Georgia keeps the top spot in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll for Week 9 of the college football season after they beat their rival, Florida, 42-20.
The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series
By Tyler Kepner
Doubleday; hardcover; $30.00
Tyler Kepner is the national baseball writer for the New York Times, for whom he has covered every World Series game of the past two decades. He joined the newspaper in 2000, covering the Mets for two years before moving to the Yankees beat for eight seasons before moving to his current role. He is also the author of K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches (click here for our coverage from 2019).
Kepner started his career as a teenager, interviewing players for a homemade magazine in the early 1990s. He attended Vanderbilt University on the Grantland Rice/Fred Russell sportswriting scholarship, then covered the Angels for the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise and the Seattle Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before joining the Times.
In Kepner's new book, The Grandest State: A History of the World Series, he delivers a unique look at the Fall Classic's 117 years, with the story told in seven chapters, which mirrors the most games that can be played in the series.
Kepner writes it in the same conversational style as K, and it is filled with essential tales that go back to the first World Series in 1903, with insights from Hall of Famers such as Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Jim Palmer, Dennis Eckersley, and many others who have both thrived and failed on the game's biggest stage.
Many burning questions that baseball fans have are answered, starting with, why do some players, like Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Madison Bumgarner crave the pressure? How do players handle a dream that comes up short? What's it like to manage in the World Series, and what are the secrets of building a champion?
Uncelebrated heroes like Bill Wambsganss, who pulled off an unassisted triple play in 1920, are celebrated, and Kepner also probes the mysteries behind magic moments like Babe Ruth's called shot in 1932 and Kirk Gibson's home run in 1988, and he also busts some long-time myths, such as that the 1919 Cincinnati Reds were much better than the Chicago White Sox, who came to be derided as the Black Sox, as eight players were accused of throwing the series and received a lifetime ban.
I caught up recently with Tyler Kepner about The Grandest Stage and this year's World Series matchup:
Jason Schott: The teams in this year's World Series are quite a contrast, as you have a perennial power in the Houston Astros, making their fourth appearance in six years, and the Philadelphia Phillies, who came out of nowhere to win the National League pennant.
Tyler Kepner: I mean, you go from the number-one seed in the American League to the lowest team in the National League, but it's all about playing your best baseball now. Phillies have a shot, they have lot of power and two really good starting pitchers (Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola), so it could happen, I mean, Houston's the favorite on paper, for sure, but it could happen...I don't have a great feel for it, but (Bryce) Harper's playing out of his mind any mistakes, they're going to have to jump on because they don't typically get a lot of singles, although they did against the Cardinals (in the Wild Card Series), yeah, can't wait.
JS: One thing that comes across in The Grandest Stage is how the World Series can really make a guy's career. How big is it for Harper to make the World Series after a stellar postseason?
TK: This is where legacies are made. I mean, you can be a great player and not go to the postseason, you know, like Mike Trout has only gone once, Ernie Banks and guys like (Ken) Griffey (Jr.) never made the World Series. This is where you really leave your mark and I think Harper recognizes that and is taking advantage of that opportunity and is just letting himself be himself and we're seeing some amazing, amazing performances from him and a bunch of those guys, but he's the one who's kind of legacy is on the line and he's making the most of it. It's always fun to watch greatness like that.
JS: You write a lot about the 2019 World Series, in which the Washington Nationals beat Houston. This was the year after Washington lost Harper, as he signed with the Phillies in the offseason. Has he ever voiced a motivation knowing that the team who let him go, or lost him, whichever way you look at it, won it the very next year?
TK: No, he never talks about that, actually. He is very intent on just making it clear that, when he signed with the Phillies, he moved on. He never looked back, and I think he has shown that because he never likes to dwell on that, never likes to get too deep into it, just, you know, he might say, 'I'm grateful for all my experiences.' I asked if he watched the postseason that year, and he said, yeah, he was happy for his friends on that team.
JS: You open the book talking about how you grew up a Phillies fan and were at the 1983 World Series, which they lost to the Baltimore Orioles. The Phillies haven't been in often but they've been in a lot of memorable World Series.
TK: They have, they've been a fairly, I wouldn't say regular, but they've had a lot of shots at it the last 40 years, when you think about it. '80, '83, '93, '08, '09, and now this, I mean, they're all spaced out pretty good, at least ten years apart, but you know, when you space them out like that, it's a little bit like how the Mets have spaced them out, '69, '73, then you go '86, 2000, 2015, you don't go like a full generation without one. You let each generation of fans sort of have their World Series memories. You know, whatever happens now, this is a World Series team that's going to be well-remembered.
JS: It wasn't a surprise when the Phillies made it in 2008 and 2009, whereas the appearance before that, in 1993, they were. What similarities do you see between the 1993 and 2022 Phillies?
