The Week That Was in Baseball: October 20-26, 2008
The Awed and Odd of the World Series Brad Pitt Takes on Billy Beane
Jimmy Rollins Retains His Bragging Rights In Bed With the Yankees and Cowboys

A Backhanded Apology for J-Ro
We thought Philadelphia second baseman Jimmy Rollins went a little out of his mind before the season began when he predicted that the Phillies would win 100 games in 2008. But then again, it could be argued that “2008” includes postseason wins as well. With their 3-2 win at Tampa Bay in Game One of the World Series, the Phillies reached 100 victories for the year. So Jimmy, we stand corrected—sort of.

You Had Your Chance
We mentioned before the beginning of the season that it might be a smart bet to plunk a few bucks down on the improved Tampa Bay Rays, who were listed as 150-1 longshots to win the World Series (some sportsbooks had them as high as 400-1). Well, that train has long left the station; now, with the Rays favored to win the Fall Classic over the Philadelphia Phillies, those odds were reduced to less than even on the eve of Game One. In other words, the $20 that would have gotten you $3,000 or more with a springtime bet will now only get you $15 or so if the Rays triumph.

The Not Ready for Prime Time Ballplayers
Saturday’s 10:07 EDT start in Philadelphia for Game Three of the World Series was the latest in Fall Classic history. The game was delayed 90 minutes due to rains that had been anticipated all week, and ended at 1:47 in the morning.

The Moyer He Ages, the Better He Gets
Just a month shy of his 46th birthday, Game Three starter Jamie Moyer of the Phillies became the oldest pitcher to begin a World Series contest since Jack Quinn took the hill for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1929. Moyer pitched effectively over 6.1 innings but was robbed of victory when his spectacular, desperate dive to feed the ball to first baseman Ryan Howard to deny Carl Crawford a bunt hit was itself denied by umpire Tom Hallion, who blew the call and signaled the play safe; it led to two runs that would not have scored had the correct call had been made. 

By the way, how did Quinn do in his ageless assignment 79 years ago? The Austria-Hungary native, who was 46 years and three months young when he started Game Four against the Chicago Cubs on October 12, 1929, lasted five innings and gave up six runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks. He was removed four batters into the sixth inning with the A’s trailing 4-0, and would be charged with two more runs. The A’s famously came roaring back with a ten-run, seventh-inning uprising that was aided by two catchable fly balls lost in the sun by Chicago outfielder Hack Wilson.

Fast Swimmers
Tampa Bay established a major league postseason record for stolen bases in Game Three of the Series, but let’s apply some brakes to the accomplishment. It took the Rays 14 games to surpass the mark of 20 previously held by the 1975 Cincinnati Reds and 1992 Atlanta Braves—both of whom needed only ten and 13 games, respectively, to amass their totals. But for true efficiency in October, we evoke the 1907 Chicago Cubs, who stole 18 in a five-game World Series against Detroit back in the day when there was no LDS or LCS. (Two years later, Pittsburgh swiped 18 bases in a seven-game set against the Tigers.)

More Outage Outrage
Last week, it was TBS who kept viewers in the dark by losing the feed to the first inning of Game Six of the ALCS between Tampa Bay and Boston. On Saturday, a block of Comcast viewers in and around Philadelphia lost their cable reception in the sixth inning—just moments before Chase Utley and Ryan Howard powered back-to-back solo homers to extend the Phillies’ lead to 4-1. Full service was not restored for 25 minutes.

Value by the Win
Congratulations to the Florida Marlins, who this year spent fewer dollars per win ($260,000) in 2008 than any other major league team. Then again, because the team’s Opening Day team payroll of under $22 million was far and away the majors’ lowest, the Marlins still would have earned the honors had they won only 50 games (as it was, the Marlins finished a respectable 84-77). Tampa Bay, with baseball’s second lowest payroll, had more to brag about since their $451,762 per victory—also second behind Florida—got them to the World Series. 

In looking at all the teams, the more telling aspect of this year’s cost-per-win rankings comes from those who paid the most; the five biggest “spenders” all failed to make the playoffs—including the costliest of them all, the New York Yankees (at $2,349,236 per win), a 100-loss team (Seattle, second worst at $1,934,328 per win) and two teams (Detroit and Atlanta) with losing records. The Los Angeles Dodgers ($1,411,143) had the highest cost-per-win rate among playoff teams; besides Tampa Bay, Milwaukee ($900,044) was the only other postseason participant under a million bucks.

Blowin' in the Trade Winds?
This may not be good news for CC Sabathia; the looming free agent may have competition at his level in Jake Peavy, who’s not a free agent but, according to numerous press reports, is ready to be shopped around by the San Diego Padres, who themselves may soon be up for sale. Many teams are said to be looking at the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner, who is 27, pain-free and will likely come far less expensively ($8 million due in 2009) than Sabathia. More teams than not have been mentioned as possible suitors for Peavy, with Atlanta, Houston, St. Louis and (of course) the Yankees and Boston prominently mentioned. The NL West may be further weakened if Peavy’s departure from San Diego is followed by the rumored move of either-or-both Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins from the Colorado Rockies, who are hot for an ace pitcher. (We know what you’re thinking, but Peavy will likely not be dealt to Colorado, a divisional rival of San Diego.)

Toxic Mulder
The St. Louis Cardinals are willing to pay Mark Mulder $1.5 million not to pitch rather than keep him in 2009 for $11 million. That’s how desperate the Cardinals are to get rid of Mulder, and that’s how bad a pitcher he’s become since a series of shoulder woes all but hijacked his career. 

