Should Steve Bartman forgive Cubs fans? I don’t think so.

Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante

Tribune photo by Scott Strazzante

Why the hell do I know Steve Bartman’s name?

Seriously. Why is Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS commonly referred to as “The Bartman Game”? Why is Bartman a household name?

How many people can even name the team who won Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS (and Game 7 and that year’s World Series)? I bet more can name Bartman than the Marlins.

The fact that we know Bartman’s name is disgusting. The fact that anyone gave him even the tiniest sliver of blame for the events of Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS is a clear sign that there are more stupid people than intelligent people in this country.

Before Luis Castillo hit a foul pop to left field (that was not an easy play), the Cubs were leading 3-1 in the 8th with 1 out.

After the “Bartman foul pop”, the Cubs were leading 3-1 in the 8th with 1 out.

Man, I can really see how Steve Bartman affected the game so negatively! Remember when Bartman let up 8 runs? Remember when Bartman did not have a reliever ready in the 8th inning? Remember when Bartman booted a potential inning ending double play ball? Remember when Bartman let up a bases clearing double to a career backup infielder?

Of course you don’t because he didn’t. In a game with tons of legit scapegoats, Bartman took the blame because he (and half of the fans along the left field line) leaned in to catch a foul pop.

The Cubs were up 3 games to 1 in the series had a chance to clinch Game 5 in Miami and have a rested and ready Mark Prior and Kerry Wood for the World Series. They lost Game 5 when Josh Beckett tossed a complete game shutout. OK fine, the party came back to Wrigley.

Prior was dealing and took a 3-0 lead into the 8th. Facing the lineup for the fourth time, manager Dusty Baker should have had someone warm, just in case. He didn’t. With just 5 outs needed, Juan Pierre doubled. Then, after the Bartman pop up, Castillo walked.

When Pudge Rodriguez singled to make it 3-1, it was clear that Prior was vulnerable and a reliever was needed. He stayed in. Miguel Cabrera hit a grounder to Alex Gonzalez that may have been 2 but would have been at least one out. He booted it. Die hard baseball fans remember that. The rest of the planet remembers Bartman.

Still no reliever from Dusty Baker. Flashback to 2002. Dusty Baker was managing the Giants in the World Series and yanked Russ Ortiz out of the game too early and the Giants bullpen collapsed in Game 6 and the Angels took the game. Perhaps he was gunshy to pull Prior out.

Derrek Lee then tied the game with a double and Baker relieved Prior, allowing him to wither on the mound with questionable control and three very hard hit balls. Kyle Farnsworth came on and coughed up the lead, allowed Mike Mordecai to clear the bases with a double and by the time the carnage was over, the Cubs lost 8-3.

In Game 7, where presumably Steve Bartman was not in attendance, the Cubs took a 5-3 lead in the third before again collapsing and losing the pennant with Kerry Wood getting shellacked.

YES Network

YES Network

Keeping all of that in mind, remind me why Steve Bartman in left field is given even the tiniest of sliver of blame for this game?

The fact that Bartman’s name became public was the act of bitter and petty Cub fans and radio personalities looking to point a finger. There were plenty of culprits to blame. Dusty Baker should have received the lions share. Prior and Gonzalez should have taken their lumps.  But no! Let’s pick on the slight guy with glasses and headphones.

If he was a big shirtless dude with his face painted and holding two beers, would he have been a scapegoat? Or was the image of a little nerdy guy an easier target than million dollar players wetting the bed on the field?

It is one thing to think that fan rituals help your team. Waving the right towel, or sitting in the right seat or wearing the correct cap are all nice feelings even if they don’t really change anything. But to blame a fan for doing something that any other fan would do and remove the blame of the actual players is insane.

His name became public and his life became a living hell. It is one thing to have fans boo a player or make them a bigger scapegoat than they really are. (The morons who blamed Bill Buckner for 1986 come to mind.) But at least Buckner was a player, a public figure, and was blamed for his short comings on the field. Bartman was an anonymous face in the crowd who became the newest villain in the Billy Goat nonsense.

Bartman issued an apology right away. He declines interviews and despite being a lifelong Cubs fan, has not returned to Wrigley. The fans treatment of Bartman was inexcusable, with Governer Rod Blagojevich kidding that he should go into the witness protection program. He needed police protection around his house as people began to blame him for the NLCS failure. Evidently his trying to catch a foul ball cost the Cubs 3 games.

So now the Cubs are doing well and unlike 2007 and 2008, they managed to make it past the Division Series. And with the Cubs in the NLCS, Bartman’s name is back in the news. And with it comes a common and forehead slapping trend:




There are more of these than I can count. #ForgiveBartman is a hashtag floating around.

Forgive him? For what? Isn’t this sentiment, no matter what good intentions they have, ass backwards?

It was Cub fans who did the borderline unforgivable and ruin the life of one of their own. It was Cub fans who decided to bully a fan instead of blaming the millionaire players on the field. It was Cub fans who made his name public and known to more people than the Cy Young and MVP candidates who failed that night and the manager who made it two straight years of bullpen bungling in a clinching game.

Should it say #ForgiveUSBartman ? Shouldn’t every single Cub fan who blamed Bartman even for an hour be begging Steve Bartman for forgiveness. Every commentator who tried to tie in his meaningless action to a team’s 3 game collapse should grovel at his feet.

Yeah he should be welcomed back to Wrigley because he never did anything to warrant being shunned.

There should be forgiveness in the Steve Bartman situation, but only FROM Bartman himself. And if decided not to, who can blame him?

