My World Series Dilemma

Clayton Kershaw

October without the Yankees is miserable. I used to be able to count on the Yankees to help me cope with the end of summer and leaves falling and the temperature dropping, but that is no longer a sure-thing. It helps that the Giants saved their season with back-to-back wins in Weeks 3 and 4 and that hockey starts next week, but watching the wild card games on Tuesday and Wednesday night and seeing this massive ad for the MLB postseason on 7th Ave. this week only made me depressed and then mad and then sad and then angry. The division series haven’t even started yet and I’m already at the breaking point of hating baseball and knowing that I have over six months until Opening Day.

Back in 2010 with the Giants missing out on the NFL playoffs, I wrote My Super Bowl Dilemma and ranked the playoff teams from who I wanted to win the Super Bowl the most to the last. I did it again this past year. Since this is only the third time since 1993 the Yankees have missed the playoffs, I haven’t had many opportunities to do a baseball version of the dilemma. And the last two times they missed the postseason (2008 and 2013), the Red Sox were in it, so it was pretty obvious who I didn’t want to win the World Series those years.

This year it’s different. Both the Yankees and Red Sox are home and the playoff field seems to be wide open, but when it comes to life as a Yankees fan, there is an order of who to pull for this October. So I ranked the eight playoff teams in order from which team I would most like to see win the World Series to which team I don’t want to see win it all.

1. Dodgers
The Yankees reached the World Series in 1981 and lost to the Dodgers in six games. The next season, Don Mattingly was a rookie on the Yankees.

Mattingly played for the Yankees from 1982-1995 and the only time he reached the postseason was in 1995 in the final year of his career. (At least he gave us this memory.) The 1995 Yankees held a 2-0 series lead over the Mariners in what was then a 2-3 ALDS format before losing the final three games of the series on the road, including Game 5 on a walk-off, which saved the Mariners as a franchise and got them a new stadium.

The next season with Mattingly retired, the Yankees reached the World Series and won it.

Mattingly became the Yankees hitting coach in 2004 and with a 3-0 series lead in the ALCS, it looked like he would get to be a part of the World Series for the first time. Then some things happened and some more things happened and he didn’t get to the World Series in 2004. He remained hitting coach for the Yankees in 2005 and 2006 and the Yankees lost in the ALDS both times. In 2007, he came the bench coach for Joe Torre and again the Yankees were eliminated in the ALDS. After the 2007 season with Torre declining the Yankees’ incentive-loaded contract, the Yankees passed over Mattingly to be their next manager and instead hired Joe Girardi.

Mattingly followed Torre to Los Angeles and became the hitting coach for the Dodgers in 2008 and has remained with the team since, while the Yankees went on to win the 2009 World Series. He became manager of the Dodgers in 2011 and missed the playoffs in 2011 and 2012 before reaching the NLCS in 2013 and losing to the Cardinals in six games, falling two wins short of the World Series for the third time since 2009.

Don Mattingly was my first favorite player. Enough is enough. He deserves a World Series. And not just a World Series appearance. He deserves a World Series win.

(And my girlfriend is a Dodgers fan, so there’s that too.)

2. Royals
There’s nothing to dislike about the Royals. They reached the playoffs for the first time in 29 years, overcame a four-run deficit and a one-run deficit in the 12th inning to win the wild card. And they prevented Jon Lester from having to start anymore games this year, which will help protect his left arm when the Yankees offer him $200 million this winter.

3. Orioles
Buck Showalter wanted to beat the Yankees in the 2012 ALDS more than you ever have wanted anything in your life. And since he couldn’t do that, he wanted to badly eliminate the Yankees from postseason contention last week at Yankee Stadium, which he successfully accomplished.

I can’t help but think that not a day goes by that Showalter doesn’t think that he should be living the luxurious life that Joe Torre has lived since taking over the Yankees for Showalter in1996. I’m not sure if Showalter and Torre are friends or if they like each other, but there’s no way Buck can like Joe after watching him win four World Series and go to six and get inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager and get his number retired in Monument Park and be an ambassador for baseball all while Buck has kept grinding it out every day as a manager and doing TV work between managerial jobs.

I don’t like the Orioles and I wouldn’t want them to become the new kings and future of the AL East, but Buck deserves to win the World Series.

4. Nationals
Two years ago, the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season after starting 28 games and throwing 159 1/3 innings, keeping the ace from pitching in the playoffs in the team’s first postseason appearance. The Nationals are fortunate to be back in the playoffs this year, just two years removed from their last postseason appearance, because you never know when you will get back there.

I’m sure after winning back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993 the Blue Jays thought they had the next dynasty in Toronto, but they haven’t been back to the playoffs since. And I’m sure after 1985 the Royals thought they would just keep on winning, but on Tuesday night they played their first playoff game in 29 years since that World Series. And I’m sure Red Sox fans in 1918 were laughing about their dominance, having won four World Series in seven years, never thinking it would take them 86 years to win their next one.

The Nationals played a dangerous game with what they did with Strasburg in 2012. If Strasburg had helped the Nationals win the 2012 World Series (and they could have) and then was unable to ever pitch again, he did his job. He would have brought Washington a championship, which is all any player is there to do. The Nationals shouldn’t be worried about the length of careers or making sure their ace is healthy for next season and the season after that. The goal is to win a championship and Strasburg could have helped them to do that. Maybe he will help them win one this year, but the Nationals front office doesn’t deserve it.

5. Giants
I hate the Giants because like I said, my girlfriend is a Dodgers fan and I wouldn’t allow her to root for the Red Sox in our house, so I’m not about to be a hypocrite. If the Giants win, they will keep their pattern of winning the World Series and then missing the playoffs the following season, which started in 2010. But if they win, I will be living in an unhappy household.

