How bad is a 3-1 deficit?

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How bad is a 3-1 deficit in the World Series? So bad that only five teams* have come back from being down 3-1 to win it all: the 1925 Pirates, 1958 Yankees, 1968 Tigers, 1979 Pirates, and 1985 Royals. Is there any hope for the Rangers to take away from history here?

  • Like Texas, that 1925 Pirates team was also shut out in Game 4. But unlike the Rangers, they got to play Games 6 and 7 at home. There were also multiple weather delays in this series, and Game 7 was played in driving rain, leading to AL MVP Roger Peckinpaugh to commit two costly errors at shortstop late, leading to four unearned runs which handed the Pirates victory.
  • In 1958, Whitey Ford pitched Game 6 on two days rest for the Yankees. If Cliff Lee wins it tonight, he might be a better option on one day’s rest than C.J. Wilson would be heading back to San Francisco, what with the blister and all.
  • Tim McCarver was an important part of the 1968 Cardinals team that woofed away a 3-1 lead to the Tigers. I wonder if we’ll hear much about that during tonight’s broadcast?
  • In 1979, the Pirates’ comeback was aided in the pivotal Game 5 by Bert Blyleven, who pitched four scoreless innings out of the pen. Too bad he never pitched any important games that could bolster his Hall of Fame case or anything.
  • The 1985 Royals, you may recall, had a bit of help clawing back from their 3-1 deficit.

The 1925 and 1958 comebacks aren’t all that instructive here, because it really was a different game then. After all, no Rangers pitcher is going to make two starts in the final three games of this one, not even for all the Burma Shave in the world. 1985 was rather freaky as well, as the Cardinals got boned on the Denkinger call.

That leaves the Rangers with the example of the 1968 Tigers and the 1979 Pirates. Can Colby Lewis channel his inner Mickey Lolich? Will Andres Torres badly misplay a ball in center like Curt Flood? Are the Rangers Fam-i-ly like those Willie Stargell Pirates were? I don’t think it would be right to say there was no chance at all, but boy howdy, the odds are certainly against them.

*The 1903 Boston Red Sox came back from a 3–1 deficit, but that was back when the Series was a best-of-nine thing.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.