November 27, 2009
As the decade winds down to its final days, Big League Stew is
reflecting on the biggest baseball moments of the 2000s. Next up are
the best World Series, a tough list to create considering most of the matchups came to be defined based on moments rather than all-around quality of play. A couple of great exceptions, however, top the list.
1. 2001 World Series — Diamondbacks beat Yankees, 4-3
The country was only beginning to heal from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and it was fitting for New York to be participating on the national pastime's biggest stage come October and, for the first time, November.
Riding a wave of adrenaline and improbable wins in the playoffs, the Yankees seemed destined to win their fourth straight World Series, but nearly perfect performances by Randy Johnson(notes) and Curt Schilling(notes) led to the dynasty's derailment.
Arizona's pair of aces helped the D-backs jump to a 2-0 lead, but the Yankees wouldn't go quietly. After a narrow 2-1 victory in Game 3, the Yankees responded with consecutive ninth-inning comebacks against Arizona closer B.K. Kim in the next two games. Game 4 was especially memorable because of Tino Martinez's two-run shot against Kim, which tied the score in the ninth, and Derek Jeter's(notes) game-ending solo blast in the 10th.
Scott Brosius forever cemented his place in Yankees lore with a two-out, two-run tying homer against Kim in Game 5, which the Yanks eventually won in the 12th.
After a 15-2 rout of the Yanks in Game 6, it was Arizona's turn to stun New York with a late comeback. With the seemingly impenetrable Mariano Rivera(notes) on to protect a 3-2 lead in the ninth, the D-backs squeezed a pair of runs across — the winner coming on Luis Gonzalez's bloop single. One of the best World Series of any decade was in the books.
MVPs: Johnson and Schilling
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2. 2002 World Series — Angels beat Giants, 4-3
Fans couldn't ask for a whole lot more the following season when another Series went the limit with two franchises battling for an elusive championship. The Giants had not won a title since moving to the West Coast and the Angels had endured several heartbreaking near-misses since coming into existence in the early '60s.
This meeting had everything, from Barry Bonds(notes) finally asserting himself in the playoffs to the country's introduction to the Rally Monkey (the greatest mascot innovation since the San Diego Chicken) and the perpetually annoying Thunderstix.
The Giants had the Angels on the ropes in Game 6, taking a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh when the famous monkey appeared on the jumbo TV inside the Big A. The Angels put two runners on against Russ Ortiz(notes) with one out and Giants manager Dusty Baker went to his bullpen — but not before handing the the "game ball" to Ortiz before he walked off the mound. The award was premature, as the Angels rallied for three runs in the seventh and three more in the eighth to keep their own hopes alive.
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3. 2004 World Series — Red Sox beat Cardinals, 4-0
Though this Series is no doubt No. 1 in the hearts of Red Sox fans, Boston had this thing won as soon it came back from a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees to win the ALCS. Still, it's unfair to call the first World Series title for the Red Sox in 86 years "anticlimactic" as Red Sox fans know not to count their championships until they hatch.
Led by a cast of Idiots and curse-killers, the Red Sox would not be denied and dominated the Cardinals, who won a league-high 105 games in the regular season.
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4. 2005 World Series — White Sox beat Astros, 4-0
The White Sox came into the '05 Series with an even more pathetic championship history than the Red Sox. A long 88 years had passed since the White Sox won a World Series and, even though it was a sweep, the Astros made them work for it. Only six runs separated the teams, and that includes the 14-inning marathon (the longest game, in time, in Series history) that Geoff Blum(notes) won with an improbable home run.
Scott Podsednik(notes) had hit an even more memorable home run in the bottom of the ninth against Astros closer Brad Lidge(notes) to win Game 2, sending the South Side into its biggest and loudest frenzy since, well, ever. Behind a solid pitching staff, the White Sox won 99 games in the regular season and went 11-1 in the playoffs.
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5. 2009 World Series — Yankees beat Phillies, 4-2
It set up to be a classic but, like the rest of the 2009 postseason, we reached only the verge of greatness. Alex Rodriguez(notes) and Derek Jeter played well, but neither was the reason his team won. Series MVP Hideki Matsui(notes) was awesome in clubbing three homers and driving in eight runs, but he played only half of the time because he couldn't play the field in the National League park. An aging Pedro Martinez(notes) returned to his daddy's bosom and pitched not-quite-triumphantly. Ryan Howard(notes) couldn't stop striking out. Chase Utley(notes) couldn't hit a huge home run every time at-bat. Cliff Lee(notes) couldn't make every start.
Johnny Damon(notes) did pull off a double steal all by himself in one of the season's more memorable moments, and — if you're not a diehard Yankee hater — watching the Bronx celebrate a championship seemed at least an appropriate way of ending the decade.
MVP: Hideki Matsui
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6. 2008 World Series — Phillies beat Rays, 4-1
Both teams brought great background stories and personalities into the Series, but also came in without much on their mantels. The Phillies' lone championship in 125 years of existence came in 1980. The Rays, formerly the Devil Rays, had been a baseball laughingstock since incorporating in 1998. The franchise had lost at least 90 games every season, including 96 in 2007. The Series itself will be known for its oddities. Game 5, played mostly in weather conditions suited for pond hockey, was suspended — the first time in Series history that happened — and resumed two days later. Light-hitting Joe Blanton(notes) blasted the first World Series home run by a pitcher since 1974.
In the end, though, Charlie Manuel's group drowned the Cinderella bunch from Tampa Bay for Philly's first championship of any kind since 1983 and started a year-long party in Philly.
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7. 2000 World Series — Yankees beat Mets, 4-1
Plenty of pomp and circumstance surrounded the first "Subway Series" since 1956, and, though it lasted only five games, it seemed as competitive as one that went all the way to seven. The Yankees only outscored the Mets by three runs in the five games and three of their victories were of the one-run variety.
Meanwhile, Game 2 all by itself had enough intensity, drama and machismo — and all that happened was a broken bat. With a beanball confrontation from interleague play still on everyone's mind, a pitch from Roger Clemens(notes) shattered Mike Piazza's(notes) bat, the barrel of which flew at Clemens. Apparently amped up way beyond overload, Clemens angrily threw the barrel in Piazza's direction as he ran to first base. Nobody was hurt, but tempers flared and benches cleared. Clemens' actions made no sense but emotions clearly had taken him over.
Still, Clemens managed to shut out the Mets over eight innings, though the boys from Queens cut into the Yankees' 6-0 lead with a five-run ninth, they couldn't do enough to make the Commissioner's Trophy switch boroughs. Story of the Series, really.
MVP: Derek Jeter
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8. 2003 World Series — Marlins beat Yankees, 4-2
This was perhaps the most anti-climactic Series matchup of all time because the world had been awaiting a duel between the Cubs and Red Sox, the two biggest losers of all time.
Thanks in part to two of the greatest controversies of the decade, Chicago and Boston did not meet and the Marlins and Yankees were announced as the understudies. Meh.
Also anticlimactic? The so-called last game of Roger Clemens' career. Clemens created the Captain Comeback mold for Brett Favre by implying that Game 4 would be the last start of his career. Not even close.
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9. 2006 World Series — Cardinals beat Tigers, 4-1
The Cardinals barely finished above .500 at 83-79, but proved that the playoffs and regular season don't have much in common. For St. Louis, the Series was notable for contributions by rookie closer Adam Wainwright(notes) and vagabond right-hander Jeff Weaver(notes)
Tigers pitchers also proved that one must be able to make routine throws to first base if one expects to win. Detroit made eight errors in the Series and all of them seemed to be by pitchers throwing toward first. To take everyone's collective minds off that, lefty Kenny Rogers(notes) was accused of putting pine tar, or some foreign substance, on his hand.
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10. 2007 World Series — Red Sox beat Rockies, 4-0
All of the drama in 2007 happened on the way to the World Series. The Red Sox charged back against C.C. Sabathia(notes) and the Cleveland Indians after getting down 3-1 in the ALCS. The Rockies got into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth; Colorado was nine games under .500 in May, but won 11 in a row and 14 of 15 in September — including Game 163 against the Padres — just to make the postseason.