Bizarre Baseball Culture 2.0: Spider-Man, Uncle Ben, and the Mets

In Bizarre Baseball Culture 2.0, I take an updated look at some of the more unusual places that I previously covered where baseball has reared its head in pop culture and fiction. In the process, I clean up some mistakes of mine and add some more perspective.

Note: The original version of this post can be found here. It has some mistakes and out-of-date information that has been corrected in this post, but remains up for posterity.

As the latest Spider-Man film continues to break records, there is perhaps no better way to start up Bizarre Baseball Culture 2.0 than by renovating one of my old posts about the web-slinger. Now, ole’ Web-Head is no stranger to Bizarre Baseball Culture, having had shown up on several occasions (including fighting Doctor Doom alongside Billy the Marlin), but those were generally promotional comics that happened to feature Spider-Man. Peter Parker Spider-Man (Volume 2) #33, by contrast, is canon. It happened in the main Marvel Universe and presumably could be referenced by any writer working in those stories today. This issue from 2001 is about Peter Parker’s relation with his late Uncle Ben, and how baseball was a bond between them.

Now, before we begin, I’d like to write a bit about Spider-Man in general. What made the Marvel characters different when they first started appearing in the 1960s was that they were, in general, more relatable and flawed than the DC counterparts and the Marvel superheroes that had been created in the 30s and 40s. The Fantastic Four was often bickering with each other (like an family does), the X-Men were shunned by most of society (Stan Lee has said that being a mutant is basically meant to be a stand-in for being a minority), the Hulk was shunned by basically all of society… and Spider-Man, for lack of a better term, was a loser.

Okay, maybe not a loser, but definitely the closest thing there had been up to that point: an unpopular kid with no parents, only one family member of any sort (Aunt May) and little money. To make matters worse, when supervillains weren’t coming after him, the press and/or the police were. If things could go wrong for Peter Parker, they probably have. Parents? Dead. Uncle? Dead. Aunt? Perpetually sick. First true love (Gwen Stacy)? Murdered (and, amazingly, never came back to life). Second true love (Mary Jane)? Marriage magically annulled in a story far too stupid to talk about. At one point in the not-that-distant past poor Peter Parker evensaw his body body-snatched by Doctor Ocopus while he was forced to die in “Doc Ock’s” cancer-ridden body (don’t worry, he got better). But all of this pales in comparison to the greatest, most horrible fate to ever fall upon Spider-Man:

Being a fan of the New York Mets.


Continue reading

Random wackiness: Things Cespedes may have fallen off of

Yesterday, the world was shocked as it came out that Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets had broken his ankle in an accident on his ranch. While reportedly this had nothing to do with falling off a horse, and instead may have been something as mundanely odd as just stepping into or falling into a hole awkwardly, I have another theory: He fell off something, but it wasn’t a horse.

So, for the sake of absurdity, here is a list of things that Yoenis Cespedes may have fallen off of:

  • Cow
  • Llama
  • Ostrich
  • Emu
  • Donkey (a member of the horse family, but not technically a horse)
  • Zebra (a member of the horse family, but not technically a horse)
  • Rhino
  • An unusually large dog
  • Giraffe
  • Elephant
  • Water buffalo
  • Camel
  • Yak
  • Reindeer
  • Moose
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Bear (oh my!)
  • Galapagos tortoise
  • Velociraptor
  • Triceratops
  • Woolly mammoth
  • Large human who was carrying him on their shoulders so he could see from a higher vantage point

Thank you for your time.

Why the Rochester Red Wings Should Stay a Twins Affiliate

The Rochester Red Wings’ affiliation agreement with the Minnesota Twins ends this year. And while it’s entirely possible that it will be renewed, it’s also entirely possible it will not, as there is some discussion that, with the future of the Twins’ front office uncertain after the firing of Terry Ryan, now may be the time to again switch. This speculation is especially occurring because the New York Mets, one of the most popular MLB teams in the area, will also likely be available in the affiliation shuffle after this year, and the Mets are desperate to get a new affiliate closer to home, as opposed to distant Vegas.

However, I’m here to argue that the Red Wings should stick with the Twins, at least for another two years. Here’s why:

1. Don’t mess with success.

While it is true that the Red Wings have not had much postseason success during the Twins’ years, with only two appearances and no titles. However, this forgets that the Wings have been competitive for most of the Twins era and probably would have reached more postseasons if not for the tough IL North division and some bad luck. In 2014, for example, they were not eliminated until the final weekend of the year. 2015 saw something similar, and had the Red Wings finish with the same record as the previous two seasons, including the 2013 year where they made the playoffs. This season may see the Red Wings miss the playoffs despite currently having the third best record in the league.

