Game 7: Delirium or Denouement

Game 7: Delirium or Denouement

The following is an email I just received from my buddy Chris.  He's a Mets fan.  I'm posting it here, with his permission, because I thought some of you would enjoy it.  (I'm pulling for the Mets)

October 16th, 2003

October 20th, 2004

 

Those two dates represent that last two times that a game 7 of an LCS was played in the city, state, and
county of New York. The
first was a great victory for the New York Yankees who reveled late
into the night thanks to the crack of Aaron Boone's bat and the
stubbornness of one slight Dominican hurler (not to mention the
ineffectualness of one hill-billy manager).
The second was the death knell of an era and the last
gasp of a suffocating curse—invincibility had been shattered and a
region learned who their daddy was, and his name was Big Papi.

 

October 27th, 1986

October 19th, 2006

 

The New York Mets have played only one previous Game 7 at Shea Stadium. It's
destined to be a footnote to the irrepressible memory of Game 6, of
Mookie, of Buckner, of the Kid not wanting to make the final out in the
World Series.

 

In 1986 the Metropolitans came back from Boston trailing 2 games to 3 in the best of 7 series. The Red Sox had their ace, a young Roger Clemens (about to win the AL Cy Young Award), on the mound for Game 6. It seemed all set for them on that night. The champagne was on ice and every bar from Brookline to Quincy was packed and ready to celebrate.

 

Mookie slaps the ball down the first base line, it gets by Buckner and the Mets forced a Game 7.

 

The Mets never made it to Game 7 in 1999. With
one out in the last of the eleventh inning of Game 6, Kenny Rogers
walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded and the Braves won the game
and sent us home.
Those 1999 Mets looked like a team of destiny, from
Leiter's two-hit shutout against the Reds to secure the Wild Card,
Robin Ventura's walk-off grand slam single, and Todd Pratt's late
inning heroics off the bench.
However, the Gambler let us down.  It
would seem only fitting that in the Baseball Gods (who I can only
imagine to be Peter Gammons, Vin Scully, Hank Greenberg, and the Head
of Ted Williams) allowed Kenny Rogers to rewrite his life story that
they would lavish the same favor upon the team he so recently derailed.
It would only seem fair. Right? 

 

So,
here we are twenty years after the last Game 7 at Shea and Mookie's son
plays for the Cardinals (it hurt to see Mookie seemingly half-asleep in
the stands in St. Louis wearing a garish, red cosby-sweater). In 2006 the Metropolitans came back from St. Louis trailing 2 games to 3 in the best of 7 series.
The Cardinals had their ace, a young Chris Carpenter (who had won the
NL Cy Young Award the previous year), on the mound for Game 6. It seemed all set for them on that night. The champagne was on ice and every bar from one side of that Arch to the other was packed and ready to celebrate.

 

The rookie from Virginia named Maine out-pitches the ace and the Mets forced a Game 7. 

 

October 27th, 1986

October 19th, 2006

 

Twenty years down the road how will tonight be remembered?
Delirium or denouement? Will I drink champagne on the seven train? Or will I be crying on the Grand Central Parkway? Will
I make plans to drive to Detroit this weekend or will I be fielding
taunting phone calls from my friends who support other teams.

 

The answers to these questions will largely be decided by Oliver Perez. Yes,
the fate of the team that steam-rolled through the National League in
2006 rests largely on the left arm of the person who holds the
distinction of having the worst regular season ERA (6.85) of any
pitcher to start a playoff game in the history of baseball.

 

Reporter
: Willy, who will be your starter for Game 7? And why?

 

Willy
: Oliver Perez will start, because I like him.

 

Is there any reason for the faithful to believe Willy? Well, yes. Yes, there is. In
2004 Perez ranked fourth in strikeouts and led all major league
pitchers with a strikeout/per 9.0 innings ratio of 11.0 (239 K's in
196.0ip). He held opposing hitters to a .202 batting
average—the second-best mark in the league behind Arizona's Randy
Johnson (.197)—and just a .187 average in 16 home starts. His 2.21
ERA at home was the best among all National League pitchers.

 

Perez shut out the Braves a few weeks ago and has a more strikeouts than he has innings pitched over his young career.
A shutout is a likely as a Trax-out (see Game 3). Randolph
and Rick Peterson know this and I would imagine that Darren "the other"
Oliver is ready to enter this game before Reyes takes a swing if needs
be.
All hands in the bullpen are on deck. It feels like Glavine really wants into this game too. He doesn't want his unraveling in Game 5 to be the last time he pitches in 2006.
In any case, there are too many good arms out there for this loss to get hung on the pitchers. It comes down to the bats and the gloves, to fast moving cleats and being clutch.

 

Will Shawn Green play a fly-out into a triple? Can David Wright hit a bases clearing double? Will he do it going the opposite way? Will the Carloses dominate like they have shown themselves capable?
 

 

Or
will this game come down to the Ghost of Blown Saves Past versus the
Ghost of Blown Saves Present as Braden and Billy duke it out in the
late innings?
If we miss out on the World Series because Wagner hearts his slider so much then he will be no better than Armando Benitez. In fact, he may be worse.
Benitez, at least, stuck with his fast-ball even when it was arrow-straight and getting pounded into gaps, left and right. Meanwhile,
Wagner is throwing off-speed stuff to an injured Scott Rolen who hasn't
hit a high fastball since Duaner Sanchez was still on that scoreless
innings streak.

 

No matter what happens tonight, these Mets are great. They are young, experienced, exciting and proud.
They are New York's team. And New Jersey's too.

 

I'll be there in the mezzanine, screaming until I can't scream anymore.

 

Let's go Mets!

Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson disagree on mechanical issues

Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson disagree on mechanical issues

CINCINNATI – Normally upbeat and positive, Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz gave a terse answer, at least by his standards.

After the Eagles’ 32-14 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium (see Instant Replay), a game that was probably the worst of his young career, Wentz was asked about his proclivity for overthrowing his targets.

“Bad throw,” Wentz said blankly. “Just like last week.”

Those bad throws have been coming more and more frequently in recent weeks for the second-overall pick. After throwing one interception in his first five games, he’s thrown 10 in his last seven, including his first three-interception day on Sunday. A common thread has been overthrows.

When head coach and former QBs coach Doug Pederson was asked about those high throws from his prized quarterback, he said, “It’s strictly mechanics.” Pederson elaborated, saying they need to get Wentz off his back foot and stepping into throws. And then there were batted passes too.

“There were opportunities, obviously,” Pederson said. “Again, he's a young quarterback who missed a lot of time in the preseason, but now we just need to keep cleaning those things up.”

There might be a problem, though.

Wentz doesn’t seem to think there’s anything to clean up.

After Sunday’s embarrassing loss, the rookie said his mechanics feel the same now as they did when the Eagles started the season with three consecutive wins, before he had ever thrown a pick in the NFL.

“I don't think it's the mechanics,” Wentz said. “You make mistakes. Things happen, and that's just the bottom line.”

Is there anything that could be affecting his mechanics?

“I don't think so,” Wentz said. “You throw the ball 60 times, you're going to miss some. That kind of happens.”

Wentz seemed hesitant to take blame for his shaky play on Sunday (see breakdown of Wentz's performance), but he is right. Sixty passing attempts is an awful lot. In fact, it’s a record for an Eagles rookie and it’s the second most passing attempts a rookie quarterback has ever thrown in a game (Chris Weinke threw 63 in 2001).  

The reason for that, at least partially, on Sunday was the Eagles’ never got going offensively and their defense was porous at best, which led to the Bengals’ taking a 19-0 lead into halftime (see 10 observations from the loss). They had to try to throw their way back into the game.

“You never want your quarterback to throw 60 times, coming from behind,” Pederson said. “We put ourselves in a bind early in the football game. It’s going to be a learning lesson for him, obviously. We have to take a hard look at it. But by no means, the fact that he stood in there and still led the football team. He took some shots, but still stood in there and just shows you the kind of character and the toughness we have.”

For Wentz, who was once though to be the clear frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, the last couple months have been understandably difficult.

In the first four games of the season, he had a passer rating over 100 three times. He hasn't broken 100 since then and his 58.2 rating on Sunday was the second-worst of the season, behind his 52.4 in a winning effort against the Vikings.

“You just can't get down,” Wentz said. “You've got to stay optimistic. Obviously, the results are tough as of late. We're kind of on a skid. Like I've been saying, this is a good group of guys, a good locker room. Guys are in it until the end.”

It’s important to remember that, initially, Wentz wasn’t drafted to play this season. The original plan was to have him sit this season, but he was thrust into action after the Eagles traded away Sam Bradford.

Ultimately, Wentz will be judged for his play in years to come. For now, though, he and the Eagles have to try to find a way to fix this.

How do they do it?

“Obviously, we're on a skid,” Wentz said. “There's nothing really to change. We've just got to lock in and we've got to be more disciplined. At the same time, you don't get down. That's what I've been saying. This locker room, guys aren't going to get down. We've just got to be better with our discipline and just keep attacking. Obviously, we're in a tough spot, but we've just got to take it one game at a time.”

Eagles' defense's 'frustrating' lack of impact plays behind team's slide

Eagles' defense's 'frustrating' lack of impact plays behind team's slide

CINCINNATI -- It wasn’t all that long ago that the Eagles were proud owners of one of the NFL’s finest defenses.

Just a few weeks ago.

Coming out of that Atlanta win that elevated the Eagles to 5-4 and left them in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt, the defense ranked sixth in the NFL in yards allowed, fourth in points allowed, fifth in sacks, fourth in takeaways and fifth on third down.

Pick a category, they were exceptional.

Pick a category, they’re not anymore.

The once-dominating defense continued an alarming downward spiral Sunday, allowing an undermanned Bengals team to score on its first six possessions on the way to a demoralizing 32-14 win over the Eagles at Paul Brown Stadium (see Instant Replay).

