My hyperbole this morning aside, it seems that Johnny Damon’s double steal as a result of the overshift is not a first. From reader Jonathan Fellows:
Willie Mays on September 30, 1971 — a game the Giants had to win to avoid a playoff — stole 2nd and 3rd on the same pitch. Willie McCovey was up and the Padres were playing the shift. The 3rd baseman covered second on the steal and Mays got up and took off for third after beating the throw to second.
That was this game here. It’s hard to tell all of the nuances from the box score of course, but it appears to be what happened. UPDATE: Many readers recall Brandon Phillips doing this for the Reds a couple of years ago while the shift was on for either Dunn or Griffey. UPDATE #2: Another reader notes that Jeter apparently did it on opening day 2003, in the play in which he separated his shoulder running into catcher Rod Barajas. My memory of that was that there was an error or something that allowed Jeter to advance, but I haven’t had time to check it this morning.
And while we’re still on the subject, let’s be 100% clear about something: Damon’s play was very, very cool. It was totally exciting. It was probably a game changer inasmuch as others have noted in the comments today, it very well may have led to Lidge not wanting to throw his best pitch — hard slider — to A-Rod for fear of uncorking a wild pitch.
But it was not — as some Yankees boosters have suggested in comments, in emails to me, and around the blogosphere this morning — “one of the greatest moments in World Series history.” I can think of a half dozen — Joe Carter in 1993, Jack Morris in 1991, Reggie in 1977, Fisk in 1975, Mazeroski in 1960 and Larsen in 1956 — just off the top of my head. There are no doubt many others.
Uniqueness and coolness does not necessarily make for greatness. I was totally stoked by Damon’s play, and I’m sure Yankees fans were too. Hopefully, however, it can just be appreciated for what it is, rather than have it be pitted against truly “great” moments. Because to do so (a) diminishes those great moments by forcing them to endure a comparison that is beneath them; and (b) actually diminishes Damon’s play, because it makes it suffer by comparison.
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer has already made a pair of mistakes in left field and he’s only four innings into the first game of the best-of-five NLDS against the Dodgers.
Leading off the second inning, Justin Turner sent a well-struck liner to Cuddyer which was quite catchable, but the ball clanked off of the veteran’s glove. Turner was credited with a double. Mets starter Jacob deGrom was able to work around the misplay, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to close out the frame.
With two outs in the third inning, Corey Seager sent a fly ball down the left field line. Cuddyer took an inefficient route and the ball bounced about a foot inside the foul line, then into the stands, giving Seager a ground-rule double. To add insult to injury, Cuddyer ended up tumbling over the fence. deGrom, again, worked around Cuddyer’s mistake, striking out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning.
Because he bats right-handed, Cuddyer got the start in left field over the left-handed-hitting rookie Michael Conforto against Kershaw, a southpaw. Conforto mustered only a .481 OPS against lefties this season compared to Cuddyer’s .698. Despite the batting disparity, one wonders how short a leash manager Terry Collins has on Cuddyer given his defense.
Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning, belting a solo home run to right field at Dodger Stadium off of starter Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw threw a 2-0, 94 MPH fastball and Murphy didn’t miss it.
Both teams’ starters are pitching quite well overall. Kershaw has allowed the one run on three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Jacob deGrom started off the game with six consecutive strikeouts and has struck out seven total while blanking the Dodgers on three hits and a walk in three innings.
Kershaw doesn’t have the most impressive post-season track record, owning a career 5.12 ERA across eight starts and three relief appearances spanning 51 innings. Aside from the homer, the lefty appears to be putting that notion aside.
Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal reports that the value of a qualifying offer for free agents this off-season has been set at $15.8 million. That represents an increase of a half-million dollars over last year’s value.
This is of particular interest with regards to the big-name free agents, including Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Yovani Gallardo, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija.
Teams that make a qualifying offer to a player that ends up being rejected receive a compensation draft pick in the upcoming draft. The team that signs the player who rejected a qualifying offer gives up their earliest non-protected draft pick.
Free agents who had been traded mid-season aren’t eligible to receive a qualifying offer. This includes Yoenis Cespedes, David Price, Johnny Cueto, and Ben Zobrist, among others.
A player has yet to accept a qualifying offer since the QO system was implemented.