Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – October 4, 2015

Alex Brandon/AP Photo

Alex Brandon/AP Photo



It is time for the Sunday Request.

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WOB is not about being fair. It is about how the season unfolds day to day.

Unfairness is part of baseball. Just ask the Cubs and the Pirates, one of whom will be a forgotten Wild Card Team.

Meanwhile I celebrate my wedding anniversary on  Episode 1,077 of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast.

 

Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, Christian Yelich, Colby Rasmus, Noah Syndergaard, Paul Goldschmidt, Marco Estrada and Josh Hamilton all added to their totals for Who Owns Baseball
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Nine World Series winners who had a losing September

Photo: L. G. Patterson - MLB.com

Photo: L. G. Patterson – MLB.com

Momentum!
It is a divisive buzz word in baseball. If you are a player on the diamond, you can claim to feed off of it. If you are a journalist focusing on a compelling narrative, it is something to write about and get readers excited. If you are breaking down stats and looking for predictive qualities, it is completely worthless and mythical. Momentum can be stopped by a terrific pitcher.
There are teams that get hot late and stampede to a World Series title. The 2011 Cardinals and the 2012 Giants are two obvious recent examples.

But sometimes a team stumbles into the playoffs and look lucky to even be there, and eventually win it all. The 2000 Yankees and the 2006 Cardinals are the most obvious examples of that.

Let us examine that second group. What teams have gone on to win the World Series with a losing record in September?

What teams limped into October and emerged as the kings?

I am starting this article before I have done the research, so as I type this sentence, I do not know how many teams will meet the criteria.
My source will be Baseball Reference, the single greatest website in the history of the internet.

These are the teams who won it all, despite a bad September.

Baseball Hall of Fame

Baseball Hall of Fame

1913 Philadelphia Athletics

Connie Mack’s squad rattled off a 14 game winning streak in the late spring and maintained a big lead for the rest of the season. Led by Home Run Baker, Eddie Collins, Chief Bender and Eddie Plank, the A’s coasted to the pennant.
But they did not enter the World Series as a hot team. After finishing a 3 game winning streak on August 28, they limped to the finish line, losing 18 of their last 33 games, the third worst mark in the AL over that time. They lost 8 of their last 9 games before facing the mighty New York Giants in the World Series. Bender and Plank dispatched John McGraw’s squad in 5 games and won the World Series.

Baseball Almanac

Baseball Almanac

1935 Detroit Tigers

Mickey Cochrane was the player manager of this squad that featured fellow future Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer and Goose Goslin. They were on a roll in September, going on a 5 game winning streak between August 31 and September 7, compiling a 10 game lead over the Yankees.

Then they would stumble. They lost 14 of their last 22 games, 9 of their last 12 and 6 of their last 7. They finished in first but only by 3 games. They would right the ship in the World Series and defeat the Cubs in 6 games.

Baseball Almanac

Baseball Almanac

1938 New York Yankees

Joe McCarthy’s team was aiming for their third straight World Series title. It would be Lou Gehrig’s final World Series run (although nobody knew that at the time. Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Lefty Gomez, Joe Gordon and Red Ruffing were all on the squad and would eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown.

They went 28-8 in August to pull away from the pack and by September 13th had a 16 game lead. But they lost 12 of their last 19 games, including a 6 game losing streak in the middle of the month. They limped to the finish line, arrived at the World Series and clobbered the Cubs in a 4 game sweep, their third of eventually 4 straight titles.

Baseball Almanac

Baseball Almanac

1944 St. Louis Cardinals

With baseball depleted during the war years, the Cardinals still had Stan Musial and were aiming for their third straight pennant.  A stretch where they won 14 of 15 games in August put the pennant away.

But after August 25, the Cardinals would put up a lackluster 16-19 record the rest of the way. They would drop 8 of 10 at one point and were not playing inspiring baseball when they faced their crosstown rival Browns in the World Series. While the Browns held the early edge, the Cardinals would eventually win the World Series in 6 games.

