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November 5, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Game Seven

by Joe Sheehan

I'd imagine that many of you reading this column played baseball growing up. I did, as well as playing softball, and stickball, and Wiffle ball, and stoopball...basically anything that looked, smelled, or tasted like baseball was a good use of my time. Well, I thought so, anyway.

In playing those games when I was very young, I would usually pretend to be Chris Chambliss, In my teens, Don Mattingly became my favorite player. I even aped Mattingly's early-career crouch for a couple of Pony League seasons.

Other times, my future would be at the center of my imagination. Come on, we've all done it in our backyard ballgames..."Sheehan steps to the plate...bases loaded, two outs, bottom on the ninth...the crowd is on its feet.... The pitcher winds, he deals the pitch...a line drive!...TWO RUNS ARE GONNA SCORE...THE CROWD IS GOING CRAZY...JOE SHEEHAN HAS JUST WON THE WORLD SERIES!!!!"

So today, be happy for Luis Gonzalez. The dream we all dreamed came true for him last night. Bases loaded, World Series-winning run on base, ace reliever on the mound, home crowd going crazy, a cut fastball...contact...pandemonium. Gonzalez is, by acclamation, the nicest guy in baseball, so it's not hard to enjoy the sight of him with a champagne-wet jersey and a smile that may just be permanent.

Be happy for Mike Morgan, who's been playing professional baseball since, well, since Chris Chambliss was a Yankee. His first trip to the World Series featured a great outing under pressure in Game Five and ended with a dogpile between first and second base.

Be happy for Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, the two best players in baseball's postseason, and deserving co-MVPs of the World Series. They did whatever they were asked to do, and they did it well, coming up with 8 2/3 innings of two-run baseball on the biggest night of their careers.

Be happy for Arizona's baseball fans. Sure, the franchise is four years old, but look at the week they just endured. I spent my weekend with some D'backs fans, and those guys are just as passionate as fans of teams with a lot more history. To the extent that fans can "earn" something, Snakes fans earned Sunday night's celebration with the agony of Games Four and Five.

Be happy for us baseball fans, because we all got to take a wild ride. This wasn't the best-played World Series, but it sure was a lot of fun.

Just remember something as this World Series moves into the history books: the Diamondbacks had to beat the Yankees six times, and they had to do so because Bob Brenly kept making the wrong decision at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. What Brenly did over the last nine days shouldn't be whitewashed because he happened to have two amazing pitchers on his side; it needs to be a part of the record as much as Gonzalez's RBI and Schilling's strikeouts and the Yankees' errors.

The Diamondbacks won because of Johnson and Schilling. They nearly lost because of Brenly. There are a lot of reasons to be happy that it turned out this way, but if the fact of winning overshadows the way it happened, well, that's a shame, because other than Mariano Rivera, nobody did more in the attempt to bring a fourth straight World Series title to the Bronx than Bob Brenly.

  • Sorry for the lack of a Game Six column. Fortunately, there wasn't much to write. For my money, Brenly didn't mishandle Randy Johnson: once he started and threw a couple of innings Saturday, he wasn't going to be available for more than a few batters Sunday regardless of how far he went. He threw 17 pitches in Game Seven, getting four easy outs and setting the stage for Gonzalez's heroics.

  • The Yankees didn't play well enough to win this series. Even beyond their being outscored heavily and their terrible performance with the bats, they just didn't play good baseball.

    Last night, there was Paul O'Neill, who apparently forgot he's old and slow and tried to stretch a first-inning double into a triple, with predictable results. The last 40 feet were actually painful to watch: you could see O'Neill hit the wall at around shortstop.

    Then, in the seventh inning, Bernie Williams didn't go to third base on the game-tying RBI single to right field by Tino Martinez. With one out and the ball hit to right field, Williams, a fast runner, had to take a chance there, even acknowledging that Danny Bautista has a strong arm.

    It was a final questionable baserunning decision by Williams, who had a terrible postseason. I love Williams, but his whining about called strikes got way out of hand in the World Series. He had a case sometimes, but after watching him whine and roll his eyes a dozen times, it's hard to dredge up sympathy for his cause.

    Finally, there was The Throw. Mariano Rivera is a good fielder, but his decision to try and get the force at second base on Damian Miller's sacrifice attempt in the ninth inning was ill-considered. As hard as it had been for the D'backs to hit Rivera all series long, taking the out and challenging them to get the run home with a hit was the right move. Rivera made the more aggressive play, and his bad throw set up the rest of the inning.

    The decision to get the lead runner on the subsequent bunt was a bit more defensible, and not just because Rivera made a good play on a ball bunted too hard and too close to the mound by Jay Bell. That kept the winning run out of scoring position (for the moment, at least), while being a shorter throw for Rivera.

    If there's one memory from this game I'll have trouble shaking, it's my screaming, "No, no!!" at the television as Rivera releases his throw to second base.

  • You know what's even worse, for me as a Yankee fan, than tonight's loss? Waking up to find that there's no game tonight. Or tomorrow. Or the next night.

    I already miss baseball.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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2001-11-07 - The Daily Prospectus: Bastard
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