Mr. Stats Notes: Reds kick off action (as nature intended)

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On Sunday morning at 11:35 am, the slate of baseball games starts in Cincinnati. It seems fitting, since a rite of spring when I grew up in the 1970s and 80s was that the first pitch of the season was thrown in Cincinnati.

The Reds in the early part of their history (and as one of the charter members of the N.L., that history goes back to 1876) always had their season start at home. In part, that was because Cincinnati was the southern-most city in the majors, and the weather was more likely to be conducive to playing. Other teams were very willing to give up the prestige of Opening Day for a home game later in the calendar.

Over time, Cincinnati became synonymous with Opening Day. Dignitaries, first-pitches, celebrations. On April 22, 1891, the first Opening Day parade was organized by Reds owner John T. Brush. The parade consisted of a marching band and two large horse-drawn wagons, called Tally-ho’s, which were occupied by the Reds and the opponent, the Cleveland Spiders.

Findlay Market made its first appearance at Opening Day in 1920. Opening Day became an unofficial holiday in Cincy. Once the Reds moved downtown to Riverfront Stadium in 1970, the parade headed down Race Street and turned on Fifth and went right through the heart of downtown Cincinnati. When Marge Schott purchased the Reds in 1984, she worked with the Cincinnati Zoo to include elephants in the parade that gave the event the feel of a circus.

There are 15 openers every season, and with money overriding tradition, Cincinnati no longer gets the first game of the season. It hasn’t since sometime in the 1980s.

But this Sunday on Peacock, they do kick off the slate of 15 games.

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

So much baseball history has taken place in Cincinnati. On May 24, 1935, the first night game in Major League history was played at Crosley Field. The Reds beat the Phillies, 2-1, before 20,422 fans. Now, there’s a morning game on a Memorial Day weekend 87 years later.

The Reds may not have a great team in 2022, but they have a great ballpark. Great American Ball Park bounds from Pete Rose Way to the Ohio River and from Joe Nuxhall Way to Heritage Bank Center. What a rich baseball tradition this franchise has! Nuxhall became the youngest player in the 20th century to appear in a Major League Game. On June 10, 1944, Nuxhall pitched at the age of 15 years, 10 months, and 11 days. He wouldn’t pitch again in the majors until 1952. And Pete Rose — a local kid from Western Hills, High School in Cincinnati — became baseball’s all-time hit king in 1985, at the age of 44.

The Reds honor their history, and that includes having another Cincinnati local, David Bell, as their manager. David is the son of former third baseman and current Reds front office executive Buddy Bell and the grandson of Reds Hall of Famer Gus Bell.

David Bell played 12 seasons in the major leagues (that’s nothing, his dad played 18 years and his grandfather — who passed away in 1995 — played 15 years). How rare is it for a family to have three generations of major league players? The Bells are one of Major League Baseball’s five three-generation families, along with the Boones, Colemans, Hairstons and Schofield/Werths.

David Bell played with Cleveland, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. He wasn’t a superstar, but as his former Phillies’ teammate Dan Plesac told me Tuesday, “he was as solid as they come.”

On Sunday, he’ll be managing against the Giants, the team that he is best remembered for as a player.  Twenty years ago, in the 2002 season, Bell was San Francisco’s starting third baseman and played 154 games, while putting up 20 HR, 73 RBI, 82 runs scored, and an OPS of .762. You know, as solid as they come.

And then, Bell had a terrific series in the NLCS, batting .412 (7-17 AB) 1 HR in the five-game series against St. Louis. And in the World Series, his RBI single off Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the eighth inning won Game 4 and tied the series up 2-2. The Giants would be a few outs from winning that World Series, but it was not to be. Following that run to the World Series in 2002, Bell received the prestigious Willie Mac Award as San Francisco’s Most Inspirational Player.

The Reds and Giants play Sunday morning, a matchup that has taken place 2,108 times since 1900 (and will increase with Friday and Saturday’s games). On a Memorial Day weekend, is there anything more American than a baseball game — a day game in Cincinnati — with two storied franchises?

RELATED: Pederson hits 3 HRs, drives in 8 as Giants stun Mets 13-12

Best Time of Year to be a Sports Fan?

My good friend Kevin Dillon insists that this is the best time of year for a sports fan.  I argued October, but I am more of a football fan than Kevin. He loves baseball, loves the NFL Draft, loves the NBA and NHL playoffs.

But the conversation got me down a rabbit hole.

If you’re a sports fan like I am, the best two words are “Game Seven.” Yup, even better than “Opening Day” or “Play Ball”. There’s nothing better.

So far this spring, the NBA has had two Game 7s. The Celtics beat the Bucks 109-81, and the Mavericks beat the Suns 123-90.

Ugh.

However in the NHL, both Game 7s went to overtime. New York defeated Pittsburgh; and Calgary defeated Dallas.

Is that par for the course? Are Game 7s in the NHL more likely to go to need overtime (or double-overtime periods) than NBA Game 7s? How often do MLB Game 7s require extra-innings?

NBA: 145 Game 7s in history. Only 7 have gone to overtime. Only one has gone into double-overtime (1957 NBA Finals Boston 125-123 in 2 O.T.).

MLB: 59 Game 7s in history. Only 6 have gone to extra-innings. The longest was 12 innings (1924 World Series, when the Senators beat the Giants 4-3).

