Mr. Stats Notes: White Sox vs Red Sox makes for Mother’s Day treat

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Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you, wherever you may be.

As a lifelong baseball fanatic and long-time member of NBC’s baseball coverage (more on me later), I learned about baseball by listening to Vin Scully, with a radio in my ear at bedtime to hear his calls of Dodger games. Then, not even 15 years later, I found myself in the NBC booth with him and Joe Garagiola, feeding the Frick Award winners stats, stories and information well before the computer age.

I’ve been called “Mr. Stats” and throughout the course of this MLB Sunday Leadoff on Peacock and NBC, I look forward to using this column to tell some stories about the players, the team and the sport itself through the thing I know best: the numbers.

But first, I want to talk about reservations. You know, for Mother’s Day.  See, on Sunday, May 8 — Mother’s Day — the Chicago White Sox play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The first pitch is scheduled for 11:35 am eastern. With major league games averaging 3:05 in April, that means the game should end around 2:45 pm. That leaves plenty of time to schedule an early Mother’s Day dinner on the east, or a Mother’s Day brunch out west.

Now, the White Sox and Red Sox haven’t gotten out of the gate quickly in 2022 — that would be an understatement — but the track is long and there is more than enough time to make up ground. Chicago manager Tony La Russa managed the Cardinals in 2011, when they came from 10.5 games back in late August to edge Atlanta for a wild-card berth on the last day of the season. And that year the Cards won the World Series. Chicago has suffered a ton of injuries, but they should remain in the hunt all season. They might need patience more than anything else.

The White Sox troubles really can, in large part, be explained by injuries to starter Lance Lynn and 3B Yoan Moncada and outfielder Eloy Jimenez. The Red Sox can’t use injuries as an excuse. Yes, they are missing ace starter Chris Sale — and there is no timetable for his return. But really, this team just hasn’t hit.

In 2021, Boston scored 829 runs (5.1 per game) and had an OPS of .777. In 2022, through May 3, the Red Sox were scoring just 3.5 runs per game, with an OPS of .631. This team will hit, eventually.  (Boston also has to find a reliable closer, but first things, first. Start hitting).

What I want to look at in this game are the shortstops. This is an era of marvelous shortstops. The best of the bunch may be San Diego’s 23-years old Fernando Tatis, Jr. who hasn’t played yet this season, recovering from a fractured wrist. There’s Tampa Bay’s 21-year old Wander Franco, and Toronto’s Bo Bichette is only 24. Francisco Lindor is an early MVP candidate, playing shortstop for the Mets. Trea Turner is in the middle of a powerful Dodgers lineup.  Former Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is starting to heat up for the Rangers; and former Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is getting hot for the Twins.

RELATED: 2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games

There’s a Crawford that had a career season with the Giants last year (35-years old Brandon) and a 27-years old Crawford coming into his own with the Mariners (J.P.).

But two of the best shortstops—actually, three of the best if you count Trevor Story, currently playing second base for Boston—will be in Sunday morning’s White Sox/Red Sox game.

Xander Bogaerts has the right to opt-out of his contract after this season, and is playing like he deserves a big raise, whether in Boston or somewhere else.  He’s been among the league leaders in batting all season. And Xander is leading the majors in BAPIP (batting average on balls in play).

Both Bogaerts and Tim Anderson are ranked high in wRC+ (a rate statistic which attempts to credit a hitter for the value of each outcome, rather than treat all hits or times on base equally).

Tim Anderson is batting .313 with a .855 OPS.

Now, here’s the thing with Anderson. He’s near the top of the league in O-Swing%. He swings at everything. And he’s been connecting.

In his first 21 games, or 86 plate appearances, he has walked exactly…once. His BB% is just 1.2% (the MLB average is about 8.5%).

For that matter, Bogaerts walked just seven times in his first 95 plate appearances. And teammate Rafael Devers walked just two times in his first 103 plate appearances.

Which is why the Red Sox and White Sox have walked the fewest amount of times in major league baseball this year. The White Sox have walked only 51 times in their first 24 games.