It’s not the Twins fault that Rochester geographically lies in the International League’s toughest division, nor is it their fault that the IL doesn’t have a rule that kicks any team under .500 out of the playoffs, to be replaced by the Wild Card runner-up:



2. The Twins are a Better Farm System, from a winning perspective.

Here’s a look at the winning percentages of farm systems, as of August 3:

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 5.12.40 PMAs you can see, the Twins are a respectable 10th place. This is the entire organization, from AAA all the way down to the lowest of Rookie leagues. The Mets, meanwhile, are sub-.500 and are at 19th. And if you go level by level, the Twins have a better team in most of them: The AAA Twins (the Red Wings) have a better record than the AAA Mets (Las Vegas). The AA Twins (Chattanooga) have a better record than the AA Mets (Binghamton). The low-A Twins (Cedar Rapids) have a better record than the low-A Mets (Columbia). The rookie-ball Twins (Elizabethton) have a better record than the rookie-ball Mets (Kingsport). The Twins even have a better record in the Gulf Coast League! The only minor-league level where both organizations have teams and the Mets have a better record than the Twins affiliate is the High-A Florida league.

It’s been said that the two biggest determinants of minor league team attendance are also the two things the local GM (in the minors, the GM is more of a business position, not like the position in MLB) has the least control over: how the team is doing, and how the weather is. Except that isn’t really true, as the Minor League team CAN decide who it affiliates with. And when you look at the success on the field up and down the minors, the Twins clearly are the better choice when it comes to wins than the the Mets.

3. The Twins have better prospects overall than the Mets.

One of the neatest things about Minor League Baseball is that you can see the stars of tomorrow. And in this case, the Twins have a better case than the Mets. At the beginning of the year, listed the Twins as the fifth best farm system in baseball. While obviously this has likely changed as players like Max Kepler and Byron Buxton have headed to the big leagues, it should be noted that the Mets were nowhere to be found in the top ten this year, and another site (which ranked the Twins 8th) put the Mets all the way down at number 20.

4. The Mets probably wouldn’t cause the big attendance boost some people think.

My fellow Rochester seamheads will remember the Empire State Yankees. In 2012, as their stadium was being renovated, the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Yankees (now the Scranton RailRiders) played their home games on the road, mostly in Rochester. Before the season, some Yankee fans were declaring that the people of Rochester would love them and support them even more than they did the Wings, that it was a dream come true, etc. etc.

Well, here’s the secret: The Empire State Yankees were a bust. Look at this news report from back then:

Yes, the Baby Bronx Bombers were in town and, with the exception of a Andy Pettitte rehab assignment, they drew flies, despite the fact they had a very good team. And the Yankees are definitely far more popular in Rochester than the Mets.

Now, admittedly, the fact that they were the “Empire State Yankees” and not the “Rochester Red Wings, AAA Affiliate of the New York Yankees” probably had a lot to do with it. But when you consider that attendance wasn’t particularly skyrockety for the Buffalo Bisons when they had the Mets affiliation (although to be fair, the Mets system was even worse back then), I think it’s safe to say that in general the affiliation doesn’t drive attendance all that much- winning and weather does. And as I showed with number two and number three, the Twins are a better choice for that.

5. The Mets have horrible owners.

Red Wings fans still speak in hushed tones about Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Why, the only people who hate Peter Angelos more than Red Wings fans are Orioles’ fans! GET IN LINE, NATS FANS, THIS SPOT IS TAKEN! Peter Angelos’ interference with minor league operations, general incompetence, breaking of traditions, and favoritism (intentional or not) to other teams in the Orioles’ system (especially the AA Bowie Baysox) led to the end of one of the longest affiliations in baseball. Well, say what you will about Angelos, but to the best of my knowledge he never ended up drowning in debt after being caught up in a massive Ponzi scheme and as a result been unspeakably cheap for his team that was in the World Series last season and plays in New York City. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has Peter Angelos been sued for firing somebody because she had a baby out of wedlock and then resolved it before it reached trial. And while I’m sure he (like, sadly, seemingly every single MLB owner) would sign somebody who was suspended for domestic abuse, he hasn’t as far as I know. Yet.

But you know who has done all of this? The owners of the New York Mets! Now, full disclosure, I own a very small (essentially symbolic) portion of the Rochester Red Wings (I covered this before). Not enough to make a difference, but I do own some. But let’s say I did own enough. Would I want to do business with the Wilpons?

No. No I would not.

6. The Red Wings shouldn’t be like other Minor League teams

Many minor league teams change affiliation with relative regularity. The Red Wings don’t- they were Cardinals affiliates from the late 20s to 1960, and then spent the rest of the 20th century and the first two years of the 21st with the Orioles. That means that it should still be another decade or two left with the Twins. Perhaps I’m just being a romantic, ignoring the business nature of modern baseball. And, to be sure, if everything was bad and the Red Wings were doing horrible with no good hope in the lower minors, I’d agree that perhaps it’s time to move on. But the Wings have been one of the most successful minor league franchises in history by not changing course at the first sign of trouble, and I see no reason to start swapping every decade or so now.

