Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cooperstown's 9 Most Shocking Inductions

What do Jesse Haines, Rick Ferrell, High Pockets Kelly, Rabbit Maranville, Bill Mazeroski, Freddie Lindstrom, Chick Hafey, Lloyd Waner and Tommy McCarthy have in common?

For some reason, they're all members of Baseball's most elite fraternity:  The Hall of Fame.

Yet, for some reason, Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce and Luis Tiant are not members.  Go figure.  All of these Golden Era candidates were recently rejected by the sixteen-member Veteran's Committee, along with Maury Wills (who really doesn't qualify to begin with) and former executive Bob Howsam (who may be worthy, but not as worthy as these guys).

Of course, along with this latest batch of rejections, the Hall of Fame is still missing the likes of Ted Simmons, Bobby Grich, Alan Trammell and Larry Walker - players who were apparently regarded as merely "good"; not "great".

Yet, undeniably, each position on the diamond is represented by players who were in fact, "good" but not "great"; and they're all Hall of Famers.  Go figure.

Advanced metrics reveal the truth in every player's actual performance over the course of their career.  Some startling examples of Cooperstown's mysterious selection process - position by position - is listed below.  Next to the player's name is their all-time rank for their primary position - based on sabermetric data compiled by baseball-reference.com.

As a point of reference, there are 59 Starting Pitchers in the Hall of Fame - 13 Catchers - 19 First Basemen - 19 Second Basemen - 13 Third Basemen - 21 Shortstops - 19 Left Fielders - 18 Center Fielders - 24 Right Fielders

These are the lowest ranked players to have ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame at their position:

P - Jesse "Pop" Haines (Rank - 298) Won 210 - Lost 158 - 3.64 ERA - 19-year career, mostly with the St Louis Cardinals - appeared in 4 World Series with the Cardinals ('26, '28, '30 & '34) - Won 2 World Championships - Claim to Fame:  Career World Series Record:  3-1 - 1.67 ERA - Won 2 Games in '26 Series vs New York Yankees - including Game 7 - to help Cardinals win first Championship in Franchise History - Veteran's Committee Inductee in 1970

C - Rick Ferrell (Rank - 43)  .281 Career BA - .363 SLG - Brother of Pitcher Wes Ferrell who hit .280 with .446 SLG (but he's not in the HOF!) - Claim to Fame:  1884 Games Played as Catcher - Most in MLB History for a Catcher (at the time) - Veteran's Committee Inductee in 1984

1B - George "High Pockets" Kelly (Rank - 85)  .297 Career BA - .452 SLG - 16-year career, primarily as a member of the New York Giants during the John McGraw Era - Claim to Fame:  Played in 4 World Series - Notorious for striking out a lot (23 times in 26 games) while maintaining a low batting average (.248) and very little power (.297 SLG) - Veteran's Committee Inductee in 1973

2B - Bill Mazeroski (Rank - 50)  .260 Career BA - .367 SLG - 17-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates - Great defensively, but not much of a hitter, except for one swing of the bat which essentially punched his ticket to Cooperstown - Claim to Fame:  1960 World Series Walk-Off Home Run in Game 7 - Veteran's Committee Inductee in 2001

3B - Freddie Lindstrom (Rank - 70) .311 Career BA - .449 SLG - 13-year career primarily with John McGraw's New York Giants - Claim to Fame:  1924 World Series - Game 7 - victimized when a ground ball he was trying to field hit a pebble - good for a double - leading to the winning run of the Series scoring for the Washington Senators - Veteran's Committee Inductee in 1976

SS - Rabbit Maranville (Rank - 37)  .258 Career BA - .340 SLG - 23-year career with five different NL teams - beginning and ending with the Boston Braves - Good defensively, but not great - Claim to Fame:  Crazy antics and madcap approach to baseball - Appeared in 2 World Series - Died in January, 1954 - 2 weeks later, received 83% of the vote from the sympathetic BBWAA - Note:  Had Maury Wills received enough votes from the Veteran's Committee, he would have supplanted Rabbit as the least qualified Hall of Fame shortstop (Rank - 46)

LF - Chick Hafey (Rank - 58) .317 Career BA - .526 SLG - 13-year career cut short due to bad health and bad eyesight - wore glasses - Claim to Fame:  4 World Series appearances with the St Louis Cardinals ('26, '28, '30 & '31) - hitting .205 in 23 games - Veteran's Committee Inductee in 1971

CF - Lloyd "Little Poison" Waner (Rank - 113)  .316 Career BA - .393 SLG - 18-year career, mostly with the Pittsburgh Pirates - Claim to Fame:  Played alongside his Hall of Fame brother, Paul ("Big Poison) - Both appeared in futile match-up in the 1927 World Series vs the New York Yankees - who swept the Pirates in 4 straight games.