Which is one reason this could be what I call a “Gary U.S. Bonds” game. It could be over by “A Quarter to Three” And on Mother’s Day, that’s not a bad thing at all.

RELATED: For Rich Hill, MLB’s oldest pitcher, family legacy transcends game

Elliott’s Note of the Week

The New York Mets are off to their best start since 2006. It’s also one of their best starts since 1986, the last time they won the World Series. But I have questions about whether their starting pitching will hold up. Max Scherzer is 37, Carlos Carrasco is 35, Chris Bassett is 33, Jacob deGrom when he comes back is 33, even Taijuan Walker is 29.

1986 Mets rotation:

Dwight Gooden 21
Ron Darling 25
Sid Fernandez 23
Bob Ojeda 28
Rick Aguilera 24

When the Mets went to the World Series in 2015, they had another set of babies in the rotation (Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and deGrom, anchored by 41-years old Bartolo Colon).

Philadelphia Phillies v. New York Mets

That being said, I can’t wait till Jacob deGrom comes back and shares the top of the rotation with Scherzer.  I know you’re thinking Mets manager Buck Showalter has never had a pair of Aces in his hand like this, but remember in 2000, Buck managed Arizona.  Showalter had 36-year old Randy Johnson and 33-year old Curt Schilling.

A Long Distance Lyle-er

Jordan Lyles pitches for the Baltimore Orioles, one of the worst teams in baseball. At one point in his career, Lyles was the youngest player in the major leagues. Unlike his contemporaries that have had long, illustrious careers dotted with All-Star Game appearances, postseason game heroics, or bold-typed league-leading numbers, Lyles takes the ball for also-rans.

In his first three seasons with the Astros, his teams lost 106, 107, and 111 games. If I remember correctly, the television ratings of the cable network broadcasting the Astros games those years were like the grade point average of the Delta House fraternity in Animal House: 0.0. But then, after the 2013 season, the 23-years old Lyles was traded to the Rockies for outfielder Dexter Fowler. I caught up with Walt Weiss recently, who managed Colorado at the time, and told me: “I was excited to get him, we needed him, we were thirsting for pitching…and he started out 5-0 before he got hurt.”

Weiss’ memory is pretty damn good. He was 5-0, and after two months his record was 5-1, 3.46 ERA pitching at Coors Field. After Lyles’ first three seasons in Houston (14-29, 5.35 ERA, and an ERA+ of 74—meaning he was 26% “worse” than a league average pitcher), it appeared he was on his way to stardom. And then he got hurt, came back two months later, and wasn’t effective. And the Rockies lost 96 games. Two more losing seasons in Colorado, and Jordan went to San Diego, where the team lost 91 games. Selected off waivers in 2018 by the Brewers from the Padres, Jordan pitched well in relief down the stretch but was left off the playoff roster. With a bad Pirates team in 2019, he was once again acquired by the Brewers for a stretch run. This time he was brilliant (7-1, 2.45 ERA in 11 starts), but the team lost a Wild Card game and his only postseason experience lasted less than three hours. The Brewers lost a late lead as Trent Grisham couldn’t make a play in the outfield, and Lyles didn’t get in the game.

Jordan signed with Texas, and pitched for bad teams in the shortened 2020 season and then a 102-loss team last year. In March, Lyles signed with Baltimore, for another, inevitable last place finish.

The only thing Jordan Lyles has ever led the league in is…Earned Runs Allowed (twice) and Home Runs Allowed (once). If you retired his jersey numbers, there wouldn’t be enough numbers left to field a team (he has worn uniform numbers 41, 18, 24, 27, 25, 31, 23, 24, and now 28.

Jordan Lyles has a career mark of 56-81, 5.19 ERA in nearly 1,200 innings of work.

That’s tough to do. It’s incredibly hard to make it to the Show. It’s even harder to stick around and stay in the Show. In 2021, following the Rangers’ loss to the White Sox, the team and staff honored Lyles for reaching 10 full years of major league service time. According to the MLB Players Association, fewer than 10% of players in baseball history have played for a decade or more.

One might wonder: how does he remain in the game? His career ERA is 5.19. His career ERA+ is 82, meaning he is 18% worse than an average player. Surely, teams want younger. Surely by now, teams want cheaper.

