Somebody wake the Rockies. The World Series has started.
Well, that wasn’t pretty, National League fans. It didn’t feel like a World Series. It felt like a Super Bowl blowout from the era of Cowboys-Bills and 49ers-Chargers. In football, it’s just one game. In baseball, you have to keep reminding yourself it’s just one game. (Hey, somebody call George Carlin!)
Just one game, but what a bad game for Colorado, a franchise which seemed more and more hypothetical as the innings snowed it under. We know who the Red Sox are, but from whence did these Rockies come? With their Mercury Mets homage uniforms and their stubbornly clinging anonymity, this could have been a goodwill exhibition between the excellent American team and a band of strangers who just took up the sport; a Canadian starter, a Japanese second baseman, a Dominican centerfielder, a Venezuelan catcher — maybe they were World Baseball Classic refugees. Are we sure the Colorado Rockies are licensed and bonded by MLB? That they weren’t fashioned for the sake of a historical novel? Dan Jenkins could have invented a name like Troy Tulowitzki. The whole bunch of them wasn’t even semi-tough against Josh Beckett.
But again, just one game. The Rockies are very real. The Rockies are 21-2 since September 16. The Rockies got hot so long ago that the Mets were clear favorites to win the N.L. East when they were just warming up. The Rockies maybe need to play games on consecutive nights to remember how good they are.
The Red Sox just needed to show up, and that they did. Beckett made me glad the Marlins dealt him out of our division (until I remembered Florida received Hanley Ramirez in return). Their lineup broke or matched offensive records dating to the 1920s, from when Fenway Park — does any park look better on TV as long as we’re not being swept in it? — wasn’t all that venerable. Game One was a perfect expression of baseball’s timelessness. Fenway has been around almost as long as the Red Sox, and the Red Sox batted for almost a century in the fifth.
Man, was that not pretty. That was Rick Ankiel circa 2000 minus the wild pitches and nervous breakdowns. If you had Francisco Morales and a World Series ERA under 94.50…you lose! Ryan Speier’s three consecutive bases-loaded walks to score three inherited runners (his World Series earned run average is 0.00) brought to mind an eight-run eighth inning five Rockies pitchers, including future Mets Steve Reed and Mike DeJean, combined to surrender at Shea on May 18, 1997.
• Baerga singled
• Olerud walked
• Hundley walked
• Ordoñez walked
• Alexander walked
• Everett walked
• Alfonzo singled
• Gilkey singled
• Huskey singled
• Baerga doubled
And in the Mets’ dugout, presumably enjoying it because it was happening to somebody else, was pitching coach Bob Apodaca. The scene ten years later in Boston was a lot different for our old pal Dack, who has worked miracles — humidor or no humidor — in turning a Colorado pitching staff into an actual asset. It pained me to watch a guy whose alleged firing offense in 1999 was incommunicativeness (or perhaps perceived closeness to Bobby Valentine) and a guy whose own pitching career was cut short by ligament injury at age 28 make all those helpless trips to the mound where nothing he could say to Morales or Speier or Jeff Francis before them was going to be of any practical use.
I’d forgotten that Bob Apodaca spent a staggering 29 consecutive seasons affiliated with the Mets as a major and minor leaguer, as a pitcher and pitching coach, as a Mets lifer. Did you know Bob Apodaca trails only Jeff Innis in games pitched as a Met among retired pitchers whose entire career was spent with only the Mets? Though he threw just 11 starts and 173 relief appearances (walking two Pirates on eight pitches in his September 18, 1973 ninth-inning debut, a critical pennant race game rescued by Buzz Capra), Dack is one of those Mets who will never not look like a Met to me, regardless of his present laundry.
But it could have been worse for him. If Apodaca continued to coach Mets pitchers, he might have had to have relied on Tom Glavine in a big game.
Here’s something to cheer us up ever so slightly: The Mets have never suffered a postseason loss anywhere near as lopsided as 13-1. If you think about it, we’re a very tough postseason opponent when we’re not too complacent to qualify. In 74 LDS, LCS and World Series games, we’re 43-31, and in only six of our 31 losses have we been beaten by more than three runs. Our worst defeats, four of them, were by a civilized six runs — and three of those were in series we eventually won.
Also, in the five postseason series we’ve lost, three times we took the eventual victors to the seven-game limit, while in the two other sets, none of our eight defeats came by more than two runs.
In other words, we’ve been much better losers than the Rockies.