In the last inning of the 2014 World Series and his team trailing by a run, Royals left-fielder Alex Gordon singled and raced all the way to third on an error by Giants center fielder Gregor Blanco. In an alternate universe Gordon might have attempted to score and propelled the Kansas City to a win. But he stopped at third, the next batter Salvatore Perez popped out to end the game, and San Francisco won its third World Series in five years.
If Gordon had run and scored, he coulda been a hero. One of many guys who could have been World Series heroes, if only things had played out differently.
Maybe there’s a coulda been hero in this year’s World Series. Here’s the past list of guys who didn’t quite make it, dating back to 1912:
2011 – Josh Hamilton – His two-run homer in the top of the 10th in Game 6 appeared to seal the deal for the first championship for the Texas Rangers. However St. Louis rallied to tie the game, then won it 10-9 in the 11th on a home run by David Reese. The Cardinals then won Game 7 easily to take the crown.
2001 – Alfonso Soriano – His eighth inning home run against Curt Schilling gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead and within grasp of their fourth straight championship. But Arizona scratched out a pair of runs against closer Mariano Rivera to pull out a 3-2 win and their first and only championship.
1997 – Tony Fernandez – They’d have built a statue of this guy in downtown Cleveland if only things hard turned out differently in Game 7. Fernadnez hit a two-run single in the third inning that held up until the last of the ninth. The Marlins rallied against Jose Mesa to tie the game, then won it 3-2 in the 11th on Edgar Renteria’s single. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948.
1986 – Dave Henderson – Hendu was going to be an all-time rock star in New England. His home run in the top of the 10th put the Red Sox on the brink of their first championship in 68 years, since 1918. However the Mets rallied to win Game 6 6-5 in 10 innings as Mookie Wilson’s grounder eluded first baseman Bill Buckner, and then took Game 7 and the title two nights later.
1976 – Thurman Munson – The Yankee captain hit .529, the highest batting average ever for a player on a losing team. However, the Reds, sparked by Johnny Bench, swept the Yankees in four straight games. Less than three years later, after winning World Series in 1977 and 1978, Munson was killed in a plane crash.
1960 – Whitey Ford – He pitched a shutout in Game 3 and another in Game 6. Too bad, this was the year that Bill Mazeroski hit the most dramatic of home runs and the Pirates beat the Yankees 10-9 in Game 7 to win the World Series. Ford continued his shutout string the next year, breaking Babe Ruth’s record for most consecutive scoreless innings pitched in a World Series and won the MVP.
1953 – Carl Furillo – He rallied Brooklyn with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to tie the score 3-3 in Game 6. However, Yankee second baseman Billy Martin, who had 12 hits and 8 RBIs while batting .500 in the series, knocked in Hank Bauer from second base with the game-winning run in the ninth inning to give the Bombers 4-3 win and a record fifth straight World Championship
1946 – Dominic DiMaggio – Joe’s little brother hit a two-run double in the eighth inning that pulled the Red Sox even with the Cardinals in Game 7. However DiMaggio injured his hamstring rounding first, and was replaced in center field by Leon Culberson. It was Culberson’s weak relay to Johnny Pesky in the bottom of the inning that led to Enos Slaughter scoring the decisive run in a 4-3 victory.
1919 – Dickey Kerr – With eight of his teammates, the infamous Black Sox, attempting to throw the Series, left-hander starts and wins two games. Kerr pitches a shutout in Game 3 and wins 5-4 in a 10-innings in Game 6. However Cincinnati takes the Series in eight games.
1912 – Fred Merkle – The goat of the 1908 NL pennant race for the New York Giants was almost a hero. Fred Merkle singled in the go-ahead in the decisive Game 8 (one game ended in a tie). With the great Christy Mathewson on the mound, the Giants appeared to have the title well in hand. But Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine fly ball to start the home half of the 10th, and Larry Gardner later hit a deep sacrifice fly, scoring Steve Yerkes with the winning run.
To say the Yankees are offensively challenged is a gross understatement. Going into action today, the Bronx formerly known as Bombers were next to last in runs scored in the American League (ahead of only the Red Sox.)
The pitching is not the problem. Despite losing 80 percent of their starting rotation for all or most of the season, the Yankee pitching has been consistent. The bullpen, led by David Robertson and Dellin Betances, has, in fact ,been outstanding.
It’s the Yankee offense that bears scrutiny. Only Brett Gardner, who has been their best player in 2014, is hitting above his lifetime average. It’s easy to point the finger at a starting lineup which is hitting a collective .491 points below their lifetime batting averages. Here’s the ugly truth:
Pos. Player 2014 Career Difference
LF Brett Gardner .276 .269 +7
SS Derek Jeter .273 .311 -38
CF Jacoby Ellsbury .273 .294 -21
IB Mark Teixeira .232 .275 -43
DH Carlos Beltran .240 .281 -41
C Brian McCann .238 .274 -36
3B Chase Headley .250 .265 -15
2B Stephen Drew .170 .259 – 89
RF Martin Prado .163 .289 -126
RF Ichiro Suzuki .277 .317 -40
RF Alfonso Soriano .221 .270 -49
Some random thoughts, rants and muses on the hitless wonders:
- Texeira’s batting average has dipped each year since he joined the Yankees in 2009.
- Free agent acquisitions Ellsbury, Beltran and McCann (or is that McCan’t?, pictured above in case you were wondering) have hit a cumulative 98 points behind their lifetime averages.
- Amazingly, Drew is hitting lower with the Yankees (.170) than the Red Sox (.176).
- Discount relative newcomers Headley, Prado and Drew, the cumulative mark is still .261 under the lifetime mean.
- And we haven’t included utility men Brian Roberts (.237, .276, -39) and Kelly Johnson (.219, .251, -32). That brings the cumulative total below lifetime batting average to -.562
- Don’t forget these are current lifetime averages.If you counted those averages coming into the season, the dropoff would be even more precipitous.
- Jeter gets a pass. He’s played exactly one game in his career when the Yankees were mathematically eliminated. Plus he’s a 40-year-old shortstop.
- Yankees haven’t finished below .500 since 76-86 in 1992, 20 games behind the world champion Blue Jays. Since then they’ve captured five World Series and seven AL pennants while winning 14 divisional titles.