“I’m so proud of him. It’s hard — so, so hard, to be a pitcher in this game for as long as he’s done it,” said his former manager Weiss. Imagine Jordan Lyles — lasting longer than probably 95% of all pitchers — and doing it without great results. What an inspiration — staying in the game as long as you can.

Talking to Walt Weiss around the Braves batting cage, where Weiss serves as Brian Snitker’s bench coach, I reminded Walt of his rookie season of 1988. I told him it was my first season doing the World Series for NBC, and Joe Garagiola had told me to take it all in. Joe said he played in the World Series when he was a rookie in 1946 and thought he would make it back every year. Of course, he never did make it back. It was a lesson he preached to rookies on every World Series he covered as a broadcaster, and I asked Weiss about it. “I do remember Joe telling me that. It’s hard when you’re that young to have perspective. I was so spoiled, making it to the World Series my first three years. But boy did I learn. I hadn’t been on a World Series winner since 1989 until this past one with Atlanta.”

I love baseball, and people that spend their lives captivated by it. Maybe that’s why I root so hard for Jordan Lyles to keep hanging around. Lyles once played in the 2010 Futures Game, a game that featured Mike Trout among others.

Hey, it’s not like I don’t root for Mike Trout. But it’s easy to root for superstars. Sometimes, I root for the other guys fighting to keep their spot, fighting to stave off the inevitable to remain in the game as long as possible.

As Vin once said “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between an All-Star Game and an old-timer’s game.”

About the Author
I’m Elliott Kalb, and I’ve been a part of NBC’s baseball coverage for a long time, now. I travelled with NBC’s Game of the Week in the 1980s; I was part of the postseason coverage in the late 1990s, working with Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, and Bob Uecker. I produced the Baseball venue from several Summer Olympics, including the coverage of Team USA’s gold medal win from Sydney, Australia in 2000.

In any case, you can’t tell the history of NBC Sports and their baseball coverage without me. Don’t believe me? Check out the history section of NBC’s website, which details the storytelling and iconic moments of NBC Sports. There’s a picture of me giving information to Tom Seaver before the last game of the 1989 NLCS, which served as the final game of NBC’s MLB contract, ending 42 consecutive years of baseball on NBC.

I never completely left NBC Sports—even in my years covering baseball for other entities, mostly MLB Network. Which is why I’m—forgive me—proud as a peacock to be connected to NBC Sports and their baseball package in 2022. Going home is important in real life, as well as in baseball.

On Aaron Judge and 62: As sports evolve, no two records are alike

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A decade ago, I wrote a story for Sports Illustrated about my great uncle, a former Major League Baseball player and member of the Hall of Fame: Johnny Evers, of Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance fame. The story was transformative for me in many ways, unlocking a past I had only understood enough to brag about, which is to say hardly at all. The work still lives with me. But here is a tangential point: In the course of researching and reporting the story, I spent time in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame, a truly magical place (whether or not you have an enshrined relative you never met, but especially if you do). Every museum is a time machine if you allow it to be, and I very much did. And do. Always.

I was given access to the Hall’s research area, a spellbinding backroom full of what seemed like 100 times the material on display to the public. There was a treasure trove relating to my uncle, who was born in 1881, played in the big leagues from 1902-’17, participated in five World Series and most famously, was immortalized in a poem that outlives him significantly. Among the items preserved was a pair of game-worn baseball spikes of indeterminate size, packed carefully in a box. The shoes were made of crusty leather atop a hard sole, with long (scary) metal spikes attached. They looked like perhaps a primitive gardening tool, but certainly not athletic footwear. It was impossible to look at them and not think: Somebody played major league baseball in these things?

Likewise, there were many pictures of my uncle in full uniform, with a tiny mitt stuffed over the fingers of his left hand, barely enlarging it – a wardrobe item designed only marginally to enhance the fielder’s ability to catch balls, and more practically to protect his hand should any catching occur. Again, the thought: Somebody played major league baseball using this glove?

