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Tag: 2008 World Series

Put A Bow On It

My World Series coverage comes to an end today with one final piece for SI.com, in which I list five things I took away from the 2008 fall classic.

Philadelphia Freedom

Last Time On “The 2008 World Series” . . .

Philadelphia fans had to figure something would go wrong Monday night, though I doubt even they could have anticipated the first suspended postseason game in major league history. The Phillies got within ten outs of their second world championship in Game 5, only to have the Rays tie the game with two outs in the top of the sixth and the umpires call for the tarp after the third out of that frame, after which it rained for 36 hours.

Prior to the 2007 season, Baseball adopted a rule stating that any tie game that is called after becoming official (five innings) would simply be suspended and resumed from the stopping point at a later date just as if it had experience any other extended rain delay. That is what the Rays and Phillies will do tonight, resuming Game 5 in the bottom of the sixth inning at 8:37pm. My preview of what I’m calling Game 5 1/2 is up on SI.com.


’80 . . . ’08

The Tampa Bay Rays have been the story of the 2008 baseball season, but they’re about to get pushed off the front (and back) page. The Rays’ worst-to-first journey has been exciting, but the team has only been around since 1998, and Tampa Bay has already won a Super Bowl and a Stanley Cup this decade. Philadelphia, on the other hand, hasn’t won a professional team sports championship since the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars won that league’s title in 1984, and hasn’t won in one of the four major leagues (the NLF, NHL, NBA, or MLB) since the 76ers’ 1983 NBA championship. The Phillies themselves have won just once in their 125-year history, that coming more than a quarter century ago when Tug McGraw (pictured above), Mike Schmidt, and Steve Carlton led the Phils to their first-ever title in 1980. With Cole Hamels on the mound tonight, all of that is about to change. My Game 5 preview is up on SI.com.

Last Chance for Romance?

After three games, the aggregate score of the World Series is dead even at 10-10, but if the Rays don’t win tonight, this thing could be over, as Cole Hamels would pitch for the title tomorrow. Given that this has the potential to be the most exciting World Series since 2001, it would be a shame for it not to go at least six, and preferably seven games, but the last World Series to start off like this also ended in five games as the Yankees beat the Mets in the 2000 fall classic. I explain in my preview of Game 4, which is up over at SI.com.


Untitled All of the baseball cards that I use to illustrate my posts are from my personal collection, which includes every regular-issue Topps set dating back to 1979. The first complete set I ever owned was the 1987 set. It remains one of may favorites both because of its nostalgic significance to me, and because of its appealing design and fine photography. With the recent quasi-retirements of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds (the latter of whom was pictured on the first card in the first pack of 1987 Topps cards I ever bought, his .223 average prompting me to think he was some skinny slap-hitting nothing), the last remaining active player who had a card in the 1987 set is Jamie Moyer (Moyer’s then-teammate Greg Maddux is the only other active player from the 1986 season, but his first Topps card was a 1987 traded card). I had written Moyer off as a scrub in the early ’90s. He was released by the Rangers after the 1990 season and spent most of the 1991 and all of the ’92 seasons in the minors, and I figured he was just another anonymous face on a baseball card that I’d never see again.

Instead, Moyer quickly resurrected his career with the Orioles and, after a quick layover in Boston, emerged as an unconventional star with the Mariners just before the turn of the century. Last October, I found myself at his locker in Citizens Bank Park, interviewing him about Coors Field in anticipation of his Game 3 NLDS start, and now, 21 years after I pulled his rookie card out of a pack I bought on a trip to the mall with my mom, he’s starting his first World Series game at the age of 45, and I’m writing about how he could cost the team he grew up rooting for a chance at its second championship, for SI.com. I guess we’ve both come a long way.

