More Costly Errors! Championship Series Edition
Hey again! All right look, we've been waiting all winter long, and now we're closer than ever. February is here. And as we all know, spring training begins in this month. I know you're all in pain, winter storms and all, but I guarantee you, we are clooooooooose! But we're not quite there yet, so in the meantime let's at least reminisce. We had a lot of fun last month looking back on some of the all-time greatest errors in World Series history, so I've decided this month to take it one step further. The two leagues in 1969 implemented divisions and what we call League Championship Series' (or LCS). Prior to that season, you finish at the top of your league and you went directly to the World Series. Once the divisions were set up (2 in each league at first, an East and a West), the two teams who conquered their divisions would meet in what was then a best-of-5 LCS. Winner would punch their ticket to the World Series itself. We've seen countless classic moments in LCS history, some of them though may want to be left unmentioned for players who bungle particular plays. So without further ado, why don't we take a look at some of the more costly errors in LCS history.
1. Leon Durham - 1984 NLCS, Game 5 - 1985 marked the final year that Championship Series' were of the best-of-five format. Poor Leon Durham and the Chicago Cubs wished this change happened just a little sooner. In 1984, the Cubs were awesome. They won 96 ballgames, clinched their first postseason berth since 1945, and had both the eventual National League MVP (Ryne Sandberg) and Cy Young winner (Rick Sutcliffe) in the fold. They took a commanding 2-0 lead in their Championship Series against the San Diego Padres, and everything was coming up Cubs. What could possibly go wrong? Dare I say...the Curse of the Billy Goat? Games 3-5 took place at the Padres' Jack Murphy Stadium. Game 3 was a blowout victory in San Diego's favor, while Game 4 was closer and filled with drama (including a big solo home run off the bat of Durham). However in the bottom of the 9th, with the score tied 5-5, Padres hero Steve Garvey clubbed a walk-off 2-run home run off Cubs closer Lee Smith to force a decisive Game 5. The Cubs were in the drivers seat for the bulk of the game, leading 3-0 (partly thanks to a Durham 2-run homer), and eventually 3-2 going to the bottom of the 7th. With one out and Carmelo Martinez on second, pinch hitter Tim Flannery hit a ground ball to Durham that went, in the words of announcer Don Drysdale, "right through his legs!!!" That tied the game up, and then three hits later the Padres found themselves staked to a 6-3 lead. That score probably felt more like 60-3 to the Cubs, whose fall from grace in this Championship Series was that of epic proportions. The Durham error is often referred to as the Gatorade Glove Play, since prior to taking his position in the bottom of that 7th, Gatorade was spilled all over Durham's mitt.
2. Alex Gonzalez - 2003 NLCS, Game 6 - Yes, look at that. Two Chicago Cubs plays to kick off our list. Hey listen, they've had a lot of heartbreak over the past 100+ years. With a curse to boot, there are gonna be notorious plays like this that sadly go down in lore. Commonly known as The Bartman Game, the Cubs held a 3-2 NLCS lead, and were 5 outs away from locking up the pennant with a 3-0 lead in Game 6's bottom of the 8th. However, the Steve Bartman incident ended up going down, which may or may not have cost the Cubs a crucial out. Things only snowballed further from there. When all was said and done, the Marlins ended up putting up an 8-spot on the scoreboard, winning Game 6, and sending the Wrigley faithful home in an astonished stupor. Lost in all of the Bartman hate was Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez (not to be confused with Marlins 2003 shortstop...Alex Gonzalez) who made a crippling error booting what could've been a potential double play ball while the Cubs were still ahead. Florida completed their magic act the following night, winning Game 7 after trailing by a 2-run deficit and advancing to the World Series where they'd best the Yankees, stunning the entire baseball universe in the process. Bartman to me is way too easy a target. The play where he was involved is the always the focal point when talking about this series and the Cubs' collapse. And I get it. It was something that can be filed under 'uncommon occurrences' and they tend to stand out due to the fact that they don't happen everyday and their presence is rare. But Gonzalez's error is practically unknown to people today who aren't baseball diehards. Its role really needs to be acknowledged.
3. Jose Lind - 1992 NLCS, Game 7 - Jose Lind could never really hit. His career OPS in the majors (a woeful .610) was nearly identical to his career OPS in the minors (.620). That said, he did spend parts of 9 seasons at the game's top level, so it's clear he wasn't kept around for his bat. His glove was his calling card. Strictly a second baseman, Lind played 8,901 regular season innings at second base, and made only 62 errors. He was never more at the top of his game than in 1992, when he took home his one and only Gold Glove Award. Unfortunately, his skills didn't translate over to the Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. With his Pittsburgh Pirates heading into the bottom of the 9th with a 2-0 lead, Lind allowed the tying run David Justice to reach base when he muffed what should have been a routine ground out. This was followed by a Sid Bream walk, and a Ron Gant sacrifice fly, cutting the score in half. A Damon Berryhill walk, and a Brian Hunter pop up for the second out would follow, and then pinch hitter Francisco Cabrera smacked one of the biggest hits in franchise history, singling into left field. Justice would score from third, and Bream wound up scoring as well from second. Now known as "Bream's mad dash", Bream scored the winning run as he slid safely into home just a hair ahead of Barry Bonds' throw. It's hard to place all of the blame on Lind's shoulders, you can't walk men in a critical situation like that (ask Matt Harvey and Tyler Clippard). But without Lind's error, Hunter's pop out may have been out #3 to send Pittsburgh to the Series. Instead they got one of their most heartbreaking moments in franchise history .
4. Jose Iglesias - 2013 ALCS, Game 6 - Sorry guys, I know it's all infield errors on here. But the stories behind every one is different and unique. And with that being said, there is an interesting caveat behind this final story. The 2013 ALCS pit the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers together. Earlier in the season, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta got hit with a 50 game suspension for performance enhancing drugs. In need of a replacement, Detroit ended up acquiring the eventual 2013 Rookie of the Year runner-up Jose Iglesias from Boston, as part of a 3-team trade that saw starting pitcher Jake Peavy go from the White Sox to the Red Sox. Little did anyone know that Iglesias would actually end up facing his former club come October with the American League pennant on the line. The series teetered back and forth, with Detroit having a 1-0 lead, to Boston securing a 2-1 advantage, to 2-2, to finally the Sox going into Game 6 at Fenway Park with a 3-2 edge and a shot to seal the deal. With the Tigers heading into the 7th inning stretch up 2-1 hoping to force a Game 7, it all came apart. Detroit starter Max Scherzer exited the inning with runners on first and second, and Drew Smyly came on in relief to face Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury tapped the second pitch to his former teammate Iglesias, who booted the potential double play ball to load the bases. Next batter Shane Victorino took Jose Veras deep for a grand slam to put Boston ahead to stay. Looking at the play again, it's tough to tell whether or not Iglesias would have been able to generate the double play against the fleet-footed Ellsbury. However if he had been able to turn two, history may have ended up being written differently. Errors. Part of the game unfortunately!
Once again, check out Filip Bondy's Who's On Worst for more baseball follies!