These images returned to conscious thought this week in the roiling aftermath of Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run Tuesday night in Arlington, Texas. Not roiling as to the significance of the moment, or its emotional purity – 62 home runs in a single MLB season is a milestone deserving of sanctity and joy and Judge is a manifestly great – dare one say Ruthian? – baseball player. As ever when it comes to cherished sports (or uncherished sports records, but single season home runs is just about as cherished as it gets), the unvarnished celebration of this moment abated quickly and attention was turned aggressively to comparing it to the marks it surpassed, and those that it did not.

This led to SEO-on-steroids headlines and posts that sucked in some combination of the names Judge, Maris, McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and Ruth (and even a little Mantle, for good measure) and launched impassioned discussion as to the proper framing of Judge’s record. The New York Times’s Scott Miller wrote a good story describing the issues in this baseball-centric discussion, which are familiar to most fans of a certain age, or possibly many ages. (But it all goes far beyond baseball).

In short: 95 years ago in 1927, Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in a season, a record that stood for 34 years, until surpassed by Roger Maris in 1961. Maris, less popular than his teammate, Mickey Mantle, and thus deemed less worthy by some, hit his No. 61 in the 162nd game of the season, whereas Ruth hit his 60 homers in a 154-game season, prompting baseball commissioner Ford Frick to suggest a “distinctive mark” in the record book to highlight that difference (which was co-opted to mean an “asterisk,” even though there was never an actual asterisk on the books). In 1998, Mark McGwire (70) and Sammy Sosa (66) each shattered Maris’s record and hold five of the top six totals in history, but their dinger spree took place during the so-called steroid era, and before MLB began testing for PEDs. As did Barry Bonds’s, including his all-time record of 73, in 2001. One more complicating factor: Ruth did his work in a segregated sport; baseball was all-white until Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947, and mostly white for many years after that.

Hence: The number of the real single-season home run record (or for that matter, the career record for homers and many other achievements) comes with room for miles of wiggling and volumes of discussion, with little hope for consensus. There are simply too many moving parts, too much change across time, too little commonality that connects performance from different eras (and sometimes, we now understand, an “era” can be as little as a couple decades).

This is the problem – or maybe it’s not a problem; stay with me – with all sports records. A “record,” exists to perform two fundamental tasks: One, to quantify performance. No problem there. Two, to compare one performance to other performances, both in the present and, historically. Problem. And it’s the word historically that’s being asked to do far too much work in this universe. The paradox is this: As fans and other chroniclers of sports, we lust after means to compare excellence (or the lack thereof) among generations, but the evolution of sports (and humans, not always ethically) makes that almost impossible. A record is a record only in the precise instance, and under the precise historical conditions under which it is achieved. Every future record is set in a different world, altered by the games, the players, and the existence of the previous record itself.

Back to my Uncle Johnny. His place in the Hall of Fame has been hotly debated over the years by people who debate such things (and bless them), and fairly so. There’s little doubt he was an excellent player for his time. But the game he played would be scarcely recognizable as baseball to modern fans, beyond the geometry of the playing field itself (and that, not entirely). I wrote this in 2012:

There are practical differences between major league baseball in the first two decades of the 20th century and the game as it is played today. All of the players were white (Uncle Johnny was born 16 years after the abolition of slavery.) Fielders wore tiny gloves, barely larger than modern ski mittens. The fields were much more uneven than today’s. The period from 1900 (or earlier) to approximately 1919 was called the Dead Ball era for good reason: Baseballs were kept in play, and over the course of games they were beaten to a pulp.”

Whatever my uncle accomplished, he accomplished within the norms of his time, a very different time. He is one small, and to me, very personal example. I would like to see Francisco Lindor field ground balls in the hole with my uncle’s glove, which is very much not Lindor’s problem and not a valid basis for evaluating his work. Keepers of the game over time have developed analytic means to create useful comparison by encasing players within their own era. This is good, but when it comes to records, imperfect. Because records are best when unencumbered by messy complexity. We just want to know: Bonds or Judge?

This is not remotely limited to baseball. Very much the opposite: It’s everywhere in sports.

