This week in baseball

By on October 17, 2002

Who isn’t rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals? As of Oct. 4 they are baseball’s only unbeaten team in the playoffs. This coming against the defending World Champion Diamondbacks no less.
Now they’re big free agent pick up, third baseman Scott Rolen, may be lost for the remainder of the playoffs with a severe shoulder strain. All of this set against the back drop of losing three members of the Cardinal family.
With the deaths of Jack Buck, Darryl Kile and Enos Slaughter, it would be like if the Red Sox family lost Jerry Remy, Trot Nixon and Bobby Doerr all within a couple months.
The Cardinals are baseball’s sentimental favorite, a team of destiny. If your favorite team is not in the playoffs this fall, root for the Cardinals.
Speaking of destiny, perhaps Barry Bonds is destined to never win a World Series. That doesn’t matter, though. Bonds will be remembered as one of the games greatest all around players and the man who hit 73 homeruns in a single season. Ernie Banks never won a World Series with the Cubs, but that hasn’t dimmed his greatness. Banks is remembered as “Mr. Cub,” Chicago’s version of Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio.
The Braves-Giants series is now tied 1-1, but don’t count on the Giants winning. It will be the Braves vs. the Cardinals for the NL crown.
The best thing about the 2002 New York Mets is that they’re not on the field anymore. However, that hasn’t stopped the rain at Shea.
With the firing of manager Bobby Valentine and accusations that several members of the Mets front office staff stole $2 million from the organization throughout the 1990’s, this off season should be as volatile as the regular season.
Remember Mike Piazza’s “I’m not gay” news conference? Remember Bobby Valentine defending his players against marijuana accusations? And then there was the constant lack of production from the Mets big off season signings.
Mo Vaughn and Jeromy Burnitz combined for 45 homeruns and 126 RBI’s. Those numbers were what Met fans expected out of both players individually. Then there was future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar having the worst offensive season of his career (.266, 11, 53). Edgardo Alfonzo hit .308, but his 16 homeruns and 56 RBI’s were not what Met fans were hoping for.
Whose fault was this? It certainly wasn’t Bobby Valetine’s fault.
Maybe the Mets should have gone for better pitching last off season, instead of concentrating their money on streaky and injury prone sluggers.
How could the Mets have fallen so quickly? Just two years ago they were NL champions, playing the Yankees in the World Series.
Perhaps one reason was the breakup of their amazing infield. John Olerud, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rey Ordonez and Robin Ventura consisted of one of the best all around infields to ever play the game. Just two years later Olerud and Ventura were gone.
An infield is so vital to the chemistry of a ball club. Sure, Roberto Alomar improves any infield, but that special World Series chemistry is gone.
In 1995, the Red Sox were the AL Wild Card team, but that off season they let their second baseman Luis Alicia and catcher Mike MacFarlane leave town. Jeff Frye and Jason Varitek would fill those positions, but it would be another three years until the Sox made the post season again.
The chemistry of a team exists in its position players, not with the pitchers. Every day the same eight position players take the field together and develop their own unique chemistry. The old baseball saying is that good pitching stops good hitting, and that pitching is the name of the game. So, then why spend so much free agent money on sluggers, when pitching is so vital?
Why not let your position players grow together and develop as a team, while every year additions are made to improve the pitching staff? It is very exciting to talk of buying the next big free agent slugger, but for the price of that slugger, perhaps two high quality pitchers can be bought.
What in the course of a 162 game season is more important, 40 homeruns and a .270 batting average, or 15 wins from your number two starter and ten from your number five?


About Andy Zides