Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-10-1

10/1/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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Welcome to October baseball – happy birthday, Rod Carew

Monday, October 01, 2007

Top of the 1st
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA
I started my work morning, as per usual around 6:00, and poured my first glass of iced coffee. Before I put the milk in I smelled the little bit that was left in the container and decided that it had gone bad. As I opened a new half-gallon, I looked at that old container that I had put in the recycling bin and there it was, right before my very eyes, the image of the New York Mets – the expiration date: September 29, 2007.

On September 30, 2007, the Philadelphia Phillies became the champs of the NL East while the Mets became the new standard for a September collapse. So that you understanding the magnitude of this disintegration you need to know that the Mets are only the third team with a seven-game September lead to not go onto to win and while two other teams fell short, no other team, I repeat, no other team did it so late, so quickly, so embarrassingly.

Here are the lowly three:
1. The 1938 Pirates led by seven on Sept. 1, with 26 games remaining
2. The 1934 New York Giants held that edge on Sept. 6, with 21 games left.
3. The 2007 Mess led the Phillies by seven on Sept. 12, with 17 games left.

To accomplish this, the Mets lost 12 of 17 (committing 21 errors), while the Phillies, giving credit where credit is due, won 13 of 17. But as well as the Phils did, this story truly is more about the Mets, who played .294 ball down the stretch. Had they play just .411 baseball, they would have won it. But as the Seattle Times’ Larry Stone, brilliantly referred to Mets manager Willie Randolph, “Randolph drove the Mets down the stretch at Mauch 1 speed.” This was a reference to the great collapse of 1964 when Gene Mauch’s Phils had a 6 1/2-game lead with 12 to play. Those Phils lost 10 straight to finish second to the St. Louis Cardinals.

The baseball gods are funny aren’t they? As Phil Sheridan wrote in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “If you’re from Philadelphia, the ominous thunderhead of 1964 hangs over you, casting a permanent shadow of nagging doubt in your sports psyche. But if you were too young to see or to remember that infamous collapse, watching these Mets has given you a feel for what it must have been like.”

Taking the gods step of irony even farther, there is only one Phil who was even born when their great collapse occurred 43 years ago. He was born November 18, 1962 in Sellersville, PA, just 39 miles from Philadelphia. His name is Jaime Moyers, he was yesterday’s starting and winning pitcher.

Yesterday’s starting and losing pitcher for the Mets was another 40-year old, Tom Glavine who probably should accept the Braves offer to pitch next year for two reasons: first, there is not a Met fan alive who would want to see Glavine wear the blue, orange and black of the Mets again; and secondly, Glavine would hate to see his Hall of Fame career end on such a pitiful note.

Glavine became a 300-game winner during this season in which he went 13-8. But yesterday afternoon, when it mattered the most, when the Mets needed a win in the worst way, Glavine was simply the worst. Glavine turned in the second-shortest outing of his career, retiring just one batter. One batter, not in the 4th inning, not in the 3rd, but one batter in the very first inning of the game that meant the title. He was replaced and charged with seven runs which tied his career high. It was his fourth straight loss.

The Mets will have other decisions to make on who returns or doesn’t. Catcher Paul Lo Duca is a free agent, but then again so is Jorge Posada. Outfielder Shawn Green is another free agent and as his playing time decreased as the season progressed, he is probably gone. Second baseman Luis Castillo, a trade-deadline acquisition in July, also will be a free agent.

There will be calls for manager Willie Randolph’s head, but like his team, he’s going nowhere. In fact, he is a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

The same may not be said for pitching coach, Rick Peterson. In April, the Mets team ERA was 2.96; in May, it was 3.69; in June, 4.20; July, 4.50; August, 4.93; and in September, when it mattered most, 5.11.

But maybe, it was what Peterson had to work with that was the problem. That brings us to Omar Minaya who seemed to assemble his team more like a fantasy general manager than the real GM that he is supposed to be. Minaya collected a bunch of old pitchers who wore down as the season progressed and a bunch of young pitchers who were not ready for the stress of a long pennant race. The fact that the Mets had to start prized prospect Phil Humber, in his major league debut, in the last week of the season, with everything on the line, is a reflection of Minaya’s poor insight in assembling this ballclub. The fact that other than Aaron Heilman, no other Met reliever in the last two weeks had an ERA of under 4.70 is another reflection on Minaya who seemed content with the team that he had, the team that like their GM which had a false sense of entitlement and had become complacent over the last three months of the season.

Talent is important, but so is team chemistry. Charlie Manuel, the grizzled manager who everybody loves to hate in Philly told Jayson Stark of ESPN, “”You know what?” said Manuel yesterday, “We love to play. If you watch us play, our players really love to play. I’ve been around a lot of teams. And this team here, as far as chemistry goes, is definitely the best [of any] team I’ve ever been around. “And I think who we have and how they play, our chemistry, our atmosphere which comes from the guys on this team, is what definitely made the difference in pulling this off. I think some of the teams I’ve had before were divided at times. But this team right here is a team that stayed together.”

Teams need the veteran who can step up and lead by example. Guys like Todd Helton of the Rockies, Mike Lowell on the Red Sox, Garrett Anderson on the Angels, and, of course, Derek Jeter on the Yankees. They need the teammate who can speak to the young player who has lost his way and get him focused again. David Wright, who ended the season hitting in all 17 of those miserable final Mets games, didn’t have the experience to be that leader. This collapse has added gravitas to the entire Mets team. Maybe next year, he will be able to guide a youngster through the pain.

Nobody seemed to do that this year for the brilliantly exciting Jose Reyes who hit .307, with 46 stolen bases and nine triples before the All-Star Game. Since then, he hit only .255 and wasn’t running out ground balls and yesterday went 0-5. He hit just .197 in September.

Reyes has a lot to learn and one place where he can start is by watching his Phillies counterpart Jimmy Rollins, or should I say, NL MVP Jimmy Rollins. Rollins yesterday went 2-for-3 with a triple, two runs scored and two stolen bases in the Phillies’ 6-1 win. Rollins ended up with a team record 20 triples. He had 41 stolen bases. C’mon, Billy-Ball, get to the good stuff.

How’s this? For just the second time since George Brett did it in 1979, Rollins racked up at least 20 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 200 hits in a season. His 88 extra-base hits this season trailed only Alex Rodriguez (91 in 1996) among everyday shortstops. And he is one of only three players to have played all 162 games this year.

“He’s our MVP, that’s for sure,” general manager Pat Gillick said in today’s Philadelphia Daily News. “Ryan Howard missed a considerable amount of time. Chase Utley missed a lot of time, but he [Rollins] went out and played every day for us.”

“Jimmy was the catalyst to getting this game started,” said Howard, who was 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBI. “But that just shows why he’s our leader on this team. He’s gotten it done all year long.”

He actually was even doing it before the season started. That was when Rollins said the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East. He was right.

On the subject of Howard, he hit his 47th homer yesterday. It was also the fourth consecutive game in which he homered. Yes, he had 199 strikeouts, but really, honestly and truly: Nobody cares. This terrific kid knows how to play the game.

So today, the Mets are in the recycling bin. In pain, like Carlos Delgado’s wrist which was broken on a HBP in the last losing effort. The Phils are awaiting the outcome of the Padres/Rockies play-in game to find out who their first round opponent will be.

Don’t be misled, the Phillies are a flawed team. The 821 runs they allowed are the most by any NL playoff team ever. But, they have Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Pat Burrell, and Aaron Rowand, all of whom make something happen at bat and on the field. These guys want to win which is why the Phillies had 48 come-from-behind wins this season. Watching them play can put a smile on your face and push the clouds away – perhaps that’s why it’s always sunny in Philadelphia.

Top of the 2nd
THE PLAY-OFFS
We will track all the action each day in this slot:

DIVISION SERIES
Series Date Network
NLDS A Game 1 Wed., Oct. 3 TBS
NLDS B Game 1 Wed., Oct. 3 TBS
Angels at Red Sox Wed., Oct. 3 TBS
NLDS A Game 2 Thurs., Oct. 4 TBS
NLDS B Game 2 Thurs., Oct. 4 TBS
Yankees at Indians Thurs., Oct. 4 TBS
Yankees at Indians Fri., Oct. 5 TBS
Angels at Red Sox Fri., Oct. 5 TBS
NLDS A Game 3 Sat., Oct. 6 TBS
NLDS B Game 3 Sat., Oct. 6 TBS
Indians at Yankees Sun., Oct. 7 TBS/TNT
Red Sox at Angels Sun., Oct. 7 TBS/TNT
NLDS A Game 4 Sun., Oct. 7 TBS/TNT
NLDS B Game 4 Sun., Oct. 7 TBS/TNT
Indians at Yankees Mon., Oct. 8 TBS
Red Sox at Angels Mon., Oct. 8 TBS
NLDS A Game 5 Tues., Oct. 9 TBS
NLDS B Game 5 Tues., Oct. 9 TBS
Angels at Red Sox Wed., Oct. 10 TBS
Yankees at Indians Wed., Oct. 10 TBS

LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

Series Date Network
NLCS Game 1 Thurs., Oct. 11 TBS
NLCS Game 2 Fri., Oct. 12 TBS
ALCS Game 1 Fri., Oct. 12 FOX
ALCS Game 2 Sat., Oct. 13 FOX
NLCS Game 3 Sun., Oct. 14 TBS
ALCS Game 3 Mon., Oct. 15 FOX
NLCS Game 4 Mon., Oct. 15 TBS
ALCS Game 4 Tues., Oct. 16 FOX
NLCS Game 5 Wed., Oct. 17 TBS
ALCS Game 5 Thurs., Oct. 18 FOX
NLCS Game 6 Fri., Oct. 19 TBS
ALCS Game 6 Sat., Oct. 20 FOX
NLCS Game 7 Sat., Oct. 20 TBS
ALCS Game 7 Sun., Oct. 21 FOX

WORLD SERIES

Series Date Network
WS Game 1 (AL host) Wed., Oct. 24 FOX
WS Game 2 (AL host) Thurs., Oct. 25 FOX
WS Game 3 (NL host) Sat., Oct. 27 FOX
WS Game 4 (NL host) Sun., Oct. 28 FOX
WS Game 5 (NL host) Mon., Oct. 29 FOX
WS Game 6 (AL host) Wed., Oct. 31 FOX
WS Game 7 (AL host) Thurs., Nov. 1 FOX

Top of the 3rd
THE PLAY-IN
Let me tell what I think is the most ironic moment of this incredible last weekend of baseball. On Saturday, the Padres were one strike away from winning a third consecutive playoff berth, Trevor Hoffman on the mound facing the Brewers. Hoffman threw his killer change-up, the swings and hits it into the right-field corner for a triple that scored the tying run. The Brewers won it in the 11th.

The Brewers batter who had the key hit in the 9th? Tony Gwynn Jr., son of the greatest Padre in history.

But the Padres still could have gotten into the playoffs on Sunday by beating the Brewers who had been eliminated Friday night by the Cubs in the NL Central. The Brewers hammered them 11-6.

So we have a play-in to see who will face the Phillies. It’s either the Padres, who led Colorado by five games on Sept. 4; or the Rockies, who won 13 of their final 14 games to pull even at 89-73, the 89 wins being a team record. Now Jake Peavy, this year’s NL Cy Young Award winner, will try to secure the franchise’s first wild-card berth. Peavy (19-6) will face Josh Fogg (10-9) at Coors Field.

Padres manager Bud Black could have started Peavy on short rest yesterday, but chose to keep him ready for today; we’ll see wise that idea was. Black started Brett Tomko instead who took a 3-0 lead into the 4th and a 4-2 lead into the 5th before faltering. Tomko, the Dodgers castoff had a 3-0 record for the Padres, got only one out in the 5th. After allowing a double to Damian Miller, Tomko threw two wild pitches, allowed a sharp single and issued a walk. Reliever Cla Meredith entered and allowed two singles and a sacrifice fly, putting Milwaukee ahead, 6-4. The Brewers were doing all this without Prince Fielder, the NL’s home run champion who was out of the lineup yesterday because of an ankle injury.

Colorado held on yesterday for a 4-3 victory over Arizona to force the play-in game. Arizona rookie Yusmeiro Petit shut the Rockies out on four hits over five innings before Brad Hawpe had a run-scoring double off left-hander Doug Slaten to put the Rockies up 1-0 in the 6th. Hawpe was also the key man in the Rockies three-run 8th with a two-run double off left-hander Bill Murphy that gave the Rockies a 4-1 lead. Rockies rookie Ubaldo Jimenez pitched 6 1/3 brilliant innings, giving up one hit and had 10 strikeouts. He left after back-to-back one-out walks to Jeff Salazar and Miguel Montero. Brian Fuentes, the Rockies former closer, came on after Jorge Julio served up a tying single in the 7th. With one-out and two-on Fuentes struck out Conor Jackson and Jeff Cirillo.

Rockies c loser Manny Corpas struggled, giving up two runs in the 9th, but with the tying run on first, Corpas fielded a roller by Stephen Drew (J.D.’s brother – it must run in the family) and threw to first for the final out. It was his 19th save in 20 opportunities

“This is really exciting, but we have a big game (tonight) against a guy who is going to win the Cy Young Award this year,” first baseman Todd Helton said. “For all we’ve done, we’ve still got to finish it. . . . We have to be confident. We have won 13 of our last 14, but we need to win 14 of 15 to get where we want to be.”

* Peavy has no record and a 1.29 ERA in two starts against the Rockies this year and has a 10-1 record and 2.20 ERA over his last 13 starts. He is 3-3 with a 3.96 career ERA at Coors Field and allowed six runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start there in 2006.
* For the season, Peavy is 19-6, with a 2.36 earned run average.
* The Rockies’ Fogg is 10-9, with a 4.79 earned run average. He’s 3-0 with a 3.25 ERA in his last five starts. He’s 3-2 with a 5.48 career ERA against the Padres (1-1, 6.28 ERA, .369 opponents batting average in 2007).
* The Rockies won 20 games in September, a club record for the month. Only six other teams have won 20 games in September in the past 15 years, and five of those made it to the postseason – the Yankees (21) in 1995, Oakland (21) in 2000, St. Louis (21) in 2002, San Francisco (20) in 2000 and Houston (20) in 2004. Baltimore was the one team that came up short when it won 20 in September 1999.
* Yesterday’s Rockies’ win gave them a 10-8 record against Arizona and for the first time in franchise history allowed them to win the season series against the four other NL West members.
* The Rockies lead 117-113, winning 10-of-18 this year. They have a 61-52 edge in Denver, 55-48 at Coors Field, winning five of nine this year. The Rockies swept a three-game series in San Diego on Sept. 21-24 and won two of three from the Padres at Coors Field on Sept. 7-9.
* The Padres have lost six of their past 10 games.
* The Padres are 42-39 on the road for the second year in a row.
* Their 89 wins are their most since they were 98-64 in 1998.
* Tonight’s game counts in the regular-season statistics.
* That means that Jake Peavy has a chance to join Josh Beckett as baseball’s only 20-game winners. The Padres’ last 20-game winner was Gaylord Perry in 1978.
* It also means that Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday can go 0-4 and still win the NL batting crown. Holliday was 1-for-3 yesterday, leaving his average at .340. Chipper Jones of Atlanta was hitless yesterday and slipped to .337. Holliday could go 0-for-4 today and beat out Jones with a .3375 average, which rounds up to .338.
* Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe and Matt Holliday have hit a combined .354 (23-for-65) with four home runs against Peavy.
* Holiday has 135 RBI one behind Ryan Howard of Philadelphia, who had three RBI yesterday, giving him 136 for the season and the National League lead.
* The Rockies, meanwhile, go into today with a .98932 fielding percentage. The 2006 Boston Red Sox set the current record at .98910.

Top of the 4th
ONE GAME FOR ALL THE MARBLES
Today’s game between the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies will be the seventh one-game playoff in major league history. I love the idea of the play-in, in fact, I would like to see two wild card teams each year with a one game play-in on the day after the season to determine which team advances to the regular playoff. This would mitigate one advantage that the Wild Card has in light of the fact that they have to use their best pitcher, like San Diego does today, in order to advance. That lessens their chances in the first round of the playoffs.