At the 1964 Summer Olympics, Bob Hayes of the United States won the 100 meters in an official handheld time of 10 seconds flat, extrapolated by statisticians to an electronic time of 10.06 seconds, a world record at the time. Notably, Hayes ran his race in lane one at the Olympic Stadium, assigned by random draw, which is outrageous, but hewed to norms of the time. The track was made from dirt and cinders and Hayes’s lane had been raked just before the final, after it was rutted by competitors in the 20-kilometer walk. Four years later in Mexico City, Jim Hines of the U.S. ran 9.95 on an all-weather track, a record that stood for 28 years.

The 100-meter world record is now held by Usain Bolt, who ran 9.58 seconds at the 2009 World Championships. But the differences between Hayes’s 1964 world record and Bolt’s are myriad and significant: The running surface, the runners’ spikes, training methods, and even their ages. Hayes was 21 years old, concurrently a soon-to-be professional football player who would never run another 100-meter race of significance. Bolt was a 23, a full-time track and field athlete who would become fabulously wealthy over the course of a career that lasted another decade.

(Track and field is nearly as protective of its numbers as baseball: A few years ago I was talking – on background — with an Olympic sprinter about performances and steroids and noted that Ben Johnson had once run 9.79 seconds to win the 1998 Olympic 100 meters, but of course was disqualified when he tested positive for a banned steroid. I suggested that we don’t really know Ben’s personal best. The sprinter said, “Ben’s PR is 9.79. He ran that time.” The subtext is that Johnson may have been running against others with pharmaceutical assistance, much like Lance Armstrong was cycling against opponents are dirty as he was, just not as a good on the drugs. This stuff gets complicated. In sum: If you want to say that Bolt was faster than Hayes because of their difference in their times, that’s fine, and most likely true, but also perilously simplistic. What shoe technology has done to track and marathoning is far more extreme).

Football is less protective of its records than baseball, and more attached to rings and spectacle. But it’s not as if records are cast aside in the NFL. Just last weekend, Aaron Rodgers was celebrated for throwing his 500th career touchdown pass, a category not entirely dissimilar to home runs in baseball. Long balls of a different type. Only five quarterbacks have thrown 500 touchdown passes: Tom Brady (716), Drew Brees (608), Peyton Manning (579), Brett Favre (552), and Rodgers; the longest-retired is Favre, in 2010.

The record had previously been held by Fran Tarkenton (353, retired in 1978), Johnny Unitas (297, retired in 1973) and Y.A. Tittle (246, retired in 1964). But passing records in the NFL have been dramatically neutered by changes in the composition of gameplay. The modern game is significantly tilted to benefit passing offense, with rules implemented over time that empower every entity of the pass game, from quarterbacks (can’t hit them) to receivers (can’t jam them for long) to linemen (they can hold). Twenty-four of the top 25 single-season passing yardage totals have all been achieved since 2007, the only exception being Dan Marino in 1984, a 5,084-yard season that looks more impressive with every flip of the calendar.

But the larger point is that passing records are almost meaningless without significant context. (Rushing records are the opposite, affected by the same shift to passing: Only one active player, Adrian Peterson — technically active, but has not played a down in 2022 — is among the NFL’s top 50 career rushing leaders. Only Peterson, Derrick Henry, and Jonathan Taylor are among the top 25 single-season totals).

Basketball, meanwhile, has undergone steady gameplay progression from lane-widening to shot clocks to the introduction of the three-point line and, foundationally beneath all of that, inexorably improving shooting inefficiency. Yet the hypothetical that seems to arise most often is how records – college or professional — might have been affected if the three-point field goal had been in use during [name the player’s, most often Pete Maravich’s] career. But this is specious, too, because we can’t simply go back, study film, and count imaginary three-pointers, because the presence of the line alters the geometry and strategy of the game. A modern game, dictated by half-court spacing, ball movement and matchups, is wildly different from previous iterations of the sport.