So… I say: stick with the Twins and nix the Mets. The reasons to stay with Minnesota lay in the evidence, and the reasons to go to the Mets are nowhere near as high as they seem.

And, besides, if the Mets want to be in Rochester so damn bad, maybe they can call back in two-to-four years. By that point, maybe whoever has replaced Terry Ryan will have shown how he will treat the minor leagues. And maybe they won’t be owned by the Wilpons either.


“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): A treasury of Seattle Mariners commercials

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. Today, I waste time on YouTube watching old Mariners ads.

It is one of those generally known facts that the Mariners have some of the best commercials in baseball. I’m not sure where and when this piece of wisdom first came into being, but it exists. So, let’s go back and look at some past Mariners ads, shall we?

2003: Bret Boone Bat Flip

It is unusual to think in this world where some people spent most of the last few seasons complaining about bat-flips that as early as 2003 there was an ad based upon the fact that Bret Boone had a bat flip.

2003: Ichiro Shift

What’s scary is that this isn’t so much a commercial so much as it is a documentary. I wonder how they got all the Athletics stuff, though. I mean, they even have the mascot there. That’s not exactly something you buy from a prop store. Maybe the conversation went like this:

“Hey, we need like 25 uniforms and the elephant suit.”


“We’re making a commercial that implies that even if every member of your roster was on the field, we’d still be able to get a hit off of you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, that is absurd.”

“It’s Ichiro.”

“Okay, that makes sense. We’ll get them to you next Tuesday.”

2004: Ichiro Autograph

The fact we never got a sitcom about Ichiro living in a small anytown Seattle suburb is greatly disappointing. Also, the idea that Ichiro could throw a ball to Spokane from Seattle (a distance of about 230 miles) is only slightly less realistic than his previous commercial.

2005: Ichiro and Raul Ibanez sell the Batter’s Box in a Telethon



2006: Jamie Moyer Tribute

What’s great about this one is that Jamie Moyer played parts of five more seasons after 2006.

2006: The Missing Ks

I like the devotion to the gag here, but it’s a bit “meh” compared to some of the other ads.

2006: Epidemic

I feel like “Ichiro’ing” with lawn equipment would be dangerous. But, hey, who am I to argue?

2006: Big Richie

Wait, is that Nick Punto as a catcher at the end?  He never played catcher!

2008: Fullness and Sheen

Somewhere, Mr. Burns trembles.

2008: L-Screen

Worth it if only for the question of what happened to the original L-screen.

2010: Two First Names

A) I totally forgot somehow that Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez were on the same team. B) How did this conversation about two first names get started? I want to know.

2012: Impressions

Worth it if only for Ichiro quoting Indiana Jones.

2012: Nobody’s Perfect

I wonder if they had a giveaway of the ventriloquist doll?

2013: Wise ‘Ol Buffalo

Okay, that’s just weird.

2014: Chadwick

I applaud the Mariners for doing the history lesson.

2014: Crowned

It’s the Elvis that does it for me.

2015: Bat Control

This would be a better commercial if Robinson Cano didn’t have a (for him) down year in 2015.

2015: Where does it go?

I just saw an invisible arrow deflate the bouncy-castle of an Athletics’ fan. Man, why is it always the Athletics?


I can’t find any 2016 Mariners ads yet, but I’m sure they will continue to be… uhhm… unique. b

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2016): The Future of Cespedes in 2016 Mets Camp

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post (of varying amounts of seriousness) about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2016 season. Earlier installments can be found here. Today, I go over other ways that Yoenis Cespedes can arrive at Mets camp.

The big story this year in Mets’ camp hasn’t been the pitchers, or the fact they are coming in as defending National League champions. No, it’s been Yoenis Cespedes. He’s arrived in crazy cars and on a horse, when he hasn’t been buying pigs for $7,000 just to eat them.

So, I have used a crystal ball to stare into the future and see what the future holds for Yoenis Cespedes in Mets camp:

  • On March 4, Cespedes will arrive in a Aston Martin DB5, like James Bond drove.
  • On March 7, Cespedes and his entourage will go to an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet in Port St. Lucie. They will proceed to eat it out of business.
  • On March 9, Cespedes will fly an autogyro to Tampa, where he will play against the Yankees. He will hit a home run and unleash a massive bat-flip. Certain Yankee columnists will take this the wrong way. It will be glorious.
  • On March 12, Cespedes will arrive at Mets camp driving a go-kart.
  • On March 13, Cespedes will skip the game at the Marlins and instead take a helicopter to Disney World, where he will have a blast.
  • Aware that you should “Beware the Ides of March”, Cespedes will stay inside in his room all day and play video games.
  • From March 17 to 19, Cespedes will disappear to go undercover and takes part in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. He will be leading when the Mets find him and haul him back to camp.
  • On March 21, he will arrive at the Mets facility in a DeLorean with Christopher Lloyd, who he has paid to reprise his role of Dr. Emmett Brown.
  • On March 23, he will arrive on a hovercraft.
  • March 25 will see him arrive at the facility in a Harrier jump-jet.
  • March 30 will see Cespedes arrive riding an elephant.
  • On March 31 and April 1, Cespedes will accompany the Mets to Vegas to play the Cubs. He will proceed to break the bank at the Luxor, and then leave Vegas flying a UFO from Area 51.


What’s scary is… some of these might actually come true!


(Blogathon ’16) Marc Normandin: Bret Saberhagen’s case for the Hall of Nearly Great

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Back in the mid-1990s, baseball was a significant part of my life. I was under 10 years old, and it was the sport my parents enrolled me in as soon as I was able to hold a bat and glove, the one my father had played even after school. His father was a Red Sox fan, and so was my dad, and that—at the time, burden—was passed on to me as well.

I attended Red Sox games, and watched Red Sox games, but until 1999, I just wasn’t crazy about following one team every day. It was all so new, this game of organized baseball. Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, and Edgar Martinez were all exciting, and the Mariners were great. Jeff Bagwell and the Astros had a roster that was loaded with players I had been introduced to through baseball cards and video games, and it was easy to like them, especially with the Killer B’s in tow. This is an exercise that could go on for some time, but the key point here is that, as much as the Red Sox were my team, as much as anyone could be the team of someone who is yet to hit double-digits in their age, they were also one of many. It was the sport that drew me in, more so than any one club.

Part of that had to do with my age, but also the Sox. The 1995 club won the American League East, but did so with an ever-changing cast of characters. For a nine-year-old, keeping track of the roster that set the record for most players used in a season—and in a shortened 144-game schedule—is asking a bit much, especially when the yearbooks and video games that accompany the season don’t go into that kind of detail. It also didn’t help that Boston was dismissed, and quickly, by the Cleveland Indians in the first-ever American League Division Series.

The Red Sox wouldn’t make the postseason again until 1998, and, while I began to appreciate players who were sticking around in the interim—John Valentin, Tim Wakefield, Troy O’Leary, Tom Gordon—and those who were new to the club—Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe—something was missing. The excitement wasn’t quite there, like it was for the game as a whole, because the Red Sox weren’t quite there.

Then, things started to change. General manager Dan Duquette sent a few pitching prospects over the border to his former club in Montreal, and acquired Pedro Martinez. I had never seen Pedro pitch, but—and this might seem repetitive, but bear with 12-year-old me—I had seen his numbers in video games and used his likeness in them, I had cards of his in my collection, I had a hefty baseball encyclopedia with even more information on him, and I knew that this was a big deal. The Red Sox had recently lost Roger Clemens, the only ace they ever had in my life to that point, and I barely ever knew him. There isn’t a game of his I remember watching besides his second 20-strikeout performance against the Detroit Tigers in 1996—if there’s a game that was going to stick in your head from the time when you were 10, one of that magnitude is the way to go.

Pedro was more real to me, in a way, and now he was with the Red Sox. This was exciting! The most exciting thing since following Nomar’s promotion to the majors, and these things happened back-to-back. That’s how you get someone young to stay interested in just about anything: bombard them with reasons to pay attention.

Boston had also retained Bret Saberhagen, who they had signed while he recovered from shoulder surgery back in 1996. Saberhagen threw 26 uninspiring innings for the Red Sox in ’97, but he was a player I rooted for and was excited about, for many of the same reasons that Pedro intrigued me. Here was a pitcher who had done nothing but succeed in his career, and for a long time, and the Red Sox were hoping he could once again be useful after recovering from major surgery. That’s the way Boston’s front office operated, hoping to hit on enough lottery tickets to fill out the roster, but for a young kid who doesn’t know anything but optimism, there was something charming about the strategy. Especially when it brought players with impressive baseball cards to town.

The 1998 season was the first that was a big deal for me, from start to finish, because it was the follow-up to Nomar’s Rookie of the Year campaign, Pedro’s first season with the Sox, and Saberhagen’s chance to recapture some of his former glory. None of these three items disappointed, and when Boston took home the Wild Card, everything seemed right. That is, until the Indians once again bullied the Sox out of the first round.

This was good, though. It left me hungry as a fan for the first time, left me feeling like the Red Sox could have won, should have won, and that just made me want the 1999 season to happen. I cared that it was Mo Vaughn’s last year. I cared that Valentin just wasn’t the same after moving off of shortstop. I cared that Pedro didn’t win his second-consecutive Cy Young, and instead finished in second, in his first year in the AL. I cared about the Red Sox, and that’s what made 1999 the most incredible Red Sox season of my life to that point, the one I still to this day hold just as dear as the successful 2004, 2007, and 2013 campaigns that brought World Series to Boston.