Incidentally, the sight of Moyer in a Cubs cap on this card reminds me of the ex-Cub factor, a theory which was popularized in the 1980s stating that the winner of a playoff series could be determined by finding out which team had fewer former Cubs on its roster. The 2001 Diamondbacks (and the 2003 Cubs, who actually won a playoff series themselves) blew a hole in the theory, but for yucks, Phillies Moyer, Matt Stairs, and Scott Eyre outnumber the Rays’ lone ex-Cub, Cliff Floyd, three to one.

Finally, here’s the factoid from the back of the pictured card: “Jamie pitched 3 consecutive No-Hitters at Souderton Area High Scool, Souderton, Pa. in 1980.” Yes, 1980.

Return Serve

The Phillies were supposed to win Game 1 last night behind Cole Hamels, and they did. The Rays are supposed to win Game 2 tonight behind James Shields to salvage a split at home. Result pending. My preview is up on SI.com.

Taking Stock

Untitled It’s strangely fitting that the Phillies and Rays are meeting in the latter’s first World Series. When then-Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar was assembling what would be the inaugural Rays roster in late 1997, he decided to build his team around pitching and defense. Any good defensive team needs a strong defensive shortstop, so LaMar worked out a deal with the Phillies to draft a young outfielder out of the Astros’ system in that November’s expansion draft and flip him to Philadelphia for the Phillies good-field/no-hit shortstop Kevin Stocker.

Stocker had taken over the Phillies shortstop job as a rookie in July of their pennant-winning season of 1993 and had since established himself as one of the game’s best defenders at the position. A 27-year-old switch-hitter who wouldn’t price himself off the team, Stocker was exactly what LaMar was looking for to anchor his new team’s infield. The problem was that LaMar had failed to notice the steep drop off in Stocker’s defense during the 1997 season. Stocker’s glove recovered in 1998, but he had his worst season at the plate, hitting just .208/.282/.313, and his season was mercifully ended a month early when his hand was broken by a pitch. The next year his bat picked up, but his glove work declined again, and knee tendonitis ended his season soon after the All-Star break.

That winter, LaMar scrapped his defense-first concept, signing aging sluggers Greg Vaughn and Vinnie Castilla to join Jose Canseco and original Ray Fred McGriff in the Tampa lineup. Stocker, the symbol of the Rays’ abandoned approach of just two years earlier, was released in May. Despite LaMar’s shift in focus, the Devil Rays of 2000 once again finished a distant last in the American League in runs scored. Making things worse, the young outfielder Lamar had used as currency to acquire stocker was a 23-year-old Bobby Abreu, who hit .312/.409/.497 as the Phillies’ right fielder in the Rays’ inaugural season of 1998 and proceeded to perform at a Hall of Fame level over his eight and a half seasons in Philadelphia.

Now, a decade later, LaMar is the Phillies’ scouting director, and his team is in the World Series against a Rays’ team that produced its first winning season, first playoff berth, first division title, and first pennant in part due to a renewed focus on pitching and defense. The signature player in that renewed focus is Jason Bartlett, a good-field/no-hit shortstop who was acquired for a talented young outfielder. The trick being that Bartlett wasn’t the key player in the deal that brought him to Tampa Bay from the Twins, righty starter Matt Garza was, and the outfielder he was traded for, Delmon Young, is no Bobby Abreu, which just goes to prove that intention is only as good as its execution.

To be fair, LaMar deserves to have a better legacy in Tampa Bay. It was under Lamar that the Rays drafted Aubrey Huff, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, James Shields, B.J. Upton, Andy Sonnanstine, and Young, and it was Lamar who fleeced the Mets in the Scott Kazmir deal. Still, it took a change in ownership and an overhaul of the front office for the Rays to figure out how to make proper use of that bounty.

My point in all of this is that, even in a World Series in which the two combatants have just one prior championship between them (the lowest combined total since 1980 when the Phillies and Royals met, both looking for their first), there is still some history here.

For more from me on this match-up, check out my position-by-position breakdown and preview of Game 1, both up on SI.com.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver