Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't Be Silly: The World Championship to Philly

Congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies for winning the World Series, with a truly Philadelphian performance: It wasn't pretty, but they did what they had to do against the pretty boys from the Sun Belt, and they proved they were better -- not just tougher, which we all knew, but better.

A lot of old Phils are smiling down on them. In memoriam:

Harry Wright, 1835-1895
Sam Thompson, 1860-1922
Billy Hamilton, 1866-1940

Pat Moran 1876-1924
Gavvy Cravath, 1881-1963
Grover Cleveland Alexander, 1887-1950
Chuck Klein, 1904-1958Eddie Sawyer, 1910-1997
Byrum Saam, 1914-1990
Bob Carpenter, 1915-1990
Jim Konstanty, 1917-1976
Dick Sisler, 1920-1998
Paul Owens, 1924-2003
Gene Mauch, 1925-2005
Granny Hamner, 1927-1993
Richie Ashburn, 1927-1997Chris Short, 1937-1991
Johnny Callison, 1939-2006
Tug McGraw, 1944-2004

Figures in bold are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, technically if not officially including Saam, who received the Hall's award for lifetime achievement in broadcasting, the Ford Frick Award, as has Harry Kalas. Here's Harry the K's call of the final out:

One strike away. Nothing and two the count to Hinske. Fans on their feet. Rally towels are being waved. Brad Lidge stretches. The oh-two pitch: Swing and a miss! Struck him out! The Philadelphia Phillies are 2008 World Champions of baseball! ... And let the city celebrate!

As his old partner Whitey (Ashburn) was no doubt saying from that great press box in the sky, "Hard to believe, Harry."

This was not a bad World Series. Far from it. Four of the five games were close and entertaining, and the one that wasn't close was still entertaining with the Phils' booming bats. And as for the umpiring, it hurt both teams equally, so complaining does no one any good. As for the weather, that's the chance you take, unless you want every team to play under a dome, and what fool wants that? Football can be played anywhere. Baseball is supposed to be played outdoors.

The Phils also showed the way to beat the Tampa Bay Rays, which is to do what I didn't do all year, and what the Yankees didn't do all year, and what the Red Sox didn't do until the middle of Game 5 of the ALCS: Take them seriously, and don't presume the game is won until you actually get the last out and the lead.

They're not frauds, but if the Yanks, the BoSox, and the rest of the American League take them seriously in 2009, the 2008 Rays will prove to be every bit the fluke that the 2007 Colorado Rockies and the 2006 Detroit Tigers turned out to be.

The Curse of Billy Penn, if it ever existed, is dead. Now, Philly has to work on:

* The Curse of Harold Katz: The 76ers haven't won the NBA since 1983, following Katz's boneheaded 1986 trade of Moses Malone and the top draft pick.

* The Curse of Leon Stickle: The Flyers haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1975, including Stickle's failure to call offside against the New York Islanders, influencing the 1980 Cup.

* The Curse of the Dutchman: Norm Van Brocklin quarterbacked the Eagles to the 1960 NFL Championship and retired, thinking that he'd be appointed head coach to succeed the also-retiring Buck Shaw, and he wasn't.

The Yankees, faced with the Rays and the Red Sox, and the Mets, faced with the Phillies, have to head toward 2009 with the same idea: Expect a battle, and build a team of battlers. That's what George Steinbrenner said after the Yankees won the 1996 World Series: "They're battlers, and New York is a city of battlers. You battle for everything in this town: For cabs, for tables in restaurants, for everything."

The Phillies are battlers. Philadelphia is a hard city. So are Trenton, Camden, Chester, Wilmington, and a few other smaller cities nearby.

Both New York ballclubs could use a few more Paul O'Neills, or Thurman Munsons, or Lou Piniellas, or Keith Hernandezes, or Lenny Dykstras. Send a Catfish Hunter, a Sparky Lyle, a Bob Ojeda, a David Cone or a Jeff Nelson to the mound. New York baseball fans don't demand stardom -- I'm talking to you, men of the House of Steinbrenner, but also to you, men of the House of Wilpon -- but we expect competence. If we get both, we can win.