Bret Saberhagen was, somewhat surprisingly, a huge part of that for me.


Saberhagen was a 19th-round selection of the Royals in the 1982 MLB draft. He was just 19 when he first suited up professionally in 1983, but he finished the year at Double A thanks to a dominating showing at Low A Fort Myers. That was the last time Saberhagen would pitch in the minors, until he was working his way back from surgery 13 years later.

The 1984 Royals moved Sabes between starting and relief, and the rookie logged 157 innings in the process. He didn’t miss bats, but he didn’t miss the strike zone, either, and this led to a 115 ERA+ as a 20-year-old major leaguer. Things would only improve for him from there.

In 1985, Saberhagen was the best pitcher on the World Series-winning Royals. He won 20 games, a number cited here only because he deserved them: his ERA was 2.87, 43 percent better than average, and thanks to a league-best 1.5 walks per nine, he also led the AL in K/BB at 4.2. He won the Cy Young, finished 10th in MVP balloting, and gave up just one run in 18 innings in the World Series., taking home Series MVP honors. No sophomore slump here.

Amazingly, this was not to be his best season with the Royals. That would come in 1989, when Saberhagen led the league in win percentage (.793), ERA (2.16), complete games (12), innings (262), ERA+ (180), WHIP (0.96), and K/BB (4.5). He won his second of two Cy Youngs, finished eighth in the MVP vote, and took home a Gold Glove as well. It’s not quite a World Series victory, but as a runner-up, you could do a lot worse than this.

All told, Saberhagen posted a 128 ERA+ with the Royals from 1984 through 1991, tossing 1,660 innings in that stretch. As a full-time starter (1985 onward), he averaged 215 innings per season, and 30 starts. That average is a bit misleading, too, as Saberhagen missed time due to injury that cut into that figure—likely due to the workload from the seasons in which he was healthy.

Saberhagen threw 235 innings as a 21-year-old in 1985, and that doesn’t count the additional 25 postseason frames. In 1986, the right-hander managed just 156, and, according to a 1987 Peter Gammons profile of the young hurler at Sports Illustrated, much of that was physical: “I hurt in so many places that I felt 37 and had no way to answer the people who thought it had all gone to—or through—my head.”

Whatever ailed him in ’86 vanished in ’87, when he threw 257 innings with a 136 ERA+. In 1988, it was more of the same, at least in terms of usage: 260 frames, 3.80 ERA, 106 ERA+. The 1980s just didn’t pay attention to workload and fatigue in the same way the 2000s do, though, and it didn’t help that Saberhagen handled another 260 innings just fine in 1989, his greatest season of 16.

The problems, they came after 1989. Not only was that the last time Saberhagen reached the 260 inning mark, but it was the last time he crossed the 200 inning line. From 1984 through 1989, a six-year stretch, Saberhagen threw 1,329 innings, but in the last 12 years of his career, he wouldn’t be able to exceed that figure.

This isn’t to say that Saberhagen vanished from relevance. He completed his eight-year stint with the Royals in 1991, after tossing two Saberhagen-esque years, albeit with a new career-low for innings in a season. He was dealt to the Mets after the 1991 campaign, along with Bill Pecota, in exchange for Gregg Jefferies, Kevin McReynolds, and Keith Miller. In three-and-a-half years with the Mets, Saberhagen amassed just 524 innings, but within those, he was the pitcher he had always been—in some ways, a better one. He walked just 1.3 hitters per nine, half-a-walk fewer than while with the Royals. He struck out 6.7 per nine, a figure that seems low now, but just 20 years ago was more than a full strikeout better than average per nine. The issue was the amount of time he was that good; it just wasn’t enough, when stacked up against the immense totals of his Royals’ days.

The Mets dealt Saberhagen to the playoff-hopeful Rockies in mid-1995, receiving Arnold Gooch and Juan Acevedo in return. Saberhagen, now 31, and no stranger to arm problems, was now faced with the task of pitching a mile above sea level, in an environment that hated not only his numbers, but his body. He posted his worst numbers to that point, in terms of walks and ERA, and gave the Rockies just 43 innings over nine starts, as well as one poor playoff start.

This, mercifully, was Saberhagen’s only stint with the Rockies. But with the conclusion of that contract also came shoulder surgery that caused him to miss all of 1996 and nearly all of 1997, and made him available to the Red Sox in the first place. The payoff wasn’t immediate, but when slotted into the rotation in 1998 alongside an even more recent addition in Pedro Martinez, Saberhagen did what he was known for: limited walks, missed (enough) bats, and finished with a 119 ERA+ and 175 innings pitched, his most since the strike-shortened 1994.