RF - Tommy McCarthy (Rank - 128)  .292 Career BA - ..378 SLG - 13-year career with 6 different teams in various leagues from 1884 - 1896 - Claim to Fame:  On defense, he used to trap the ball in right field to confuse base runners.  Seriously - Old Timers Committee Inductee in 1946

CONCLUSION:  Catchy nicknames while managing to play in a World Series or two was a winning formula for induction in the past.  These days, it's a whole new ballgame.  

Let's face it; the Hall of Fame is losing its credibility.






Monday, November 17, 2014

Kershaw Got What He Deserved

Clayton Kershaw was not only the best pitcher in major league baseball in 2014 - he was also the top overall player - so the voters got it right when they chose him to receive the NL Cy Young Award and  the Most Valuable Player Award.

The notion that a starting pitcher shouldn't win a Most Valuable Player Award is preposterous.  A dominant starting pitcher is often every bit as valuable - or more valuable - as a top position player in any given year - like this year, for example.

The Wins Above Replacement leaders (WAR) in the National League in 2014:

Kershaw - 8.0
Lucroy - 6.7
Stanton & Rendon - 6.5
McCutchen, Wainwright & Cueto - 6.4

The voters also got it right in the American League - as Mike Trout (7.9 WAR) finally got the MVP Award he has actually deserved for the past three seasons - and Corey Kluber (7.4 WAR) won the CYA.

Kershaw is the first National League pitcher to receive both awards since Bob Gibson did it in 1968.  And yes, Gibson's WAR of 11.9 was tops in major league baseball that season - so he certainly got what he deserved.

Quite often, starting pitchers don't get what they deserve when it comes to the Most Valuable Player Award.  Since 1950, starting pitchers with the highest WAR have been snubbed fifty times - twenty-five (NL) & twenty-five (AL) - for MVP Awards.  Obviously, there's a strong bias against pitchers taking home Most Valuable Player Awards, since they already have "their own" (Cy Young) Award.

However, the results show that pitchers are often the top players in each league, year in and year out.  But they've gotten aced out with startling consistency, as we can see below (WAR):

1950 - Garver (8.2) loses AL MVP to Rizzuto (6.7)
1952 - Roberts (8.5) loses NL MVP to Sauer (5.7)
1953 - Roberts (9.8) loses NL MVP to Campanella (7.1)
1959 - Pascual (8.6) loses AL MVP to Fox (6.0)
1962 - Pascual (6.2) loses AL MVP to Mantle (5.9)
1964 - Chance (8.6) loses AL MVP to Robinson (8.1)
1965 - McDowell (7.9) loses AL MVP to Versailles (7.2)
1966 - Koufax & Marichal (both 9.8) lose NL MVP to Clemente (8.2)
1966 - Wilson (7.9) loses AL MVP to Robinson (7.7)
1969 - Gibson (11.3) loses NL MVP to McCovey (8.1)
1970 - Gibson (10.1) loses NL MVP to Bench (7.4)
1971 - Jenkins (11.9) loses NL MVP to Torre (5.9)
1971 - Wood (10.9) loses AL MVP to Blue (8.6)
1972 - Carlton (12.5) loses NL MVP to Bench (8.6)
1972 - Perry (11.2) loses AL MVP to Allen (8.6)
1973 - Seaver (11.0) loses NL MVP to Rose (8.2)
1973 - Blyleven (9.9) loses AL MVP to Jackson (7.8)
1974 - Perry (8.6) loses AL MVP to Burroughs (3.6)
1975 - Palmer (8.5) loses AL MVP to Lynn (7.4)
1976 - Fidrych (9.6) loses AL MVP to Munson (5.3)
1977 - Reuschel (9.6) loses NL MVP to Foster (8.4)
1978 - Niekro (10.4) loses NL MVP to Parker (7.0)
1978 - Guidry (9.6) loses AL MVP to Rice (7.5)
1980 - Carlton (10.2) loses NL MVP to Schmidt (8.8)
1983 - Denny (7.6) loses NL MVP to Murphy (7.1)
1985 - Gooden (13.2) loses NL MVP to McGee (8.1)
1986 - Scott (8.2) loses NL MVP to Schmidt (6.1)
1986 - Higuera (9.4) loses AL MVP to Clemens (8.9)
1987 - Clemens (9.4) loses AL MVP to Bell (5.0)
1988 - Hershiser (7.1) loses NL MVP to Gibson (6.5)
1989 - Saberhagen (9.7) loses AL MVP to Yount (5.8)
1990 - Clemens (10.6) loses AL MVP to Henderson (9.9)
1991 - Glavine (9.3) loses NL MVP to Pendleton (6.1)
1992 - Maddux (9.4) loses NL MVP to Bonds (9.0)
1992 - Clemens (8.9) loses AL MVP to Eckersley (2.9)
1993 - Rijo (10.2) loses NL MVP to Bonds (9.9)
1993 - Appier (9.3) loses AL MVP to Thomas (6.2)
1994 - Maddux (8.7) loses NL MVP to Bagwell (8.2)
1995 - Maddux (9.6) loses NL MVP to Larkin (5.9)
1995 - Johnson (8.7) loses AL MVP to Vaughn (4.3)
1997 - Clemens (12.1) loses AL MVP to Griffey (9.1)
1998 - Brown (9.1) loses NL MVP to Sosa (6.4)
1999 - Johnson (8.8) loses NL MVP to Jones (6.9)
1999 - Martinez (9.7) loses AL MVP to Rodriguez (6.4)
2000 - Martinez (11.7) loses AL MVP to Giambi (7.7)
2006 - Santana (7.5) loses AL MVP to Morneau (4.3)
2009 - Greinke (10.4) loses AL MVP to Mauer (7.8)
2010 - Halladay (8.1) loses NL MVP to Votto (6.9)
2011 - Lee (9.2) loses NL MVP to Braun (7.8)