NHL: 190 Game 7s in history. 45 have gone into overtime, with nine of them requiring 2 O.T., and several even longer (the 1987 Islanders-Capitals Game 7 needed 4 OT; the 1939 Semifinals between the Bruins and Rangers needed 3 OT).

So, lets look at the evidence. Almost 5% of the NBA Game 7s require an overtime period.  About 10% of the MLB Game 7s require extra-innings. And almost 24% of the NHL Game 7s have gone into overtime.

I decided to email and call the Game 7 expert, Mike Emrick. Doc has called a record 45 Game 7s in the NHL. And as a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan, he listened to part of the 1960 World Series Game 7 on radio (he listened during study hall, but when it was time for his last period Biology class, the professor wouldn’t allow it).

RELATED: Looking back at Doc’s final game, legacy in NHL

EK: All those Game 7s, all those memories, is there one that stands out?

Doc:  I think though the Caps Islanders Division Semifinal on Easter Eve/Easter Sunday in 1987 would be one since it went four overtime’s and is surrounding with some sidebar lore, too.  That year there was a Final Series that sent the best team I ever saw – the 87 Oilers – against the Flyers. And it went seven games. A fiery rookie goalie Ron Hextall and a coach named Mike Keenan, who actually cleverly got hold of the Stanley Cup and put it in the team’s dressing room before one of the crucial games to show his players what they could have their names on…against Glen Sather (GM/Coach) and the Hall of Famers – Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Fuhr, Lowe, Coffey. Bill Clement and I had the Game 7 (broadcast) on ESPN. And the Flyers scored first in Edmonton when Murray Craven scored from behind the goal line.  But…the Oilers just picked away, finally clinching it 3-1 in the third period on Glenn Anderson’s long goal on Hextall (who was the playoff MVP),

I believe my total of Game 7s was 45 but that one will stand out and it was the first Final Series Game 7 in the NHL since 1971 (so 16 years).

EK: Were you able to follow the end of the 1960 World Series Game 7, even with your teacher forbidding it?

Doc: Our classroom was right next to the study hall so we could occasionally hear reactions from next door. But I had no idea if it was from Yankee lovers or Yankee haters. Except for me, no one in rural Indiana was a Pirate fan. It wasn’t until the final school buzzer sounded at 3:21 pm that I learned my Pirates had won. Like my favorite announcer Bob Prince, I had no idea Bill Mazeroski had become a local hero…In 2016, when the Penguins had a chance to win Game 5 in Pittsburgh over San Jose and clinch the Stanley Cup, the first title IN TOWN, Mazeroski was in the house. But Pittsburgh lost that night and won the Cup in Game 6 out west.

EK: More pressure in a Game 7: a goalie, or starting pitcher?

Doc: (Former Pirates closer) Kent Tekulve would be a great one to ask. He would wear a Marc-Andre Fleury jersey to Penguin games. We often talked about it. He compared closers to goalies. I think starters have people behind them if it doesn’t go well. Goalies only have one more guy to back them up. Probably more pressure on goalies.

In kicking it around in a later phone conversation, I pointed out to Emrick that while starting pitchers lose their effectiveness the longer a game goes, goalies seemingly can go forever. He said, “Goalies are so well conditioned these days, and so well studied. Some of this is how genetically sound they are, and how sharp mentally. But generally, if a goalie is sharp through the first two periods, he’ll stay sharp. Exhaustion doesn’t really play into it too many times.”

Well, Doc would know.

And I know there are other “Winner-take-All” games in MLB and the other team sports; but they don’t carry the same cache as “Game 7”. In a long series, there are decisions and nuances that affect each piece of strategy in the ultimate game.

I remember how Cubs manager Joe Maddon needed so much from his closer Aroldis Chapman in the final three games of the 2016 World Series. Chapman expended 42 pitches to save Game 5. After a day off, Chapman had 20 pitches in a 9-3 blowout win to even the series. And in Game 7, Chapman blew a save opportunity in the 8th inning. Chapman had enough left to get three Cleveland hitters out in the ninth to send Game 7 into extra innings, but his 35 pitches prevented him from pitching the bottom of the 10th and saving Game 7. Little used Carl Edwards, Jr. and Mike Montgomery recorded the final three outs, albeit with some drama.

So as a sports fan, you can like any month best, and I’ll respect your opinion. I’ll just say this: baseball is good from the first sip of Opening Day — or the first pitch of a morning Sunday slate — to the last out of the World Series.  Especially when it’s extra-innings of a Game 7.

You know, when you can dream that the game will never end.

How to Watch Giants vs Reds on Peacock

Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds host Brandon Crawford and the San Francisco Giants from Great American Ballpark on MLB Sunday Leadoff live this Sunday, May 29 at 11:30 a.m. ET on Peacock. This week’s MLB Sunday Leadoff coverage begins with the pregame show at 11 a.m. ET on Peacock. NBC Sports’ Ahmed Fareed is the pre- and postgame host of MLB Sunday Leadoff and also serves as the in-game reporter.

How to Watch:

Date Show Time (ET) Platform
Sun., May 29 MLB Sunday Leadoff Pregame 11 a.m. Peacock
Sun., May 29 Giants vs. Reds 11:30 a.m. Peacock

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…

RELATED: Does Pujols deserve more respect?

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.”