Get both.

Again, congratulations to the Fightin' Phils, to the City of Philadelphia, and to all the Delaware Valley, from Scranton in the north to Rehoboth Beach in the south, from Atlantic City in the east to Lancaster in the west.

And, oh yeah: I told you so. I said Phils in 5, with the Rays only winning Game 2. It's so rare that I get things that right, and so I'm telling you so that I told you so.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

2008 World Series: Phillies in 5

Here's my predictions for the 2008 World Series, between the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies and the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays:

Game 1, tonight at Tropicana "Field": Cole Hamels for the Phils vs. Scott Kazmir for the Rays. Hamels was the MVP of the NLCS. Home-field advantage has been the biggest key to the Rays' success.

I think if Hamels is on his game, and Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley take advantage of the hitters' "park" they'll be in, the Phillies will take Game 1, and this could be a short Series. The Phils might be able to shake off a loss by their ace on the road in Game 1, but the Rays would probably not be able to handle a loss by their ace at home in Game 1. Phils, 1-0. (That's the number of games; I'm not going to predict scores.)

Game 2, tomorrow night at the Trop: Brett Myers vs. James Shields. This may be the Rays' best chance at a win, as Shields is probably their best starter right now, and Myers is hardly at Hamels' level. Tie, 1-1.

Game 3, Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park: Jamie Moyer vs. Matt Garza. Garza was the MVP of the ALCS. But he's never pitched in anything like a World Series game, and not in anything like a postseason crowd in The Fighting City of Philadelphia. Moyer, a month shy of his 46th birthday, wasn't on the Phils' 1980 World Champions, but it sure seems like it. (A Philly-area native, he was at the Phils' victory parade. His big-league debut was with the Chicago Cubs in 1986.)

The Philly fans are going to be beyond nuts, sensing perhaps their best chance at a World Championship in any sport since the '83 76ers -- the '93 Phils were not going to beat the Toronto Blue Jays, the Flyers haven't had a Cup-worthy goalie since Bernie Parent, and deep down I think they knew the Eagles were not going to beat the New England Patriots in that Super Bowl. Phils, 2-1.

Game 4, Sunday night at CBP: Joe Blanton vs. Andy Sonnastine. This could be the Rays' last chance to make it a competitive Series, but Blanton has become a completely different pitcher since coming over in a midseason trade with Oakland. Phils, 3-1.

Game 5: Hamels vs. Kazmir, presumably. It won't make the Rays a total "fraud," but it will be cold water in the face, showing that they have work to do to earn the respect of baseball fans who, a year after the 2007 World Series, have already brushed last year's Colorado Rockies off as a fluke, albeit an entertaining one. Phils, 4-1 and a parade down Broad Street.

As Richie Ashburn would've said, "Hard to believe, Harry"? No, "Bet yer house on it, Harry!"

OK, considering the Bush Recession, don't bet your house on it. Especially since your mortgage company may have already done so. But the Phils will win.

UPDATE: While my pre-postseason predictions were really wrong -- I only got 1 out of 4 Division Series right -- my Series prediction turned out to be right on the money, including guessing which game the Rays would win.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Aaron Boone + 5 Years

October 16, 2003. Well, October 17, at 12:16 AM. Aaron Boone batting against Tim Wakefield. Charlie Steiner with the call:

There's a fly ball, deep to left! It's on its way! There it goes! And the Yankees are going to the World Series! Aaron Boone has hit a home run! The Yankees go to the World Series for the 39th time in their remarkable history!

Has it really been 5 years?

The Top 10 Strangest Things That Have Happened In Sports Since the Aaron Boone Game

10. Stanley Cups have been won by Tampa Bay, North Carolina and Anaheim. This will be revisited, in a way, in Number 7.

9. A major league sport's governing body cancelled an entire season -- the NHL in 2004-05 -- because the owners decided not playing at all, and the money they'd lose as a result, was worth breaking the players' union. Bastards.

(The team owners, not the players. Well, some of them, but that's because they're Rangers, Flyers or other thugs, not because they belong to a union.)

8. Scott Gomez is a New York Ranger. Scott Niedermayer playing for the Anaheim Ducks (Mighty or otherwise) is understandable, since he could join his brother Rob. Brian Rafalski playing for the Detroit Red Wings is understandable, as they're one of the NHL's powerhouses, and he's from Dearborn. Both Nieder and Raffy winning Stanley Cups elsewhere is not fun for Devils fans, but we don't mind that much.

But Gomez? In a Blueshirt? The damn traitor! RANGERS SUCK!

7. Tampa Bay, having already won a Super Bowl almost 2 years before the Boone homer, has both won a Stanley Cup and come within 1 win of an American League Pennant. The Rays can eliminate the Red Sox tonight and move on to face the Phillies. Speaking of whom...

6. The New York Mets, once known for comebacks (1969 regular season, 1973 regular season, 1986 World Series), have choked away a September lead in their Division and missed the Playoffs completely.

While the Philadelphia Phillies, once known for chokes (1964 regular season, 1977 NLCS, 1982 regular season, 1983 World Series, 1993 World Series), have gone on a September tear and won their Division, and in so doing, have benefited from another team's choke. Twice. And now, the Phils have a Pennant out of it.

5. The Chicago White Sox have won a World Series, in 2005, something neither Chicago baseball team had managed to do since 1917. And they're still less popular in the Chicagoland area than the Cubs! What does a ballclub have to do?

4. Brett Favre is not only no longer the starting quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, he's the starting quarterback of the New York Jets. (Had to put this one at Number 4, even though, for some people, it could be Number 1.)

3. Rutgers University went to bowl games. In 3 consecutive seasons. And won the last 2. Unbelievable.

2. East Brunswick High School won a Central Jersey Group IV football championship. Deep in my heart, I had long stopped believing we would overcome one day. But we did.

1. The Boston Red Sox have won 2 World Series. One, I suppose, was acceptable, even the way they won the Pennant to get to that Series. But 2? No, not acceptable. And easily the strangest thing to have happened in the 5 years since.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Top 10 Moments at Shea Stadium

The dismantling of the William A. Shea Municipal Stadium has begun. A mercy killing.

Top 10 Greatest Moments at Shea Stadium
Keep in mind, this is my list. It's not the same as a Met fan's list.

Honorable Mention. June 14, 1987. Mets-Phillies. Met fans are enjoying a beautiful afternoon, when a crucial Keith Hernandez error leads to a 5-run Phillies 9th, costing the Mets the game. Their day was ruined.

There was a lot of people, you know, they were waiting by the player's parking lot. Now, Kramer and Newman were coming down the ramp. Newman was in front of Kramer. Keith was coming toward them. As he passes, Newman turns and says, "Nice game, pretty boy!" And then, Keith spit on them!

Actually, it was Roger McDowell, behind the bushes along that gravelly road.

Actually, that was just an episode of Seinfeld. In reality, the Mets played the Pittsburgh Pirates on that date, away, at Three Rivers Stadium. The Mets won 7-3, with Hernandez going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI & 2 runs scored. Neither Keith nor any other Met committed an error.

10. Pretty much any day from 1977 to 1983. After general manager M. Donald Grant traded Tom Seaver and Dave Kingman in the Midnight Massacre of June 15, 1977, Shea had so few fans coming in it was called "Grant's Tomb."

Things didn't get much better until after Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday bought the team from Lorinda de Roulet, daughter of the late founder Joan Payson, in 1980. By '83, they had Darryl Strawberry and had traded for Keith Hernandez. The pieces would fall into place over the next 3 years.

But that '77 to '83 era is a permanent scar on the franchise's history. Sure, any Yankee Fan can name the '78 Yankees, but can you name the '78 Mets?

