Monday, March 8, 2010
2009 Yankees would have beaten 1986 Mets: Who's Kidding Who, Darryl?
Now, Klapisch, still one of the best baseball scribes there is, writes in New Jersey for The Record -- a.k.a. the Bergen Record, published out of Hackensack. You don't need to know that, I just like saying, "Hackensack." I do like the town, though.
Anyway, in last Saturday's column, Klapisch did a feature on Darryl Strawberry, once again in the employ of the Mets. Seriously, were Darryl's various crimes so bad that he had to be punished like that?
Klapisch asked Darryl what would have happened if the 1986 Mets, the last World Championship team for that sliver of the New York Tri-State Area that refuses to accept the glory of Pinstripes, played the 2009 Yankees, the current defending World Champions. By "we," Darryl refers to the '86 Mets, and by "Doc," he refers to Dwight Gooden, a.k.a. "Doctor K":
"Doc would've destroyed them. We would've beaten them. They're a great team, but we wouldn't have been intimidated. We could hit, we could pitch and we could definitely fight."
I see Darryl's back on drugs, because you'd have to be on drugs to think that the '86 Mets could beat the 2009, or 1998, or 1978, or 1961, or any championship Yankee team.
Those Mets were damn lucky just to get past Houston in the NLCS, and needed the collapse of all time to survive the Red Sox... and they'd be facing Mariano Rivera, not Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley, with Mark Teixeira instead of Bill Buckner at 1st base.
You could hit? So could the '09 Yanks. You could pitch? So could the '09 Yanks. You could fight? First of all, just try fighting A.J. Burnett, Nick Swisher or Joba Chamberlain. I triple-dog-dare you. Second of all, what the hell does fighting ability have to do with winning baseball games?
Forget for a moment that Darryl won more rings with the Yankees than with the Mets, 3-1. (So did Gooden, 2-1. And David Cone, 4-0 -- Coney didn't get to the Mets until 1987.) This isn't about where his loyalties rest. This is about who was better.
Let's check it out, position by position -- and, remember, we're not talking about a career, which favors the team whose players have all since added to their reputations. Or... does it? Well, as I said, we're not talking about a career, we're talking about just how they did in the season in question. I'll list them in chronological order: 1986 Met first, 2009 Yank second.
First Base: Keith Hernandez vs. Mark Teixeira. Mex vs. Teix. Mex had a good year at the plate, Teix led the American League in runs batted in. Fielding? Any edge Mex may have had there isn't enough to wipe out Teix's edge with the bat. Edge, Yankees, slightly.
Second Base: Platoon of Wally Backman and Tim Teufel vs. Robinson Cano. This is a joke, right? A platoon against Robbie? Edge, Yankees, in a landslide.
Shortstop: Rafael Santana vs. Derek Jeter. Hmmmm, this is a tough one. A real head-scratcher. I'm going to have to say Santana by the slightest of margins. What's that, you say? April Fool's Day is still 23 days away? Oh, in that case... Edge, Yankees, in a landslide.
Third Base: Howard Johnson vs. Alex Rodriguez. Neither HoJo nor A-Rod had his best year in the year in question, but Ho-Jo's best year would be an off-year for A-Rod... and A-Rod could actually play the position of 3rd base, too. Edge, Yankees, solidly.
Left Field: Kevin Mitchell vs. Johnny Damon. If this were the Mitchell of 1989, the National League's MVP with the Giants, it would be a different story. But it isn't. Edge, Yankees, solidly.
Center Field: Platoon of Lenny Dykstra and Mookie Wilson vs. Melky Cabrera. Put Nails (or "Dude," as he became known in Philly) and Mookie together, and you've got good power numbers and great speed (55 stolen bases). And Lenny did have some big hits of the variety since given the name "walkoff." So did Melky, and, in 2009, he was a better player than either Met ever was. Unless you mean the 1990 Dykstra who nearly won the NL batting title -- but we're talking about 1986, and besides, he was with the Phillies by then, another bonehead Met trade (for Juan Samuel, who was great in Philly but not good in Flushing). Edge, Yankees, slightly over both (solidly over either).
Right Field: Darryl Strawberry vs. Nick Swisher. I love Swish, but I'm not going to pretend that he, last year, was a better player than Darryl was in '86. Edge, Mets, solidly.
Bench, in the Yankees' case including the Designated Hitter, which would come into play in the games between the teams played at Yankee Stadium II. This was one of the Mets' true strengths, as they could go to either half of their 2B or CF platoons and lose very little. And Mitchell wasn't supposed to be the starting LF, the crumbling George Foster was. Throw in Ray Knight at 3B, who turned out to be the World Series MVP, and you've got one of the best benches ever. I like Brett Gardner (and he'd better fully mature as a player in 2010), but the Yanks just can't match the Mets for the bench... unless you throw in DH Hideki Matsui. Then this becomes, for all intents and purposes, a toss-up.