“Our goal is to get into the playoffs and give ourselves a shot to get to our ultimate goal of the Super Bowl,” cornerback Leodis McKelvin said. “As you can see right now, it’s not happening.”

Any hope the Eagles had of reaching the playoffs has evaporated. After their third straight loss and seventh in their last nine games, they’re officially playing out the string.

And not doing it very well (see 10 observations).

Six of their last seven opponents have scored 26 or more points. The last three quarterbacks they’ve faced have combined for five touchdown passes, no interceptions, 932 passing yards, zero sack yards and a 71 percent completion percentage.

Worst of all, they’ve allowed points on 17 of 27 meaningful drives over the last three weeks in losses to the Seahawks, Packers and Bengals.

“It’s very disappointing,” Fletcher Cox said after his eighth straight game without a sack.  “As an organization and as a team, it’s very disappointing.

“Today was not one of our days. We’ve got to get off the field on third down, we’ve got to minimize the penalties, and we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to get our offense the ball back.”

We knew the offense would be a work in progress. Young and banged up. But the defense — especially the defensive line — was supposed to be the strength of this team. An elite unit.

Instead, they’ve been terrible. And getting worse.

“We had a bunch of goals this year,” Brandon Graham said. “We’re prideful men, and we don’t like to go out like this.”

How does a defense go from one of the best of the league the first half of the season to one of the worst the second half?

By allowing a historic number of third-down conversions (22-for-43 the last three weeks), by not forcing turnovers (three straight games without an interception), by not getting pressure (one sack for zero yards the last three games, no sacks the last two games), and by committing penalties at a near-record pace.

“It’s frustrating, man,” cornerback Nolan Carroll said. “Past couple weeks have been frustrating. To not get off on third down when that’s something we do well? And the past couple weeks to not get it done? It sucks. 

“We’re mad at ourselves. We got them into these 3rd-and-long situations but it’s one thing or another, and they convert it. Frustrating.”

During their current three-game losing streak, the Eagles have no interceptions and one sack. 

Their top playmakers – Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Jordan Hicks, Cox – have been largely ineffective.

They Eagles did force a couple fumbles Sunday long after the game had been decided, but nobody on this defense has made a meaningful impact play since Leodis McKelvin picked off Matthew Ryan in the Falcons game.

A month ago.

“If you don’t make those plays, it keeps the drive moving, you can’t get off the field on third down, you can’t get turnovers, you can’t get sacks … all the things that made us us good all season,” Carroll said.

“That’s what we hung our hat on and the past couple weeks we haven’t been able to get them and you see when we don’t get them what an offense can do. 

“We have to get back to what we do, and that’s getting turnovers, getting after the quarterback and getting off the field on third down.”

On the heels of brilliance from Wilson and Rodgers, Dalton completed 23 of 31 passes for 332 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, a 130.0 passer rating.

The Bengals even ran for 80 yards as the Eagles allowed 400 or more yards for the third time in a row, something that’s only happened twice previously in franchise history.

“You all see it out there,” McKelvin said. “We can’t expect to win when we have those type of mistakes and not executing plays. We can’t go backwards. On both sides, we can’t go backwards. We can’t go backwards as a defense, we can’t go backwards as an offense. We’ve got to make those plays.”

This is the first time in 33 years the Eagles have had a three-game stretch in which the defense totalled just one combined sack and interception. 

It’s really hard to be that ineffective.

“It is uncharacteristic of us,” McLeod said. “Have to credit teams sometimes, but a lot of times we’ve shot ourselves in the foot in a lot of ways, not doing the things we need to do defensively to win games. 

“Most of the time early in the year we got turnovers, we got stops, and helped the team win. We’ve just got to find ways — myself included — to help us out any way we can.”

The Eagles have lost three straight games by double digits after opening the season with three straight wins by double digits.

They’re clearly not headed in the right direction, and the defense is leading that charge.

First six weeks? They allowed 12.5 points per game, and the Eagles were 4-2.

Last six weeks? They’ve allowed 26.2 points per game, and the Eagles are 1-5.

“It felt like we were playing pretty well on first down and getting killed on third down,” Hicks said. “In third-and-long situations, those are situations where usually we win. We didn’t win them today. 

“Credit the offenses we’ve played, they’ve taken care of the ball, but we’ve got to do a better job getting turnovers, setting our offense up and getting them field position. 

“That’s what defense is all about. Being aggressive and getting the ball back for your offense, and we haven’t been able to do that.

“We made some plays (at the end), but it’s too little too late. We’ve got to come out from the start and play with that type of intensity.”

It doesn’t look like the Eagles have quit. They’ve just stopped making plays.

At every position.

“It’s not lack of effort, we just have to self-evaluate ourselves and get back to the way we were playing before and figure it out,” McLeod said.

“I believe we’re going to stay together. It’s just disappointing because we work so hard and to fall short of what we ultimately want to do, it’s hard as a player.”