Topps

Topps

1974 Oakland Athletics

Alvin Dark took over the managerial duties after Dick Williams won back to back titles with the rambunctious Oakland squad. Still armed with Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Vida Blue, Sal Bando, Catfish Hunter, Joe Rudi, Bert Campaneris et al, they seemed to be cruising to their fourth straight division title.

They finished August with a loss and played uninspired ball the rest of the way. From August 31 to the end of the season, the two time defending champs went a less than robust 14-16, dropping 10 of their last 17 games. They would lose only 2 games in the post season as they made quick work of both the Orioles and the favored Dodgers and became the only team not called the Yankees to win 3 straight World Series titles.

Topps

Topps

1981 Los Angeles Dodgers

The 1981 season was odd to say the least. A two month strike in the middle of the summer split the season in two. Instead of picking up the season where everyone had left off, the teams that were in first place at the begining of the strike were eligbile for a special Divisional Championship Series. Tommy Lasorda’s star studded Dodgers squad were post season bound no matter how they played when the games resumed.

They were fortunate. Despite the likes of Lopes, Garvey and the emergence of Fernandomania, the Dodgers trudged through September. After August 28th, the Dodgers would go a less than championship worthy 15-20. They dropped 5 straight in mid September and only won 3 of their final 9 games before facing a tough Astros team.

The Dodgers would top Houston, Montreal and the Yankees in a thrilling post season. Nobody remembers the uninspired September. Instead the 1981 World Champions remain one of the most loved teams in Dodger history.

Sports Illustrated

Sports Illustrated

1997 Florida Marlins

Jim Leyland piloted the Marlins towards a playoff berth somewhat under the radar. They had some big stars on the team, such as Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown and Moises Alou. But few gave the team much of a chance. They made a run at the mighty Braves with a 6 game winning streak in late August and early September that brought them to within 2 1/2 games. They had the third best record in all of baseball at that point.

Then they skidded to a 9-15 finish. They lost 7 of their last 9 including their final 4 games and looked like pretenders filling out the field when they were the wild card against the hard charging San Francisco Giants. The Marlins would sweep the Giants and knock the 2 time defending pennant winner Braves out in the NLCS. Then they would top the Indians in a heart stopping (and breaking) extra inning Game 7 victory in the World Series.

MLB

MLB

2000 New York Yankees

The Yankees were back to back champs under Joe Torre and aiming for not only a three-peat but also their fourth title in five years. With Jeter, O’Neill, Pettitte, Rivera, Clemens, Williams, Posada, Martinez and Justice on the team, they were cruising to an easy division title. On September 13th, they had a 9 1/2 game over the Red Sox and clinching was merely a formality.

Then the losing began. First it was a 2 game losing streak. Then it expanded to 8 losses in 9 games. They finished the season winning only 5 of their final 21 games. They lost their last 7 games, getting swept by the Devil Rays and the Orioles. Only a Red Sox loss in the final weekend clinched the Division Title by 2 1/2 games. If any team looked dead, it was the two time defending champs.

But a hard fought Division Series win against Oakland revived them. They would top Seattle in the ALCS and beat the Mets to win their third straight World Series.

MLB

MLB

2006 St. Louis Cardinals

Under Tony LaRussa, the Cardinals had made the post season in 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005. But they only had one pennant in that stretch, and the 2004 NL Champs were humiliated by the Red Sox. The 2005 team looked like a World Series contender, but they were stopped by the Houston Astros, despite Albert Pujols’ heroics.

In their first season in New Busch Stadium, the Cardinals did not look like champs. In fact after May, they only logged one winning month. Despite their mediocrity and an 8 game losing streak in August, the Cardinals were in first place for much of the season.

The Reds tied the Cardinals in late August but a three game winning streak in late August ending on September 2 gave them some room. They would need it. The Cardinals finished the season 11-17, including a 7 game skid that nearly cost them the Division in late September. Only an almost equally miserable September by Cincinnati kept the Cardinals from missing the playoffs all together.