TK: I mean, '93 was coming off the 1992 team, which a last-place team, so there was no real expectations. '93 was a brief window that they had between the Braves joining the division and the Pirates' dominance there. You know, Pirates lost Barry Bonds after '92, and (Doug) Drabek, so the Phillies, there was sort of one year where they had a free shot at it because the Braves weren't in it yet. So, they made some really good lower-level free agent signings and they had no injuries all that year. They had really been banged up for the previous few years; it was hard to tell if they were good or not. Everything came together that year, you know (Curt) Schilling had come into his own the year before and he was great, (Tommy) Greene was good, (Terry) Mulholland, Danny Jackson, they ran the same five guys out there all the time. They didn't get hurt and they played with a real distinctive style and flair, and they had it going on from Day 1. They swept the opening series on the road, good in spring training, they got off to a hot start, the fans took to them immediately. There was never really a letdown until the end, and even that, for me, the whole year was so charmed that there was just, the Blue Jays were better. I didn't hold it against them that the Phillies lost. I think this year was different, in that they kind of had to fight their way in at the very end, and I don't know if anyone saw this coming. '93 was just sort of a charmed season all the way through. This had a lot of frustrations along the way, but the team caught on fire this month.
JS: One thing you bring up in The Grandest Stage is how, from the late '40s through the mid-50s, the World Series was largely played in New York every year, with the Yankees, New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers seemingly always in it. Do you think younger fans can conceptualize that the league winners went right to the World Series, whereas, this Phillies team showed that, as long as you make the playoffs, you can make up for six months of inconsistency?
TK: Right, now it's all about getting in the tournament. We don't call it a tournament, but it is what is, and that's fine. Without it, the way baseball is set up now, you'd have Yankees and Dodgers every year. I think people recognize that all you need is a chance, so you focus during the season on earning that chance, and then you can make the most of it. I think that it's good that, in the first year of this expanded playoff system, that we see a team that's the six and last seed go all the way to the Series because it'll give you hope that all you need is that shot; all you need is to get in. I think it's good to have an example on one side of greatness (Houston) and on the other side of a team that got that last spot and ran all the way to the top.
JS: Now, to delve into past World Series, I didn't realize that former Met Endy Chavez was on the 2011 Texas Rangers, and should have been in right field for Nelson Cruz when they were ahead 7-5 in the ninth inning of the sixth game and were about to clinch it. Instead, David Freeze hit a double over Cruz's head to tie it at 7, and then he won it with a walk-off home run in the 11th inning. St. Louis won 10-9 and clinched the World Series the next night.
TK: Yeah, looking back, he thought so. (Texas Manager Ron) Washington never took Cruz out for defense, but certainly in hindsight, that might have made some sense, when you think of how good Endy Chavez was. You could have had him there, or David Murphy could have moved to right, something like that. They had this premier defender out there, but they didn't use him for defense, and it was a sort of defensive outfield play that kept them from getting that last out. Tough play, but it would have been an easier play for a better defender.
JS: I like how you gave a window into the press box, how we all end up talking to each other at different moments in the game, when you noted that Tom Verducci picked up on how shallow Cruz was positioned.
TK: That was amazing, like Verducci's really dialed in. He was focused on right field, and the Rangers themselves missed it.
JS: Where would you rank that game in all the ones you've covered?
TK: That's way up there because of everything that was at stake. You know, Game 7 with the Giants and Royals (in 2014), because of what we saw from (Madison) Bumgarner, and was so tense all the way through. The Cubs and Indians (in 2016) was great because once Rajai Davis got the home run (to tie it in the eighth for Cleveland), really was a huge surprise and then made anything possible. Before that, the Cubs had complete control. But yeah, that (Game 6 in 2011) has to be one of the best games I've ever seen. You had a team down to their last strike twice, two separate innings, and they come back, I mean, I don't know if we'll ever see that again, but it was extremely tense and memorable and heartbreaking for the Rangers.
JS: I appreciate how in the final, seventh, chapter, you have a list of "Rajai Davis Moments," where you capture players like him and Dave Henderson, whose homer had given the Boston Red Sox the lead in the 10th inning of Game 6 in 1986 against the Mets, who were set to be the hero if their team prevailed. How important was it for you to get that in there?
TK: I really wanted to have a space in the back where I could sort of unload a lot of things that I always think about, but maybe aren't worthy of a full chapter, let's say. As you watch these series go along, you start to think, 'this is going to be a story, that's going to be a story,' and those guys deliver in a big way, but the team doesn't hold it. That was fun to kind of get into that, remind some people of who would have been the heroes if only things had played out just a little differently after their big hit.