Of course, some of these "snubs" were of the slimmest of margins, while others were overwhelming.  What's really appalling is when a pitcher leads his league in WAR, then not only gets snubbed for the MVP Award, he also gets snubbed for the Cy Young Award.  Those victims:

Lee, Brown, Appier, Rijo, Higuera, Niekro (twice), Reuschel, Fidrych, Perry, Blyleven, Wood, Jenkins, Gibson, Wilson, Marichal, McDowell, and Pascual (twice).

It's interesting to note, when Kershaw won his first Cy Young Award in 2011, Cliff Lee was actually a bit more deserving.  However, in 2014, there was nobody more deserving than the Dodgers' ace - not only for the Cy Young Award, but the Most Valuable Player Award, as well.











Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Third Basemen: Cooperstown Snubs & Flubs

According to baseball-reference.com, Hall of Fame candidate Ken Boyer - who wore number fourteen as a member of the St Louis Cardinals - currently ranks as the 14th-best third baseman in major league history.  The top four - Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs and George Brett - have already been enshrined at Cooperstown.

The recently retired Chipper Jones is currently in the fifth spot, followed by a still-active Adrian Beltre at number six - although another couple of good seasons would more than likely push him ahead of Jones.  Both should be shoe-ins for Cooperstown when the time comes.

It's hard to believe how long Ron Santo (#7) had to wait for enshrinement; ignored by the brain-dead voters of the BBWAA for so many years, Santo was finally selected by the Veteran's Committee three years ago - which of course, was one year too late for the late Cub great to even get the chance to enjoy the honor.

After Santo, Brooks Robinson - the greatest fielding third baseman in major league history - and Paul Molitor - who spent quite a bit of time as a DH - are ranked eighth and ninth, respectively - and both had little difficulty in getting the necessary support from the baseball writers to enter through the front door of Cooperstown.  The BBWAA have gotten it right sometimes.

The recently retired Scott Rolen - whose greatest seasons were with the Cardinals (2002 - 2007) in an injury-plagued career, is ranked tenth, followed by Edgar Martinez - primarily known as a DH - and the underrated Craig Nettles - who are ranked eleventh and twelfth, respectively.  The knock on Martinez is that he didn't play enough games, defensively, to warrant induction.  In other words, had he been allowed to play third base badly, he might be deemed worthy for Cooperstown.  That logic simply escapes me.

Nettles was a superb defensive third baseman, but his relatively low career batting average seems to be working against him.  However, what the voters failed to consider was the fact that along with his Gold Glove-caliber defensive prowess, he consistently hit for power - he even led the AL with 32 home runs in 1976.  Of course, he also played on the Yankees during the Reggie Jackson era, which meant he was practically invisible during Mr October's heyday.  Again, that's not a valid reason to snub Nettles - but as we've seen over the years - the voters often have no rhyme or reason behind their selection process.

Just ahead of Boyer is Frank "Home Run" Baker - who led the AL in home runs four consecutive seasons during the Dead Ball Era - with a grand total of 39 home runs during that span.  But in those days, his power was legit - and he wasn't bad with the glove, either.  Or at least what they used as gloves a century ago.

Well back in the pack are Hall of Famers George Kell (#48) and the enormously overrated Pie Traynor (#59) - who was actually the first third baseman enshrined at Cooperstown, in 1948.  The popular myth promulgated by the baseball establishment was that Pie was the greatest third baseman of all-time.  Funny, but the previously mentioned and highly underrated Home Run Baker was far better than the Pie-man - yet he had to wait until 1955 for enshrinement.  Go figure.

It's interesting to note that the oft-injured Washington Nationals' third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman, is currently #47 on the list - one notch ahead of lonesome George, who got in via the Veteran's Committee back in '83.  Of course, back in those olden days, the voters knew little or nothing about advanced metrics.  They were impressed by Kell's robust .307 lifetime batting average and his sparkling personality.  Of course, his power was practically non-existent (78 career home runs), and he was just an average defensive player.  However, I've already been in a few debates over the Kell-Boyer comparison - and the other side insists Kell was the superior defensive player.  That's just ludicrous.

