For the second time ever, the baseball season officially extended itself into November when Game Four of the World Series was played at Philadelphia on Sunday. The 2001 Fall Classic also ran into November but, unlike this season, wasn’t necessarily scheduled to; the week-long shutdown of baseball after the 9-11 terrorist attacks pushed the remainder of that season back a week.
The Way of the K
Alex Rodriguez struck out three times in each of the first two World Series games, giving him four such performances for the entire 2009 season; three of those four have come against the Phillies.
The New York Yankees are staying true to their regular season form in the postseason. After pacing the majors during the season with 244 home runs, the Yankees set a franchise postseason mark with 17 more long balls just three games into the World Series.
No Wagering, Please
Okay, so we haven’t been particularly spot-on in our prediction of “the over” for the World Series (we’re 2-2 so far), but at least we’re doing better than the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins, who’s already lost out on his bet of Philadelphia winning the Series in five games.
One the eve of the postseason, it appeared that Philadelphia pitcher Cole Hamels had rebounded from a mostly forgettable 2009 campaign and was ready to shine again in the playoffs (as he did a year ago) based on sterling numbers in September. We took a closer look at Hamels’ home-stretch numbers and saw that his strongest performances during this run came against offensively challenged foes San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Washington and the New York Mets. In his last six games pitchedincluding the final two of the regular seasonHamels has seen far better lineups and far worse results: A 1-4 record and a 7.85 ERA.
A Match Made in Cleveland
For fans of the Cleveland Indianswho just two years ago came tantalizingly close to reaching the World Series, in advance of a collapse that continues to this dayit must have been gut-wrenching to turn on the TV for Game One and watch two former Indian aces, Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, dueling against one another for (respectively) the Phillies and Yankees. Lee easily outdueled Sabathia, 6-1, firing a complete game and becoming the first World Series pitcher since Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe, 60 years ago, to strike out ten or more batters without a single walk. (The only other time that had happened in a World Series game came in the very first Fall Classic matchup in 1903, when Pittsburgh’s Deacon Phillippewho practically pitched the entire series for the Piratesbeat Boston, 7-3.)
Inching Towards Yankee Stadium
Lee was nearly MIA for his Game One masterpiece. Taking a taxi to Yankee Stadium, Lee found himself “hopelessly” stuck in massive Manhattan gridlock, and was told by the driver that the ride to the ballpark might take a few hours (imagine that cab fare), which would have gotten him there mere moments before the first pitch. Lee decided to hop out and catch the nearest subway, which promptly got him to the ballpark in 15 minutes. Good thing this didn’t happen in Philadelphia, where a transit strike was looming before the Phillies’ first home game of the World Series.
Chase What Matters
Chase Utley established an all-time postseason record in Game One of the World Series against the Yankees by reaching base for the 26th straight game. The Phillie second baseman did it with authority: He launched two home runs, the first two by a Yankee postseason opponent at the new, homer-happy Yankee Stadium after Minnesota and Los Angeles of Anaheim failed to go long in five earlier games. Utley walked in Game Two to extend the streak to 27, then failed to reach base in Game Three to end it.
Still His Daddy
For a guy who began the year out of baseball, Pedro Martinez has ended up feeling pretty good about himself in 2009, and he milked his newfound celebrity for all it was worth in a press conference a day before his Game Two start. In his most memorable comment during the chat, Martinez boasted that he was the most influential player to perform inside the old Yankee Stadiumin certainty, a stratospheric if not delusional statement, considering the many legends who stepped foot on that field over its 85-year lifespan, starting with Babe Ruth. But in the end, Martinez’s quality-driven Game Two outing was ruined once again by the Yankees’ Hideki Matsui, whose sixth-inning, solo homer gave the Yankees the lead for keeps and evoked memories of the Matsui double in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS off Martinez (then with the Boston Red Sox), which ignited a game-changing rally after Martinez talked Boston manager Grady Little into staying in the game.
Yankee broadcaster Suzyn Waldron, she of the “Goodness Gracious!” rant when announcing Roger Clemens’ return to the Yankees in 2007, broke a glass ceiling of sorts by becoming the first female radio broacaster of a World Series with the start of the Yankees-Phillies showdown.
He Said What?
“Pedro is full of crap.” Don Zimmer, whose head was infamously grabbed by Pedro Martinez and thrown to the ground during an on-field skirmish in the 2003 ALCS. Martinez claimed this past week that Zimmer was trying to punch his mouth and said some “bad words” about his mother.
The Comebacker’s Greatest Hits
Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2007 season.
The City of Brotherly Hate?