Now we’re caught up. Saberhagen and this story are back in 1999, in the season that might define Saberhagen’s career more than any other. You see, this is the year in which Saberhagen was both at his best, and also his most vulnerable. It’s the one that exemplifies best just who Bret Saberhagen was, and what his career was made up of. He threw only 119 innings, and visited the disabled list on three separation occasions due to fraying in his rotator cuff, but nearly every one of those frames was a gem. Saberhagen struck out 6.1 batters per nine—his highest rate since 1994, when he finished third for the Cy Young—posted a 171 ERA+ thanks to a 2.95 ERA in the middle of the greatest league-wide offensive performance in the history of the game, and walked a career-best 0.8 walks per nine. Over the course of 22 starts, the 35-year-old Bret Saberhagen, who was dealing with a rotator cuff that was fraying all year long, walked fewer than one batter per nine innings pitched. This was Saberhagen at his best, even if his body wanted no part of it.

That’s what makes his playoff performance that season memorable as well. He was lit up by the Indians in Game Two of the ALDS, a little less than a month after returning from his third DL stint of the year, and was pulled before finishing the third frame. The Red Sox would lose that game, as they had lost the first of the series, as it seemed they always did against the Tribe in the 90s.

Boston won the next two contests, though, forcing a Game 5 in Cleveland. The problem with that, as exhilarating as this all was (especially for a young, impressionable Red Sox fan who was nearing the tail-end of a thrilling ’99 season that included an All-Star game at Fenway Park, Pedro’s first real Pedro! season, and couldn’t wait to return fire to an Indians team that had just seemed impossible to beat over his short life), was that Pedro Martinez wasn’t ready to start Game 5.

Any time your ace can’t start a deciding playoff game, there’s bound to be panic. But, lest you’ve forgotten your lessons, Pedro’s 1999 was essentially a 213-inning instructional guide on how to have The Greatest Season Ever. He struck out 100 more batters than he threw innings. His ERA+ was 243, or, 143 percent better than average. If it was a pitching category that was a positive, Pedro probably was better at it than whoever your childhood favorite hurler was, and in no time in his career—except maybe 2000—was he more ridiculous than he was in 1999. Not having him available to start wasn’t panic-inducing—it was devastating, the one thing that could kill the buzz gained from outscoring the Indians 32-10 in the two victories prior.

Maybe it was stupid for Saberhagen to line up to start, days removed from his own disaster, and weeks removed from sitting on the DL. Maybe it’s just the kind of gutsy thing we should hate athletes for doing, for putting themselves at risk of further injury. But it’s hard for 13-year-old me to do anything but enjoy Saberhagen more for slotting in as the Game 5 starter. He was 35, had made his millions, and hadn’t won anything in the postseason since 1985. The shoulder he had repaired just a few years before was betraying him once more—maybe now was the time to push the issue, if any time were to suffice.

Saberhagen predictably lasted just one inning, giving up five runs (and two homers) to a lineup that had scored 1,009 runs in the regular season. Boston’s story didn’t end there, though, thanks to a cast of characters already mentioned in this essay: Troy O’Leary’s two homers and seven RBI, Nomar’s two intentional walks (that preceded those O’Leary bombs) and a dinger of his own, and six no-hit innings of relief from a Pedro Martinez that couldn’t find his old velocity, but still had his plus secondary offerings and necessary junk in tow. Because of the efforts of his teammates, Saberhagen’s one inning in this series, the first the Red Sox had won in my conscious lifetime, is one I remember vividly, and without the normal recoiling five-run firsts provide.

Saberhagen would show he still had something left for postseason play against the Yankees soon after, throwing six frames with five punch outs and just the one walk, but lost despite just one earned run. It would be his final start with the Red Sox until 2001, as he missed the entire 2000 campaign recovering from the injuries that he pitched through the year prior.

His brief attempt at a comeback in 2001 showed that he was done, that everything he had left had been spent in those last seven innings of the 1999 playoffs. Saberhagen said he felt 37 back when he was all of 22, but this time around, the 37-year-old likely felt even older than that, and he called it a career.

Like many hurlers from the 1980s, Saberhagen’s career is considered more for what it could have been than what it was. That misses the point of what he did accomplish, though. Here’s a pitcher with over 2,500 career innings, whose ERA+ figures with the three teams he spent the most time with are nearly identical (Royals, 128; Mets, 126; Red Sox, 124). The only thing that ever changed was how many innings he could throw, and while he didn’t maintain the pace he set with the Royals, few hurlers in history ever have thrived under that kind of consistent abuse.

Even with the issues, Saberhagen ranked seventh in baseball in ERA+, minimum 2,000 innings pitched, over the course of his entire career, behind only Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, and Curt Schilling. Just 48 pitchers even reached the 2,000 inning plateau over that 18-year stretch, and Saberhagen was right near the top of the list, in spite of all those shoulder problems.

Appreciating Saberhagen for what he could have been is fine and all, but when you get lost down that daydreamy rabbit hole, you lose sight of what he actually was. If it isn’t clear by now, Bret Saberhagen was one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, in a 20-year period marked by some of baseball’s finest hurlers ever. Who needs could have, should have, when you have that to cling to?

