No better (or worse) illustration of Gregg's on-field shortcomings came during Game Five of the 1997 National League Championship Series. Working behind the plate, Gregg's extra-wide strike zone ("as big as his rear end," according to former manager Dick Williams) enabled Florida Marlins rookie Livan Hernandez to strike out 15 Atlanta Braves, pushing the two-time defending NL champs to the brink of an elimination they couldn't stave off. Coupled with Greg Maddux whiffing nine Marlins that day, the enduring image is of Gregg punching out a seemingly endless succession of bewildered hitters while hamming it up like Leslie Nielsen behind the plate in The Naked Gun. "We don't mind if they want to call four, five inches off, and do it for both sides. That's fine," complained Braves manager Bobby Cox. "From what everybody was yelling at from the dugout and everywhere else, they were a lot further."
It can be argued, I think, that Gregg and the rest of baseball might have been better off if that game hadn't happened. If the Marlins don't win that year (just the fifth season in their short history), the thinking goes, they don't conduct their infamous fire sale, which perhaps forever poisoned the South Florida market for baseball by slapping fans in the face while attempting to strong-arm them into a publicly funded stadium that still hasn't arrived. Owner Wayne Huizenga doesn't escape so easily a year after the championship, and just maybe the odious John Henry-Jeffrey Loria-MLB-as-owners bag-job between the Marlins, Expos and Red Sox never plays out. Major League Baseball stays in Montreal, the Red Sox don't shake the so-called "Curse of the Bambino," and while that means I don't get to write two chapters of Mind Game, it also means I still get to chant "1918!" when the Bostons comes to Yankee Stadium. Sounds like a fair trade.
Makes me want to invent a time machine. As long as I'm pimping the content at Baseball Prospectus, I might as well mention a quick notebook ditty I did on the Texas Rangers. Here's a taste about a guy who played us tough the last time the Yanks took on the Rangers:
Bad News—Gary Matthews Jr.: The last time Notebook checked in with the Rangers, we talked about Brad Wilkerson taking over for the rather unimpressive string of center fielders Texas has deployed over the last ten years, a long list ending with career fourth-outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. It’s now June, and the Rangers’ center fielder is…Gary Matthews Jr. Wilkerson’s been a decent enough left fielder--his .274 EqA is right around his 40th percentile PECOTA projection--but Matthews has been phenomenal with the bat, putting up a .318/.380/.547 line, good for a .302 EqA in 216 PA. Like DeRosa, it’s good that Matthews has performed well, but it could get ugly if and when his bat crashes back to earth.*****
In other news, the Schill chilled the Yankee bats last night, to prevent a rain-shortened series sweep by the Bombers. The game was winnable, and turned on some bad defensive play, and some worse relief pitching. More on this later, since the relief pitching isn't going to get better by tomorrow...