I can. 1st base, Mike Jorgenson. 2nd base, Doug Flynn. Shortstop, Sergio Ferrer. 3rd base, Lenny Randle. Left field, Steve Henderson. Center field, Lee Mazzilli. Right field, Bruce Boisclair. Catcher, John Stearns. Top starter, Craig Swan. Top reliever, Skip Lockwood. Of these, how many were invited to the Shea Goodbye ceremony? Just Flynn, Mazzilli, Stearns and Swan.

9. Take your pick of days in 1993. The seemingly endless winless streak of Anthony Young. Bobby "Make Yo' Move, 'Cause I'll Hurt You" Bonilla. Bret "Bleacher Bum" Saberhagen. Vince "Firecracker" Coleman.

The Mets of 1962-65 had been laughably bad. The Mets of 1966-68 were merely mediocre, but still had the excuse of being an expansion team. The Mets of 1977-83 were just awful. But the Mets of 1993 weren't just ahead of the '62 originals' record pace of 120 losses (a record for the 20th Century, anyway, and they ended up with "only" 103), they were overpriced (Saberhagen, Bonilla, an apparently useless Eddie Murray, all of whom perked up after they were traded), and some of them were juvenile delinquents.

It was the most disgraceful team in the history of New York baseball, in ways that a team that merely loses big games could never be.

8. June 26, 1998. Interleague matchup. The Mets lead the Yankees 4-3 in the top of the 7th, but the Yankees get 2 men on. Manager Bobby Valentine brings in lefthanded pitcher Brian Bohanon to face lefthanded hitter Paul O'Neill.

Wait, no, to face the lefty O'Neill, Bobby V brings in the righthanded Mel Rojas! What is he thinking? Rojas is thinking, "Curveball, low and away." Paulie Pinstripes is thinking, "That's just the kind of pitch I can reach, and knock over the left-center-field fence into that dopey little picnic area out there. Thank you very much." Okay, he probably only thought, "I got this."

But the rest happened. Yanks 6, Mets 4. The game ends Yanks 8, Mets 4.

O'Neill is 2nd only to Mr. Reginald Martinez Jackson on my list of all-time favorite players, and this is one of the Top 10 Paul O'Neill Moments -- maybe Number 3, behind his 2000 World Series Game 1 performance and his farewell in Game 5 of the 2001 Series.

7. October 9, 1988. Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. The Mets lead the Los Angeles Dodgers 2 games to 1, and 4-3 in the top of the 9th, and Dwight Gooden, the greatest pitcher in the world (or so Met fans tell us), is pitching to Mike Scioscia. Finishing off this inning will put the Mets up 3 games to 1 with Game 5 tomorrow at Shea, and it'll never get back to L.A., and the Mets will face the Oakland Athletics in the World Series. (As they did in 1973, and lost.)

Today, we know Scioscia as the manager of the Whatever They’re Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim. But 20 years ago, he was the Dodgers' catcher. A good catcher. Not much of a hitter, though: In 408 at-bats that season, he batted .257 with 3 homers and 35 RBI.

But he hits a 2-run homer off the supposedly invincible Doctor K. Tie game. The Dodgers win it in the 12th, 5-4, to tie the series. The Dodgers win the Pennant when Orel Hershiser pitches a 5-hit shutout in Game 7, 6-0 at Dodger Stadium. The 3 previous Dodger wins in the series were all by 3 runs or less.

The Mets had much more talent than the Dodgers. This would have built upon their 1986 World Championship. And it was the first chance New York – the National League "half" of it, anyway – had their chance to get their revenge on the evil O’Malley family for the Treason of '57. But they blew it.

The Curse of Kevin Mitchell had leveled its first blow against the Mutts. The Flushing Heathen would have to wait until 2006 to finally beat the Dodgers in the postseason – and, by then, the O’Malley family had been 9 years beyond selling the franchise.

6. December 29, 1968. American Football League Championship Game. The New York Jets win, advancing to Super Bowl III. The icing on the cake is that it was the Oakland Raiders that they beat. Although, let's be honest here: They were already the Raiders, but they weren't yet Da Raiduhs, if ya know what I mean. Still good, though, especially since this was just a month after the Heidi Bowl in Oakland.