Marc Normandin is the editor of Red Sox site Over the Monster, as well SB Nation MLB. You can find him on Twitter at @Marc_Normandin, assuming you like wrestling as much as you do baseball.

This essay originally appeared in the ebook, “The Hall of Nearly Great”, in 2012, and will once again be featured in a revised edition later this spring.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Jeff Katz: Anniversaries and World Series

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

Karen and I met on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1985. By May, we were engaged. When Karen started looking for a place to get married near her hometown of Niskayuna, New York, I had one request.

“I just don’t want to get married during the World Series.”

It seemed a simple enough request to me. Sure, I wasn’t destined to play in the World Series, but I always watched it and it was very important to me. What I didn’t understand, the flaw in my plan, was that Karen had no idea when the World Series occurred. We were to be married the same day as Game 2 of what would turn out to be the Red Sox – Mets series.

“Wait,” she said with surprise. “Isn’t it ‘The Boys of September?’” What can you do?

The day before the wedding, my in-laws had a big spread, not a rehearsal dinner per se, but a nice gathering at their house. Everyone huddled around the TV to watch the opener, Bruce Hurst v. Ron Darling at Shea.

“Why are they all watching TV?” my mother-in-law wondered, in disbelief.

They were doing what was the only normal thing to do, watch the World Series. I left before the game was over, heading back to my hotel with my parents. My mother was ticked off at my in-laws because they didn’t have enough food. Why? My mother told them no one would come from New York City to upstate the night before the wedding. My mother-in-law ordered an appropriate amount of food and then, of course, a horde of New Yorkers came. A nice trap was set by my mother. What did I care? I just wanted to get back to watch the rest of the game, which Boston won 1-0 on a Tim Teufel error.

The next day, October 19, was beautiful and sunny, the last pretty day before fall gave way to winter. We had an outdoor wedding, well-attended, and well-remembered. As the afternoon went on, some guests had to leave. They had tickets to Game 2. I couldn’t blame them for the leaving early.

Karen and I didn’t leave the wedding together; we didn’t give it any thought. A worker at the hall said to Karen, “I’ve never seen the bride and groom leave separately.” It was no big deal and I had to get my stuff from the hotel. Our honeymoon wasn’t until December. We reconvened at her parents’ house and went to the Desmond Americana Hotel in Albany for the night.

At the hotel, in a nice two level room, we opened all our gifts on the first floor and ordered lots of appetizers from room service. Then, like all newlywed couples, we went upstairs to bed.

I watched Game 2, a Red Sox blow out.

Our anniversary has always revolved around the World Series, though now, with the extra layer of playoffs, the Series is usually the week later. We watch all the post-season games together, I tell Karen about the players, we snack, we drink and we have a blast. Not even the “Boys of September” have a better time.

Jeff Katz, author, Split Season 1981: Fernandomania, The Bronx Zoo and The Strike That Saved Baseball (Thomas Dunne Books) is also the Mayor of Cooperstown. You can find him at  and @splitseason1981.

This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

(Blogathon ’16) Mets Daddy: The Highs And Lows of 1986

This guest-post is part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer are not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

The Highs and Lows of 1986

How you view a particular year or period of time completely depends on your perspective. When you bring up 1986 in the New York Metropolitan area, the first thing that comes to mind is the ’86 Mets. As a diehard Mets fan, 1986 should’ve been the greatest year ever.

I became a Mets fan because my Dad saw to it. He did what all Dad’s do to make our sons love the sports teams we love. Basically, he used everything at his disposal. What gave him the most leverage was my love of strawberry ice cream. He used that information to tell me the Mets had this player named Darryl Strawberry who was going to play for the Mets. When Strawberry first got called up in 1983, he brought me to see him play. I was immediately hooked. Right now, I’m using the same tactics with my son to much success even if I have to find him a new favorite player.

Now, I was young when 1986 happened. When I think back to it, I really have one memory from that entire season:

The reason why I remember that moment was my family was hosting an engagement party for my aunt, who lived with us. Instead of this being the families getting to know each other type of party, it turned into everyone watching Game Six of the World Series. I still remember the way everyone celebrated when that “little roller up the first base line” went through Buckner’s legs. I just remember the sheer joy and elation. That moment as much as anything else may be the reason I’m such a huge Mets fan.

It was a moment I remembered when I was watching the 1999 NLCS with my Dad. We just watched John Olerud hit a game-winning single off the hated John Rocker for what we hoped would be the Mets climb to be the first ever team to to come back from an 0-3 deficit. I thought to take the opportunity to talk to my Dad about that 1986 season. I could’ve said a million different things. I could’ve asked about his memories of the season. I could’ve asked how the Mets coming back from an 0-3 deficit would compare to that Game Six rally. I didn’t. Instead, I said to my Dad, “Watching this just reminds you that 1986 was a great year!”