He has been blamed too much already.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – October 14, 2015

Photo by Robert Cohen,

Photo by Robert Cohen,

The last 4 game day of the year should be a great one! Plus the With the Cardinals out, the remaining 7 teams are all franchises who have waited a long time for a title with stars who haven’t won a ring yet.

It is a once in a generation episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

Hector Rondon, Clayton Kershaw, Kyle Schwarber, Justin Turner, Bartolo Colon, Stephen Piscotty and Daniel Murphy all added to their totals for Who Owns October
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RAMIRO MENDOZA – Sully Baseball Unsung Post Season Hero of October 14


OCTOBER 14, 1999 – American League Championship Series Game 2

When the Red Sox lost the 1999 ALCS at Fenway Park to the Yankees, I sat slumped on a couch at a bar I used to perform at in Manhattan called Indigo. Ramiro Mendoza, not Mariano Rivera, got the save in the final game. As I watched the MVP trophy being handed to starter Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, I muttered “He wasn’t the MVP. Mendoza was.”

A Yankee fan friend of mine heard me say that and retorted “Mendoza only got 7 outs. You can’t give the MVP to someone who didn’t even throw 3 innings.”

I shook my head. “Not all outs are created equally” I said. And nobody got bigger outs in the 1999 ALCS than Mendoza.

The Yankees were the defending World Champs in 1999 and looked like they were primed for a repeat. The Western Division Champion Texas Rangers provided little resistance in a 3 game Division Series sweep.

Their biggest challenge would come from the Red Sox, who erased a 2-0 hole in their Division Series fight with the Cleveland Indians and entered the ALCS with a red hot offense and an unstoppable force pitching every 4 days. Pedro Martinez put together a historically great 1999, only to be matched the next year, as the Red Sox ace put up mind boggling pitching numbers in the middle of the steroid era.

Pedro came out of the bullpen to throw 6 no hit innings to clinch the Division Series and would not be available in the ALCS until Game 3.

If the Red Sox had a hope in the ALCS against their rivals, they needed to steal a game in the Bronx in either Games 1 or 2 and hand the ball to Pedro in Game 3 and be up 2-1.

In Game 1, the Red Sox jumped on El Duque to put together an early 3-0 with images of a Game 1 win dancing in Boston fans’ heads. But the Yankees chipped away at the lead, benefited from a bad call at second and won on a walk off homer by Bernie Williams.

Game 2 became a critical game for both clubs. The Yankees could not go to Boston tied 1-1 knowing Pedro was on the mound. And the Red Sox could not be down 0-2 and be in position to lose the series in Boston even with a Pedro win.

The other Martinez, Pedro’s older brother Ramon, the former Dodgers ace, started for Boston. David Cone took the mound for the Yankees.

Jason Varitek tripled off the wall in the second inning but was stranded on third. In fact in each of the first four innings, the Red Sox stranded runners in scoring position while the game remained scoreless.

The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a Tino Martinez homer but the Red Sox jumped ahead 2-1 on a Nomar Garciaparra 2 run shot.

In the 7th, the Yankees rallied and made the score 3-2. Now it was a race to get to Rivera and close out the game. In the top of the 8th, Troy O’Leary narrowly missed tying the game with a homer, settling for a lead off triple. After a hit by pitch, Varitek bunted O’Leary to third and pinch runner Damon Buford to second. Now a single would give the Red Sox the lead. After an intentional walk, Joe Torre handed the ball to Ramiro Mendoza with the bases loaded and one out in a one run game.

Mendoza was Joe Torre’s jack of all trades. The 27 year old from Panama would start, close and be a set up man and middle reliever. 1999 was not as strong a year for him as 1998, but Torre never hesitated in throwing him into games with a constantly changing role.

Now he was essentially being asked to save the game. First up was pinch hitter Butch Huskey, an outfielder who slugged 22 homers between Seattle and Boston in 1999. Mendoza struck him out, ending any possibility for the Red Sox to tie the game on an out.

Next up was Jose Offerman, the Red Sox second baseman whose up and down season featured a trip to the All Star Game and a benching. His bat was heating up and he had already collected two hits in Game 2.

But Mendoza got him to fly out and end the threat. The Red Sox would later get a pair of hits off of Mariano Rivera in the 9th but once again fall short.

With Mendoza’s two outs in the 8th, the Red Sox bid to tie the game would not come through and the Yankees did indeed take the 2-0 lead.

Pedro Martinez won a Game 3 blow out but the Yankees took Game 4 in a contest much tighter than the 9-2 final would suggest. In Game 5, the Red Sox fell behind 4-0. But in the 8th, they started to rally. Varitek homered and the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out. Again, Torre turned to Mendoza with the go ahead run at the plate. He struck out Scott Hatteberg and got Trot Nixon to pop up.

When Jorge Posada padded the lead to 6-1 with a 2 run homer, the pennant was all but won. Torre let Mendoza close out the series instead of turning to Mariano Rivera. The Red Sox lost and the Yankees would avoid a second Pedro start.

And I slumped at the Indigo Bar. I was convinced I would never see the Red Sox win an ALCS, certainly not against the Yankees.

Not all outs are created equally. Yes, Ramiro Mendoza only got 7 outs. But think about 4 of them and how critical they were. Had the Red Sox rallied in Game 2, they would have taken control of the series. Even a rally in Game 5 could have set up a Game 6 “Avoid Pedro at all cost” showdown.

Instead he got the outs and eventually the save. While he never got the MVP I felt he deserved, he did become the Unsung Post Season Hero of October 14.