And, as long as we're being honest: In the Super Bowl, Joe Namath was rather ordinary aside from his bold guarantee; in the AFL Title Game, he was magnificent. And I'm not even a Jet fan.

5. October 19, 2006. Game 7 of the NLCS. The Mets are playing the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets won 97 games, the Cards 83. They're tied 1-1 in the top of the 9th, when Yadier Molina -- at that point, the 3rd-best Molina brother -- hits a Pennant-winning home run off Aaron Heilman.

In the bottom of the 9th, the Mets get the tying and Pennant-winning runs on base, but Carlos Beltran takes a called 3rd strike to lose the Pennant. This is the closest the Mets have gotten to a Pennant since 2000, and they blew it.

4. September 30, 2007. Regular season finale. The Mets finish a choke of a 7-game NL East lead with 17 to play, and lose to the Florida Marlins to miss the Playoffs completely. The biggest choke in baseball history. Or, at least, regular season history.

3. September 28, 2008. The End. The Groundhog Day Game. The Mets finish a choke of a 3 1/2-game NL East lead with 17 to play, and lose to the Marlins on the last day of the regular season to miss the Playoffs completely.

This one was worse than 2007, even though the blown lead was half as much, because it also forced the Mutts to close Shea out with an awful, crushing loss.

After that, a few thousand fans left, missing the closing ceremony. You slimeballs. Just because the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Mets clowned around and broke your hearts, don't take it out on the 1969, 1973, 1986 and 2000 Mets, who actually won Pennants!

And then, the final pitch, Tom Seaver to Mike Piazza... and "The Franchise" couldn't reach the plate. Okay, the final pitch at Yankee Stadium didn't make it to the plate, either, but that was by Julia Ruth Stevens. She's 92. Seaver's 63 (64 next month), and, unlike the Babe's daughter, actually was a pitcher, and a great one. But he couldn't do it. What a way to close out the Flushing Toilet.

2. August 15, 1965. The Beatles perform. Okay, it was only for 31 minutes, and nobody could hear them because of all the screaming, and no one had ever staged a concert in a baseball stadium before, so nobody knew what they were doing. Well, John, Paul, George and Ringo knew what they were doing. Paul McCartney has gone to games at Yankee Stadium, but this was THE BEATLES.

Funny: CBS owned the Yankees at the time, and they were liberal enough to let the Beatles play on The Ed Sullivan Show, but they were too conservative to let them onto the field at Yankee Stadium? Seriously, what did the Fab Four do to deserve getting detoured to Shea?

And the undeniable, unforgettable, untoppable Number 1 Greatest Moment in Shea Stadium History:

1. October 26, 2000. Game 5 of the World Series. Yankees 4, Mets 2. The greatest moment in Yankee history. We beat them in a World Series -- they've never beaten us in one. We won a World Series on their field -- they haven't even won a World Series game on our field. Twenty-five thousand Yankee Fans chanting, "Let's Go Yankees!" and "Thank you George!" (Steinbrenner, cheered at Shea? Believe it.)

The only real "Subway Series" since October 1956, and as nerve-wracking as it was -- those 5 games sure felt like 7 -- it made all the crap I dealt with from the Flushing Heathen up 'til then worth it. As a fellow Yankee Fan said at the time, "We have scoreboard over them for all time." Until, that is, the Mets win another Pennant (dream on) and beat us in a World Series. (No... way... in... HELL that ever happens!)

Goodbye, you dingy old dump.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Baseball Postseason Predictions

My choices, in descending order:

1. Chicago Cubs. I love Chicago, Lou Piniella is one of my all-time favorite people, and, after 100 years, Cub fans deserve a break.

2. Philadelphia Phillies. Being just 66 miles from Citizens Bank Park is part of it, but it's a great city and it hasn't won a World Championship in any sport in 25 years, longer than any other metro area with teams in all 4 sports -- in fact, of areas with as many as 3, only Cleveland has waited longer (though Seattle also had, but losing the SuperSonics dropped them from 3 sports to 2).

