Thanks to starting pitcher meltdowns, we just witnessed the highest-scoring wild-card round ever. The Yankees and Diamondbacks advanced and the divisional matchups, which begin today, are set. Read the “Five Things” you need to know in my latest story for CBS Local:
There was a New York Times article a couple of days ago in which several Mets fans expressed their disgust with Yankees fans rooting for the Mets during this year’s playoffs. One guy compared the bandwagon flip-floppers to postwar Germany:
“‘Yes, I was a member of the Nazi Party during the war. But sure, I’ll come over to your house.’ No, you can’t. Some really horrible things have happened.”
Um, OK, buddy. I’ve seen similar—though far, far less extreme—sentiments expressed on social media. And they make no sense to me.
Read about the trade deadline deals, the latest no-hitter, a 21-run outburst, and more in my weekly MLB recap for CBS Local.
“There was no rush hour in New York that evening,” wrote Roger Angell about Game 6 of the 1986 National League Championship Series, being played by the Mets and Astros in Houston. “So many office workers stayed in their offices to follow the game that the buses and avenues in midtown looked half empty.” He mentions a New Jersey Transit train that just happened to have “signal difficulties” before a long tunnel that would have prevented the game’s radio transmission from coming through, but resumed service as soon as the Mets scored three runs in the top of the 16th. A man running in Central Park was stopped by a “strange, all-surrounding noise…It came from everywhere around the Park, he said, and it wasn’t a shout or a roar but something closer to a sudden great murmuring of the city: the Mets had won.”
It may be hard for anyone under the age of 30 to believe, but there was a time that the Mets, not the Yankees, were New York’s team. The Mets were younger, more entertaining, and better. That hasn’t been the case, at least not the “better” part, for 20 years. That may be changing.
I once passionately argued with my friend’s dad that the Mets should not trade their shortstop, Rey Ordonez, for Derek Jeter. Even for a 12 year old, this was a pitiful stance to take. Ordonez was a defensive whiz, but Jeter’s bat was so much better that he could’ve misplayed every other ball and still been the more valuable player. And yet, not only did I think the Mets should not make this hypothetical trade, but I never considered why the Yankees wouldn’t.
Let that serve as context for what comes next. As you may know, Keith Olbermann ripped Jeter’s legacy in a nearly seven-minute video on his ESPN program on Tuesday. “Contrary to what you have heard, he is not the greatest shortstop who ever lived.” Down goes the straw man! Raise your hand if you’ve heard anyone argue, with sincerity, that Jeter is the best shortstop ever.
I recently read Moneyball (I’m a little behind, I know) and in the book Billy Beane talks about how playoff baseball is essentially a crapshoot. He says his job is to get his team to the playoffs but “what happens after that is f***ing luck.”
A look at the last decade of postseason baseball does not disprove that. While we don’t know who will play in this year’s World Series, we do know it won’t be the New York Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies, the teams with the best records during the regular season. That is not uncommon.
Take a look at the teams with the best record in their league and the teams that ultimately advanced to the World Series:
|2005||White Sox||White Sox||Cardinals||Astros|
To make it easier to see, I bolded the teams that had the best regular reason record in their league and also won the pennant. As you can see, this has happened only four times since 2000. You have to go back to last millennium to find the last World Series match-up of the top teams record-wise.
Does this add to the excitement of playoff baseball? Does it affect your opinion on the possible addition of another wild card team? Sound off in the comments section.
Side note: As a Mets fan, the last few weeks have been about as sweet as possible considering the Mets have been out of contention for months and are facing the prospect of heading into next season without Jose Reyes. The Red Sox and Braves fell apart in September, meaning the Mets’ 2007 collapse is, undisputedly, no longer the worst. Then, as a bonus, the Yankees and Phillies were eliminated in the first round. When you’re a Mets fan, you need to take pleasure in the small things, even when they don’t directly involve your team.
What, did you think I was going to let the face of baseball reach one of the game’s most significant milestones without commenting on it? And make no mistake about it, Derek Jeter is—and has been for quite some time—the face of Major League Baseball. The New York Yankees shortstop, now just two hits shy of 3,000, is also the answer to the following questions:
Which major leaguer do parents want their little leaguers to imitate?
Who was shot in the leg by Mark Wahlberg’s character in the movie The Other Guys?
Who, at times, is the most overrated player in baseball?
The reason Jeter is the answer to the final question is largely because he is the most scrutinized player in baseball—possibly in the history of the game. Nobody gets riled up if Adam Jones wins a Gold Glove he didn’t deserve or if Shane Victorino receives some extra praise from announcers. Not so with Jeter. He has played shortstop and batted at the top of the lineup for the most popular (and most hated) baseball franchise of all time. Over-analysis comes with the territory.
Yet Jeter never flinches. The Captain always says and does the right thing on and off the field, which is a minor miracle given the city and media market in which he plays. That is why it was surprising when Jeter’s contract dispute went public this past offseason.
While a blind resume would not have netted Jeter the three-year, $51-million contract (with a complex fourth year option) he ultimately received, Jeter has always been about more than the raw numbers. Considering the money the Yankees throw around, they could afford a little “waste” to retain a franchise icon.
|Jeter for President? (Credit: Martyna Borkowski/Rubenstein)|
When the Subway Series was in its infancy, I remember my friend’s dad, a Met fan, reminding us he hated the Yankees but saying he’d love to have Jeter on his team. (I begged to differ: Who needed Jeter when we had Rey Ordonez?) That is a constant throughout Jeter’s career: respect. From opposing fans and opposing players. His most controversial on-field moment came in the The Jeffrey Maier Game, something Jeter had no control over. After all, how could a fan watch Jeter and not want to help him out should the opportunity present itself?
My estimate is Jeter would still be around 2,500 hits if it weren’t for his annual battles with the Mets, though the official statistics tell me he’d have only 122 fewer hits. With 326 total hits in interleague play, Jeter is the all-time leader in that category. In other words, no matter who you root for, Jeter has likely done well against your favorite team.
It was during last year’s Subway Series that I started to notice Jeter’s decline, in particular the frequency he was swinging at—and missing—the first pitch. My theory was that he no longer trusted himself to hit from behind in the count. The numbers prove he wasn’t swinging at the first pitch any more often last year than at other points of his career, but that’s sort of the point: Even those who only watch Jeter for a handful of games each year have an opinion of him.
In discussing Jeter with my friends the other day, I noted that Jeter and Ken Griffey, Jr. were the only two positions players that, if it was revealed they took steroids, would surprise me. Even as Jeter’s skills fade, he remains a class act, a role model for young players.
That being said, I won’t be celebrating Jeter’s 3,000th hit. Why should I? He’s an overrated bum.