Can a DC playoff run put Davey Johnson in the Hall of Fame?

There’s some real excitement about the youth in Washington.
Bryce Harper is super cocky and talking like he belongs in the same conversation with Albert Pujols (even though he is currently tied with ME in all MLB statistical categories.)
Stephen Strasburg could be heading a rotation with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.

Ryan Zimmerman is the veteran leader of the team and he’s only 27.

If the Phillies age catches up with them, the Braves don’t improve, the Marlins implode and the Mets continue being the Mets… the Nationals could become winners sooner rather than later.

And who can benefit the most with this wave of youth and hope?
69 year old Davey Johnson.

If he leads the Nationals to the playoffs, he might have a decent argument for the Hall of Fame.

As of this writing, he is 38th all time in wins for a manager. A .500 season would put him ahead of Billy Martin and just behind Whitey Herzog.

He took over the Mets in 1984 and led them to their first winning season since 1976. Yeah he benefited from the arrival of Dwight Gooden. But it was JOHNSON’S idea to bring him right up from A Ball before he turned 20.

He was the first National League manager to win 90 games in his first five seasons.

OK, he only won World Series title with all of that talent. But Johnson’s mentor, Earl Weaver, only won one World Series with all of HIS talent! And he’s in the Hall of Fame.

Whitey Herzog only has one World Series title.
Same with Leo Durocher.

He turned the Reds around and brought them to the 1995 NLCS. (The Reds were in first place when the strike ended the 1994 season.)

He was dumped by Marge Schott because he wasn’t married and living with his girlfriend. (Interesting morality, Marge. Living unmarried? Bad. Hoarding Nazi memorabilia and defending Hitler? Not so bad.)

He went to Baltimore and led them to their only playoff appearances in Camden Yards.

He had three straight seasons in the League Championship Series.

He butted heads with Schott and Peter Angelos who let Johnson walk even after winning the 1997 manager of the year. (The Orioles haven’t contended since.)

His two seasons in Los Angeles were not memorable, but he was stragely out of managing in the bigs for a decade.

And here he is now, being handed a potential franchise pitcher and player like he had with Gooden and Strawberry with the Mets.

And only 9 managers with 10 or more seasons have a better winning percentage than Johnson.
He already turned 3 franchises around from losers to playoff teams.
And he has a ring.

If he brings October baseball to the Nation’s capitol for first time since 1933, then a Cooperstown berth should at least be discussed.

I suggested that Terry Francona should manage the team. But Davey Johnson is in town and has his eyes focused on the playoffs.

Who knows?
It could be his ticket to immortality.

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I admit, it doesn’t look good for the Giants.

I am rooting for them to win the National League Pennant and any team that has Tim Lincecum pitching twice in a series can’t be counted COMPLETELY out.

But it will be a longshot.

There is NOTHING the Phillies can’t do now and their lineup is a little more fearsome than the Braves.

A safe bet would be the Phillies winning in 5 games.

But every once in a while there is a playoff match up that looks like a total mismatch (even worse than this Phillies/Giants NLCS) that turns out to raise a middle finger to all of the predictions.

Obviously there are some great historical upsets… like the 1926 Cardinals, the 1954 Giants, the 1969 Mets and 1988 L. A. Dodgers come to mind.

But let’s look just at the Wild Card era (1995 to present) and see which series looked like no brainers and it turned out the experts had no brain.


1997 ALCS

The Orioles led wire to wire and won 98 games. The Indians won only 86 games and barely squeaked past the Yankees in the Division Series.

The Orioles shut out the Indians in Game 1 and had a 2 run lead in the 8th inning of Game 2.

Marquis Grissom hit a 3 run shot off of Armando Benitez in Game 2. Then the Indians won in 12 for Game 3 and finished Game 4 with a walk off win.

The Indians overcame a brilliant Mike Mussina outing in Game 6 to win in 11 innings and stunned Baltimore.

1997 NLCS

The Braves had won 4 of the last 5 pennants. With a 101 win season, a 5th pennant in 6 years looked all but assured. The Marlins won 92 games and the wild card, but they were playing the varsity team and looked over matched.

The Marlins won a pair early but the Braves tied the series when Denny Neagle threw a complete game shutout in Game 4. With Maddux and Glavine looming in Games 5 and 6, it looked bleak for Florida.

The late Eric Gregg called any pitch that Livan Hernandez threw a strike as long as it didn’t hit the ground. He struck out 15, giving the Marlins the lead.

Tom Glavine imploded in the first inning of Game 6, letting the first four batters read base and having them all score before the Braves even came to bat. It would be all Kevin Brown would need to clinch the pennant.

The Yankees were in full dynasty mode. The Angels had never won a post season series and looked like a bunch of inexperienced kids heading into Yankee Stadium. No doubt this would be a forgettable series much like the Yankees manhandling the Rangers all of those years.

The Yankees rallied to win game 1 in the 8th and took a lead late into Game 2. It was going to be a sweep a la the Yankees/Texas series of the past.

Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus hit back to back 8th inning homers off of El Duque to take the lead in Game 2. Then in Game 3, the Yankees blow an early 6-1 lead and the Angels break the tie with a Tim Salmon home run in the 8th.

David Wells melts down in the 5th inning of Game 4 as the Angels score 8 times and go on to win their first ever playoff series.

Thanks to a 20 game winning streak, an MVP season from Miguel Tejada, a Cy Young season from Barry Zito and 103 wins, the A’s looked poised to stampede into the ALCS. The Twins, who were rumored to be contracted just the year before, were just happy to be there.

A series of Twins blunders gave the A’s a 5-1 lead in Game 1, making it clear that this series was Men versus Boys. Later, the A’s were up 2-1 with Hudson and Mulder ready for games 4 and 5.

The Twins came back to win that Game 1 and scored 11 unanswered runs in Game 4.

A. J. Pierzynski’s homer and David Ortiz’s double broke open a tense Game 5 in the 9th. The Twins would need every run as Mark Ellis homered to bring the A’s to within 1 but Ray Durham, the potential series winning run, popped up to give the upstart Twins a most unlikely series win.

The Tigers slumped badly down the stretch and went from a lock for the Division title, home field in the Division Series and playing the A’s to claiming the Wild Card and going to New York to face a stacked and eager to wipe away 2004 from their memories Yankee team. They were no match.

The Yankees torched Nate Robertson for 5 runs in the third and cruised to an 8-4 Game 1 win. Then Johnny Damon hit a three run shot in Game 2 and it looked like the sweep was on.

Carlos Guillen hit a game tying homer off of Mike Mussina but Curtis Granderson drove the Yankees crazy. He got a run scoring sacrifice fly in Game 2 and gave the Tigers the lead with an RBI triple. In Game 3, former Yankee Kenny Rogers out pitched Randy Johnson in what turned out to be the Big Unit’s final game for New York.

Joe Torre dropped the slumping Alex Rodriguez to 8th in the fourth game and gave the starting assignment to Jaret Wright. He was bombed and the Tigers finished the Yankees in 4.


With the Yankees eliminated in the Division Series, the Mets looked poised to capture the city’s baseball heart. Neither American League team (the Tigers nor the A’s) looked dominating and all they had to do for the pennant was beat an injured and underachieving Cardinals team who won only 83 games.

The Mets shut out the Cardinals in Game 1, scored 3 in the first of Game 2 and were tied going into the 9th of Game 2. The Mets were clearly in control.

So Taguchi hit a go ahead 9th inning homer off of Billy Wagner to give the Cardinals a Game 2 win. Then, behind Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver, took a 3-2 series lead back to Shea.

The Mets forced a Game 7 which was an all time classic. Endy Chavez preserved a tie with a mindboggling catch that turned a go ahead homer into an inning ending double play. Yadier Molina homered in the 9th to give St. Louis the win and rookie Adam Wainwright got Carlos Beltran to strikeout looking with the bases loaded in the 9th to win the pennant. The Mets have never recovered.

Interestingly, there are 6 upsets but only 3 different years. They’ve come in pairs.

Are the Giants as unlikely to win as the 2006 Cardinals or Tigers?
Probably not.

So there is hope.

Maybe one of the Giants pitchers will get Ryan Howard looking to end the series!
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Baltimore deserves better than the Orioles

It is usually said that New York and Boston are the two biggest baseball cities.

ESPN usually says this, mainly because they are in Bristol, CT… right between New York and Boston. And while that media bias is as plain as the nose on my face, New York and Boston are bigger baseball cities than football cities… a rarity today.

Also St. Louis is usually lumped in with Boston and New York as a baseball first city. But most places seem to be football centric with the exception of Detroit (Hockey), Los Angeles (Basketball) and Seattle (Drinking Coffee.)
I will submit that the greatest sleeping fanbase in all of baseball are the Orioles.
Yes they love their football. The scenes in Diner with Steve Guttenberg quizzing his bride to be about Colts trivia rings true. And in the first Daily Show segment I produced, I went to Baltimore on the eve of the 2001 Super Bowl… and trust me, the city was excited about the Ravens.
But they really love their Orioles.
Remember in an 18 season span (1966-1983), this is a team that gave the city of Baltimore 8 trips to the playoffs including three World Championships and three other pennants.
But since back to back playoff berths in the 1990s, they have been irrelevant since Robbie Alomar was called out to end the 1997 ALCS.
This is the 12th straight irrelevant season for the birds. Peter Angelos has all but driven the proudest organization into the ground with horrific free agent decisions, a rudderless organization and a farm system that used to be the best in baseball and more most of the decade as been the most barren.
And often good seats are available at Camden Yards, the standard for new ballparks.
And yet… the Orioles fans are still there.
Remember these are the same fans who arrived at the airport in 1988 to greet the Orioles after they broke their 21 game losing streak to start the season.
And there is still an awesomeness about their fans.
Well yesterday I poked fun at the Orioles/Nationals series this weekend and said that if you went to the game, you’d never have to prove your loyalty to the Orioles again.
I saw the attendance for last night’s game between the Orioles (on pace to finish 74-88) and the Nationals (on pace to finish 48-114).
It was 45.024.
I thought it was a typo.
I had to look it up in 3 other sites just to make sure it was correct.
Each one… 45,024.
Baltimore fans… color me impressed! I will from now on include Baltimore along with Boston, New York and St. Louis as the epicenters of baseball fandom.
Now Orioles management… take a look at that. The greedy Red Sox fan in me wants the Orioles to remain lousy because that would mean 18 games the Red Sox can win.
But for the sake of baseball… you have a fan base who will fill up your park in a lousy series. Put a decent product on the field. You’ve had 12 seasons!
And while you are at it… bring the smiling bird back.

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