3. Milwaukee Brewers. They've waited 26 years to get back to the Playoffs, and there's something very likable about this team.

4. Chicago White Sox. They might have been higher, but it's been only 3 years. By the standards of Chicago sports (the Bulls to the contrary), that's one moment in time.

5. Tampa Bay Rays. The Ray-volution comes to a quick end.

6. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Did I ever mention I don't like Southern California? Besides, it's only been 6 years.

7. Los Angeles Dodgers. Only the presence of Joe Torre prevents the L.A. O'Malley/Murdoch Bums from being dead last. I know, neither the O'Malley family nor Rupert Murdoch has anything to do with them anymore, but what other teams' mere existences are an insult? And, of those, how many are an insult to New York? At least the San Francisco Giants have the excuse that their 1957 ownership was merely incompetent, not greedy.

8. Boston Red Sox. I don't think I have to explain why. Though if the Mets had somehow squeaked in, the Sox would be ahead of them.

As for who I think will win, well, keep in mind how well my preseason predictions turned out. Anyway...

ALDS: Chicago over Tampa in 5, experience, pitching and The Thomenator prevail; Anaheim over Boston in 5, only having Beckett and Dice-K to pitch once each could be their doom.

NLDS: Chicago over Los Angeles in 4, remember that no team with Don Mattingly in uniform has ever won a Pennant, and none ever will; Philadelphia over Milwaukee in 4, the Brew Crew's pitching is hurt and/or exhausted, possibly including CC (who is the only reason I give them a chance to even win 1).

ALCS: Anaheim over Chicago in 6. I'd prefer a Chicago team to beat a Southern California team, but I guess I'll have to settle for that happening in the NL. The Angels just have too much talent, and no obvious weaknesses. Besides, do you really think Mike Scioscia is going to get outmanaged by Ozzie Guillen? Earl Weaver was a great manager, but he lost his cool plenty of times. He was absolutely outmanaged by Gil Hodges in the '69 WS, Danny Murtaugh in the '71 WS, Dick Williams in the '73 ALCS, Alvin Dark in the '74 ALCS, and Chuck Tanner in the '79 WS. Ozzie's smart, but he's also a loose cannon. Scioscia is different: You know who's going to show up.

NLCS: Chicago over Philly in 6. I like both teams, so I really can't lose here. Due to the aforementioned proximity to the Phils' park (being also 43 miles from the Yankee Stadiums, 47 miles from Shea and Citi Field), I know more Phils fans than Cub fans, but the Cubs have something they haven't really had in NL play since, well, 1945: The edge in pitching. I still can't get over the fact that Kerry Wood is not only pitching, but pitching well, and as... the closer! And they don't miss him in the rotation! Besides, who's the better manager, Charlie Manuel... or Sweet Lou?

World Series: This is a rematch of the Series shown in the film Taking Care of Business. In that one, Mark Grace homered off Bert Blyleven at what was then called Anaheim Stadium (and Jim Belushi, a Cub fan in real life as well, caught it), and the Cubs won the Series in 6.

But I don't see that happening here. If they had the home-field advantage, maybe. Wrigley can be a bit intimidating when the Cubs are winning. But Angel fans aren't like their evil twins up the freeway in Chavez Ravine: They know baseball, without needing Vin Scully to explain it to them. Plus, the Angels have that great bullpen.

Angels in 6. Which, if I'm not mistaken, will make them the 1st team ever to beat 2 teams from the same metro area in postseason play -- in the history of North American major league sports. (Then again, if the Cubs beat the Angels after beating the Dodgers, they would get that distinction.)

Now, you know that if the Angels win, Cub fans will be griping about something that happens, making it part of the litany of the Curse of the Billy Goat.

But maybe, just maybe, the Cubs will lose because the other team is better. That's what happened to the Cubs in the postseason in 1989, and 1998, and just last season. There doesn't have to be a Goat, or a Black Cat, or a Steve Garvey, or a Leon Durham, or a Steve Bartman.

