Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Where would 2017 World Series Games 2 or 5 rank historically?


This beat my marriage proposal. Photo via sbnation

This beat my marriage proposal. Photo via sbnation

What a World Series!  I predicted Houston would win in 6 primarily because I thought Kershaw would get the series back to LA by winning Game 5, but Verlander  would shut it down in the 6th game.  Didn’t quite happen that way, with both guys pitching well but not getting the result that night.   In the end, I honestly think the better team won this series, and Houston’s bottoming-out gambit has now paid off with the first title in their existence.

What i’m wondering about now is this: two of these World Series games we just saw were just amazingly good games, featuring massive comebacks, late inning heroics, clutch homers, walk-off hits.

Where, if anywhere, do they rank in the pantheon of “Greatest Games?”

I like to use as a jumping off point the excellent series “MLB’s 20 Greatest Games.”   A link to their web page with videos of each game is here.  The list is here:

  • No. 20: May 17, 1979: Phillies @ Cubs; Phils, Cubs combine for 45 runs.  This is the only regular season game on the list and for good reason; the first inning alone had 13 runs scored.
  • No. 19: Oct. 4, 2003: Giants @ Marlins; Ivan Rodriguez tags out Eric Snow as he tries to bulldoze Pudge at the plate to end the game and send the Marlins to the World Series.
  • No. 18: Oct. 12, 1980: Phillies @ Astros; Phils win battle in 10th to win the NLCS with an epic comeback over Nolan Ryan.
  • No. 17: Oct. 17, 2004: Yankees @ Red Sox; Dave Roberts‘ stolen base and David Ortiz‘s walk-off homer cap the Boston win, an epic part of the Boston comeback from 3-0 down in the 2004 ALCS.
  • No. 16: Oct. 6, 2009: Tigers @ Twins; Twins win a game 163 sudden death playoff game for the AL Central title.
  • No. 15: Oct. 8, 1995: Yankees @ Mariners; Edgar Martinez hits “The Double” to get a walk-off win in the ALDS, capping a 10th inning comeback as a young Ken Griffey Jr absolutely flies around the bases to score from first.
  • No. 14: Oct. 23, 1993: Phillies @ Blue Jays; Joe Carter‘s walk-off WS homer foils a great Philly comeback.
  • No. 13: Oct. 26, 1997: Indians @ Marlins; Edgar Renteria wins it for Fish in a World Series game 7 classic.
  • No. 12: Oct. 31, 2001: D-backs @ Yankees; Tino Martinez ties it with a 2-out, 2-run homer in the bottom of the 9th and Derek Jeter hits first November homer and earns himself the nickname for which he’s continued to be known.
  • No. 11: Oct. 2, 1978: Yankees @ Red Sox; Bucky Dent‘s improbable 3-run homer caps a massive October collapse for Boston and continues the legendary rivalry between the teams.
  • No. 10: Oct. 15, 1988: Athletics @ Dodgers; Injured slugger Kirk Gibson hits a pinch hit walk-off home run off of the dominant Dennis Eckersley for one of the most magical home runs in baseball history.
  • No. 9: Nov. 4, 2001: Yankees @ D-backs; Luis Gonzalez floats a ball over the drawn-in infield against Mariano Rivera to win a classic Game 7.
  • No. 8: Oct. 12, 1986: Red Sox @ Angels; Dave Henderson hits an improbable 3-run homer in the 9th to help Boston come back from 1-out away from elimination to eventually beat the Angels in the 86 ALCS.
  • No. 7: Oct. 14, 2003: Marlins @ Cubs; The infamous Steve Bartman game, which overshadowed an utter collapse by Mark Prior, Alex Gonzalez, the Cubs bullpen AND Kerry Wood the following day to continue the Cubs curse that lasts til today.
  • No. 6: Oct. 16, 2003: Red Sox @ Yankees; Aaron Boone suddenly homers off Tim Wakefield in extra innings to end a classic ALCS game 7 between the bitter rivals.
  • No. 5: Oct. 15, 1986: Mets @ Astros; Mets win in 16 as Jesse Orosco put in the relief performance of a lifetime.
  • No. 4: Oct. 14, 1992: Pirates @ Braves; the injured Sid Bream barely beats Barry Bonds‘ throw to score the series winner and effectively send the Pittsburgh franchise into a 20 year tailspin.
  • No. 3: Oct. 25, 1986: Red Sox @ Mets; Probably the most “infamous” game of all time, especially to Boston fans, as Bill Buckner‘s error follows a series of mishaps by the Red Sox pitching staff to turn a 10th inning 2 run lead into a game 6 loss.
  • No. 2: Oct. 27, 1991: Braves @ Twins; Jack Morris‘  seminal performance; a 1-0 10 inning shutout over the Braves in perhaps the best Game 7 of any World Series ever.
  • No. 1: Oct. 21, 1975: Reds @ Red Sox; the game forever known for Carlton Fisk waving his walk-off homer fair, but which should be known for the unbelievably clutch Bernie Carbo 8th inning homer to tie the game and enable the extra inning fireworks.

That’s a great list.  It technically should have been titled “Greatest 20 games of the last half century” since it skipped the classic 1960 Mazeroski game.

Since this series debuted, we’ve seen several really good post season games that I thought should be considered

  • 2011 Game 6: I thought it was a top 5 game when I saw it live, and i’d put it 4th or so on the above list.
  • 2016 Game 7:  I thought it was perhaps in the 5-10 range, putting it just after the Bartman game at #8 in the above list.
  • 2011 final Game of the season: Yankees@Rays: the Red Sox had blown a 9-game lead as of the beginning of the month, culminating with a blown save in the 9th of the final game of the season to open the door for Tampa.  meanwhile, Tampa was hosting the Yankees … and were down 7-0 in the 7th inning before rallying to tie the game, then win it in the 12th on a solo walk-off by super star Evan Longoria just minutes after hearing that the Red Sox had lost.  See the video to watch it  unfold; its pretty unbelievable.
  • 2007 NL Wild Card tiebreaker: Colorado beats San Diego 9-8 in 13 innings by rallying from 2 runs down to walk-off in a controversial play at the plate.

Well, where do you possibly put the two crazy games we just saw in this series?

  • 2017 Game 2: Houston scores in the 8th and 9th to push the game to Extras, blasts two solo homers in the 10th only to have LA tie the game in the bottom of the 10th.  Eventual MVP Springer blasts another homer in the 11th, and LA counters in the bottom of the 11th but falls short.  7 of the 13 runs scored in the game occurred in the extra innings and the teams set a WS record hitting 8 combined homers.
  • 2017 Game 5: Houston made up deficits of 3 and 4 runs early, LA scored 3 in the 9th to force extras, and Houston walked-off a win in the 10th to win a crazy 13-12 5 hour marathon.   As ESPN’s David Schoenfield said, “you thought game 2 was crazy?  Try game 5.

First off; were these truly “great games?”  One game was 7-6, the other was 13-12.  Both featured a ton of hitting and offense obviously, but not a ton of good pitching necessarily.  LA used NINE pitchers in Game 2, and the teams combined to use 14 pitchers in game 5 with neither starter getting out of the 5th.  Game 5 in particular featured both team’s Aces (Kershaw and Keuchel), both former Cy Young winners who both got blasted, and both team’s best reliever (Jansen and Devenski) got hit hard as well.  Some people think a “great game” includes transcendent performances on both sides of the ball, and both of these games were not the case.

Would you put either game into the above list?  I would.  I’d probably choose Game 2 over Game 5 given its late-inning heroics and slightly better pitching, and I’d probably put it in the 15-20 range in the above list.

What do you guys think?

13 Responses to 'Where would 2017 World Series Games 2 or 5 rank historically?'

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  1. More on WS later, but BIG score getting Kevin Long as hitting coach. Rick Schu was pretty good, but sometimes a change in what you’re hearing can help. See the shift from McCatty to Maddux as an example.


    2 Nov 17 at 7:56 pm

  2. I think the most memorable game from 2017 will be game 5. But I think you hit the key point on the head: was it a “great” game? It was a homer fest played in a bandbox. The two Cy Young winners didn’t exactly engage in a dual like Smoltz-Morris (#2 on the MLB list) or even Smoltz-Drabek (#4). If I were to try to place 2017-GM5 on the list above, it might make the lower regions, #19 or #20. It was “memorable” but not particularly “great” (a quibble I with some of the other games on the list).

    A few things about this list. First of all, the oldest game is #1, from 1975, so it’s not comprehensive over the history of the game. (Maz in ’60, Larson perfect game, etc., all missing.) I think my biggest quibble with the list would be including #3 among the “greatest.” The whole thing hinged on an awful play, not anything resembling greatness. A “memorable” game? Sure. But there are some down at #s 9-10-11 that were better games.


