I know I’m supposed to fill this space with cogent analysis about the World
Series, but I really don’t know what I can say. I’m not operating as an
analyst right now, not at 9:49 on Thursday night, not after having watched
the most incredible back-to-back World Series games since 1991. I’m just a
fan right now, a fan who has spent a lot of time staring slack-jawed at his
television over the past couple of nights.
In the entire history of the World Series, just 11 teams have even tied
games in which they trailed by more than one run in the ninth inning. Just
four of those teams won the game in which they came back: the 1911 Giants
(Game 5), the 1929 A’s (Game 5), the 1939 Yankees (Game 4), and the 1985
Cardinals (Game 2).
In the last 22 hours, the Yankees extended that list by half. How do you
write about an achievement like that, beyond repeating the word,
"Wow," a couple hundred times?
After the Yankees won their third straight World Series last October, I
wrote a column about the accomplishment, and how difficult it is to rectify
the performance of this team with my beliefs as an analyst. It read, in
I don’t put a whole lot of stock in chemistry or intangibles. Those terms
are usually used after the fact to explain away success or failure that came
as a surprise. Certainly, groups of people can have good or bad chemistry,
and that chemistry can potentially impact the work they do.
As applied to baseball teams, though, the concepts are of little use as
their relationship to success is unclear. After all, we don’t usually hear
about the good chemistry of 68-94 teams, so the question can be raised: does
chemistry follow success or does success follow chemistry?
The 1999 and 2000 Yankees, teams that were not dramatically superior to
their opponents–in some cases, inferior to them–are about as close to an
acceptable argument for positive chemistry as I’ve ever seen. No, I’m not
turning in my analyst card; I’m just saying that when a team wins nine
consecutive best-ofs, and 12 of 13, that’s impressive in a way that makes
you question your beliefs.
The team that has won three straight World Series has been remarkably
stable, and the players you associate with the success have been there for
the entire 1998-2000 period. In that time, they’ve experienced a tremendous
amount of "real-life" strife, from the health problems of Joe
Torre, his brother Frank, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre to the
in-season deaths of the fathers of Scott Brosius, Paul
O’Neill, and Luis Sojo.
This team has gone through a lot the past three years, both positive and
negative. They have also, in that time, experienced success on a level
unheard of in the last quarter-century. Whether there’s a connection
there…well, I’m reluctant, at least tonight, anyway, to dismiss it as
readily as I normally would.
That’s where I am tonight. I don’t know what to say about this team, because
their performance in the postseason–at the most critical moments in the
postseason–is simply incredible.
Kinda cool, isn’t it?
- After a night when he did nothing right, I think Bob Brenly did a good
job given the handicaps he’d created for himself. He had to get innings from
Miguel Batista, and he did, riding Batista through some difficult
situations and removing him when he had some leverage (getting Greg
Swindell into the game against Tino Martinez). I agree with the
decision to use Byung-Hyun Kim to try and get three outs. The options
were Kim and Mike Morgan, and with the four righties scheduled to bat
after Jorge Posada, even a tired Kim was the best choice.
The only thing I didn’t understand was lifting Morgan at the start of the
11th inning. Morgan had retired seven Yankees in a row, and thrown just 29
pitches in doing so. It’s possible that Morgan could not pitch further,
though, so I don’t want to make too much of this. Having to use Albie
Lopez, though…that was pretty much the nightmare scenario for Brenly.
The D’backs manager even stopped with the freaky bunting fetish, and was
rewarded with a runner-on-third, no-out situation in the ninth. The D’backs
didn’t score, but maybe the positive reinforcement of using the hit-and-run
- Speaking of that rally, it died in part because Luis Gonzalez
struck out with the runner on third and one out. Gonzalez had a pretty
brutal trip to New York. He went 2-for-10 with a walk in the D’backs losses,
and failed to get a runner home from third with less than two outs twice.
I can’t help but think that if it were a different National League West left
fielder who hit a lot of home runs in 2001 having a series like this, it
would be a bigger story.
I guess it pays to not have a Barcalounger.
- I’ve gotten a lot of e-mail from people asking about Randy
Johnson, and why he didn’t pitch at some point in Games 4 or 5.
Truth to tell, I don’t know what to say about that. I can understand why you
would use Johnson, given the importance of the game. That said, using
a starter out of the bullpen strikes me as an elimination-game strategy, not
something you do in a situation where you’re guaranteed at least one more
With the exception of 1999–the year Bobby Cox decided that he could treat
his best pitchers like Strat cards–starters in the playoff rotation only
generally come out of the pen in dire circumstances. Given that Johnson is
supposed to start in Game 6 in Arizona, I think not using him Thursday night
was the best course of action.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by