Archive for April, 2015
I have to admit, listening to the Washington Nationals-New York Mets game on ESPN Radio through the first five innings or so on Easter Monday made me think back to the Oakland A’s-Boston Red Sox opener back in 1998.
In the Nationals-Mets game, it was 40-something Bartolo Colon (a former Athletic, by the way) becoming the oldest opening-day starter in Mets history. And it was him losing 1-0 in the middle innings despite pitching a very strong game. Colon’s mound opponent: Max Scherzer, who was making his Nationals regular-season debut and pitching a dominant shutout.
Ahhhhh…back in 1998, it was the 40-something Tom Candiotti becoming the oldest opening-day starting pitcher in Oakland history, losing 2-0 to Pedro Martinez, who was making his Red Sox debut and pitching a dominant game. That night, it was a two-base error by second baseman Scott Spiezio in the fifth inning which led to Boston’s first run on a sacrifice fly. A couple of innings later, the A’s couldn’t turn a double play, and the Red Sox scored an insurance run on another sac fly (which would have been the third out had the A’s turned the DP moments earlier). Oakland did have a chance in the seventh, but Pedro struck out A.J. Hinch and Jason McDonald with runners in scoring position to escape the jam. Oh, by the way, Hinch was making his big-league debut and he had to hit against Martinez and catch Candiotti’s knuckleballs. Yikes.
But it was a moot point – in the Nationals game, the Mets scored three unearned runs off Scherzer, ensuring that Colon’s gem didn’t go to waste.
Speaking of A.J. Hinch having to catch knuckleballs in his first major-league game, check out this video of Andy Allanson and Ron Hassey having to catch Candiotti and Joe Niekro – and also bat against them – in a game from 1986. Candiotti’s first batter would be a sign of things to come for how wild this game turned out to be. Thanks to the YouTube user Classic MLB 11 for uploading it. (Hope it doesn’t get taken down.)
(This, by the way, was Candiotti’s fourth game in the majors throwing the knuckleball. Prior to that, he was a curveball-fastball pitcher.)
Have a fantastic baseball season, everyone!
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 There is a distinction here with Candiotti being the oldest starting pitcher for Oakland on Opening Day. In terms of opening-day player in the lineup, Reggie Jackson was the oldest player in Oakland history, as he was the DH back in 1987.
UPDATE – DEC 13, 2017: YouTube did end up taking down that video. Here’s a clip of that Yankees-Indians game.
ESPN.com recently posted its Top 20 Moments of the Last 20 Years as part of its 20th anniversary celebration, and there were some glaring omissions on that list.
Let me first state that I like the Patriots and the Saints, and I do watch hockey, so I’m a bit biased here. In ESPN.com’s Top 20 list, again, this is a list of top MOMENTS, with the Boston Red Sox rallying from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS being ranked No. 1. No argument there with the top-ranked moment. What’s missing on the list, though, are the 2001 New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl about four months after September 11, which at the time seemed very fitting that a team with the nickname “Patriots” won a championship. That’s missing from the ESPN.com list.
And what about the fact the 2007 Patriots completed the first 16-and-0 regular season in NFL history, with Tom Brady and Randy Moss setting league records? That was not on the list. As a side note, the Giants upsetting the Patriots in the Super Bowl following that season did make it at No. 7 on the list. But to not have the Patriots’ historic regular season as a top 20 moment, just doesn’t seem right.
Also missing was the 2009 New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl four years after Hurricane Katrina, which I believe should have been on the list. It was the first ever championship for a hard-luck franchise, and should be a top 20 moment. Similarly, there was no hockey moment that made the ESPN.com list, even though in the last 20 years we’ve seen teams such as Detroit (1997), Chicago (2010), and Boston (2011) end lengthy droughts to win the Stanley Cup. You would think that at least one of them would have made it on the list, but there was no hockey moment on there.
Speaking of droughts, the fact that the 2005 Chicago White Sox ended a World Series drought that went all the way back to 1917, should have been acknowledged as well, but didn’t crack the list. There were quite a few basketball moments that did make it, but missing was Ray Allen’s three-pointer for the Miami Heat against the San Antonio Spurs in Game Six of the 2013 NBA finals.
Some of the ones that were on the ESPN.com list included Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 being universally retired at No. 17 and Vince Young’s comeback versus USC at No.15. The No. 42 being retired across baseball was long overdue when it happened in 1997, but it isn’t a moment from a game. I believe this should have been No. 1 on its own separate list, its own separate category, a great off-the-field moment. But it doesn’t fit on this list, which seems to be a list of top moments on the field, on the court, on the ice, etc. I’m not sure that Vince Young’s comeback belongs here as well. Some of the other moments I mentioned, the Patriots’ first title and their 16-0 regular season, definitely do belong. Look at the Saints’ Super Bowl championship, and at least one of the Original Six teams’ Stanley Cup titles recently.
And oh, ESPN.com also posted a list of the Top 20 TEAMS in the Last 20 Years. Let me say that I liked the Red Sox, but I don’t agree with the 2004 Sox being ranked No. 2 behind the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty. The 2004 Boston Red Sox weren’t even the best team in their own sport in the last 20 years, as the Yankee teams from 1998 to 2000 won three straight titles and that 1998 club also was considered one of the greatest in the history of baseball. They set an American League record with 114 wins and then went on to capture their first of three straight titles. I would have to rank that Yankee dynasty ahead of the 2004 Red Sox, and I’m speaking as a Boston fan.
The top four were No. 1, the Bulls dynasty. No. 2, the 2004 Red Sox. No. 3, the New England Patriots dynasty teams. No. 4, the Yankees dynasty clubs. I would have put the Yankees at No. 2. Again with this list, there are some glaring omissions, such as the Greatest Show on Turf, the 1999 St. Louis Rams, not being on there. Teams that won multiple titles over a short period of time, such as the New Jersey Devils and the San Francisco Giants, didn’t make the cut. You could even make an argument for the 1995 Dallas Cowboys, the last of the three Super Bowl championships they won in the 1990s. The Cowboys, in fact, became the first team to win three Super Bowls in a span of four seasons when they won that championship following the 1995 season.
So, Happy Birthday, ESPN.com, and thank you for coming up with these lists as they definitely help to stir up some great debates. But I’m afraid you’ve missed the mark with some of the omissions and poorly-ranked teams.