It's also interesting to note that the current Milwaukee Brewers third baseman - Aramis Ramirez -  comes in at #58 on the list - one notch ahead of the Greatest Third Baseman of All-Time, who was nicknamed "Pie" simply because he liked to eat pie.  No other reason.  Imagine the course of baseball history if he preferred strawberry shortcake instead.  I wonder if having a stupid nickname like "Strawberry Shortcake" Traynor would have hindered his Hall of Fame chances.  We'll never know.

Actually, having a catchy nickname probably helped a number of colorful personalities achieve baseball immortality.  Some deserved the recognition:  Lewis Robert Wilson sounds a bit stuffy for a rough-and-tumble slugging outfielder - "Hack" sounds more appropriate.  Mordecai Brown suffered a severe injury to his pitching hand - becoming "Three Finger" Brown - and did quite well for himself despite missing that digit - Charles Leo Hartnett became "Gabby" and had a career worth talking about - and how could the Hall of Fame deny Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn - the only pitcher in major league history to win 59 games in a single season?  One of the biggest mysteries is why "Home Run" Baker never got enough support during the early days of his retirement.  Surely the voters had some knowledge of how difficult it was to go yard back when the balls were practically made of mush...

However, a first baseman by the name of George Kelly aka "High Pockets" surely got into Cooperstown solely on the strength of that unusual nickname - because his 25.2 career WAR is simply ridiculous.  Even HOF-Pie has that beat (36.2).

Same goes for Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville, whose career WAR is a very un-Cooperstown-like 42.8.  I wonder how much support he would have received from the voters if his nickname had been "Moron"?  Probably not a much, although "Moron" Maranville does have a nice ring to it...

By the way, the great Kenny "No Nickname" Boyer had a career WAR of 62.8, which coincidentally, is exactly what Home Run Baker compiled during his productive, yet largely under-appreciated Hall of Fame career.

Boyer, of course, played a major role in getting his team - the St Louis Cardinals - to the World Series back in '64 - not to mention playing a major role in upsetting the favored New York Yankees.  While many great players never had the opportunity to perform on baseball's grandest stage (Santo, for example) - The World Series - Boyer did have that opportunity.  And he made the most of it.  Even without his postseason credentials, Boyer's career was most definitely Hall of Fame-caliber.  With them, he should have been a slam dunk...

I certainly hope at least 12 of the 16 Veteran's Committee voting members agree.  While they're at it, I hope they also add Minnie Minoso, Luis Tiant and Dick Allen to their ballots.  Their induction into Cooperstown is also long overdue.  Time to rectify this situation this time around, committee members.




Thursday, October 30, 2014

The San Francisco Giants Are World Champions Again - But Hardly a Dynasty

With that dramatic Game Seven win over the Kansas City Royals on October 29, 2014, the San Francisco Giants have captured their third World Championship since 2010 - an accomplishment no other National League team has achieved since the St Louis Cardinals did it - coincidentally - in the even-numbered years of 1942, 1944 and 1946.

So, are the Giants now a Dynasty?  Strangely enough, after the Boston Red Sox won the 2013 World Series - to capture their third title since 2004 - many baseball experts thought that made them a Dynasty.  

Well now, that Dynasty has since been interrupted by their second last-place finish in three seasons over there in the American League East.  That's an unprecedented accomplishment, however; no major league team has ever gone from worst-to-first-to-worst before.  Kudos to Boston for that bit of baseball history - but that weird three-season span is hardly what a Dynasty is supposed to do.

What about the Giants' Dynasty?  The Word Champion 2010 Giants missed the postseason in 2011.  The World Champion 2012 Giants not only missed the postseason in 2013, they finished ten games under .500.  Now, here they are in 2014 - World Champions again.  A Dynasty?  In just five years?  I believe dynasties need more time to be classified as such.  And they need to win more consistently.

Take for example, The New York Yankees - from Babe Ruth-to Joe DiMaggio-to Mickey Mantle.  They were The Dynasty.  One that lasted for forty-some odd years.  Now that's a Dynasty.

Of course, nothing lasts forever.  After falling into oblivion for a decade or so, the Yankees won a couple of world championships in the late '70's, then had a remarkable run from 1996 through 2000 - winning of four out of five world championships.  They almost made it five out of six - but a blown save by Mariano Rivera in Game Seven of 2001, ended their supremacy.  Their gradual decline continued with a strange six-game loss to the Florida Marlins in the 2003 World Series, followed by an unprecedented loss to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS - blowing a three games to none series lead.

Of course, the Yankees were still a very good team and they recovered nicely in 2009, for another World Series title.  But age and some questionable free agent signings have turned them into an ordinary team - possibly a playoff contender in 2015 - but probably not - even with that huge payroll.

The recent success of the Giants has been remarkable, but let's look at the big picture - the current millennium - and compare the overall performance of the Giants vs their closest rivals - the St Louis Cardinals.