Here are the other six playoff results:

1999: Mets 5, Reds 0
Al Leiter pitched the shutout.

1998: Cubs 5, Giants 3
Rod Beck got Joe Carter, the potential tying run, to foul out to win the game.

1995: Mariners 9, Angels 1
Randy Johnson and Mark Langston were starters. Luis Sojo’s three-run double with the bases loaded, was the key hit. Sojo scored as well on an error on the play.

1980: Astros 7, Dodgers 1
Joe Niekro pitched a complete game to win his 20th of the season.

1978: Yankees 5, Red Sox 4
Bucky “Frickin'” Dent..

1948: Indians 8, Red Sox 3
This was the first-ever one-game playoff in the AL.

Top of the 5th
75 YEARS AGO TODAY
Today is the 75th anniversary of the supposed Called Shot home run. On this date, in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, Babe Ruth allegedly pointed at the center field bleachers at Wrigley Field, predicting that he would hit the next pitch to that spot.

Charlie Root, who threw the pitch, said there was no way Ruth called his shot. “If he had made a gesture like that, I’d have put one in his ear and knocked him on his (backside),” Root said.

Lou Gehrig, who was on deck as the next Yankees hitter, said, “What do you think of the nerve of that big monkey, calling his shot and getting away with it?” he said. Most of the Yankees swore Ruth called the homer. Most of the Cubs swore he did not. All pretty much agreed, though, that he made a gesture on each of the first two strikes as the count reached two balls and two strikes, maybe pointing at the bleachers, maybe pointing at Root.

“I’ve talked to people who were there who interpreted what Ruth did in both directions,” said Jim Gates, library director at the baseball Hall of Fame, who has done some research on the event. “That’s the great part of baseball mythology. It’s a great story from a distance. It’s one of the great baseball stories, something fans can talk about forever. And the debate, that’s one of the neat things about the story.”

Ruth hit a three-run homer in the 1st inning of Game 3 and Gehrig homered in the 3rd, but the Cubs rallied to tie the score 4-4 when Ruth came to bat in the 5th inning. The Cubs and Ruth had been yammering at each other through the game, but now was time for something different.

Root’s first pitch was a called strike. Ruth looked over at the Cubs bench, raised his right hand and pointed with his index finger. The next two pitches missed the strike zone and then Ruth took strike two. Again, he raised his right hand, this time holding up two fingers. Ruth hit the 2-2 pitch into Wrigley’s bleachers, more or less to where he had pointed, unless, of course, he was pointing not at the bleachers but at Root, who had been jawing with him throughout the at-bat.

Over the next couple of days when he was asked about the landmark homer, Ruth was noncommittal; according to Gates, the “The Babe,” he said, “knew a good story when he saw one.”

46 YEARS AGO TODAY
Roger Maris hit his 61st home run of the season to set the record for most unadulterated homers in a season. A record that stills stands today.

32 YEARS AGO TODAY
The Expos fired manager Gene Mauch.

AN OMEN? – 12 YEARS AGO TODAY
The Yankees and Rockies became the first wild-card teams.

Top of the 6th
80 YEARS AGO YESTERDAY
1927 Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees hit his 60th home run of the season to break his own major-league record.

Top of the 7th
SHOULD DEREK JETER WIN HIS THIRD CONSECUTIVE GOLD GLOVE?
Check out the answer – http://billy-ball.com/JohnDewan.htm

Top of the 8th
SEPTEMBER 29…
On September 29, 1954 New York Giants centerfielder Willie Mays made one of the greatest catches in World Series history off the Cleveland Indians’ Vic Wertz in Game 1 of the World Series.

Exactly three years later
On September 29, 1957, the New York Giants played their last game at the Polo Grounds before moving to San Francisco for the next season.

Top of the 9th
THE STANDINGS
Basic standings: W/L, By Division, Home/Road
Enhanced standings: W/L Righties, Lefties, 1-runs, extra innings, run scored/against

All right here:
http://billy-ball.com/2007FINALSTANDINGS.htm

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.