Without skipping a beat, my Dad replied, “Yeah, except for your grandfather dying.”

I was five at the time.  While I only had one memory from the entire 1986 season, I can tell you everything about walking into Nana and Grandpa’s house the day my beloved Grandfather died of throat cancer on a beautiful April day. It was a day in which everyone else was thinking about baseball and a soon to start Mets championship season. It was the beginning of a great year for Mets fans. However, for my family, 1986 was decidedly not a good year. We lost a loved one to cancer.

Now, 30 years later the Mets are primed and ready to win another World Series. Over the course of the 2016 season, there will be deaths to mourn, weddings to celebrate, and births that will forever change our lives for the better.

Throughout all of it, baseball is there. Baseball is there to help us to get through the tough times. It’s there to share with our children when they are born, and they become Mets fans of their own. It’s part of what makes baseball great. It’s always there for you. So yes, 1986 was a terrible year for my family. However, the ’86 Mets were a reminder that even it times of sorrow, there is still room for joy, for celebration.

Lets Go Mets!

Mets Daddy is the father of a now two-year-old. His blog,, discusses everything Mets with a special emphasis on raising his son as a Mets fan. He can be found on Twitter @metsdaddy2013.


This guest-post has been part of the 2016 Baseball Continuum Blogathon For Charity, benefiting the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation is the charitable arm of Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funds raised will be “put to immediate use to increase the pace from research trials into improved clinical care, to ensure state-of-the-art facilities, and to help improve the quality of life for patients and their families.” Please donate through the Blogathon’s GoFundMe page. Also, please note that the opinions and statements of the writer were not necessarily those of the Baseball Continuum or it’s webmaster.

My Completely-Without-Explanation 2015 World Series Pick

Mets over Royals (in six).



(The explanation I didn’t include: The Mets have better starting pitching, more power hitters, and Terry Collins is way less likely than Ned Yost to do something crazy like leaving a pitcher in too long.)

Nothing good can happen tonight in Mets-Dodgers

(The following is about 90% sarcastic. I hope.)

Given that Chase Utley is going to be eligible, here are a few possibilities of what could happen tonight:

Scenario One: Nothing.

Utley doesn’t play. There are boos and stuff during the pre-game and during the game, but no retaliation is done and it more-or-less is uneventful. However, this just means that the bad stuff will happen later. This is the least-bad scenario.

Scenario Two: The Mets Go Bad

The Mets are America’s darlings right now and most everyone is feeling for them after what happened. However, imagine if tonight Chase Utley doesn’t play, but the Mets go for their vengeance anyway. Perhaps they do a hard slide against a Dodgers middle-infielder, or decide that Adrian Gonzalez would make a nice substitute for Utley at the plate? Then, all the sudden the Mets look like just as big of bullies as the Dodgers, and while the home crowd will eat it up, almost everyone else will be disgusted.

Scenario Three: The Carousel of Boos

Utley plays, but doesn’t do much at the plate or in the field and the Mets don’t retaliate either. He just hears very loud boos all night long. One of the least-bad scenarios.

Scenario Four: Taken Vengeance

This scenario is simple: Harvey or another Mets pitcher pegs Chase Utley with a pitch. Maybe they get thrown out, maybe they don’t. Whatever happens, though, Utley just walks to first, knowing that he deserved that. The score more-or-less settled, the game goes on.

Scenario Five: Throwdown in Flushing

Like the above scenario, except Utley, possessed by some strange demon, charges the mound. Low-level fisticuffs are had, people’s mothers are insulted, there is pushing and shoving, and both Utley and the pitcher who hit him is sent to the showers, perhaps with other players as well. It’s a bad look for MLB and the two teams.

Scenario Six: Doomsday

You’d think the above would be the worst scenario. You would be wrong. Here’s the worst scenario:

Utley plays. In his first AB, he homers or does some other big play that scores runs for the the Dodgers. The fans are incensed, especially because they believe he should have been suspended. Things are thrown on the field, the game is delayed for a time, security is heightened.

And then things get worse. The Dodgers start to go nuts at the plate, running up the score. And then, during his second AB, Utley gets beaned. All hell breaks loose. The benches clear, the bullpens empty, actual punches are thrown. In the chaos, fans who have been drinking for most of the day (it’s Columbus Day and some will have been off, after all) begin to rush the field. NYPD and stadium security is hapless as anarchy descends upon CitiField. Bartolo Colon throws a trident. One player is caught on camera knocking out a drunk with one punch. Mr. Met’s head inexplicably ends up on eBay.

When the dust finally settles, the game is called and the Mets forfeit Game 3, leading to outright soccer-style rioting outside of the stadium that eventually leads to the Mets also forfeiting Game 4 and thus the series. The entire incident goes down in history as the ugliest fan moment in baseball history since at least Disco Demolition Night.


So, yeah, this could ugly.