995 vs. San Francisco: On the final day of the regular season, the Rockies led Houston by one game for the NL Wildcard. The Rockies, who needed to win to avoid a playoff game, quickly fell behind 8-2 against the Giants. In quick succession, however, Colorado struck back with a pair of two-run home runs by Eric Young and Larry Walker, putting them back in the game, which the team held onto win 10-9.

Los Angeles Dodgers: October 15, 1988 - World Series Game 1 vs. Oakland: Jack Buck couldn't believe what he just saw as the hobbled Kirk Gibson hit a walk-offtwo-run home run off of Dennis Eckersley to give the Dodgers a 5-4 victory and an early series lead. It was Gibson's only AB of the World Series, as he had badly injured his leg in the NLCS.

San Diego Padres: October 3, 1998 - NLDS Game 3 vs.Houston (Series tied 1-1): Congratulations to JimLeyritz for making this list with two different teams!Leyritz’s solo shot in the 7th inning gave the Padresa 2-1 lead which ended up being the difference in thegame. Leyritz hit .400 in the series with three homeruns in the four games. Not surprising he's on here twice - in 61 post season ABs, he had 13 hits- 8 ofwhich were home runs.

San Francisco Giants: October 13, 2002 - NLCS Game 4vs. St. Louis (Giants lead 2-1): 2002 was a Renaissance year for Benito Santiago - topped off by his being named NLCS MVP. In Game 4, his big home run gave the Giants a commanding 3-1 lead over theCardinals. Tied 2-2 in the 8th inning with two outs, St. Louis intentionally walked Barry Bonds and Santiago made them pay with a two-run home run. TheGiants held on to win the game 4-3 and took the series the next day.

Click here to read Part I, profiling HR hit in the AL over the past 25 years.

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

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Trading Deadline Critique (of Sorts) of Yankees GM Brian Cashman

by Scott Silversten

At this year’s trading deadline, the following quote grabbed my attention:

“I look at our club and it’s got so much fight and heart, and I wanted to, if I could, give it a chance to win.”

Now, can you guess who delivered the line? Was it …

A. Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels following his team’s acquisition of slugger Carlos Lee.

B. Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti following his team’s acquisition of starting pitcher Greg Maddux.

C. Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski following his team’s acquisition of first baseman Sean Casey.

D. San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers following his team’s acquisition of infielder/outfielder Todd Walker.

E. None of the Above

The answer, of course, is E. The quote was from New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman on Sunday after he dealt four mediocre or extremely young prospects to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Bobby Abeu and starter Cory Lidle.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I am a huge fan of Mr. Cashman. He does deserve credit for only giving up Shawn Chacon from his major league roster and returning Abreu, Lidle, and infielder Craig Wilson from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Yankees, as no one can forget, have a payroll exceeding $200 million. Abreu alone is due over $20 million through the end of next season. Yes, it’s a shame, but it’s the shame of baseball, not the Yankees.

Cashman is only heeding the calls of his owner, and any other person in George Steinbrenner’s situation would do the same. While fans in other cities call for owners such as Carl Pohlad (Minnesota) and David Glass (Kansas City) to spend their own personal fortunes on over-priced ballplayers, Steinbrenner doles out money generated by his baseball team. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.

While there is no way Cashman deserves blame, he does owe it to his peers throughout baseball not to deliver such quotes. By saying he “just wants to give his team a chance,” Cashman insults the baseball intelligence of everyone outside the Bronx.

The cries about the Yankees’ payroll have become old and tired. In fact, the discussions have reached the point of boredom. Nothing is going to change, so why waste energy during these 100-degree days lamenting the Yankees replacing one injured $15 million a year outfielder (Gary Sheffield) with another.

But please, Mr. Cashman, don’t try to claim that you are working with the same resources, or with the same goal, of the other 29 teams. We understand it’s either World Series championship or failure for the Yankees. Even with decimating injuries like the ones suffered this year by Sheffield and fellow outfielder Hideki Matsui, the Yankees have had more than enough to contend for a title.

Let’s not forget, the following players, aside from some minor ailments, have been completely healthy all season: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera and Kyle Farnsworth.

The Yankees would not be where they are right now if not for the contributions of such players as Melky Cabrera, Andy Phillips and Scott Proctor, but the only reason anyone notices is because their performances come in the pressure of important games. Dump those three role players in last place, and even with the same numbers, they would get zero attention from the local fans or press.

All I’m asking is for Cashman to admit that the Yankees operate under a different mantra and different financial structure than the rest. He doesn’t need to apologize for it, and the Yankees should not feel it necessary to change their tactics. They might spend in excess, but this October holds the possibility of a 12th straight postseason appearance.

