OCTOBER 27, 2003
How To Win (And Lose) A World Series
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com
In the six games of the 2003 World Series, the New York Yankees batters had the following numbers versus the Florida Marlins:
Batting Average: .261 - On Base Average: .338 - and Slugging Percentage: .406.
Conversely, the Marlins batters had the following numbers versus the Yankees:
Batting Average: .232 - On Base Average: .282 - and Slugging Percentage: .300.
So, if the Yankees collectively "out hit" the Marlins and "out pitched" them as well, just how did the Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series?
Simple – in a short post-season series, it takes more than solely "out walking, out slugging, and out pitching" your opponent to win. In order to win in the post-season, a team needs to deliver in clutch situations (meaning with two outs) both at the bat and in the field, ensure their offensive outs are productive (as opposed to being empty and useless), and make smart decisions when opportunities arise. If you do not want to believe it here, ask the Oakland A’s about why they were bounced from the post-season the last four years in a row.
Game 4 of the 2003 World Series is a perfect example of the importance of clutch performance, productive outs, and smart decisions. In Game 4, all scoring occurred in four half innings:
Aside from the above, there were no other innings with significant offensive action:
The Yankees had no hits and no runs in their 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings. They had only one hit and no runs in their 1st, 5th, 10th, 11th and 12th innings.
The Marlins had no hits and no runs in their 2nd, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th innings. They had only one hit and no runs in their 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 8th innings.
There were six keys (in total) to Game 4 of the 2003 World Series: the bottom of the 1st inning, the top of the 2nd inning, the top of the 3rd inning, the top of the 9th inning, the top of the 11th inning, and the bottom of the 12 inning.
In the bottom of the 1st, the vital sequence was the Yankees Roger Clemens allowing a single, homerun, and then three more singles after retiring Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo to start the inning. With two outs, Clemens has to stop the bleeding at some point. Allowing the three singles after the homerun, which resulted in the Marlins third run of the game, was perhaps the most damaging of Clemens’ failure in that inning. In this inning, the Marlins delivered in the clutch at the bat and the Yankees did not deliver in the clutch in the field (and mound).
In the top of the 2nd inning, Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui and Jorge Posada each singled for the Yankees to load the bases with no outs. The next three hitters to follow were Karim Garcia, Aaron Boone and Roger Clemens. Karim Garcia struck out swinging. Boone later had a sacrifice fly and Clemens grounded out to end the inning. Clearly, the critical malfunction for the Yankees here was Karim Garcia’s lack of production via his out in the inning. With the pitcher due up third, in this spot, it is essential for Garcia to make contact to try and drive in a run, even if it comes via an out.
In the top of the 3rd inning, the Yankees Alfonso Soriano flied out. Derek Jeter followed with a ground out. Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams followed Soriano and Jeter with two out singles; but, were left stranded when Matsui flied out to end the inning. In the top of the 9th inning, after New York's Sierra’s heroics, Aaron Boone ended the inning by grounding out to shortstop and not picking up the potential winning run (Sierra) at third. In both these innings, the Yankees did not deliver in the clutch at the bat and the Marlins did deliver in the clutch in the field (and mound).
In the top of the 11th inning, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out (when the score was still tied at three). Aaron Boone was at the plate with seldom used back-up catcher John Flaherty on deck. In a spot similar to the one Karim Garcia had in the 2nd, where contact was a must, Boone struck out swinging. Flaherty later popped up to end the inning and the Yankees did not score. Once again, this was an unproductive out for the Yankees in a significant moment.
In the bottom of the 12th
inning, Jeff Weaver began his second inning of work in the game (having
retired the Marlins in order in the 11th inning). Alex Gonzalez was
the first batter to face Weaver in the 12th inning and he ended the game
with a homerun.
This was Weaver’s first game action in four weeks. Due to his horrendous efforts in the regular season, Weaver was deeply buried in the Yankees bullpen for the post-season. The fact that Yankees manager Joe Torre had Weaver in the game at that spot – game tied and sudden death – was inexcusable. Remaining in the Yankees pen, unused, rested, and able to pitch, were mid-season pick ups Gabe White and Felix Heredia, free agent acquisition Chris Hammond, and relief ace Mariano Rivera. Each of these experienced relief pitchers, based on their regular season results, were better options for this game than Jeff Weaver (who was not trained as a relief pitcher).
Whereas the homerun and the loss were charged to Weaver, they should have been charged to Joe Torre for allowing Weaver to be in the game when he had several other options. With little question, Yankees manager Joe Torre did not make a smart decision (when the opportunity presented itself) in using Weaver.
While Game 4 is the example used here to stress the importance delivering in the clutch, making productive outs and being smart in order to win in the post-season, just about any game in the 2003 World Series could be used to prove these points. Examine:
In Game 1 of the series, early in the game, the Yankees Alfonso Soriano failed to move Karim Garcia to third with no outs in one situation – in a game that was ultimately decided by one run in the Marlins favor.
In Game 5 of the series, in both the 2nd and 4th innings, the Marlins scored a combined four runs, all with two outs. The Marlins would go on to win this game by the score of six to four.
In Game 6 of the series, the Marlins rallied for a run in the 5th inning after two outs. In the 7th inning, the Yankees Jorge Posada led off the inning with a double. However, Jason Giambi failed to move him over, grounding out to third. And, the next two Yankee batters struck out. The final score of Game 6 was two runs to none, with the Marlins winning.
Back to Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, perhaps there was even greater consequence to the fact that the Yankees failed to do what it takes to win in this particular game?
On the YES Network post-game coverage following Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, YES analyst Paul O’Neill made the following points about the series:
“There’s one game throughout the series that seems to just change everything. And, [here] it was Game 4.
They [the Yankees] just came out. They beat Beckett. They’re in Miami. All of a sudden, I saw them [the Yankees] come out for stretching [before Game 4] like they were going to walk all over the Marlins.
The Marlins bounced back. They won that game. And, they never gave the momentum back. And, in a short series, that will get you the ring.”
Paul O’Neill, as a player, was a main member of teams who earned five World Series rings. Very few players can match that post-season jewelry collection. When he makes a statement such as this one, about the overall nature and key turning points of a World Series, it makes sense to believe it is true. O’Neill speaks from experience. And, there is no better learning tool than experience.
Hmmm……..New York……...not delivering in the clutch, making unproductive outs, and being unwise – and compounding it by doing it in a pivotal game! No wonder why the Marlins beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series.
While the collective “statistics” may not back it up, the Marlins did what was necessary to win in a World Series - and they did it when it was necessary. That should be a lesson to every team that hopes to win it all someday.
Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com. Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season. Steve can be contacted at email@example.com
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