Postseason Appearances:  St Louis 11 - San Francisco 6

Division Titles:  St Louis 8 - San Francisco 5

NLCS Appearances:  St Louis 9 - San Francisco 4

World Series Appearances:  St Louis 4 - San Francisco 4

World Series Championships:  St Louis 2 - San Francisco 3

Obviously, when the Giants qualify for postseason play, they usually go very deep.  They've been unbeatable every time they play in a National League Championship Series (4 for 4) - and they've victimized the Cardinals 3 out of those 4 times.

Whenever the Cardinals don't have to play the Giants in the NLCS, they've done well - winning 4 out of 6.  Obviously, if this franchise is going to be perceived as better than their rivals, they've got to beat them in head-to-head postseason competition - and sooner or later, the Giants are bound to qualify for postseason play in an odd-numbered year.

Consistency has been the Cardinals' trademark over this fifteen season span.  Not only do they usually qualify for postseason play, they've only had one sub-.500 season over that time (in '07 - as defending World Series Champions).

The Giants, on the other hand, had a miserable four-season sub-.500 stretch ('05 - '08) and even had one as defending World Series Champions, themselves (in 2013).  Right in the middle of their Dynasty.

Will they somehow manage to finish below .500 in 2015 - or will they make it back to the postseason again?  Before they can legitimately be called a Dynasty, they've got to overcome the odd-numbered year obstacle.  Either that, or repeat their three in five trick one more time.  That was quite impressive - we all must admit.

If nothing else, the Giants could be on the verge of becoming a Dynasty, but then again, so could the Cardinals.





Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October 28, 2011 - The St Louis Cardinals are World Champions!

Friday, October 28, 2011 - World Series - Game Seven vs Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium III - Attendance:  47,399 - Starting Pitchers:  Chris Carpenter vs Matt Harrison

After the Game Six miracle finish, the Cardinals could hardly wait to get back in action again - especially with their ace - Chris Carpenter - on the mound again.  Prior to the start of this game, manager Tony LaRussa gave his players a bit of a motivational speech - making sure they were focused on the business at hand:  Winning Game Seven and not dwelling on what transpired the previous night.

In the other clubhouse, Texas manager Ron Washington tried to rally his team, after that devastating Game Six loss, with a humorous, profanity-laced monologue designed to erase the memory of what happened - so they could focus on the business at hand:  Trying to avoid losing Game Seven.

The Rangers got off to a fast start off Carpenter - when Ian Kinsler started the game with a single to left field.  Then, with Elvis Andrus batting, Cards catcher Yadier Molina quickly noticed that Kinsler had strayed too far off the bag for his own good.  A snap throw to Pujols ended Kinsler's brief stint on the bases.  However, Carpenter was still having trouble with his command, as Andrus drew a base on balls - then back-to-back doubles by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young put Carpenter and the Cardinals in a 2-0 hole.

However, as quickly as Carpenter found himself in trouble, he found a way out - first, by striking out the dangerous Adrian Beltre, then by retiring Nelson Cruz on a ground ball to the legendary David Freese.

Although the Rangers had a couple of runs on the board, they certainly felt like they'd missed a chance for a really big inning - much like what happened the previous night - when they had so many chances to score runs in bunches - but just couldn't get the big hit when they needed it.

Little did they know, those two first-inning runs would be the extent of their offensive production in Game Seven.

The Cardinals evened the score in their half of the first.  After a pair of two-out walks to Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman - David Freese did it again - sending the crowd into an early frenzy with a two-run double to left field - giving him five RBI in his last three trips to the plate - all extra base hits:  Triple, home run and a double.

With the injured Matt Holliday out of the lineup, his replacement - Allen Craig - put the Cardinals on top to stay with a third-inning solo home run to right field:  3-2.

Two innings later, facing reliever Scott Feldman, Craig drew a one-out walk to start a two-run rally.  Next up - Pujols - was hit by a pitch - putting runners on first and second for Berkman - who grounded out to the right side, advancing the runners to second and third.  Feldman wanted no part of Freese, so he was given an intentional walk - to load the bases.  Unfortunately for Feldman, he then issued an unintentional walk to Molina, forcing in Craig from third - scoring the fourth run of the game for St Louis.

In a desperate attempt to stop the inevitable, Washington brought in C.J. Wilson from the bullpen to face Rafael Furcal - but his first pitch was nowhere near the plate - instead,hitting Furcal on the leg - bringing home Wilson's future teammate Pujols with the fifth run of the game for the Redbirds.

It was still a 5-2 Cardinal lead when David Murphy began the seventh-inning with a ground-rule double off a tiring Carpenter.  LaRussa made his first call to the bullpen - bringing in Arthur Rhodes to pitch to Yorvit Torrealba - as Carpenter triumphantly exited to a rousing standing ovation.

Rhodes got his man, giving way to Octavio Dotel, who retired both Kinsler and Andrus to end the threat.

