There is nothing like a World Series Game 7

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A World Series Game 7 is the absolute best thing there can be in sports. I don’t say this because I’m a baseball guy, I say it because it’s simple fact.

A Game 7 gives us the best sports experience imaginable. It has the winner-takes-all tension and finality of any Super Bowl, National Championship game or boxing match but it’s also the product of a slow, increasingly tense series between two evenly-matched rivals. Everything has built to this moment but, in some ways, it all can be forgotten as it all boils down to a single game.

We’ve been pretty lucky over the past several years. Tonight, for the third time in four years, we’re getting a World Series Game 7. When you add in the wildly entertaining six-game series in 2013 and stretch back to the epic seven-gamer in 2011, it’s fair to say that we’ve been on a great run of engaging and competitive Fall Classics.

Such a thing is not something one can always count on. Between 2004 and 2010 we went on a run of five straight World Series — and six of seven — which were either sweeps or five-game affairs. They were exciting and memorable for fans of the teams which won, obviously, but they didn’t offer much to the non-partisan.  Now, though, the whole nation and a big chunk of the world will be watching as the Astros and Dodgers, both exhausted, suck it up for one last round. I’m not sure how fans of either team can function at this point, but those of us who are unaligned are enjoying the hell out of this.

We have less than 12 hours until Yu Darvish throws the first pitch to George Springer. In the meantime, let us look back at Game 7s of the recent past* to see what Houston and Los Angeles have to measure up to. As you’ll see, quite often, Game 7s are a bit anti-climactic, with the greatest moments coming in Game 6s or earlier.

That wasn’t the case in the most recent two Games 7s, however:

2016: The Greatest Game 7 in History?

Possibly. It certainly felt that way as we were watching the Cubs battle the Indians in Cleveland, and a year’s worth of perspective hasn’t caused many to push back too hard. A 5-1 Cubs lead. A questionable Joe Maddon decision, pulling Kyle Hendricks, who seemed to be cruising. A modest Indians comeback followed by a David Ross homer. A gassed Aroldis Chapman giving up that game-tying homer to Rajai Davis. Extra innings. A rain delay Jason Heyward gathering his teammates together to tell them “We’re the best team in baseball. . . for a reason. . . Stick together and we’re going to win this game!” Pinch-runner Albert Almora tagging up, Ben Zobrist doubling him in and Miguel Montero singling in Anthony Rizzo. Carl Edwards Jr. not quite nailing it down but Mike Montgomery finishing the job and with it, ending 108 years of futility for the Cubs.

2014: The Madison Bumgarner Game

Maybe it was the Madison Bumgarner Series? In this Game 7 Giants manager Bruce Bochy brought Bumgarner in on two days’ rest to protect their one-run lead in the fifth. And then he stayed in for the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, holding the Royals scoreless and earning the longest save in World Series history. He also won his two starts that series. I covered this series in person and I have never borne witness to a greater performance on a baseball field.

2011: The Cardinals defeated the Rangers, 6-2, in St. Louis

Man, what a disaster that ended up being for the Rangers. Game 6 was the real disaster, but Game 7 was, obviously, where it ended. Chris Carpenter started his third game in a seven game series. Allen Craig of all people robbed someone of a homer in the field. David Freese‘s postseason legend was cemented with more RBIs and a World Series MVP. Overall not a competitive game, though. The highest drama had already gone down in this series. This is pretty common pattern, as we’ll see.

2002: The Angels defeated the Giants, 4-1, in Anaheim

This was a fantastic series, but Game 7 was a bit of a comedown here as well. The Angels’ big comeback in Game 6 when the Giants were eight outs away from winning it all traumatized Giants fans for a good bit. Obviously, three World Series titles since then have helped those wounds heal.

2001: The Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees, 3-2, in Phoenix 
1997: The Marlins defeated the Indians, 3-2, in Miami
1991: Twins defeated Braves, 1-0, in Minneapolis

If we’re lucky, tonight we get one of these. All three ended in a walkoff with Luis Gonzalez, Edgar Renteria and Gene Larkin doing the honors, respectively. Of course, the men who hit the walkoffs weren’t necessarily the men most remembered for their exploits in the series or even the game. A Game 7 can certainly create heroes, but in 1997’s case, Jose Mesa and Tony Fernandez instantly became goats. In 2001, Gonzalez was a hero, but Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson became legends. In 1991, Jack Morris nearly became immortal, with his performance almost catapulting him into the Hall of Fame.

1987: The Twins defeated the Cardinals, 4-2, in Minneapolis

Fun footnote: This was on a Monday and was broadcast by ABC, which also broadcast Monday Night Football at the time. The Broncos-Vikings were scheduled to play the Monday Night game that week but it was moved to Tuesday due to the stipulations in the teams’ respective Metrodome leases. UPDATE: Either my memory or my research, when I first wrote this bit a couple of years back, was faulty. The game was on a Sunday and the football game was moved to Monday, making two Monday night games. Either way, a football game was moved, which doesn’t happen too often.

1986: Mets defeated Red Sox. 8-5, in New York
1985: Royals defeated Cardinals, 11-0, in Kansas City

Two more instances in which all the drama — be it Bill Buckner or Don Denkinger-induced — happened in Game 6. In this year’s series we had a crazy Game 2 and a crazy Game 5, so we’re due for another nutso one tonight, right? One in which there are five or six game-tying homers and in which three relievers lose their arms to fatigue?

We won’t know until it happens. We never know. It’s what makes a Game 7 so damn special.

*This is an updated version of a post I originally wrote on the eve of Game 7, 2014 and updated again last year. No one remembers anything on the Internet, so it’s OK to post it in a mostly-similar fashion two years later, right? Of course. Cool.

Scott Boras: Astros players don’t need to apologize

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Ken Rosenthal spoke to Scott Boras about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Boras’ take: the Astros need not apologize for what they did. They were mere babes in the woods who were ignorant of everything. I wish I was making this up. Scotty Baby:

“I’m doing what my organization is telling me to do,” Boras said on Wednesday, describing the hypothetical mindset of a player. “You installed this. You put this in front of us. Coaches and managers encourage you to use the information. It is not coming from the player individually. It is coming from the team. In my stadium. Installed. With authority.”

The analogy Boras used was the speed limit.

A man driving 55 mph in a 35-mph zone only believes he is speeding if the limit is clearly posted. Likewise, Boras said Astros’ players who committed infractions only should apologize if they were properly informed of their boundaries.

It’s worth noting two things at this juncture: (1) Scott Boras represents José Altuve and Lance McCullers; and (2) He’s 100% full of crap here. Indeed, the contortions Astros players and their surrogates are putting themselves through to avoid accountability is embarrassing.

The players knew what they were doing.  Please do not insult me by saying they didn’t. Boras is doing what he thinks he needs to do to protect his guys. I get it, that’s his job. His client Altuve in particular stepped on it last weekend when he and other Astros players tried to play the “we’re going to overcome this adversity/no one believed in us” card which played terribly, and the super agent is trying to clean up the mess as best he can. Hat tip to him for his hustle, which he has never not shown. Guy’s a pro.

But he can only do so much because this all remains on the Astros’ players. Yes, the formal punishment is on the manager, the general manager and the club, and I agree that it had to be given all of the complications of the situation, but now that that’s over, it’s time for some honest accountability. And we’re getting zero of it.

Which is insane because the players were given immunity. They’re 100% in the clear. That they cheated has angered a lot of people, but it does not make them irredeemable. As I have noted here many times, lots of others did too. But their lack of accountability over the past couple of weeks speaks very, very poorly of them.

“We crossed a line. No question. We’re sorry. We don’t think it caused us to win anything we didn’t earn, but we see how we created that perception ourselves through our own actions. We shouldn’t have done that. Going forward we’re going to be better. Again, we’re sorry.”

That’s about all it’d take and it’d be done. It’d be pretty easy to say, if for no other reason than because that’s probably what’s gone through their minds anyway. They’re not bad people.

But they’re also observers of America in 2020 and, I suspect, everything they’ve seen, consciously or unconsciously, has counseled against them saying those very simple words or something like them.

Everything that’s going on in America right now — politics especially — tells people that the path to success is to cheat, steal and lie in order to benefit themselves and themselves only. It’s also telling them that, if they get caught, they should lie and deny too. It works. The media, for the most part, will not call anyone of status out on a lie, even if the lie is ridiculous. At most it will repeat the denial like a stenographer reading back from a transcript fearing that to do any more would be to — gasp! — reveal an opinion. “Shlabotnik says that he was cloned by Tralfamadorians and it was his clone, not him, who stole the signs.” Heaven forbid someone add the word “falsely” in there. They won’t because if they do they’re going to be accused of being “biased” or “political” or whatever.

If you see that — and we all see it — why wouldn’t you be predisposed to avoid apologizing for anything? Why wouldn’t you try to offer some canned, facially neutral talking points and hope that everyone is satisfied that you’ve spoken? Why wouldn’t you, having done that for a few weeks, begin to believe that, actually, you’re right not do say anything more. And  that, maybe, you were never in the wrong at all? That’s were we are as a country now, that’s for sure. And given that sports reflects society, it should not be at all surprising that that attitude has infected sports as well.

Astros owner Jim Crane tells Rosenthal that there could be an apology in spring training. “Quite frankly, we’ll apologize for what happened, ask forgiveness and move forward,” Crane said.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that when someone says “quite frankly,” what follows is going to be insincere most of the time. Another thing I’ve learned is that, in comments such as Crane’s, the emphasis is strongly on the “move forward” part of things. He wants an apology to put an end to a bad news cycle. When it comes, it will be P.R.-vetted and couched in the most sterile and corporate language imaginable. It will be anything but sincere.

In the meantime, the rest of the Astros don’t seem to want to offer an apology at all. Why should they? What’s making them?