October 10, 2014 0 By Dan Freedman


 Over the past few years, I have seen my son strike out looking with runners on base in late innings situations.  And each time I have the same response: “that just can’t happen”.

I coach my son’s travel team, and I find myself saying, on a weekly basis, after one pratfall or another, “that just can’t happen”.

And yet, time and again, it happens.

I think we sometimes (read: all the time) forget that (a) we are dealing with kids and (b) the fact that they are kids is wholly and totally irrelevant.  I was reminded of this – yet again – as I watched the Dodgers lose to the Cardinals – yet again.

It seems that the Cardinals rarely have a “that can’t happen” moment, while the Dodgers had a few too many.  But it isn’t just the Dodgers.

And, when I reference “that just can’t happen” plays, I don’t mean bloopers.  I mean plays that, if your head was in the game, if you kept your focus, if you played like you were taught, and/or if you understood the magnitude of the moment, the play would never have happened.

My first memory of a “that just can’t happen” moment hails from the 1988 NLCS (although I am sure if I really search my memory banks, I could probably come up with an earlier example).  Two years ago this Sunday, Game 7 of the NLCS, Dodger Stadium, top of the 9th inning, two outs, and a 3-2 count (before you scroll down, do you remember what happened?).





Howard Johnson strikes out looking to end the 1988 NLCS:

Two years later, a somewhat meaningless game early in the season, the Mets strike again.  David Cone decides it makes more sense to have his voice heard than concern himself with the runners on base:

I am sure the ‘90s are chalk full of examples, but I was too busy in college and law school to plop myself in front of SportsCenter every night to catalogue them.  Worry not, the most recent decade does not want for examples of “that just can’t happen” moments:

2006 NLCS, Game 7, Mets trail the Cardinals 3-1, the bases are loaded with a 3-2 count and 2 outs in the bottom fo the 9th .  Does it get any more perfect?  Oh, and at the plate is a guy who hit 41 HRs and knocked in 116 during the season.  So, naturally . . .

But wait, there’s more.  2010 NLCS, Phillies trail the Giants 3-2 with 2 on and 2 out in the bottom of the 9th inning, a guy who had 229 homeruns over the course of the past 5 seasons at the plate:

League Championship Series, that is chump change.  Let’s up the ante.  2012 World Series, Tigers trail the Giants three games to none, down a run in the bottom of the 10th inning, THE TRIPLE CROWN WINNER at the plate:

The following season.  A lovely Sunday afternoon at Chavez Ravine. Juan Uribe holding third after a sacrifice fly that moved all the runners up, when Evan Longoria does his best Little League or Bill Veeck impersonation, and catches the portly third baseman off guard:

Here is a really painful one.  Game 4 of the 2013 World Series, Cardinals trail the Red Sox 4-2 in the bottom of the 9th.  With one out, Allen Craig singles to right, bringing the tying run to the plate.  After an out is recorded, the Cardinals’ last hope is potential future Hall of Famer Carlos Beltran – he of the career .333 post-season batting average and 16 post-season homeruns; the guy looking for redemption for his ʞ in 2006.  Before Beltran could even dig in, let alone swing his lofty bat, Wong got caught leaning:


This one hits a little too close to home, as I was coaching a game a few years ago that we lost when our pitcher could not execute an intentional walk with the winning run on 3rd base and two outs. However, in this case, it worked out well, as the Nationals ended up recording the out when (a) Buster Posey was late breaking to the plate (borderline “that just can’t happen”) and (b) Wilson Ramos makes a terrific recovery and throw.  To set the stage, Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, the Giants have just taken a 3-2 in the bottom of the 7th inning (on a wild pitch, no less), and the Nationals were intentionally walking Pablo Sandoval to set up the double-play:

And lastly, to the chagrin of Dodgers fans all over the Southland; a play that has been overlooked due to a knock, a bloop, a hanging curveball, and a legacy tainted.  But, lest there be any doubt, this play will loom large for years to come.  Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, the Dodgers plate two runs in the top of the 6th to break a scoreless tie.  With two outs, Andre Ethier leads from 3rd and Juan Uribe scoots off 1st.  Seth Maness bounces a pitch that looks to get past Yadier Molina.  If nothing else, the Dodgers will have two runners in scoring position with A.J. Ellis (he of the .538 average in the series) at the plate.  Well, if nothing else, unless (a) Ethier strays too far from the bag, and (b) Ethier decides to keep his uniform pristine.  Get dirty, get safe.  Ethier chooses not to; Molina guns to Matt Carpenter (damn that guy!); Carpenter tags Ethier on the forearm (the forearm, really!?); rally over; inning over; a few minutes later, season over.

The moral of the story: it’s not worth pulling our hair out when our kids do stupid shit on the baseball field.  All told, the stories above include players who made a combined $80M in salaries in the years those plays occurred.

It seems that money can’t buy happiness, and it sure as hell can’t always buy competence.

[SMH] “That just can’t happen!”