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The Curse of Tom Petty
2005-10-17 22:06
by Mike Carminati

Oh my! What is it with this team? If the Astros had any real fans—41 (i..e., the new Kissing Bandit) and Nolan Ryan don't count—they would be losing it. One strike away with the greatest relief pitcher that Thom Brennamen has ever seen (Brad Lidge) on the mound, and…we get a game six.

Maybe it's me, but I thought of Mariano Rivera. Fox's "B" team (Lyons, Brennamen, and Brenly) had been touting Brad Lidge as the greatest thing since sliced Eckersley. Rivera, who I consider a future Hall of Famer, has really sealed his case with his great postseason record. Lidge is to quote Elvis Costello, "This year's girl."

Lidge completely lost it after getting within one strike of the World Series. His inability to find the plate on five pitches to Edmonds was pathetic. And then there's what he allowed Albert Pujols to do by telegraphing and then hanging a slider.

Though I don't mean to take anything away from Pujols, who hit one of the most emphatic shots I have ever seen to put the Cards up 5-4. It's great when the best players a) have the opportunity to do great things and b) actually do them. Maybe Brennamen will now stop calling him "Albert Pools".

The fickle Brennamen did at least transfer his affections from Lidge, decent reliever though he may be, to one of the best players in the game (saying 95% of GMs would build a team around Pools, though that doesn't resolve with 30 teams).

So what happened? With two outs in the ninth, a 4-2 lead, and a 1-2 count, David Eckstein hit a seeing-eye single just to the third-base side of short on a slider (remember the slider).

Lidge then tried to nibble the plate with Jim Edmonds and missed badly. On the first pitch, Lidge paid to little attention to Eckstein who took second. I know he's a meaningless runner, but when that leaves a base open at first and pitcher gets erratic, I have to think that it creates some doubt in the pitcher's mind or at least he loses focus on the batter at hand. "I'm not going to let this guy beat me with a base open." And Lidge, to his credit, didn't.

Lidge seemed to collect himself getting a slider past Pujols. Then the remarkably prescient Bob Brenly said, and I quote, "I would expect to see all sliders in this at-bat from Brad Lidge. I wouldn't risk throwing a fast ball up there to one of the best fast ball hitters in the game." The guy should be a negative barometer. Think Bill Macy in "The Cooler".

The next pitch as Brenly predicted was a slider. Pujols must have been listening to Brenly, since he was apparently thinking slider. And unfortunately for Lidge it was a hanger, which Pujols deposited somewhere near Austin.

If the Stros now fade, it will be historic. Lidge will be the new Donnie Moore and Phil Garner the new Mauch. But they should look on the bright side: we don't have to wait until Saturday for a game.

Houston is currently competing with the interleague "natural" rival, Texas Rangers, for the longest wait (thereby justifying the gratuitous Tom Petty reference in the headline) for a team's first World Series appearance. My Phils scuttled them in 1980 and then the Mets did the same in 1986, both epic postseason series.

Here are the franchises ranked by longest wait for a first World Series appearance. The "Original 16" are on the clock starting with the first Series in 1903:

FranchiseFirst WSFirst YrWait
Texas Rangers 196144
Houston Astros 196243
Anaheim Angels2002196141
Baltimore Orioles1944190341
Montreal Expos 196936
Seattle Mariners 197728
Minnesota Twins1924190321
New York Yankees1921190318
Cleveland Indians1920190317
Cincinnati Reds1919190316
San Diego Padres1984196915
Toronto Blue Jays1992197715
Milwaukee Brewers1982196913
Philadelphia Phillies1915190312
Colorado Rockies 199312
Atlanta Braves1914190311
Kansas City Royals1980196911
New York Mets196919627
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 19987
Detroit Tigers190719034
Florida Marlins199719934
Arizona Diamondbacks200119983
Chicago White Sox190619033
Oakland Athletics190519032
Boston Red Sox190319030
Pittsburgh Pirates190319030

(Note that the Yankees had the third-longest wait among the original teams. Of course, that was before Babe Ruth put the evil eye on the Red Sox.)

And before we get too enthused for the Astros being some sort of giant beaten by the upstart Cardinal's David, remember that this team trailed St. Louis by 11 games this year. That is the more games than any other wild card has trailed by and still made it to the Series since the science experiment started in 1995 (well, '94 but they never had any playoffs that year).

Here are the number of games back for every wild card team who made it to the Series:

1997Florida Marlins292709
2000New York Mets294681
2002Anaheim Angels299634
2002San Francisco Giants295662.5
2003Florida Marlins2917110
2004Boston Red Sox298643

Also, we have to remember that the 'Stros meandered their way into the wild card, winning just 89 games. I know the 15-30 start is often cited, but minus a couple of home runs off of Billy Wagner at the start of September, the Astros are home watching the Phils groove sliders to Albert Pujols.

By the way, here are the teams with the least wins that got into the World Series Note that there have been only four teams who were worse over a 162-game schedule:

1981New York Yankees35948107.551
1981Los Angeles Dodgers26347110.573
1884New York Metropolitans17532107.701
1918Boston Red Sox17551126.595
1885St. Louis Browns17933112.705
1887Detroit Wolverines17945124.637
1973New York Mets18279161.509
1889New York Giants18343126.659
1884Providence Grays18428112.750
1888New York Giants18447131.641
1918Chicago Cubs18445129.651
1987Minnesota Twins18577162.525
1890Brooklyn Bridegrooms18643129.667
1997Cleveland Indians18675161.534
1885Chicago White Stockings18725112.777
2000New York Yankees18774161.540
1890Louisville Colonels18844132.667
1919Chicago White Sox18852140.629
1945Detroit Tigers18865153.575
1959Los Angeles Dodgers18868156.564
1926St. Louis Cardinals18965154.578
1938Chicago Cubs18963152.586
1944St. Louis Browns18965154.578
2005-10-17 22:31:25
1.   Im So Blue
Your first chart seems to be missing 4 of the "Original 16":
St Louis Cardinals ... 1926 ... 1903 ... 22
Los Angeles Dodgers 1916 ... 1903 ... 12
Chicago Cubs ......... 1906 ...1903 ... 2
San Francisco Giants 1904 ...1903 ... 1
2005-10-18 05:50:45
2.   Mike Carminati
Yeah, sorry, I filtered out the ones that were in 19th centrury "World Series".
2005-10-18 14:32:56
3.   Bob Timmermann
Why are the Giants getting credit for a nonexistent 1904 World Series?
2005-10-18 15:24:32
4.   Todd
How about "Free Fallin'" or "Even the Losers" or, well, any number of TP songs. Hopefully for the 'stros though, it's "Won't Back Down"
2005-10-18 22:06:43
5.   Mike Carminati

To quote Jack Benny, "Now, cut that out!"

2005-10-19 10:47:52
6.   tz1
Lidge is alright I guess...He's no Mo, though.
2005-10-19 12:37:50
7.   Todd
OK, well, maybe the Astros are "Built to Last". I guess it's not "All Or Nothin'" for them.
2005-10-20 15:32:16
8.   Todd
Maybe they are "Built to Last" then. Congrats 'stros!
2005-10-20 23:51:47
9.   Im So Blue
1 & 3
Oops. I also have trouble with subtraction...
Additional info for the first chart should be:

St Louis Cardinals ... 1926 ... 1903 ... 23
Los Angeles Dodgers 1916 ... 1903 ... 13
Chicago Cubs ......... 1906 ...1903 ... 3
San Francisco Giants 1905 ...1903 ... 2

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