Leading off the bottom of the seventh - facing reliever Mike Adams - was the great Albert Pujols - making his final plate appearance in a Cardinal uniform.  After another standing ovation, an emotional Pujols swung at all five pitches thrown to him - striking out on the last one.  Most of the fans at the ballpark probably expected to see Pujols return - certain their hero would be content to stay loyal to the only franchise he had ever been associated with.  The fact that he left for more money than the Cardinals were willing to pay still bothers many fans - to the point of absurdity.  Get over it.  Just be thankful for the 11 Hall of Fame-caliber seasons he had in St Louis - and for the two World Series championships that never would have happened without his presence in the lineup.  For example:  This one.

After Albert retreated back to the dugout, Berkman reached on an infield hit to the shortstop - bringing Freese to the plate - and naturally, he was given nothing to hit - so he walked again.  Molina then drove in the sixth and final run of the game - scoring Berkman from second on a base hit to center.

Meanwhile, Lance Lynn - who was hit so hard in Game Six - pitched a perfect eighth-inning - setting the stage for Jason Motte to close out this championship season with a flourish.  He too, was perfect - retiring the last Ranger batter to get on base - Murphy - who led-off the seventh-inning with a double.

This time, Murphy's line drive to left was hauled in by a back-peddling Allen Craig - to cap off this improbable championship season for the Cardinals.  As FOX broadcaster Joe Buck proclaimed, "What a team!  What a ride!  The St Louis Cardinals are World Champions!"

To no one's surprise, David Freese was voted World Series Most Valuable Player - but this was truly a team effort.  Offensively, five players had MVP-worthy performances:

Berkman - .423/.516/.577 - 1 HR - 5 RBI
Craig -       .263/.417/.737 - 3 HR - 5 RBI
Freese -      .348/.464/.696 - 1 HR - 7 RBI
Molina -     .333/.414/.417 - 0 HR - 9 RBI
Pujols -       .240/.424/.640 - 3 HR - 6 RBI

Pitching standouts:

Carpenter -     2-0 - 19.0 IP - 2.84 ERA
Garcia -          10.0 IP - 1.80 ERA
Rhodes -         1.0 IP - 0.00 ERA
Rzepczynski - 2.2 IP - 0.00 ERA
Westbrook -    1-0 - 2.0 IP - 0.00 ERA

Had the Rangers managed to win the World Series, Mike Napoli would have surely been MVP with these numbers:  .350/.464/.700 - 2 HR - 10 RBI

Interestingly, in the stolen base department, the Cardinals were 0 for 3 - the Rangers were 1 for 3 (Kinsler's ninth-inning theft of second base in Game Two - which helped Texas win by a 2-1 score).

Otherwise, Freese's Game Six walk-off home run would have been a World Series ending walk-off home run - joining Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter in that elite category.

Finally, this would prove to be LaRussa's last game as manager of the St Louis Cardinals.  He was at the helm for the greatest resurgence in franchise history - which has continued with his successor - the most frequently second-guessed manager in franchise history - Mike Matheny - at the helm.

2015 should be an interesting and challenging season - and since it's an odd-numbered year...













Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27, 2011 - World Series - Game Six: The David Freese Game

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - World Series - Game Six vs Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium III - Attendance:  47,325 - Starting Pitchers:  Jaime Garcia vs Colby Lewis

It was by far, the most thrilling World Series game in franchise history.

On two separate occasions, the Cardinals were down to their last strike - trailing the Texas Rangers by two runs - who were, conversely, one strike away from their first world championship in franchise history - on two separate occasions.

Somehow, on two separate occasions, the Cardinals tied the game.

Finally, in the eleventh-inning, David Freese - who got the big two-out two-run-triple in the ninth-inning to send the game into extra innings - won it on the sixth pitch of the at bat - with a lead-off home run to straight-away center field.

The final score:  St Louis 10 - Texas 9.

Four hours and thirty-three minutes earlier, Cardinal starter Jaime Garcia began the night by walking the first batter of the game - Ian Kinsler - who was in motion when Elvis Andrus singled to left - allowing Kinsler to easily reach third.  Josh Hamilton then scored Kinsler while Andrus took third on his single to right field.

Just like that, it was 1-0, Texas - with runners on the corners and still nobody out.  The Rangers appeared to be on the verge of a big inning, with the heart of their lineup lurking.  However, Garcia struck out both Michael Young and Adrian Beltre - then retired Nelson Cruz on a grounder to third baseman David Freese, who got the force out at second.

No doubt feeling a bit reprieved, the Cardinals responded immediately, in the bottom of the first - facing Texas starter Colby Lewis.  A one-out single by Skip Schumaker preceded Lance Berkman's two-out two-run home run to left center field.  St Louis now held a short-lived 2-1 lead.

In the second-inning, a lead-off walk to Mike Napoli preceded Craig Gentry's single to left field.  However, Lewis, attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt, hit the ball too hard down the third base line.  Freese grabbed it, stepped on third then threw to shortstop Rafael Furcal - too late to force Gentry at second - but Furcal's relay throw to second baseman Nick Punto, covering first, retired the lumbering Lewis to complete the rare 5-6-4 double play.  I would venture to guess that's the first one of its kind in World Series history (I would also venture to guess nobody's going to research that one).

Just when it appeared the Cardinals might be able to avoid any further trouble, Kinsler's two-out ground-rule double tied the game:  2-2.

After the Cardinals failed to score in their half of the second, Garcia pitched a scoreless third-inning, followed by another scoreless inning by Lewis.

Following that brief intermission, action resumed with a new pitcher on the mound for the Cardinals - Fernando Salas - to begin the fourth-inning.  The first batter - Cruz - hit a little pop fly to short left field, which Matt Holliday dropped - allowing Cruz to reach second.  Napoli then gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead with an RBI single to right field.  Salas then pitched out of further trouble - allowing just the one unearned run to score.

Returning the favor, as the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the bottom of the fourth - first baseman Young booted Berkman's grounder - then Holliday drew a base on balls - giving Freese a chance to do some damage with runners on first and second.  His slow roller to second resulted in a force out, as Berkman advanced to third while a frustrated Freese was safe at first.

Berkman then scored the tying run on Yadier Molina's slow roller to third:  3-3.

The low point in the game for David Freese came in the fifth-inning.  Josh Hamilton lifted a very high pop fly which Freese camped under - but apparently wasn't quite sure about actually "catching".  As he stuck his glove high above his head, millions of Cardinal fans watching on television were no doubt screaming, "Use two hands!"  Sure enough, the ball bounced off the heel of his glove as his right hand dangled uselessly to his side - unable to grab the ball as it fell to earth - especially since he had his eyes closed at the moment of ball-to-glove impact.  Freese would later say that was the most embarrassing moment of his life.

Michael Young then promptly scored Hamilton on a double to left field - but once again, the Rangers failed to capitalize on a potentially big inning.  This one ended when Colby Lewis was allowed to hit for himself - with the bases loaded - and struck out to end the inning.

It was still a 4-3 Texas lead as the Cardinals batted in the sixth-inning.  With one out, Berkman reached on an infield hit to third.  Holliday then reached when first baseman Young dropped a throw - his second error of the game.  Freese began his slow resurrection in this incredible game by drawing a base on balls - to load the bases.

At this time, manager Ron Washington - who just an inning earlier, allowed Lewis to hit for himself with the bases loaded - decided to remove his starter - bringing in Alexi Ogando to face Molina - who also waked - forcing in the tying run - Berkman.

What happened next appeared to be a calamity for the Redbirds - but in retrospect, was a blessing.  Catcher Mike Napoli caught Holliday napping at third base - and picked him off.  In his desperate attempt to reach the bag before the tag could be applied, Holliday injured his hand - and would be sidelined for the rest of the game - and Series, for that matter.  Allen Craig would be his replacement.

In the meantime, after the Holliday pick-off, Ogando celebrated by throwing a wild pitch to Nick Punto - advancing the runners - Molina and Freese - to second and third.  Punto walked to load the bases once again - prompting another pitching change.

Entering the game was the goofy but talented Derek Holland - who pitched so brilliantly for the Rangers in his Game Four start - limiting the Cardinals to just two hits for 8.1 innings in the Rangers' 4-0 win.  He ended the threat by getting Jon Jay on an easy ground ball, which Holland snared and carefully tossed to Young to retire the side.

The 4-4 tie didn't last long.  Facing Lance Lynn, the Rangers started the seventh-inning with back-to-back home runs by Beltre and Cruz.  Texas added another run on an Ian Kinsler RBI single - to build an imposing 7-4 lead.

It was still 7-4 when Allen Craig - batting in place of the injured Holliday - homered with one out and nobody on in the eighth.  However, the Cards could score no more - eventually leaving the bases loaded after Holland got Furcal on an infield ground out to preserve the two-run lead.

After Texas failed to add to their two-run lead in the top of the ninth-inning, manager Washington brought Neftali Feliz in to close it out.  He struck out Ryan Theriot - but Pujols refused to go quietly - doubling, deep to center field.  Berkman patiently drew a walk - giving Allen Craig - who homered in the eighth-inning, the chance to end it with a walk-off home run.  Instead, he looked at a called third strike.

That brought David Freese to the plate - representing the last chance for the Cardinals to salvage - not only the game - but the entire Series.  He quickly found himself in a one-ball-two-strike hole - but then launched an outside-corner fastball deep to right field, where Nelson Cruz was positioned poorly - not respecting the opposite-field power of Freese and not positioned deep enough to avoid the ball sailing over his head - bouncing off the base of the wall, allowing both runners to score, as an exuberant Freese slid safely into third.

With a chance to win it, Molina lined the ball hard to right field - but this time Cruz was able to catch it - to retire the side.

Freese's heroics seemed likely to be a brief footnote in Cardinal baseball lore, however - after Josh Hamilton's two-run tenth-inning home run off Jason Motte gave Texas a two-run lead again:  9-7.

With lefty reliever Darren Oliver now on the mound for Texas, both Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay singled to begin the tenth-inning for St Louis.  Then, Kyle Lohse - pinch hitting for Edwin Jackson, who was pinch hitting for Motte - advanced the runners to second and third with a good sacrifice bunt.

Scott Feldman was then summoned from the Rangers' bullpen to face Theriot - and he retired him on a ground out to third - as Descalso scored the first run of the inning.  After an intentional walk to Pujols - Berkman - down to his last strike - tied the game yet again with a line drive single to center:  9-9.

After Jake Westbrook pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Redbirds, the eighth pitcher of the game for Texas - Mark Lowe - was brought in to face David Freese, leading-off the bottom of the eleventh.

On a full-count - the sixth pitch of the at bat - Freese hit one deep to center field, giving FOX broadcaster Joe Buck the opportunity to borrow his dad's famous World Series call of Kirby Puckett's walk-off Game Six home run from '91:  "We will...see you tomorrow night!"

On the five year anniversary of the Cardinals' World Series Game Five win over the Detroit Tigers, which gave the franchise it first world championship since 1982 - Freese's heroics ensured a Game Seven would be played in 2011.  And of course, the Rangers never had a chance.














Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26, 2006 - Come-From-Behind Game 4 World Series Win Over Tigers

Thursday, October 26, 2006 - World Series - Game Four vs Detroit Tigers at Busch Stadium III - Starting Pitchers:  Jeff Suppan vs Jeremy Bonderman - Attendance:  46,470

Game Four had been scheduled to be played on Wednesday, but was postponed, due to rain.

The Cardinals used timely hitting, good defense and capitalized on another inexplicably wild throw by Tigers' pitching to earn a pivotal come-from-behind World Series Game Four win - by a final score of 5-4.  This win gives the Redbirds a formidable three games to one advantage over the bumbling Tigers, who - thanks to one enormous throwing error - managed to cough up two more unearned runs en route to blowing an early 3-0 lead.

After a rocky start - giving up three runs after three-innings - Jeff Suppan kept the Tigers off the board over his final three innings of work to give his teammates a chance to get back in the game.

Trailing 3-0 in the third-inning, the Cardinals broke through off Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman - on a one-out single by Aaron Miles, a stolen base, and a two-out RBI double by David Eckstein - one of three doubles the World Series MVP would collect on the night.

The Cardinals used a pair of doubles in the fourth-inning by Scott Rolen and Yadier Molina to pull within one run - down 3-2.

However, in the sixth-inning Rolen's lead-off double - his second of the game - was wasted when reliever Fernando Rodney entered the game to strike out both Miles and pinch hitter John Rodriguez -  stranding Rolen at third.

Rodney's only problem seemed to be what to do with any balls hit back to the mound - as we would see once again in the seventh-inning.

Still trailing 3-2, Eckstein led-off with another double, prompting manager Tony LaRussa to have pinch hitter So Taguchi - batting for Chris Duncan - lay down a sacrifice bunt - preferably one the pitcher would have to field.  Sure enough, after fielding the bunt, Rodney somehow managed to throw the ball over the first baseman's head - allowing Eckstein to score the tying (unearned) run, as Taguchi advanced to second - representing the go-ahead (unearned) run.

After an intentional walk to Pujols, Rodney struck out both Edmonds and Rolen - but Preston Wilson came up with the big hit - a run-scoring single to left field.  Left fielder Craig Monroe had no shot at nailing Taguchi at home, but Pujols was an easy out trying to take third.  However, the Cardinals had finally taken a 4-3 lead - although it would be a short-lived lead.

With Braden Looper now pitching for the Cardinals to start the eighth-inning, Ivan Rodriguez greeted him with a lead-off double - then advanced to third on Placido Polanco's ground-out to the second baseman.  That prompted LaRussa to bring in his rookie closer - Adam Wainwright - to get out of the jam.  However, the first batter he faced - Brandon Inge - tied the game with a double to center field.

Suddenly, the game was very much in jeopardy.   Detroit could take the lead again with another base hit, however, Wainwright struck out pinch hitter Alexis Gomez as well as Curtis Granderson, to end the threat.

With Joel Zumaya now pitching for the Tigers, Molina drew a lead-off walk to start the home half of the eighth.  Miles then forced Yadi at second on a grounder to third base.  Then, in a bizarre play, Zumaya struck out Encarnacion on a wild pitch, advancing Miles to second - although catcher Rodriguez was able to retrieve the ball in time to retire the batter at first base.

Next up - Eckstein - hit a line drive to left center field which probably should have been caught by Granderson - but the Tigers' center fielder slipped on the wet outfield grass, as the ball sailed over his head - good for another double, and good for his second RBI of the game.  That was the only run in the inning, but it proved to be all that was necessary to take Game Four by a  5-4 final score.

Despite blowing the save, Wainwright pitched a perfect ninth to preserve his first career postseason win - and put the Redbirds on the cusp of what seemed like an impossible World Series championship just one short month ago.

In baseball, one month can bring about great change.  A little rain can go a long way, too.