Examples of misleading records are everywhere. Here is a small example from the skiing world: For many years, Austrian skier Annemarie Moser-Proell was the winningest woman in World Cup history, having won 62 races from 1969-’80. She was eventually passed by Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. who finished her career in 2019 with 82 victories. But Vonn’s total included 28 wins in the Super-G, a downhill-giant slalom that didn’t become part of the World Cup until 1983. Moser-Proell would have raced and won a lot of Super-Gs; in her 12-year career, the women’s World Cup averaged 24 races per year, whereas in Vonn’s it averaged 36, although Vonn was frequently injured and missed part of many seasons. None of this diminishes Vonn’s record, it just complicates it ever so slightly. (And Vonn’s record may be broken soon by Mikaela Shiffrin, who has 74 wins and nary an asterisk).

There is another way to consume these record-breaking realities: Records are not just an imprimatur that describes and elevates the record-breaker; they are also a patch of intellectual real estate on which sports’ history is preserved. If Aaron Judge’s record resurfaces Babe Ruth’s segregated past and the complexity of the steroid era, those are good things. If sprinting records preserve Bob Hayes’ memory in some way, that is worthwhile.

Records are incomplete, but not unimportant. They keep the time machine humming.

Mr. Stats’ Notes: Playoff picture starts to take focus

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This is the time of year that baseball turns from a marathon to a sprint. The Toronto Blue Jays are steps ahead of other teams for a spot in the postseason. Toronto finished one game out of the playoffs a year ago. Will this year be different?

On Sunday, in a game streamed on Peacock beginning at 12 pm eastern, the Blue Jays will play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 2021, the Jays finished one game behind the Yankees for the Wild Card; and 39 games better than the division rival Orioles. Can Baltimore pass Toronto in the final weeks to nab the third and final Wild Card?

It’s time to sharpen up the predictions to pick out some potential October matchups and storylines.

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Pittsburgh Pirates win the World Series?

Well, not the 2022 Pirates.  But several former Pirates.

The 2017 Pirates team had Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon in their starting rotation. By 2018, Cole was gone but Clay Holmes was in the Bucs pen.  If the New York Yankees win the 2022 World Series, it will almost certainly be with heavy lifting being done by Cole, Taillon, and Holmes. Jameson (12-4, 3.97) leads the Yankees in wins. Cole is their ace. Holmes should be the closer.

And if the New York Mets win the World Series this year, they will lean heavily on two other Pirates from those Clint Hurdle-managed teams. The Mets don’t hurdle through the National League without Starling Marte and, to a lesser degree, Trevor Williams.  Marte is slashing .309/.359/.511 with 41 extra-base hits in 93 games since May 1, and for the season his bWAR is 3.7. Williams, meanwhile, has not allowed a run in a career-high 24.0 straight innings. Trevor has a 0.88 WHIP, a .190 opponent’s average and a .483 opponent’s OPS during that span.

Pittsburgh fans can find someone to root for even if the San Diego Padres win the World Series (Joe Musgrove), or the Atlanta Braves (Charlie Morton) repeat.

2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Mets in the postseason (with Adam Wainwright getting the final outs)?

In 2006, the Mets won 97 games. The Cardinals won 83 games. But the two teams met in the NLCS, and in Game 7, the Cards had a 3-1 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. Rookie Adam Wainwright closed it out, slamming the door and eliminating the Mets by striking out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to end the game.

Wouldn’t it be something if all these years later, the Cardinals once again eliminated the heavily-favored Mets in the deciding game with Wainwright (9-9, 3.09) on the mound!

And if that happened…

Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the World Series (with Jordan Montgomery eliminating his former team)?

Jordan Montgomery was traded from the Yankees to the Cardinals in exchange for Harrison Bader. Montgomery, in his first five starts for St. Louis, is 4-0, with 1.76 ERA and a WHIP of 0.815. How great would it be for Monty, who started the season as the Yankees’ No. 3 starter, eliminates New York.

Of course, October is a long way away. Perhaps Harrison Bader will run down a long blast by Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt to save a game for the Yankees.

I know what you’re thinking. Even if the Cardinals make the World Series, the Yankees may fall in the ALCS to the Astros. And if that were the case…

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Wouldn’t it be something if…the Cardinals and Astros meet in the World Series, a rematch of the 2004 NLCS (when St. Louis won) and the 2005 NLCS (when Houston won)?