Not favored in any round, the Cardinals beat the Padres, snuck past the Mets and stunned the Tigers to finally win the World Series for LaRussa and Albert Pujols.

 

 

This list does not include the 1958 New York Yankees, who dropped 7 of their last 10 games but would defeat the defending World Champion Milwaukee Braves in 7 games.
Nor does it include the 1966 Orioles who had .500 records in August and September only to sweep the mighty Dodgers in the World Series.

It does not include the 1973 Oakland A’s who dropped 7 of their last 11 before beating the Orioles and the Mets to capture the title.

The 1987 Twins are not on the list, despite dropping 7 of their last 9 games and faced a red hot Tigers team in the ALCS. The Twins would top the Tigers and the Cardinals for the Championship.

The 1990 Reds are not on the list despite being a sub .500 team for the second half of the season before topping the Pirates and A’s for the Championship.

It also does not include the 2005 White Sox, who went on a 4-10 stretch in September that nearly cost them the Division title before rampaging through the playoffs to win their first title since 1917.

So it is a rare occurance. Teams that win the World Series tend to be quality teams who are not prone to losing months. But it is possible. For these teams, the concept of momentum was nonsense. They got into the dance and were recorded in history as the champs and their poor finishes fair removed from anyone’s memory.

Derek Jeter’s Bucket List

First of all it makes me sick that I am going to be referring to the movie The Bucket List in this post.

I don’t know anyone who liked that movie, and yet its title has become a pretty efficient short hand of describing an essential to do list while facing a definite deadline.

So damn you Rob Reiner for sneaking that expression into our vocabulary.

But I am going to apply it to Derek Jeter’s career.

Jeter doesn’t have a lot left to accomplish in his career.
He’s a five time World Series Champion.
He’s been a World Series MVP.
He’s had post season heroics.
He has hit 20 post season homers including a walk off shot in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.
He’s won the Hank Aaron Award twice.
He’s won the Roberto Clemente Award.
He’s a 4 time Silver Slugger Award winner.
He’s a 4 time Gold Glove winner.
He won Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.
He has more hits than any Yankee player ever.
He has become the Yankee captain.
He is the biggest New York sports star of his generation.
He has played 14+ seasons in New York without great controversy nor scandal.
He had the last great moment in the old Yankee Stadium with his impromptu thank you to the fans.
He appeared on Seinfeld.
He slept with Mariah Carey (as Chris DeLuca would say, back when that meant something!)

He has a place in Cooperstown secure for him.

AND his #2 is a lock to be retired and he will be mentioned for all time as one of the great champions in the pantheon of heroes in the most glorious franchise in baseball.

(Forgive me as this Red Sox fan just threw up as he wrote that last sentence.)

What else could he POSSIBLY have left on his to do list?

I am NOT going to say “Win the AL MVP.” He has no real control over that and he SHOULD have won it in 2006. No offense Justin Morneau, but you weren’t even the most valuable TWIN that year! (Joe Mauer, Johan Santana and I would argue Joe Nathan were more valuable for their division title that year.)

But there are a few things he can do that will, if you can believe it, make his legacy even greater.

1. GET 253 MORE HITS TO JOIN THE 3,000 HIT CLUB

It’s hard to believe with all their legends over the years, the Yankees have yet to have anyone get 3,000 hits in pinstripes.

Heck, nobody has 2,800 hits in pinstripes for that matter.

Jeter is the All Time hits leader for the Yankees, but 2,747 isn’t a round number. Get to 3,000 and reach the gold standard.


2. STEAL 22 MORE BASES AND BECOME THE YANKEES ALL TIME STOLEN BASE CHAMPION

As of this writing, Rickey Henderson is the Yankees all time stolen base champion. No offense to Rickey, but he was a rented Yankee.

A franchise like the Yankees should have a Yankee under the “All Time” title.

3. WIN AT LEAST ONE MORE WORLD SERIES

Trust me, it is super rough for me to type that.

And with all the superstars in history, what difference would a 6th ring make for Jeter.

