Today we will start a series and look at the biggest what-ifs in sports history. Today we will begin with Baseball. All fans of every team have a what-if moment, and today we will look at some of the biggest ones in MLB history.
With the Cubs ahead in the series 3-2, Chicago was enjoying a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead in the eighth inning. Luis Castillo came to the plate and fouled off a pitch down the left-field line. As the ball began travelling back toward the earth, Steve Bartman, a lifelong Cubs fan, reached up and deflected the ball out of Moises Alou’s reach. The Marlins scored eight runs in the inning and defeated the Cubs in the seventh and final game. People forget that even without Bartman’s interference, there was no guarantee that Alou could have made that play. You also can’t forget the comedy of errors that afflicted the Cubs in that inning, and let’s face it, everybody out there reading this would have tried to catch that ball also.
Dusty Baker has seemed jinxed in the playoffs ever since he decided to lift Russ Ortiz just eight outs away from a World Series Championship. Baker Panicked after Ortiz gave up back to back singles with a 5-0 lead, and while it is hard to tell if Ortiz staying in the game would have won the Giants the title, there can be no doubt that pulling him led to losing it. Without Baker’s move, the Rally Monkey may have died that night.
Trading an MVP like Robinson at 29 usually isn’t a great idea, but the Reds pulled the trigger in 1965. The would-be Hall of Famer was sent to Baltimore for Jack Baldschun, Dick Simpson and Milt Pappas (who?). The what-if here would be looking at the 1970 World Series and wondering if you flip Robinson from the Orioles to the Reds, does it affect the outcome of the series?
Bonds without steroids was on his way to 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases. If he had finished his career without blowing up and cranking 60 and 70 home runs a season, he would already be a Hall of Famer and considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player ever to live. This is a what-if I think the answer is sure.
As a manager, Rose never got the most out of the Cincinnati Reds. In 1989, Rose was banned from Baseball, and the following year Lou Pinella took the reigns from Rose and led the Reds to a World Series title. This what-if is two parts: number one, without getting caught, Rose would be a slam dunk Hall of Famer; but how about adding this to that, if Rose had continued to manage the Reds, they would never have won the 1990 World Series.
Baseball’s popularity dwindled big-time after the 1994 player strike that cancelled the World Series. Then came 1998 and the epic Sosa-McGwire home run chase. The steroid freaks chase of the immortal Roger Maris’ home run record captivated a nation that had no clue that this wasn’t a fair fight. Maybe MLB knew what was going on, and perhaps they didn’t. There can be no doubt that the summer of 98 may have saved Baseball–at least to some extent–and if it hadn’t happened, Baseball might have had some huge problems headed into a new century.
Flood was a star player in the Cardinals ’60s; then Flood decided to risk it all. After refusing a trade after the 1969 season, Flood took his case to the Supreme Court. His work paved the way for Baseball’s reserve clause and opened up the door to free agency. Flood was black-balled and never played Baseball again, but he changed the landscape when it came to how baseball players were treated.
Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and the Boston Red Sox are one out away from their first World Championship in 68 years. Instead, Mookie Wilson’s ground ball down the first-base line went directly between Bill Buckner’s legs, and the Mets won the series in seven games. What if Buckner fields the ball cleanly? Would it have changed anything? Probably not; Mookie would still have been safe. Wilson was a fleet-footed left fielder, and Buckner was playing too deep. In addition, Bob Stanley (Boston’s reliever) was tardy in covering the first-base bag. So even a cleanly fielded ground ball by no means assured a Red Sox win. It might have ensured extra innings, but I think, more likely than not, Bob Stanley would be the goat of the series for giving up the winning hit to the next batter.
I think this is an easy one. The Yankees may have been great, but they wouldn’t have been as great. The Red Sox may have won a few more titles in the ’20s. I think it’s safe to say the Yankees would not have been nearly as dominant, though.
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