It’s funny how players, even the great ones, are sometimes remembered for a single mistake. Take, for example, Bill Buckner, who had nearly three thousand hits over a brilliant career. But despite all his success, he will always be remembered for an error which probably cost his Red Sox the World Series in 1986….
In reality it was his manager who was at fault, because Buckner never should have been in the game. All season, John McNamara had replaced Buckner with Dave Stapleton in the late innings, due to Bill’s bad legs. But this time, McNamara forgot to make the switch and got what he deserved….
Sure, Buckner should have made the play, but it’s ridiculous to base a tremendous career on one play….
The greatest closer I’ve ever seen is Dennis Eckersley, who over a five year stretch was automatic. Take a look at his numbers from 1990: 63 appearances, 73.3 innings pitched, 73 strike outs, FOUR walks, 48 saves and an ERA of 0.61….
You talk about some sick numbers….
FOUR walks in a 162 game season and an ERA of 0.61? It’s probably in the Top 5 of best pitching years of all time….
Yet, despite the fact he won 20 games as a starter, pitched a no hitter and is in the Hall of Fame; most people remember him for giving up a home run to Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series….
Again, it’s unfair to remember such a great player for one mistake, but it’s reality….
In 2008, we’re about to induct another candidate into the remembered-for-one-blunder club: Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon….
What the Rays accomplished this season was one of the biggest turnarounds not only in baseball, but in sports history. During their sorry existence, Tampa Bay had never won more than 72 games, and looked to be a last place team when this season began….
Instead, they won 97 games, finished ahead of the Red Sox and rolled into the playoffs….
After an easy first round win over the Whit Sox, the Rays shocked the baseball world by taking a 3-1 series lead over Boston and had them down 7-0 going into the seventh inning of Game Five….
With champagne rolled into the Rays clubhouse and Tampa Bay ready to celebrate, Maddon pulled one of the all-time bonehead moves….
Scott Kazmir, arguably the best starting pitcher in baseball, cruised through six innings unscathed. He was pitching a shut out, given up only two hits and struck out seven. He’d also retired the Red Sox 1-2-3 in the 6th and was showing no signs of slowing down. With the Rays nine outs from the World Series, all Maddon needed to do was sit back, leave well enough alone and allow Kazmir to bring him home….
Instead, Maddon shockingly removed Scott from the game. Predictably, Boston torched the Rays bullpen for eight runs and won the game, 8-7….
As soon as that happened, I knew the Rays were done and would lose games six and seven at home and blow their only chance for a World Championship….
And Maddon would join the pantheon of dumb asses….
Sure enough, Tampa Bay lost Game Six and now face a Game Seven tonight. Yes, there is still time for Maddon to escape the doghouse; but in my opinion they are finished….
Game Seven begins in a few hours, and I’ll be back with some thoughts. A win and all is forgiven for Maddon. A loss and he is forever remebered for possibly the stupidest move in post season history….
Well, it’s all over and the Rays are American League champions. But not because Madon didn’t try and give it away….
In the eighth inning, Tampa Bay pitcher Matt Garza was cruising along with a 3-1 lead. After the first hitter reached on an error, Maddon unbelievably went to the bullpen again. “Did this guy learn nothing from Game 5,” I said to myself….
Then, with two runners on and no outs, Dustin Pedroia got a meatball right over the center of the plate and missed it by an inch. It should have been a three-run homer, but instead was a towering fly ball to left….
Maddon got incredibly lucky on that swing….
In the end, it was David Price who was the hero and the Rays are in the World Series….
I hear five Fox television executives just hanged themselves….