In 2005, his first year with St. Louis, the southpaw who had racked up a 72-32 record over the previous four years at Oakland continued to impress, finishing 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA; the high point of that season came early when he threw a ten-inning shutout over Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros. Mulder began well in 2006, but starting with a 10-8 loss at pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego on May 28, he lost it; he was bombarded on a constant basis, was shelved for September and soon after had his shoulder operated on. He recovered only to make three starts in 2007—he was bombed all three times—and had a brief, painful stint in 2008 as a reliever which showed no signs of his former greatness. In total, since his downfall began in May 2006, Mulder has gone 1-8 with a 14.66 ERA and a WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) of just under 3.00, all astoundingly bad figures. Mulder is more relieved than anything else of his newfound free agent status, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it will at least take the pressure off having to meet some team’s schedule to work himself into 100% shape—that is, if he ever returns to that threshold.

In honor of the Chicago Cubs' 100th anniversary of their last World Series title, This Great Game has been spending the last 40 weeks counting down the 40 years between 1909 and 2007 in which the Cubs came nearest to winning another. Our Tragical History Tour of Wrigleyville comes to a climatic conclusion this week with our choice for the Cubs' nearest miss:

1. 1945 98 Wins, 56 Losses
Lost World Series to the Detroit Tigers

It took a world war, aging and once out-of-work pitchers, a bunch of doubleheaders and a pivotal mid-season trade to bring the Cubs to as close as they would get to tasting a World Series title over the past 100 years. 

In a 1945 campaign that was nearly shelved by baseball because World War II had sapped away so much of its talent to the military, the Cubs were able to cling onto a relatively experienced roster—while the St. Louis Cardinals, the NL’s wartime powerhouse, finally got caught up to by the draft board and were heavily handicapped coming into the season. 

The Cubs were anchored by first baseman Phil Caverretta, a good player turned great in the face of diminished competition by leading the NL with a .355 batting average, and a group of over-35 pitchers led conspicuously by Ray Prim, who had only pitched in one previous season since last being rejected by the majors in 1935; ten years later at the age 38, Prim was good enough—or the rest of baseball bad enough—to qualify for the NL ERA title with a 2.40 mark. 

After struggling throughout the season’s first two-plus months—dropping as low as sixth in the NL standings by mid-June—the Cubs bolted to the top with an 11-game win streak in July; they stayed there for good with the help of a trade at the end of that month that sent Hank Borowy over from the New York Yankees. Borowy’s 11-2 finish with a 2.13 ERA in Chicago easily kept the Cubs afloat over the rest of the NL’s wartime rejects. 

Doubleheaders, prevalent during the war due to various rationing and restrictions, became the Cubs’ best friend; Chicago played 23 twinbills in 1945 and swept through 20 of them, a major league record. 

Hooked up in the World Series against the Detroit Tigers—bolstered by the mid-season military discharge and return to baseball of slugging great Hank Greenberg—the Cubs took two of the first three games, all played on the road at Detroit; with the remaining Series games scheduled at Chicago, prospects for their first championship since 1908 never looked better. But outside the gates of Wrigley Field before Game Four, legend has it that a local Greek restaurateur named William Sianis was refused admission because he insisted on bringing in his good luck billy goat. Infuriated, Sianis allegedly yelled out, “Cubs, they not gonna win anymore.” 

The rest is history; the Cubs lost three of the next four games—including a Game Seven, 9-3 defeat with an exhausted Borowy, used in each of the last three games, running completely out of gas—in what would be their last World Series appearance in a century without a championship.


An Alliance You'll Either Love or Hate
The New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys—the Yankees’ NFL counterparts in prestige, bankroll and ego—agreed to partner together on a new venture to provide concession services at sports venues across the country that aims to improve on the quality and expediency of food, drink, etc. Will this mean that your $8 beer and $6 hotdog will become more expensive? Who knows. But perhaps it’ll keep you from missing less action back at your seat. If anything else, the deal made headlines as it brought together Cowboy head honcho Jerry Jones and—in a rare public appearance—George Steinbrenner, who technically still runs the Yankees in spite of what is reported to be deteriorating health.

Beyond Belief
We’ve mostly heard the outline of Josh Hamilton’s descent into substance abuse hell and remarkable rebound from it, on the baseball field and off it. This past week, the born again Christian and AL MVP candidate released a book that details the startling plunge he took after being labeled a can’t-miss prospect in 1999, and his equally startling recovery. Hamilton plugged the book, Beyond Belief, and talked about his ordeal and of “God’s plan” for him to nearly 5,000 folks at a church in the Dallas suburb of Plano; he also spoke to a slightly larger audience when he appeared on "Larry King Live" this past week. Click here to watch the interview.

Moneyball—The Movie
While the story of Hamilton hits print, it appears that the story of Oakland general manager Billy Beane is being prepped for a big-screen treatment. Sony Pictures has given a green light to a movie adaptation of Michael LewisMoneyball, which chronicles Beane’s assembling of a low-budget winner. (Whether the film’s success will lead to a sequel, where Beane de-assembles the A’s as he did in 2008, still remains to be seen.) David Frankel, whose directorial credits include The Devil Wears Prada, is set for the helm, and the script will be penned by acclaimed screenwriter Steven Zaillian—but the bigger buzz of the week goes to Brad Pitt, who’s being lobbied to play the part of Beane.

He Said What?
MLB CEO Bob DuPuy on San Diego owner John Moores, whose impending divorce with his wife may force him to sell the Padres: “John has been a major force in the industry, a member of the Executive Council, one of the people who thinks of the industry first and his team second.” Is that why the Padres lost 99 games this past season?

Now Playing on TGG
Check out Ed Attanasio’s entertaining chat with one-game-wonder Stefan Wever in TGG's latest installment of the They Were There section. Also new this week, in our Opinion section, is Eric Gouldsberry's look at baseball's infatuation with bronze statues.

The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.