Twelve straight Octobers of playoff baseball! And guaranteed, whether it’s 20 straight trips or 100, the next time the Yankees miss the postseason, New York fans will throw up their hands in disgust and act like they have been deprived of a Constitutional right.

The Yankees GM will then proclaim, “You can’t expect us to win every year.”

Actually, that’s exactly what we should expect.

Scott Silversten's column, "Age of Reason", appears Thursdays

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Steal of a Deal for Yanks

This week on Wild Card Wednesday, columnist Doug Silversten discusses the best trading deadline deal:

At this year's trading deadline, once again, the rich got richer.

Give Brian Cashman credit. He made the deal of the deadline. On Friday night, what were the Yankees two pressing needs? They needed a right fielder who at least would be a solid stopgap solution until Gary Sheffield came back in another month. And with Sheffield a question mark and his 2007 option looming, perhaps a a stopgap solution that could even carryover until next season.

What else did they need? How about a #4 or #5 starter who would be an improvement over Jaret Wright and/or Sidney Ponson.

So, 24 hours later, what did Cashman get...a solid right fielder, who could be the answer for 2007, and a solid #4-5 starter. Who did they give up? Four prospects, but only one of whom is considered a true blue-chip.

Oh, and they added a bunch of money to the payroll, in 2006 and 2007. Obviously this doesn't matter for the Yankees. The Yankee payroll has become such a joke, it's no fun to talk about anymore. Saying the Yankees have an advantage due to their payroll each year is like saying Shaq has a slight height advantage over Gary Coleman.

The two players the Yanks got will help them immediately. The 4 they gave up probably won't really help a MLB club for a couple of years. And even if any of them become stars, the Yanks will just trade a few prospects then to get them back as their future teams look to dump their overpriced salaries on the only team who can afford them.

If Sheffield and Matsui both come back in September, here is the potential Yankee lineup:

CF Johnny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
1B Jason Giambi
3B Alex Rodriguez
RF Bobby Abreu
DH Gary Sheffield
LF Hideki Matsui
C Jorge Posada
2B Robinson Cano

Wow. $200 billion, er, I mean million, can get you an awful lot. With all due respect to the powerful Red Sox, that's the best lineup in the AL East.

Take a bow, Brian Cashman. Great deal.

Check out Doug Silversten's column, "The Big Picture," on alternate Mondays.

"Wild Card Wednesdays" appears every Wednesday

Monday, July 31, 2006

Looking Back: On Hitting Streaks, On Jimmy Rollins, On Chase Utley

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 Alan Eliot's look at Jimmy Rollins' attempt to break one of baseball's most hallowed records- originally dated Feb 21, 2006. The column was written with Rollins in limbo over the offseason at 36 straight games with a hit. A month and a half later, his streak would end two games into the nascent season, at 38 games.

By the way, after all of the to-do about Rollins changing his approach at the plate last year for the better- Rollins this year: AVG .264 (career .272), OBP .326 (career .327), SLG .433 (career .416)

This is made particularly relevant now with another Philly, Chase Utley, making headlines with an attempt of his own on DiMaggio's record. As of print time, his streak stood at 31 games. Whether Utley breaks Rollins' four-month old Phillies team record of 38 games, the NL record of 44 games (accomplished by Pete Rose in 1978 who, coincidentally, became a Philly the next season), or even seriously challenges the record, this newest development in The City of Brotherly Love should keep the Phillies Phans with something positive on which to focus. After all, they are now recently without their beloved Bobby Abreu, and are looking at what should be (barring a miracle) not-so-meaningful games in September:

In an article on, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins gives himself considerable props:

"Every spring since my rookie year, I told him (younger brother Antwon) I'm going to break [Joe] DiMaggio's record," said Rollins. "It's such a symbol of consistency. Up until now, that was impossible."

Later in the article, Rollins offers us a glimpse at his future exalted status in the annals of baseball history:

"I have no doubt that I'll be regarded as one of the best shortstops," he said. "In which way, offense or defense, I don't know. Hopefully, it's all the way around. Those are my plans. If I don't feel that way, I shouldn't be playing this game."
Recognition as the holder of the game's longest hitting streak in history might help his Hall of Fame chances. "Shoot, I'll get to Hall of Fame for reasons other than that," he said, laughing. "But that'll definitely help."

Big words for a guy whose previous longest hitting streak was 12 games. And from a lead-off man who for his career has a .273 BA (.267 league average) and a .328 OBP (.338 league average). And whose previous All-Star nods are as much of a testament to the lack of SS talent in the NL as they are to his own abilities.

Your hit king, future hall-of famer "run like Dimaggio, hit like Jimmy" Rollins!
"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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