Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Burnett Bombed Again, Mets vs. Tigers

The Yankees lost 10-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks last night. Once again, A.J. Burnett didn't have it. I'm getting concerned: Just when Javier Vazquez seems to be fully straightened out, the Pieman isn't getting the job done.

Neither is Chan Ho "Taken Out of the" Park. Maybe he's too busy watching Korea in the World Cup. Eyes on this hemisphere, Chan Ho.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: The Yankees are counting on Andy Pettitte tonight, to bounce back from a bad loss.

Whoever is in charge of showing scoreboard highlights at Chase Field showed a replay of Luis Gonzalez (cough-steroids-cough) hitting that looper that won the 2001 World Series for the Diamondbacks. And in the crowd of 47,000, which is about double what the Snakes usually get at home, there was a considerable amount of... booing!

Once again, Yankee Fans took over an opposing ballpark. And Phoenix is not a short trip like Boston or Baltimore (both a little over 200 miles), or even a comparatively short one like Cleveland (500) or Detroit (700) or Chicago (900). We're talking 3/4 of the way across the country. There must've been a lot of frequent-flier miles cashed in.

After all, when it's 90 degrees in New York and New Jersey, the place you really want to go to is Arizona.

Yankee Fans watching that game must've gotten hot under the collar, but... I think you know what's coming here... it was in Arizona, so it was a dry heat.


The Mets start a three-game series at Citi Field against the Detroit Tigers. Interleague play. It's got to go, except for March and October. Spring training and the World Series, that's it.

The Mets and Tigers have almost no history together, aside from two notable trades:

* December 12, 1975: The Mets trade Rusty Staub and some guy named Bill Laxton to the Tigers for Mickey Lolich and Billy Baldwin -- not the one from the Long Island-based acting family. Lolich was one of baseball's best pitchers between 1964 and 1973, but he got hurt, did next to nothing for the Mets, and while he retired as the all-time leader in strikeouts by a lefthanded pitcher, this was a trade the Mets regretted big-time, as Rusty continued his great hitting in Detroit, before they got him back for a decent end to his career.

* December 7, 1984: The Mets trade pitcher Walt Terrell to the newly-crowned World Champion Tigers for Howard Johnson. Terrell gave the Tigers more than Lolich gave the Mets, but HoJo became the greatest third baseman in Met history. Which is like calling Gerald Ford (who lived most of his life in Michigan and was himself a Tiger fan) the least damaging Republican President of the last 50 years. (Well... he was.)

The Tigers won the World Series in 1968, the Mets in 1969. The Tigers finished 2nd in the AL East in '69, but well behind the Baltimore Orioles, whom the Mets defeated in the World Series. The Tigers reached the postseason in '72 (lost the ALCS), the Mets in '73 (lost the World Series).

A Mets-Tigers World Series looked very possible between 1984 and 1988, but it just didn't happen. The Tigers were a net 7 1/2 games out of first place for those 5 seasons (their 15-game final AL East lead of 1984 wiped out by being 15 back in '85), the Mets at a net tie for first place in those seasons, buoyed by huge NL East wins in '86 and '88 to go with close losses in '84, '85 and '87. But the two teams just couldn't both get it done in the same season.

In fact, since Jesse Orosco threw his glove in the air on October 27, 1986, the Mets and Tigers have either reached the postseason a combined 7 times, and had 8 other close calls between them, but each has won exactly 1 Pennant in that time (the Mets in 2000, the Tigers in 2006), and each lost the World Series in 5 games in the season in question.

In fact, despite the fact that the Tigers, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers won 31 Pennants between them from 1904 to 1956, the Tigers have never played a New York team in a World Series. The Fred Merkle "Boner" of 1908 kept the Giants out of a World Series that the Tigers were in.

Either the Giants or the Tigers were in the World Series every year between 1933 and 1937. The Tigers won a Pennant in 1940, the Dodgers in 1941; the Tigers in 1945, the Dodgers nearly so in 1946. But then the Tigers went into a decline that would last until the 1960s, by which point the Dodgers and Giants were in California. When they finished a strong but not close 2nd to the Yankees in 1961, came oh-so-close in Detroit's riot year of 1967, and won it all in 1968. And when the Tigers finally played a California team in a World Series in 1984, it wasn't the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants, but the San Diego Padres.

The only time the Tigers have ever played a New York team in the postseason was the 2006 American League Division Series. After the Yankees won Game 1, their bats went silent, and the Tigers took advantage to win 3 straight, and then swept the Oakland Athletics in 4 straight for the Pennant, with Magglio Ordonez joining Bobby Thomson and Chris Chambliss hitting a walkoff home run in a Playoff game for the Pennant.

(Hank Aaron hit a walkoff to clinch a Pennant, but that was in the regular-season, in the pre-Divisional Play era. Jack Clark hit what turned out to be a Pennant-winning homer in a 9th inning of a potential clincher for his team, and Tony Fernandez did it in an 11th, but both did so in the top half.)

The Mets thought they were going to join the Tigers in the 2006 World Series, until the 9th inning of Game 7 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, when Yadier Molina joined Jack Clark and Tony Fernandez (in his case, the 11th inning) as players who hit what turned out to be a winning homer in the top half of the last inning of a potential Pennant clincher for his team. He hit it off Aaron Heilman, who interestingly enough, is on the Diamondbacks now, as they play the Yankees this week. (Hope springs eternal for the Bronx Bombers!)

And the Tigers went on to play like a team that did not belong in the World Series, losing to the Cards in 5 games. The 2 previous Tigers-Cards World Series both went 7, with the Cards winning in 1934 and the Tigers doing so in 1968. Each of those was one of the better Series ever played, but the 2006 edition may be the worst that I can remember.

Had the Mets beaten the Cards, would they have beaten the Tigers? It's hard to tell: They were better on paper, but the games aren't played on paper, they're played on grass (and, all too often, on plastic), and, besides, we're talking about the Mets here. The Mets would have found a way to screw it up.

No comments: