World Series 2011: Ranking the 15 Most Overrated Series Performances Ever
Next time you watch an old clip of Carlton Fisk hitting his dramatic Game 6 home run in the 1975 World Series, try to set aside the emotion and the connotations it all brings, and meditate on this: The Boston Red Sox lost the next day, giving the Cincinnati Reds the Series title.
That takes nothing away from Fisk. He made that moment magical, and at the instant it happened, New England turned inside out. Still, in the big picture, the homer was (if only slightly) overrated in its impact on that Series.
So it goes for many World Series moments. The emotion and heightened sense of occasion that come with the postseason lend themselves to hyperbole, and often, fans and broadcasters—not to mention advertisers—find themselves wrapped up in the hype of certain plays, rather than their substance. Here are 15 such moments in World Series history.
15. Livan Hernandez's 1997 Series
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In 1997, Livan Hernandez was young and gregarious, and everyone wanted to see him succeed. Entering the playoffs, Hernandez was not even a part of the Florida Marlins' starting rotation plans. He finally got a start in the NLCS, though, and responded by hurling a complete-game gem against the favored Atlanta Braves.
In total, Hernandez had 14.2 playoff innings under his belt entering the World Series, during which time he had allowed just two earned runs, had struck out 19 and had walked only two. Naturally, everyone labeled Hernandez a new co-ace, and he became the big story of the series. When his mother got special dispensation from the Cuban government to come watch Game 7 in Miami, Hernandez became an even more poignant figure.
Here's the problem: For all the glory in which the media covered Hernandez in that Series, the man himself actually pitched poorly. He won both his starts, but each win was ugly, and in total, Hernandez gave up eight earned runs and walked three more batters than he fanned in 13.2 innings of work. He won the World Series MVP award, and that's ridiculous.
14. Dwight Evans' Big Catch, 1975
Only a handful of catches in Series history—hell, in baseball history—are as famous as Evans' racing, leaping, stabbing catch to preserve a 6-6 tie in the top of the 11th inning, Game 6, 1975 World Series. Evans did make a heck of a play, too.
It seems silly, though, to remember this alongside catches like those made by Willie Mays and Joe Rudi and Al Gionfriddo in the defensive litany of October lore. Those plays were made purely by skill; this one looked and, as Evans describes in the video, felt like an accident of sorts. Evans got turned around by the ball's odd trajectory, or else the final catch might not have even had the same perceived degree of difficulty.
13. Don Larsen's Perfect Game
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It's nothing personal, Mr. Larsen.
Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers gets just about unanimous validation as one of the game's all-time great postseason triumphs. To some extent, they're right. Not allowing a base runner in a complete game is a very impressive achievement.
However, it's also inevitably and heavily influenced by luck. How many good bounces, good jumps by defenders or good calls does a pitcher need to complete such a feat? Unless your name is Steve Nebraska, a perfect game is a team accomplishment as much as it is a personal one. Larsen was a middling pitcher who had an amazing day, and is still famous for it 55 years later.
12. John Wetteland Wins 1996 Series MVP
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As relievers' October performances go, Wetteland's actually was remarkably strong. He pitched a sturdy 4.1 innings in the Series against the Atlanta Braves, allowing only a single run on four hits and a walk and striking out six. He saved all four Yankee wins.
That said, he was not dominant. Wetteland gave up five base runners in five appearances. To have been worthy of the praise he received, he would have needed to put up cleaner and more convincing outings. Jim Leyritz deserved that award more than Wetteland.
11. Bob Brenly Manages the Diamondbacks to a Title, 2001
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Brenly did everything wrong in the 2001 World Series. His constant mismanagement of offensive strategy (bunting on a regular basis in front of Luis Gonzalez, etc.), bullpen resources (the Byung-Hyun Kim Incident) and even his ace hurlers nearly derailed the Diamondbacks' sparkling season.
For instance, in Game 6, Arizona leaped out to a 15-0 lead after four innings. With Randy Johnson on the mound and a Game 7 about which to think, Brenly should have had a reliever up and gotten Johnson out of there so as to save him for a Game 7.
Instead, Johnson went seven strong innings. Lo and behold, Brenly did need to turn to Johnson in the eighth inning of Game 7, and Johnson came through for his skipper. It was Brenly's good fortune to have a pair of tamper-proof assets in Johnson and Curt Schilling, but because he made himself so involved in the Series, he gets credit to this day as a brilliant postseason manager.
10. Enos Slaughter's Mad Dash, 1946
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The play itself is truly thrilling. Slaughter scored from first base on a double that, anecdotal evidence suggests, was more like a single halfway up the gap. The run did end up winning Game 7 of the World Series, too, so it's not as though the moment wanted for drama or impact.
The dash is overrated in just this way: Mythology has clouded and exaggerated the play in the collective baseball memory. Slaughter was running on the pitch that Harry Walker stung into center field, but few remember it as such. Moreover, Slaughter probably ought to have been out at the plate.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals' opponents, the Boston Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky hesitated before losing what ended up being an inaccurate relay throw to the plate. Slaughter ran through a stop sign from his third-base coach.
Most important is this: While the run did turn out to be the game- and Series-winning tally, it came in the eighth inning. Boston still had another chance to tie the game, a fact too often overlooked in reminiscences.
9. Derek Jeter Becomes Mr. November
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In the modern age of constant and extensive media coverage, ESPN and the New York Post sometimes build narratives that become the accepted historical record. So it was in this case.
Jeter hit a huge walk-off home run in Game 4 of the 2001 Series. Good for him. From 1999-2003, though, five other walk-off hits ended World Series games. Maybe you can name Luis Gonzalez and Alfonso Soriano, who also ended games in the same Series. Can you name the other three big hits?
Likely not. They were cracked by Chad Curtis, Jose Vizcaino and Alex Gonzalez, respectively. Since none of those hits came just after midnight on Halloween, though, none of those players got a shiny new nickname to go with their accomplishment.
8. David Eckstein Wins Series MVP in 2006
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David Eckstein is small, which is neat. Everyone loves small baseball players who come up big.
Here's the issue: Eckstein just wasn't ever all that good a ballplayer. He wasn't bad, but he was grossly overrated, and in that 2006 Series, both Scott Rolen and Yadier Molina far outperformed Eckstein for the victorious Cardinals.
7. Edgar Renteria in 2010
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Renteria hit really well in the 2010 World Series and deserved the MVP award for that Series. What he probably did not deserve, though, was the level of praise he got as a well-established playoff hero or some sort of superstar.
He has been consistently mediocre for most of his 15-year career, and no matter what follow-up stories might have told you, the man is not under-appreciated or underrated. He has been lucky enough to strike winning blows in two World Series. Twice is coincidence.
6. Reggie Jackson Becomes Mr. October
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Jackson's three-homer game in the 1978 World Series against the LA Dodgers is one of the most amazing performances in postseason history. That does not mean it cannot be overrated.
Jackson was a Yankee when he achieved the feat, which helps explain the notoriety he got from it. He also did it in an especially impressive way. Still, Jackson's feat was ultimately personal, and great World Series performances should be evaluated based on team achievement and winning games in short series.
5. Jack Morris Goes 10
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Morris pitched masterfully to help the Minnesota Twins win Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, going all 10 innings and shutting out the Atlanta Braves. In that respect, he deserved the Series MVP award he won.
Still, too much has been made ever since of that one extra inning pitched, and Morris is treated as some kind of gladiator. He was not. He just had a good night, and at the end of it, he had amassed just 126 pitches.
4. Al Gionfriddo's Big Catch
It isn't that Al Gionfriddo's moment in the spotlight was ill-deserved. It was a huge catch, made on the run off the bat of a great player in Joe DiMaggio, and it helped secure a Game 6 win for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
It was not, though, a lunging catch reaching over the fence in left-center field. It was not a home run Gionfriddo stole from DiMaggio. Between that misconception and the famous shot of DiMaggio kicking dirt after the play, narrative began to wash out the facts of the play.
3. Babe Ruth's Called Shot
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Again, individual performances can impress, but should not be confused with the primary focus of postseason play, which is team success. Ruth calling his shot is remarkable, spectacular, legendary. It just isn't as important as everyone wants it to be.
2. Kirk Gibson Shocks Jack Buck
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No complaints about value to team here. Gibson came off the bench, hit a walk-off home run and became an eternal symbol of toughness and performance under imperfect circumstances. Fair enough.
It ought to be noted, though, that Gibson was not stricken by polio or some similarly debilitating ailment. He had two bad legs, but the injuries were not necessarily anything with which others might not also have played. Playoffs are about moments and triumph, and Gibson's image will always be indelible. It just might be a bit more so than it ought to be.
1. Carlton Fisk's Homer
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I pretty well explained this one in the introductory slide. One other note: Fisk's homer, while crucial, was not as important as ones like Joe Carter's, Gibson's or Bill Mazeroski's in that those homers either won the Series, came when the player's team was trailing in the game or both. Fisk's came in a tie game and merely extended the Series. Call him Alfonso Soriano.