UPDATE: Boy, was I wrong. It ends up Rays over White Sox, Red Sox over Angels, Dodgers over Cubs, Phillies over Brewers (the only Division Series I got right), Rays over Red Sox, Phillies over Dodgers, and, in the World Series, Phillies over Rays in 5 (although the 2-day rain delay in the middle of Game 5 made it seem longer).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Planet Is This?

Suppose for a moment that you were kidnapped by aliens after the 1992 season.

So the last thing you know, it's the fall of 1992. Both New York teams stunk this year, and neither seems to have much hope for recovery. In the Daily News, Bob Klapisch just called the Mets "the Worst Team Money Could Buy." And the Yankees have Don Mattingly, Roberto Kelly, Danny Tartabull, a bunch of guys named Pat Kelly, and a bunch of pitchers named Scott Kamieniecki. Oh yeah, and a promising young outfielder, a skinny kid named Bernie Williams. And that's it.

And that's the last you know of New York baseball, until the aliens returned you to Earth today.

With the relativity effect, it's been only about a year for you, but 16 years for everybody else. At the moment, you know nothing about what's happened on Earth.

You've never heard of Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, Jason Giambi, Jose Reyes or David Wright. You might have heard of Derek Jeter, since the Yankees made him the top pick in the last draft you saw. Mike Piazza is a rookie who played in 21 games for the Dodgers and hit .232. Pedro Martinez is also a Dodger rookie, with a grand total of 2 appearances to his name -- Ramon is the Martinez brother that people know, last you saw.

And the idea that the Yankees will one day get Red Sox stars Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens; or Met stars Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and David Cone -- or even Paul O'Neill and Jimmy Key -- is ridiculous to you.

But as the starship approaches Earth, you get a radio signal, and you tune in to WFAN. And Mike Francesa tells you what's been happening lately.

Remember, you don't know about 1996, 1998, 2000, or even 2004. You don't know that World Series have been won by the Red Sox, White Sox, Braves, Angels, even the expansion Marlins, and a team you've never heard of, the Diamondbacks. (And, yes, the Yankees.) You don't know that Pennants have been won by the Phillies, Indians, Padres, Giants, Astros, Tigers, even the expansion Rockies. (And, yes, the Mets.) A team you've never heard of, the Rays, made the Playoffs this season. So did the Brewers. And both Chicago teams reached the postseason in the same year, which hasn't happened since 1906. You don't know any of that.

Francesa tells you that, in the last 8 years, the Yankees have made the Playoffs 7 times, but won just 2 Pennants, and no World Series. This includes postseason losses to the expansion Diamondbacks and Marlins, who you've never seen. It includes postseason losses to the Angels, whom you've never seen win a postseason series. It includes a postseason loss to the Red Sox after being up 3 games to none with 3 outs to go for the Pennant, against the choke team of all time, and they blew it, and the Sox went on to win that World Series and another. It includes a postseason loss to the Tigers, who haven't won a postseason series since 1984. And it includes a postseason loss to the Indians, who, as far as you know, haven't won a postseason series since 1948. And then Francesa tells you the Yankees didn't make the Playoffs this year, and that old Yankee Stadium is closing, and will be torn down, replaced by a new Yankee Stadium.

Then he tells you that, in the last 8 years, the Mets have made the Playoffs just once. In the last 3 seasons, the Mets have blown a Pennant to an 83-win team because of a Game 7, top-9th homer by a weak-hitting catcher and a last-out bat-on-the-shoulder strikeout, with the tying and Pennant-winning runs on base, by a very expensive slugger who should have at least swung; blown a 7-game Division lead with 17 to go and missed the Playoffs completely; and now, in the last season of Shea ball, blown a 3 1/2-game Division lead with 17 to go and missed the Playoffs completely.

Then he tells you that the general managers of both teams have gotten contract extensions.

And you hear this, and you turn to the captain of the alien ship, and you ask him a question.

"Are you sure you took me to the right planet?"