Catcher: Gary Carter vs. Jorge Posada. Carter had 25 homers, 106 RBI, and a .776 OPS. But wait, Posada had 22 homers and 81 RBI, despite making only 76 percent as many plate appearances in '09 as Carter did in '86 (438 to 573). At that rate, Posada would have had 29 homers (better than Carter) and 106 RBI (the same as Carter). And the '86 Camera Kid had an OPS+ of 115, meaning that, in relation to the league average, his offense was roughly 15 percent better; '09 Hip Hip Jorge had an OPS+ of 133, meaning he was 33 percent better -- pretty strong for any player, but especially so for a catcher. Defense? Posada had one of his best glove years in 2009. Carter may be a Hall-of-Famer for his career (Merci, Expos), but for the seasons in question... Edge, Yankees, slightly.
So... the Mets have the edge in right field, and come fairly close at first base, catcher, and with the bench. Other than that, the Yankees have the edges, going away.
What's that, you say? It doesn't work that way? You're right, it doesn't. And I haven't taken pitching into account.
Well, let's see, whose bullpen do you trust more: Rick Aguilera, Randy Myers and Doug Sisk leading to Jesse Orosco; or Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves and Damaso Marte (not necessarily in that order) leading to Mariano Rivera? If you trust the Met pen more, then I think you've made too many trips to Shake Shack, 'cause you've got brain freeze.
Let's take it game by game, keeping in mind the actual pitching rotations used in their respective World Series. Also keep in mind that both teams went with a 3-man, 3-days-rest rotation in the Series, meaning that Sid Fernandez and usual 4th starter Joba were relegated to the pen.
Both New York teams had the home-field advantage, but, just to make it interesting, I'm going to give the Mets home-field advantage for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7, and the Yankees for Games 3, 4 and 5.
Here are the Mets' actual scores for the 1986 World Series against the Boston Red Sox, with their own score listed first: 0-1, 3-9, 7-1, 6-2, 2-4, 6-5 (in 10 innings), 8-5.
Here are the Yankees' actual scores for the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, with their own score listed first: 1-6, 3-1, 8-5, 7-4, 6-8, 7-3, no Game 7.
Game 1, Shea Stadium, CC Sabathia vs. Ron Darling. (Remember, I'm using the pitchers who actually started in the games in question.) CC pitched OK, but got outpitched by Cliff Lee. Darling pitched well, but got outpitched by Bruce Hurst. The Mets managed just 4 hits off Hurst, and were shut out; the Yanks got just 6 hits off Lee, and by the time they finally scored in the 9th, it was pretty much meaningless. Darling probably had a little more on the night in question.
I could give the Mets the benefit of the doubt here, but if the Yanks get to Darling before the 9th, do the Mets dare bring in Sisk? If they do, they're toast.
Mets 2, Yankees 1. Mets lead, 1 game to 0.
Game 2, Shea Stadium, A.J. Burnett vs. Dwight Gooden. This is not the Doc of 1984 or '85. It is the A.J. of '09. A.J. pitched well, but Doc got rocked, and the Red Sox didn't care that they were playing in the pitching-friendly Flushing Toilet instead of their little green pinball machine in the Back Bay. Doc doesn't see the far side of the 4th inning in this one.
Yankees 9, Mets 3. Series tied, 1 to 1.
Game 3, Yankee Stadium II, Andy Pettitte vs. Bob Ojeda. Bobby O, who had pitched for the Sox the season before, knew how to pitch in Fenway. But did he know how to pitch in The House That George Built?
Andy had his good stuff, and as a lefty he can hold off Darryl and Hernandez -- and the switch-hitting HoJo, who would have to switch to his weaker right side.
What's that, you say? "The Yankees can't hit lefties, especially in the postseason." How'd that work out against the Mets in October 2000?
The big factor here is A-Rod's opposite-field homer, which just barely got over the fence at Citizens Bank Park. But at Yankee Stadium, with that short porch, it probably becomes less questionable.
Yankees 7, Mets 5. Yankees lead, 2 games to 1.
Game 4, Yankee Stadium II, CC vs. Darling. CC was just fine on 3 days' rest, allowing just 2 runs; Darling, also on 3 days' rest, allowed 4.
Yankees 5, Mets 3. Yankees lead, 3 games to 1. Not looking good for the Crass of '86, is it?
Game 5, Yankee Stadium II, A.J. vs. Doc. A.J. did not have his good stuff, but neither was Gooden in full Doctor K mode. Maybe he wouldn't need to be: The Yanks trailed the Phils 8-2 in the 7th, and while they had the tying run at the plate at the end, they couldn't do it.
Mets 5, Yankees 4. Yankees lead, 3 games to 2. We're going back to Flushing. For... Game Six.
Game 6, Shea Stadium, Andy vs. Bobby O. The Yanks hit Pedro Martinez hard. And even given the "inflation" of age and injuries, Bobby O was not Pedro. This doesn't get to the 10th inning, and Teixeira doesn't have to worry about "a little roller up along first, behind the bag."
Yankees 6, Mets 4. 4 games to 2. Ballgame over. World Series over. Argument over. Yankees win. Theeeeeeee Yankees win.
No Game 7.
The 2009 Yanks don't exactly toy with the 1986 Mets, and only 1 game was not close. On the other hand, I really gave the Mets the benefit of the doubt in Game 1, so this could have ended up being a sweep.
But I like it better this way, clinching in Game 6. Like 2000, the Yankees clinch the World Series at Shea.
The 2009 Yankees would have beaten the 1986 Mets. Anybody who says otherwise, simply doesn't understand baseball.
Of course, if they understood baseball, they wouldn't waste their time rooting for the Mets. Would they?