6. Angels
For all the money the Angels spend (I know I’m not one to talk), the last playoff game they played in was Game 6 of the 2009 ALCS. They missed the playoffs the last four years, but that didn’t keep Mike Scioscia from losing his job and it hasn’t kept Mike Francesa from considering him to be the best manager in baseball.

It was the Angels who eliminated the Yankees in four games in the 2002 ALDS after the Yankees won Game 1 and it was the Angels who eliminated the Yankees in five games in the 2005 ALDS after the Yankees fought back to send the series to a Game 5 in Anaheim. Mike Mussina gave up the early 2-0 lead in Game 5 like only Mike Mussina could and even with Bartolo Colon leaving the game in the second inning for a young Ervin Santana, the Yankees couldn’t win. Between the Bubba Crosby/Gary Sheffield debacle in the outfield and A-Rod’s rally-killing double play in the ninth inning against K-Rod, that game will always bother me.

The 2009 ALCS made up for those two ALDS losses with the Yankees getting past the Angels for the first time (something they still haven’t over come against the Tigers). But that doesn’t change the fact that the Angels were responsible for two early postseason exits for the Yankees and because of that, I don’t want them to win.

7. Tigers
I will never forget leaving Yankee Stadium after Game 1 of the 2006 ALDS with River Ave. filling up with chants of “SWEEP! SWEEP! SWEEP!” after the Yankees’ 8-4 win over the Tigers and Derek Jeter’s 5-for-5 night to open the playoffs. Who wasn’t thinking sweep with the Yankees’ lineup being called “Murderer’s Row and Cano” and living up to that billing with eight runs on 14 hits in Game 1? But then the Game 2 rainout pushed the game from a Wednesday night in the Bronx to a Thursday afternoon, killing all of the momentum of the series and putting the Tigers in a more comfortable spot in the day at Yankee Stadium. Mike Mussina couldn’t hold a 3-1 lead and with Joel Zumaya throwing flames with the late-afternoon shadows covering home plate, the Yankees lost and the series changed.

Randy Johnson couldn’t put the team on his back in Game 3 the following night and the day after that, the Yankees were eliminated with Jaret Wright on the mound to save the season and A-Rod hitting eighth in the lineup. Jeter (8-for-16), Jorge Posada (7-for-14) and Bobby Abreu (5-for-15) were the only ones to hit in the series for the Yankees, but it didn’t matter with the pitching staff giving up 22 runs in four games.

The 2011 ALDS was another disaster. The Friday night rainout after the first inning suspended the game to Saturday and the Yankees ended up winning. But then Freddy Garcia started Game 2 and CC Sabathia wasn’t himself in Game 3 and the Yankees were in a 2-1 hole, forcing the “I Believe in A.J.” campaign on Twitter for Game 4 with A.J. Burnett getting a start after a miserable regular season. Burnett nearly blew the game in the first with the bases loaded, but Curtis Granderson made a memorable catch to keep it scoreless and the Yankees went on to win Game 4 and send it home for Game 5.

I didn’t think the Yankees would lose Game 5 since Ivan Nova had been outstanding in Game 1. But Doug Fister became Cliff Lee 2.0 and shut the Yankees down as A-Rod, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher turned in their usual postseason performances. The Yankees put 13 runners on and scored two runs in the Game 5 loss.

There wasn’t much to the 2012 ALCS. When the Yankees overcame a 4-0 deficit in the ninth to tie the game on another Raul Ibanez home run, it felt like their year. You don’t lose games like that at home, but the Yankees did and lost Jeter for the rest of the season (and then nearly all of 2013). I knew the series was over when I left the Stadium that night in as bad of a mood as I have ever been in following a Yankees’ loss, but I didn’t realize that would be the last time I would ever see Jeter play in the postseason because it was the last time he ever played in the postseason..

Those three postseason losses, coupled with the idea of seeing Phil Coke, Justin Verlander and Brad Ausmus celebrate a World Series is more than enough to not want to see the Tigers win.

8. Cardinals
There is nothing to like about the Cardinals. Nothing. After winning 97 games last year, they survived a five-game scare from the Pirates, knocked off the Dodgers in six games (beating Clayton Kershaw twice) and then forgot how to hit and score runs in the World Series. The Cardinals scored 14 runs in six games against the Red Sox, scoring one run in Games 1, 5 and 6 on their way to giving the Red Sox their third World Series in 10 seasons. But that’s not the worst part.

The worst part is what happened 10 years ago in October of 2004 when I was a freshman in college in Boston. Even after the Yankees had blown the ALCS and I had blown all the money I had saved in the summer for the first semester on tickets to Game 5 of the ALCS for a chance to watch the Yankees win the pennant in person at Fenway Park, the Red Sox still had to get by the 105-win Cardinals to win the World Series.

That Cardinals team had Albert Pujols (46 HR, 123 RBIs, .331/.415/.657), Jim Edmonds (42 HR, 111 RBIs, .301/.418/.643) and Scott Rolen (34 HR, 124 RBIs, .314/.409/.598). Current manager Mike Matheny was their catcher and they had four 15-game winners in their rotation. But none of those 15-game winners started Game 1 of the World Series. Instead 37-year-old Woody Williams got the ball and allowed seven earned runs in 2 1/3 innings. (A 23-year-old Dan Haren relieved him and pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings and had he started, the Cardinals probably win that game). The Cardinals lost 11-9 in Game 1 despite overcoming a five-run deficit and despite the Red Sox making four errors and that was it.

The Cardinals would score just three runs combined over the next three games and after never leading in the four-game series, they were done and the 86-year curse was over and I can still hear the noise from the final out of the 2004 World Series echoing through Boston as if it happened just yesterday. Eff you, St. Louis.