First of all, it will give him the same number of titles as Michael Jordan, the modern gold standard of champions.

Also no player has won as many as 6 World Series rings since Mickey Mantle retired with 7 after the 1968 season.

6 World Series rings would equal the total of Whitey Ford and Lefty Gomez (and a bunch of other role players like Bob Cerv who happened to play for the Yankees at the right time.)

4. MAKE SURE ROBINSON CANO BECOMES THE NEXT GREAT YANKEE

Cano is already an All Star, finished in the top 10 for batting average twice and has a World Series ring.

Most people would be content with a career like that. But he is sharing the middle of the infield with a legend.

And seeing that he is Jeter’s junior by 9 years, it is reasonable to assume Cano will be around after Jeter hangs them up. Cano could become the leader of the team in a similar was that Jeter took over the leadership mantle from the Paul O’Neills and David Cones of the world.

If he hasn’t drilled that into Cano’s head by now, then he should start now!

5. GROOM HIS SUCCESSOR

This may make some Yankee fans confused. Some may not believe it.

But there will come a day that Derek Jeter is no longer the shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Somewhere, now, alive on the planet Earth, there is a super talented shortstop who will someday play for the Yankees and have to endure the inevitable comparisons to a Yankee icon.

And the Yankees had better hope that Jeter’s successor will be handled more gracefully than Mariano’s transition to the Joba era.

When the Yankees have a dynamic new shortstop, Jeter needs to take him under his wing and make sure the press is positive.

Meanwhile Jeter will probably move to first base and push Teixeira out of position. (Kind of like how A-Rod had to move to third for Jeter!)

6. GIVE US ONE REALLY FUNNY COMMERCIAL

The Harvey Keitel commercials were OK. I liked the ones with Steinbrenner taking him to task for partying too much.

But unless I am mistaken, he hasn’t hit one out of the ballpark like the Roger Clemens/Debbie Clemens cell phone commercial.

Or even the Joe Torre coming to LA commercial.

So let’s go, Derek. Give us one real solid funny one.

7. RESIGN AND RETIRE WITH THE YANKEES

Bobby Orr played his last games as a Chicago Blackhawk.
Babe Ruth played his last games as a Boston Brave.
Ty Cobb played his last games as a Philadelphia Athletic.
Yogi Berra played his last games as a New York Met.
Michael Jordan played his last games as a Washington Wizard.
Joe Namath played his last games as a Los Angeles Ram.
Rickey Henderson played his last games for Mamma’s Pizza Softball Team.

We can’t have Jeter finish his career as a Padre or a Brewer.

8. HE NEEDS TO GIVE ONE WHOPPER OF A JUICY QUOTE

He has played the New York media better than any sports figure than you will ever see EVER!

And one of his best tricks to say NOTHING interesting when a mike is shoved in his face.

In his last year, I just want him to say ONE explosive thing. Like after a tough loss say “Well, we would have won but there is one player on the team who is always drunk” and have the press try and figure it out.

9. MAKE SURE THE HALL OF FAME SPEECH IS GREAT

Seriously Derek, you are in.

You are in NOW! So let’s say you play for 4 more seasons… that gives you 10 years to make sure the speech is terrific.

No excuse for ramblings. No excuse for a single “um” or “urrr.”

I say he should hire a solid writer to create a witty, charming and memorable speech.

Why not Woody Allen? He’s already been a front!

10. MARRY SANDRA BULLOCK


Come on Derek!
You’ve never been married and let’s face it, Sandra has had some bad luck.

You have no kids. Sandra has adopted Jesse James’ kid but I am sure would love to have her own biological child.

How awesome would the off spring of Derek Jeter and Sandra Bullock be?

Now of course Derek’s reputation doesn’t NEED all of this… but it would mean there would be no stone left unturned.

Now I must end this post.
I started off with references to the Bucket List and it turned into a Derek Jeter love letter.

I may have to listen to some Dropkick Murphy’s just to cleanse the pallet.

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