Former pitcher and current TBS analyst David Wells was given column space in the New York Post and let sports fans in Philadelphia have it, writing about just how cruel they can get. It was public knowledge that Wells’ on-site TBS crew was booed during the NLCS at Citizens Bank Park, but Wells went deeper with the facts: “People we’re walking by saying, ‘You fat piece of (bleep)…Tell Cal (Ripken Jr.) he’s gay…Ernie Johnson sucks.’…We’re doing the game and TBS stuff and these Phillies fans are just f-bombing us to death.”
Tony, Big Mac and the PressTogether Again
Back to LaRussa. Ready to begin his 32nd year of managing, the 65-year old Bay Area resident needs 212 wins to surpass John McGraw on the all-time list for wins. LaRussa could move on from there and take aim at Connie Mack for first place, but he’d have to manage past the age of 80 to do it.
Tony LaRussa ended speculation about retirement and signed a one-year deal to return as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. But that took a back seat to a sidebar that got more press attention: LaRussa was bringing disgraced slugger Mark McGwire out of Orange County exile to become the Cardinals’ new hitting coach. The move is not a publicity stunt, because the last thing the bashful McGwire needs after embarrassing himself in front of Congress in 2005 is publicity. McGwire is said to be terrific tutor to present-day major league hitters, and his presence in St. Louis could help the Cardinals in their long shot hopes of resigning Matt Holliday, with whom McGwire hooked up with last offseason. The question is: How will McGwire deal with beat reporters (and worse, the occasional visit from columnists) who want to talk about his past?
Gary Matthews Jr. made it clear this past week that he no longer wants to be a part of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. As far as the Angels are concerned, the feeling is mutual. Matthews has been a major disappointment for the Angels since signing a five-year, $50 million contract, a deal mostly earned solely on his 2006 career year with the Texas Rangersa performance that may have been fueled with steroids. In his first three years at Anaheim, Matthews hit .248, matching his career average if you take away his .313 effort from his wonder year in Arlington; he was a part-timer this past year and was 0-for-5 in the postseason. The challenge for the Angels will be to find someone who will be willing to take on the final two years of his contract; chances are, they’ll have to eat most or all of it, regardless of his address for 2010.
Can You Hear the Ricketts?
It’s finally down to business for Tom Ricketts, who at last secured ownership of the Chicago Cubs after a three-year process. Ricketts was a very public figure this past week, envisioning his near future plans for the Cubs under his watch. Among his comments, Ricketts discussed his ideas for modernizing Wrigley Field without ruining its classic character, saying he would refrain from bringing in a big video screen (“I don’t think Kiss Cam would do anything for us”) and would resist, for now, putting the ballpark’s name up to the highest bidder. (Here’s a novel idea, though: Make a deal with Wrigley to start paying for the nameor threaten to remove it.) Ricketts also wants to upgrade the area around Wrigley into more of a mixed-use environment with shops, restaurants, lodging and even a Cub Hall of Fame, though he’ll likely run into skeptical (to say nothing of powerful) neighborhood association groups before making that a reality.
This Week's Episode of Divorce McCourt
For those of you looking for more TMZ-level material involving the McCourts, here it is: Mr. Dodger claims that Mrs. Dodger began a fling this summer with her “driver” and took him with her to France for two-plus weeks, all on the Dodgers’ dime. Mrs. Dodger vehemently denies the expense reportbut not the affair, which she claims began after the McCourts separated.
Another week, another dollar for the lawyers and media involved with or watching the emerging internal turmoil within the Los Angeles Dodgers as owner Frank McCourt and his estranged wife Jamie fight for control of the team. Mr. Dodger claims in the fine print of a legal document previously signed by both parties that the Dodgers are his. Mrs. Dodger says she signed the agreement “because I trusted my husband for 25 years” (oh, that will play well for the judge) and is seeking to render the document moot by embracing California’s community property law, which would entitle her to 50% of the team.
One and You're Done
Cito Gaston was re-upped as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, but for only a year; he will then be asked to begin a four-year term as a team consultant. The deal seems to be a placating act toward Blue Jay players, led by underachieving star Vernon Wells, who nearly mutinied against Gaston at the end of this past season. The good news for Gaston is that news is brewing of a possible trade that would send Wells to the Chicago Cubs. The bad news is that, in return, the Jays would get the irascible Milton Bradley for Gaston to deal with.
Are You Ready for Some...Baseball?
Ratings for Game Six of the ALCS between the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim drew three times the ratings in New York as did the Sunday Night Football matchup between the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals taking place at the same moment.
Take the TGG All-Time Hit Quiz
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Now Playing at TGG
Check out Ed Attanasio's interview with former Baltimore slugger Jim Gentile in the latest TGG installment of They Were There.
Also Now Playing at TGG
TGG's year-end review of the regular season is now live, breaking down the best, worst, most surprising and most disappointing performances from each major league team.