Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – March 13, 2014

Photo by Jim McIsaac Getty Images

Photo by Jim McIsaac Getty Images

Livan Hernandez and Francisco Rodriguez are both in the news.

Both were major figures in the 2002 World Series.

Both remind me of M.Night Shyamalan.

It makes sense if you listen to The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

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Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – March 13, 2014

Brown and Costner… a tale of two Kevins

This post is about two guys named Kevin. Mentioning either of their names would elicit an eye roll from most of you.

Kevin Brown and Kevin Costner are both associated with excess, wasted money, bad decisions and alienated fans. And yet the early part of both of their careers were terrific and it is a shame that their positives have been almost wiped out of our minds after the negatives.

Let’s take Kevin Brown.

What do you think about when you hear Kevin Brown? Chances are you would think of the fact that of all people HE was the first $100 million contract in baseball.

And after signing the bloated contract with the Dodgers he started demanding they pay his flights to visit his family in Georgia (as if 9 figures couldn’t get some plane tickets.)

And he was such a prickly guy that Sports Illustrated called him an ornery S.O.B. on their cover.

If you are a Yankee fan you might remember he was a major bust when traded to the Bronx for Jeff Weaver.

And of course he committed two unforgivable sins in New York:

He broke his own hand against a wall down the stretch in 2004.
And in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS he faced 9 batters, got only 4 of them out and was charged with 5 runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Red Sox… arguably the worst and most humiliating loss in the history of the team.

Yankee fans might remember how the Yankees couldn’t give him away that off season and he returned in 2005 to make 13 starts and post a 6.50 ERA before his body and career finally broke down.

Yankee fans might also remember how Joe Torre described him breaking down in his tell all book. And of course he is mentioned in the Mitchell Report.

Not a great legacy.

Now take a look at Costner.

When was the last time anyone was excited to see a Kevin Costner movie?
When was the last time he was considered to be a bankable or likable star?

It’s been a while.

His appearances in films like Rumor Has It or Swing Vote or Mr. Brooks didn’t exactly light the world on fire.

And his career took an incredible nose dive with big bloated self aggrandizing epics like Waterworld and The Postman. (Seriously. If you haven’t see The Postman… it is one of the craziest monuments to a man’s ego that has ever been constructed. And yes I include the pyramids in that list.)

And maybe it all started to go wrong when he inexplicably was cast as Robin Hood in the unwatchable Robin Hood: Prince of Theives. Did nobody take note that Sir Robin of Loxsley was English?

He became a punch line of has-been stars and bloated Hollywood budgets.

But guess what?
It wasn’t always that way for Costner.

There was a time where not only was he NOT a joke, but he was actually kind of awesome.

Lest we forget, baseball fans, that he starred in two of the great baseball movies ever.

He was Crash F—ing Davis!
Bull Durham remains one of the classic sports movies of all time and it aged like a vintage wine. And a huge reason for its success is Costner’s funny, pained, macho, sensitive and sexy performance.

You believe he was good enough to make the show and could seduce just about any woman he wanted. You knew that Nuke owes his quick trip to the show to Crash. You believed that Annie would change her whole life for him. And no doubt he was going to be a great manager in Visalia.

And Field of Dreams is a film I do not apologize that I love.
And Costner is a big reason why it works.

He played some real crazy scenes in the film with 100% believability. Hearing the voices, seeing the ghosts of the ballplayers, meeting Burt Lancaster in the Minnesota town… those scenes would have been awful if you didn’t have Costner’s completely realistic performance.

I remember my dad said after seeing Field of Dreams “If I heard the voice, that’s exactly how I’d react.”

Beyond the baseball movies, he was great in Silverado and The Untouchables.
Yeah Dances with Wolves didn’t age well and his winning the Best Director Oscar over Martin Scorsese in GoodFellas is one of the great headscratchers in Hollywood history. But he was a big enough and loved star to get a film like that off the ground.

I happen to be a fan of JFK as well. Yeah his accent was strange, but who could forget his performance in it? Right down to “Back and to the left… Back and to the left.”

And while I was no fan of The Bodyguard as a movie, back then it was believable that he would not only save Whitney Houston, but that she would fall for him as well.

(Believe it or not there was a time when Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston were a pretty hot on screen couple. For my readers under the age of 25, consider your minds blown.)

So there was a reason why Costner got huge budgets and full creative control in those bloated turkeys in the past 15 years.

He was super cool for a while.

Like Costner, Kevin Brown was also once really REALLY good.

Six times Brown was an All Star, starting the 1992 game. Five times he ranked in the top ten in the Cy Young Award vote including being the runner up to John Smoltz in 1996 when he led the league with a 1.89 ERA.

He won another ERA title in 2000. In 1992 he was the first Texas Ranger in 18 years to win 20 games.

His 1996 was noteworthy because if the current trends in Cy Young voting were in vogue that year, Brown would probably have won. (He got 2 first place votes at the time.)

Smoltz had more wins (24 to Brown’s 17), more strikeouts (276 to Brown’s 159) and (253 2/3 to Brown’s 233).

But Brown’s ERA was 1.15 lower than Smoltz (1.89 to 2.94.) Brown’s ERA+ was a league best 217 to Smoltz’s 149. Brown also led the league in WHIP (.944 to Smoltz’s 1.001). And Smoltz had the benefit for playing for the 96 win defending World Champions while Brown was on the 80 win third place Florida Marlins.

He was a workhorse, often being among the league leaders in innings pitched and complete games. Twice he had the highest WAR for pitchers.

In 1997 he threw a no hitter against the Giants and then tossed a complete game victory to clinch the pennant for the Marlins. It was Brown on the mound when the Marlins celebrated in Atlanta. The Marlins went on to win the World Series.

Shipped off to San Diego, he won 18 games and helped propel the Padres to the World Series. In the post season he out dueled Randy Johnson in Game 1 of the Division Series. In his two starts in the 4 game victory over the Astros, Brown posted a 0.61 ERA in 14 2/3 innings, striking out 21.

In the NLCS, he out pitched another future Hall of Famer when his 3 hit shutout beat the Braves and Tom Glavine.

In the off season he signed the $100 million contract but actually lived up to it the first few years. He was an 18 game winner and logged 252 innings his first year with the Dodgers. In his second he pitched 230 innings with 5 complete games, winning his second ERA title. He remained healthy for only one season over the remaining five years of the contract including his disappointing year and a half in New York and his implosion late in 2004.

In 2002 he was the highest paid player in baseball and yet threw only 63 2/3 innings all year.

But hey! The Dodgers didn’t pick him at random for their $100 million offer!He put together a year that would have won a Cy Young award now. He won 17 or more games four times. He had a pair of ERA titles and a no hitter and some post season glory. In 1998, the Sporting News named him Pitcher of the Year.

That’s not an awful resume. And it shouldn’t be TOTALLY overshadowed by what happened in the last few years of his deal.

Too bad the great parts of his career happened in relative obscurity in Texas, Florida and San Diego and the disappointments were in Los Angeles and New York.

But Brown is a Kevin worth saluting for the good in his career.
Same with Costner.

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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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