And That Happened: World Series

Yankees 7, Phillies 4: On the one hand, the double steal by Damon in the 9th doesn’t really matter, right? He’d be on second base before the A-Rod hit and still would have scored, even if someone had thought to cover third. On the other hand, Brad Lidge was on the mound, and that guy is something less than grace under pressure. You know he was worked up about that play when he hit Teixeira, and you have to figure he was still thinking about it when he threw the pitch to A-Rod.

But that’s boring post-hoc analysis. As it happened, all I could think was “WOW!” I have no horse in this race, but I stood up and shouted at my TV when Damon took off from second, just as amazed at what was happening as I was amazed at how quickly Damon reacted, realizing that there was no one at third and that he had the edge in the footrace. My next thought was “man, they’ve been playing baseball for more than 150 years, so you’d think everything that has happened could happen, and then something like THIS happens.” I’m guessing some guy will dig deep somewhere today and find an account of this happening before, but the fact that he’ll have to dig is testament enough to that play.

But maybe it hasn’t happened. Think about the perfect storm of weirdness that has to occur for that play to happen: (1) the overshift has to be on with the third baseman covering the play, just, like they had on for Teixeira; (2) someone has to be stealing with an overshift on, which by definition means that someone is attempting a steal when a fierce pull hitting lefty is at the plate, which is usually a low-percentage play; and (3) a defensive brain fart, to the extent the pitcher not covering third on a stolen base — something which doesn’t come up too often — can be considered a brain fart. If I had to guess, I’d say that someone got a double steal awarded to them on a bad scorer’s call at some point, when an error really should have been recorded. My guess is that it happening like Damon did it has never happened before.

Anyway, it’s 3-1 now, with Cliff Lee on tap. My Yankees in 6 pick looks reasonably safe right now. Unless things like momentum and statements and dramatic turning points and all of that mean anything, in which case New York takes it tonight.

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  1. TLA said...

    That was a great “heads-up” play and I agree Craig—its a cool play because its seemingly rare. 

    However, I think the media’s hyperbole machine is on the fritz.  One of the ESPN talking heads suggested that it was one of the best postseason moments in Yankee history.  I’m a Yankee fan and went nuts in the moment, but I was still able to put this is perspective in about 10 seconds.  In no particular order:

    1932, Game 3, WS – Ruth’s Called Shot.

    1956, Game 5, WS – Larsen’s Perfect Game

    2001, Game 4, WS – In the 10th inning, after the clock struck midnight and the calendar flipped, Derek Jeter became “Mr. November” by hitting a walk-off homer.  Context made this huge.  Sept. 11th.  Down 2-1 in the Series.  Previously down 3-1 in the game.  Rallied from behind the night before.

    1977, Game 6, WS – Mr. October.

    1998, Game 1, WS—Bottom 7, score tied.  Tino Martinez Grand Slam.  The guy couldn’t buy a hit through the first two rounds or the previous two years for that matter.  Pretty much set the tone for that WS.

    Anyway, point being, if I can name five better Yankee WS moments in 10 seconds, I have a hard time believing that it was one of the best POSTSEASON moments in Yankee history.

  2. TLA said...

    Oh yea, and Wade Boggs riding around on a horse was spectacular.  First, there’s a World Series victory.  Second, its an indelible image of a guy you think of as a Red Sox in pinstripes on a horse celebrating a World Series.  Is Wade Boggs dead to Red Sox fans from this point forward?  Finally, a ballplayer on a horse rates very highly on the dooshiness meter.  Sorry, I digress, I’ve completely highjacked the comments and probably risked turning the comments into NBC comments . . . it was a postseason moment though.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Agreed, TLA:  awesome play because of what it was: weird, cool, and all of that. All of the plays you cite—and multiple other WS moments—were “greater.” 

    Hopefully this one can just be appreciated for what it is, rather than have it be pitted against truly “great” moments. Because to do so (a) diminishes those great moments by forcing them to endure the comparison; and (b) perversely diminishes Damon’s play, because it makes it suffer by comparison.

  4. YankeesfanLen said...

    I kinda know the mechanics of deterrmining who “wins” a game.  And I think they lead to patently stupid results. Joba WINS because he pitched so well that the tying run was hit? Guess I’ll use another stat like WAR, WHIP, ERA, SPQR or something like that.

  5. MJ said...

    On the one hand, the double steal by Damon in the 9th doesn’t really matter, right? He’d be on second base before the A-Rod hit and still would have scored, even if someone had thought to cover third.

    A lot is being made of Damon being on 3rd made Lidge hesitant to throw the slider in the dirt in case it got away from Ruiz.  Might explain the fastball Tex got hit with, the two fastballs to Arod, and 4/5 pitches to Posada.

    As for greatest moments?  Joe Carter’s walk-off series clinching HR?  Jack Morris in G7 in ‘01 (Sorry Craig)?

    But then again, hyperbole is the greatest thing ever!

  6. Jonathan Fellows said...

    Willie Mays on September 30, 1971—a game the Giants had to win to avoid a playoff—stole 2nd and 3rd on the same pitch.  Willie McCovey was up and the Padres were playing the shift.  The 3rd baseman covered second on the steal and Mays got up and took off for third after beating the throw to second.

  7. MooseinOhio said...

    Maybe sometime in the off-season we can have a deeper discussion on the merits of the overshift as I am curious if it truly make a statistical difference.  I am sure it gets some outs it would not have but how many weak left side hits get through as a result, let alone the freakish double steals that happened last night? 

    What would have happened had the Phillies just shifted for Teixiera to pull but not overshifted, would Damon had never attempted to steal at all allowing Lidge to pitched his slider with confidence?  How often is the overshift a result of overthinking the situation and potentially putting the team in unusual situation where players do not respond habitually to situations? For example, who covers the steal, what side of the bag do I stand on to assure the runner does not get into a footrace to third, should the pitcher or catcher cover third? 

    Did Charlie Manuel actually overthink the situation and put his team in a worse situation than if he had just let the team position itself in a more traditional alignment?  Can someone invite LaRussa to the discussion as I am sure he is the expertise on all things baseball will clear this up immediately?

  8. Jacob said...

    @Moose, I know Bill James has said on a number of occasions that the shift doesn’t work but that he’s glad teams do it against Ortiz, you know, since it doesn’t work.  Of course, he hasn’t explained his reasons.  I guess those would be the intellectual property of the Red Sox.

  9. dan said...

    Jeter did the exact play one time. I remember it, but it wasn’t in the post season and I’m not sure who it was against.

  10. Detroit Michael said...

    The Fielding Bible II has some nice graphs on defensive shifts in it.  They (Baseball Info Solutions) seem to advocate it against various batters.

  11. Simon DelMonte said...

    Even if you hate the Yankees, if you are a fan of the game, you have to be smiling and shaking your head and wondering how that happened and wishing that your team could do something like that. 

    And if you’re the Yankees, and at any time in the past four years found yourselves wondering if Johnny Damon was really worth all that money, you aren’t wondering that anymore.  Now you’re wondering how much it will cost to bring him back.

    I think the Phils should win tonight because a rested Lee will possibly provide just enough oomph to at least make sure that the Yankees don’t win it on the road.  But how often have we seen 3-1 leads become 4-1 clinches?  Either way, even with the Phils’ never say day attitude, I think this one is over.

  12. Chris in Dallas said...

    Addendum to DevilsAdvocate’s point above:  Phillips pulled off the feat when the shift was on for Adam Dunn.

  13. TGinthe'Ville said...

    If my memory is correct, Brandon Phillips stole 2nd and 3rd base (on one pitch) twice in 2008 when the opposing team had the Dunn/Griffey shift in place.  On one of them he didn’t slide at 2nd, he hit the 2nd base bag at full speed and just kept running.  However, doing it in a World Series game is much more impressive.

  14. Beanster said...

    Obviously a tough series so far for the Phillies, but I think it’s commendable they’ve made it this far given their top two SP’s had not thrown a pitch for the team before August.  Even with an offense like that, I’m guessing not many teams have made it to the Series without a half-decent closer or legit #1 or #2 starter that late in the season.

  15. MJ said...

    Jeter did the exact play one time. I remember it, but it wasn’t in the post season and I’m not sure who it was against.

    It was opening day in ‘03 against Toronto.  [Over]shift for Giambi, Jeter took 2nd and headed for 3rd, where he was met by the catcher who slid into Jeter with both knees to block 3rd, separating Jeter’s shoulder :(

  16. Mike Treder said...

    @ Jonathan Fellows: Nice recall! I remember watching that game and being totally amazed at Willie’s baseball instincts. I’m also pretty sure it wasn’t the only time Mays pulled off that play. But never, of course, in the World Series.

  17. hermitfool said...

    James has provided the statistical evidence for not using the defensive over shift against extreme pull hitters so many times he’s bored with subject.  Can’t say as I blame him.

  18. Ernest said...


    I think James reason behind it is that it will only take away singles from Ortiz, but if he gets a hold of one, the shift wont do them any good because it will be over everyones head.

  19. Jack Marshall said...

    Damon, who I have been told by reliable sources is otherwise dumb as a box of hammers, made an astounding, brainy play—-you can only applaud. It is clear that baseball smarts and real world smarts are completely different things, and Johnny doesn’t need the former. He’s just a wonderful, entertaining player.(PS: the most amazing on-field quick-thinking I have witnessed in person was Bill Buckner intentionally taking a strike three swing at a pitch he instantly judged would be a wild one, and getting to first safely.)

  20. Kevin S. said...

    You needed reliable sources to tell you that?  I figured it out by listening to him speak a couple times. raspberry

    I’ve always wondered if his collision played a role in that.  IIRC, it was worse than your normal concussion.  I have no idea what he was like in his Kansas City days though, so I can’t really compare.

  21. Kevin S. said...

    I’m liking the Yanks in six or seven.  Cliff Lee, fully rested at home, against AJ Burnett on short rest, something that probably increases the chances of Bad AJ showing up, and a bottom third of the lineup that goes Hairston-Molina-Burnett (probably).  Sure, the Yanks have a shot, because they’re the Yanks and they always have a shot, but I’m thinking it’s not much more than a two-in-five shot on this one.  I like their chances better of getting through to either Pedro or Hamels at home with their full offense at their disposal.

    I’ve been up for too long.  There’s way too many commas in that paragraph, but I’m far too tired to figure out which should go.

  22. DevilsAdvocate said...

    That “two-steals-for-the-price-of-one” play has happened before – Brandon Phillips has done it successfully at least twice and failed at least once in the past three years, with the Reds.  Don’t have the details off the top of my head, but I know the first was in a game in Washington because my brother was there; looks like maybe August 1, 2007?  Was the most amazing thing ever when I saw it…I was every bit as hyperbolic as your paragraph above.

  23. Adam said...

    We were screaming “no, no, no”, assuming it was a Damon brain cramp.  He is, of course, a baseball savant.  I’ve never seen another player quite like him.  It may have been done before, but never in the 9th inning of a tied World Series game, that’s for sure.

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