    2 Nov 17 at 9:55 pm

  3. I’ll move forward my general WS thoughts from the last thread:

    Congrats to the Astros, who hit better when it mattered than the Dodgers did. In fact, Pederson was about the only Dodger who hit at all, after a lousy (.212) regular season. Darvish was awful, so forget trying to sign him as a #3 playoff upgrade over Gio. Kershaw once again had a chance to put his stamp on a postseason in game 5 and once again didn’t do it. Roberts’s perpetual overtaxing of the Dodger bullpen came back to haunt them in more than one game. The Dodgers would have done better with Wood as their #3 starter, maybe even as their #2, since Hill didn’t even make it five IP in either start.

    I’m not a Dodger fan, but I still came away with the feeling that the Dodgers lost this more than the Astros won it . . . and that the Nats would have had a much better chance against the Dodgers than many thought if they’d just have finished off those sorry Cubbies. Sigh.

    Despite Morrow’s injury history, I’d be interested in seeing the Nats make a run at him if the price is reasonable. They may think they have enough RHP out of the ‘pen if they believe Glover and Kelley are going to get healthy, though. They may also bring Albers back and move Cole to the ‘pen.

    (Since I wrote this, MLBTR has made the Nats the leaders to re-sign Kintzler. I wouldn’t mind having him back, but I’m not sure he’s where they would or should spend the money. They could get Albers back for a lot less, and he was better. I think some team is going to pay Kintzler to be their Closer (TM) because of the 29 saves.)


    2 Nov 17 at 10:00 pm

  4. In looking at the list, most of these are “dramatic moment” games. Some were very well played, some weren’t. One somewhat forgotten “well-played game” was Glavine’s eight innings of one-hit ball against an all-time great Indian lineup (Belle, Thome, Ramirez, Lofton, Murray, etc.) in game 6 in 1995 to clinch the WS. The only run was a Justice HR. Five of the six games in that series were won by one run.

    The next year, a “dramatic moment” went against the Braves with the Leyritz three-run homer in game 4 that shifted the series and ultimately the longer-term fortunes of both teams.


    3 Nov 17 at 8:00 am

  5. Now it’s time to light the hot stove! Todd, I hope you’ll kick off the offseason discussion with some talk of where the Nats are salary-wise for 2018, as you seem to have a good handle on those numbers. I’ve seen some estimates that they may already be in the $170-175M range when contract raises and arb are included. The luxury tax line for 2018 is $197M, so the Nats could already be within $25M of that number before filling out the bench and bullpen. If that’s true, I guess I’ll have to give up my dream of trading for Stanton, much less Stanton AND Bumgarner.

    Stanton will be traded somewhere, though, and he’s one of the few players who could shift balance of power all by himself. Thought of him going to the Dodgers or Cubs is frightening. He wouldn’t scare me as much on the Cards, and he’s not going to the Phils, as he has a no-trade and has made it clear that he’s not approving a move to a loser.

    I find the Giants’ situation interesting. There is a lot of talk about them going big on free agents, particularly OFs, and/or trading for Stanton themselves. Are they really only a couple of players away from getting back to respectability, or are they deluding themselves and trying to avoid the rebuild that would empty out their perpetually full stadium? I’m in the “deluding themselves” camp. You don’t lose 98 games by accident.


    5 Nov 17 at 8:06 am

  6. ironic you were going to mention that since the WP noted that even though their “actual” payroll for 2018 looks like its in the 160M range, their luxury tax payroll is broaching 190, which means they’re in luxury tax area if they sign even the smallest FA.


    Anyone want to wager whether or not the cheap lerners broach the luxury tax in their last Harper season?

    I do have some worksheets that need doing, and I’ve asked myself where we stand with payroll already so i’ll work on it.

    Todd Boss

    5 Nov 17 at 8:00 pm

  7. I don’t know that there’s much evidence to call the Lerners “cheap” anymore . . . except when it comes to paying managers! Yes, they were cheap in the beginning. They got a taxpayer-funded stadium and then put an awful product on the field for several years. But for the last five seasons or so, they’ve spent competitively, and for the last two, they’ve taken another step and been willing to add payroll mid-season for significant bolstering of the bullpen.

    As for the MASN deal hampering operations, that’s sort of a “yes, but . . .” situation. The Lerners have a lot more wealth than the Angeloses do. Also, if money really were tight, “Nationals Park” would have had a corporate name a long, long time ago. They could have gotten at least $10M a season for naming rights, so that’s more than $100M that they’ve left on the table, not even bothering to claim.

    Right now, the luxury tax is just a financial penalty. MLB is threatening to add draft pick and international bonus pool penalties, but how they think they’re going to threaten the owners who pay their salaries, I don’t know. But there’s exceeding the luxury tax, and then there’s the Dodgers, who had a payroll of around $250M, >$100M of which was dead money, not to mention the walking-dead money invested in Gonzalez and Ethier.

    As for the Nats, I don’t see an easy way for them to walk back from the tax line for 2018. In the NFL, you could just wipe out bad contracts like Wieters and Kelley, but everything is guaranteed in MLB. Wieters in untradeable. They could trade Gio, but then they’d need two starters instead of just one. I do think it’s telling that they didn’t even offer Lind their side of the $5M mutual option even though it seemed likely he would turn it down. It’s kind of frightening to think that they could put a Rolls Royce team on the field but end up with a bench of Goodwin, Difo, Severino, Sanchez, and Marmolejos.


    6 Nov 17 at 8:47 am

  8. Just to note, the Nats could more than offset what they would pay in luxury tax for 2018 just by selling the stadium naming rights. In fact, they could charge a premium for naming rights with the All-Star Game coming.


    6 Nov 17 at 8:54 am

  9. Did anyone ever report what was going on with Wieters around his option? Seemed like Boras was making some kind of play there, but what he thought his leverage was, I dunno.

    I have a hunch its going to be a boring offseason for the Nats. A bench guy or two, maybe some NRI guys. Famous last words, right?


    6 Nov 17 at 1:18 pm

  10. There are two theories on Wieters. One is that Boras was trolling to see if there actually might be any interest in him elsewhere, for a multi-year contract. I also saw someone on Nats Talk suggest that maybe the Nats and Boras were talking about Wieters deferring some money. Not sure I buy that concept, though, as it seems unlikely that he would defer unless the Nats offered him another year or two, which, given his 2017 production, wouldn’t make any sense.

    So we roll with Wieters and I guess pray that Kevin Long can work some miracles with him. In the meantime, I sure would like them to think about Avila/Castillo/Rivera to share time with him, not just be a backup.

    Should I second the “boring offseason” remark in the hope that we can conjure a Max signing instead? I don’t know. I don’t see a lot of free agents who would be worth the bang for the buck for the Nats. Darvish and Arrieta would cost too much for what they offer, and I’m not too fond of the next level of Lynn/Cobb/Cashner et al.

    One guy who intrigues me is Cozart. There’s very little SS market, so I think he is going to be undervalued. While there’s no obvious fit for him with the Nats this year, he could start the season at 2B in place of Murphy and maybe develop some super-utility skills. He’s got a heck of a bat (24 HRs in only 122 games in ’17 in the Great American Bandbox), and he seems a perfect candidate to explode under Kevin Long. Some place I saw, maybe MLBTR, suggested that the Nats could sign Cozart and move Turner back to CF, I guess freeing them to trade Taylor. Not sure I see that scenario with Robles on the horizon, though. But Cozart could be the heir apparent at 2B when Murph’s time is up.


    6 Nov 17 at 3:21 pm

  11. I’m also curious about what they’re going to do with pitching coach. Both Honeycutt and Righetti seem to be available. Martinez played with Righetti on that ’83 Giants team that Chelsea Janes highlighted last week.


    6 Nov 17 at 3:25 pm

  12. I think bench coach will be more important this year. 80% of their rotation are vets who should have their routines down by now. Their pen does have some younger guys (potentially) but not in high leverage spots. What about Rothschild from NYY?

    But Martinez needs a solid guy to help him on the bench. I don’t know who is in the running, haven’t heard any names.


    6 Nov 17 at 3:34 pm

  13. Yeah, I haven’t got a clue about a bench coach. Do they go with a grizzled vet, or does Martinez tag his own younger guy like Maddon did with him? (David Ross?) One I’ve liked — including as a managerial candidate — is Ron Wotus, who the Giants just demoted from bench coach. Pretty funny that the Giants shuffled their coaches who won three rings but didn’t can the GM who has left the team with a mess of old guys, bad contracts, and no decent outfielders.


    6 Nov 17 at 8:47 pm

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