Albert Pujols was the MVP of the 2004 NLCS versus the Houston Astros. Albert batted .500 (14-28 AB) with 1.000 SLG, 1.563 OPS, and 4 HR in the series! Imagine if he has a surge in the very late stages of his career. In the 2005 series, he hit a ninth-inning blast off Brad Lidge that’s a signature highlight in a career full of them.

I know, the Cardinals are a long shot. The Mets have a much better chance of reaching the World Series. So:

Wouldn’t it be something if…Buck Showalter finally makes the World Series in his 21st year as a Major League manager…and loses the Series when the Yankees bring in a reliever named (check notes…) Zack Britton to slam the door on Buck’s Mets?

Well before Timmy Trumpet, Showalter once had an elite reliever in his stint with the Orioles, Zack Britton. In 2016, Britton saved 47 games in 47 save opportunities. The Orioles won 89 games in 2016, and played in the one-game Wild Card in Toronto. The elimination game was tied 2-2 after five innings. And six innings. And seven innings. And eight innings. And nine innings. And ten innings. Buck kept waiting for his Birds to score a run, to bring in the great Britton to close out the Jays. Trouble is, he never did get Zack into the game, and eventually Ubaldo Jimenez lost the game for Buck in the 11th.

Just a thought. If there’s an opportunity to get Edwin Diaz late in a tie game on the road, do it. If you go down, go down with your best.

RELATED: Rogers: Mets are ‘built for postseason’

Wouldn’t it be something if Buck Showalter finally makes it to the World Series against the Astros and Dusty Baker? One of them has to win, right? Please tell me someone has to win.

Is it even remotely possible that Dusty’s team blows another series lead? Baker shouldn’t have lost the 2002 World Series to the Angels, or the 2021 World Series to the Braves. He shouldn’t have blown a 2-0 series lead to the Giants in a 2012 best-of-five series. He shouldn’t have blown a three-run lead with five outs to go in Game 7 of a 2003 series to the Marlins. And only Dusty — poor Dusty — can have a lead after four innings of a winner-take-all game, bring in Max Scherzer — and still lose the game and series, as Dusty’s Nats did against the Cubs in 2017.

Wouldn’t it be something if the 2022 World Series were a rematch of the 2017 World Series? Only this time, Clayton Kershaw pitches on a level playing field, if you know what I mean. Man, it would be great to see Clayton start a game in Houston.

Remember what happened when Kershaw started Game 5 of the ’17 series in Houston? Clayton was unhittable in Game 1 of that series at Dodger Stadium; but in Game 5, Kershaw blew a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning, and a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

I know Kershaw found redemption in the 2020 World Series in Arlington, Texas against Tampa Bay. But I want more. I want Clayton to shut down Altuve, Bregman, and Gurriel in Houston. In a World Series. Wouldn’t that be something?

And if the Astros defeated the Dodgers, I would feel so glad for Dusty Baker, who would have a World Series championship as a player for the Dodgers (in 1981) and as a manager against the Dodgers (41 years later, in 2022).

RELATED: Astros ace Justin Verlander placed on IL with calf injury

Wouldn’t it be something if someone other than the Astros or Yankees made the World Series?  Wouldn’t it be something if the Mariners defeated the Yankees?

Time for a little history lesson. In 2001, the Mariners had a historic regular season, winning 116 games. But they lost the ALCS to the Yankees in five games. In Game 5 at Yankee Stadium, with the Yankees blowing out Seattle 9-0 and eventually eliminating them 12-3, the Bronx crowd chanted “Over-rated” at the Mariners.

Classy, I know. But wouldn’t it be something if the tides were reversed a generation later, and the heavily-favored Yankees fell in Seattle, with the Pacific Northwest crowd serenading the Yankees with the “over-rated” chant?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Rays manager Kevin Cash refuses to take out a starting pitcher that is on his game?

Wouldn’t it be something if…Bryce Harper finally was part of a winning playoff series? Harper appeared been in four Division Series as a member of the Nationals, and lost all four. 

Wouldn’t it be something if…Francisco Lindor makes the World Series against his former Cleveland team and manager Terry Francona?

As the rock group Green Day sang, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”