By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wondering what might have been after seeing the two teams left standing for the World Series.
—A ‘WILD’ WORLD SERIES: So two wild card teams are in the World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Texas Rangers. And the Diamondbacks were the second-seeded wild card team. Meanwhile, TV moguls are wringing their wrists so hard their Rolex watches are falling off.
They believe re-runs of ‘My Mother, The Car’ might draw higher ratings.
Csn you imagine, though, that it might have been the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series? Me, neither. But it could have happened.
Consider this. The Reds were 3-and-0 last season against both the Diamondbacks and the Rangers.
The Reds, Cubs and Diamondbacks went down to the last weekend arguing over the final wild card spot in the National League. And the Reds will forever bemoan losing that game to the Pittsburgh Pirates
when they led, 9-0, and blew it as if they were holding live M80s in their hands.
Arizona slinked into the expanded playoffs (they wouldn’t have made it in 2022) with the worst record of all the playoff teams at 84-78, just two games better than Cincinnati’s 82-80.
The D-Backs and Reds are so similar — young, aggressive teams that took chances on the bases. The Reds led baseball in stolen bases and Arizons was second.
The Reds thrived on comeback wins. So did Arizona, a team that called itself the Answerbacks. They answered back against the Philllies in the NLCS. They lost the first two games in Philadelphia, then won the last two in Philly in front of crowds more hostile than a herd of enraged rhinoceros.
Both Texas and Arizona lost 100 games. two seasons ago. Arizona lost 110. The Reds lost 100 last year, so does that mean anything for next year. Probably not. But it is food for thought, maybe a filet mignon.
The Phillies thrived this year on new-school baseball — home runs, walks, strikeouts. It served them well in the NLDS against the Dodgers. But those home runs disappeared against Arizona and the Diamondbacks tortured them with old-school baseball that included singles, doubles, stolen bases and pitching. It was more punctures than gaping wounds.
—QUOTE: From former player/broadcaster Ken ‘Hawk’ Harrelson: “Baseball is the only sport I know that when you’re on offense, the other team controls the ball.” (The Philllies discovered that the hard way.)
—THE PHONE CALL: When Nick Castellanos did not pick up his option from the Cincinnati Reds, knowing his value on the free agent market exceeded the Reds ‘budget,’ Philadelphia was not on his long list, let alone his short list.
Then he received a telephone call. It was from Phillies star Bryce Harper.
“Bryce Harper reached out to me and said, ‘What do you think. I want this. I want you to be here.’” said Castellanos. “I didn’t think I was coming here during the free agent process at all. It wasn’t one of the cities I was interested in at the time, really wasn’t on the radar. Then Bryce called.”
Then over a three-day period in March of 2022, the Phillies signed Castellanos to a $100 million contract and Kyle Schwarber to a $70 million deal.
Castellanos was drafted originally by the Detroit Tigers and said, “I’m a dreamer by nature and I thought about Al Kaline. I thought I was going to be like him. You don’t always get Plan A.”
Unfortunately for the Phillies and Castellanos, after he was a super-stud in the NLDS against the Dodgers, Castellanos finished the NLCS against Arizona 0-for-23 with 11 strikeouts. Ain’t fame fleeting?
—QUIOTE: From Casey Stengel when he managed the New Yorks Mets on one of his players, Jerry Lumpe: “He’s a great hitter. . .until I play him.”
—A GLORIOUS DAY: In 1954, the Cleveland Indians won 111 games in a 154-game season when I was 14 years old. Their pitching staff of Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Mike Garcia and an aging Bob Feller pitched 77 complete game. Seventy-seven!!!
In September, my dad and I were two of the 86,563 fans in Cleveland Municipal Stadium for a doubleheader against the New York Yankees. Lemon and Wynn both pitched complete games as the Tribe pretty much clinched the pennant with 4-1 and 3-2 victories.
Then Cleveland lost four straight to the New York Giants in the World Series. I’ve despised any team callled the ‘Giants’ every since, even Sadaharu Oh’s Yomiuri Giants.
¸—PRIME ON THE LINE: For some reason, Colorado football coach Deion Sanders has become a college football spokesman.
When asked about Michigan’s alleged illegal scouting and sign-stealiing, Coach Prime said, “You still have to stop them, even if you know what’s coming. They can send you their game plan, but you still have to stop it on the field.”
C’mon, Prime. Yes, you have to stop it, but knowing what’s coming so you can stack the defense to stop it is a gargantuan advantage. I’m sure Sanders would love to know what play the other team is going to run on each play. He sure could have used it against Southern Cal and Oregon.
—THIRD QUARTER THEME: Speaking of the much-troubling Michigan program, the Wolverines have put together one amazing statistic, whether they were aided by knowing what play was coming or not.
In their eight straight wins this season, in the third quarter they have outscored their eight opponents, 107-0. Those must be some paint-peeling halftime orations by coach Jim Harbaugh.
—QUOTE: From former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler to his players: “Early for practice is on time and on time is late.” (Like Bo Jackson, Bo Schembechler knew football).
—MILES OF MYLES: If you see Myles Garrett without a shirt, he looks like Charles Atlas, Adonis and Goliath stuffed into one bronze body. No sling-shot can stop him.
The Cleveland Browns defensive end is 9-feet-8. He can jump 18 feet straight up. His arms extend from Lake Erie to Lake Michigan. He is faster than a tsunami.
That’s the way he looks to opposing left tackles or the three guys who try to triple-team him.
Last Sunday Garrett did something no NFL defender ever did before — two sacks,, two forced fumbles and a blocked field goal on which he completely leaped over the offensive line.
Yet all we read or hear about every day is whether $245 million quarterback Deshaun Watson is going to play.
Who cares. . .as long as Garrett is on the field to single-handedly destroy and disintegrate the other team’s offense.
J.J. Watt, a former NFL defensive end and one of the all-time greats, appeared this week on ESPN’s Pat McAfee Show and said, “Myles Garrett is an incredible player and the things he does on a football field are so impressive. He is an athletic freak.”
—COLLEGE TUSH PUSH: To show what a sports nut I am, on Wednesday night I tuned in to a Jacksonville State-Florida International footballl game. When Jax State took a 21-0 first-quarter lead, I surfed the channels and ran across another game — Sam Houston State (0-7 vs. UTEP (2-6).
Just as I tuned in, UTEP lined up for a Tush Push on third-and-one. They didn’t make it. They went conventional on fourth-and-one and made it.
Hey, college coaches. Best leave the Tush Push to the masters and the inventors, the Philadelphia Eagles.
—QUOTE: Another great quote from former Marquette basketball coach/humorist Al McGuire: “My rule was I wouldn’t recruit a kid if he had grass in his front yard. That’s not my world. My world has a cracked sidewalk.”