JS: In Dave Henderson's case, he also had a massive home run in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the American League Championship series with the Red Sox on the brink of elimination against the Angels. They won that game and the next two to win the pennant, so he would have had big moments in each round if they held on to beat the Mets.
TK: Oh yeah, definitely, that's what I was thinking at the time. He was mostly with the Mariners, he didn't do much for the Sox, and I think (Tony) Armas got hurt or was replaced in the lineup by Hendu, and I remember thinking how unlikely it was that he'll be the guy they erect a statue of. It didn't quite happen, but I remember him banging it right off the Newsday sign.
JS: You also mention, in the same chapter, in the 'what ifs' part, how Tom Seaver, could have been pitching for Boston in that World Series.
TK: Yeah, he was in the dugout; he was watching the whole thing, and just to have that knee injury that ultimately ended his career. It was crazy to think he was there the whole time, and seeing how it was playing out and thinking, like, this is storybook kind of stuff. I would have loved to see him pitch, let's put it that way; it would have been amazing.
JS: You called the 2015 Kansas City Royals, who beat the Mets, the most significant recent World Series champion; can you explain why?
TK: I really believe that, because I feel like, if the Royals can't win - if there's not an example of a small-market, low-payroll team climbing out from years and years in the wilderness to go all the way; if you don't have that example - it really hurts the game because other teams can't dream that way. A lot of small markets wouldn't dream that way, and so I feel like it was important for baseball that, for all the Pittsburghs, and Tampa Bays, and Oaklands, to be able to look and say, 'yeah, Kansas City did it, so we can too.' If there was no example of that in modern baseball, it would be a lot tougher for those teams' fans to have something to hold on to.
JS: What do you think is the greatest World Series you've covered?
TK: I always look for how many great games were there, and so while '16 (Cubs-Indians) and '14 (Giants-Royals) had really memorable finishes, it didn't have a lot of great games. 2001 (Yankees-Diamondbacks) had a lot of great games, but that had the last games I didn't cover, Games 6 and 7 because my daughter had her christening that weekend, and I was fourth man on the coverage anyway, so I've made every game since then. I didn't cover that entire series, but that would have to be up there. The 2000 World Series (Yankees-Mets) was great; it was just a little too short, but all five games were outstanding. I would have to say '11 (Cardinals-Rangers) just because that Game 6 was so crazy, and it was a cool format. They split the first two games, and then the Cardinals won, but then Texas comes back to win two, so St. Louis has to win twice at home. That format happens sometimes, and it's kind of a fun challenge. '17 (Astros-Dodgers) was a great series, it was crazy, but that was a fun series. I would have to say the best series I covered beginning to end would be '11, mainly because of that Game 6, but there were other good games in that series, too, and great performances by great players. If I had covered the entire '01 World Series, I'd probably say that, but I think I'd have to say '11.
|Aaron Judge approaching first base after Yuri Gurriel (right) and Ryan Pressly celebrate after completing the final out of Game 4. @Astros.|
The Houston Astros completed their sweep of the Yankees, with a 6-5 win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
Georgia remained No.1 in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll or the second straight week after they beat Vanderbilt 55-0. It is their 13th appearance at the top of the poll, which is tied for second-most, and there was a shake-up in the other top spots.
Love & Vermin
A Collection Of Cartoons By The New Yorker's Will McPhail
Mariner Books; 240 pages; $32.50
Will McPhail has contributed cartoons, sketchbooks, and humor pieces to The New Yorker since 2014. The Edinburgh, Scotland resident was the winner of the Reuben Award for cartooning in 2017 and 2018, and he is the author of the award-winning In: A Graphic Novel.
There was a major shakeup in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll. as Georgia reclaimed the top spot with a 42-10 win over Auburn at home. They earned 21 of 52 first-place votes and it is the 12th time that the Bulldogs are No. 1, which ties Clemson for the second-most appearances at the top of the poll.
|The Padres celebrate after they clinched the series. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets suffered a crushing 6-0 loss to the San Diego Padres in Game 3 of the Wild Card Series on Sunday night at Citi Field.
|Pete Alonso greeted by Jeff McNeil after his fifth-inning home run. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets evened the Wild Card Series with the San Diego Padres with a resounding 7-3 win on Saturday night at Citi Field, as they got six solid innings from starting pitcher Jacob deGrom and home runs from Pete Alsono and Francisco Lindor.
|Jurickson Profar heads back to the dugout with Ha-Seong Kim and Austin Nola after his three-run home run. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The San Diego Padres put on quite the power display Friday night as they beat the Mets, 7-1, on Friday night in the first game of the Wild Card Series.
Max Scherzer got the start for the Mets, and the game opened with Jurickson Profar dunking one into left field for a hit.
The Mets ace then struck out Juan Soto and got Manny Machado to fly out to left before Josh Bell crushed one the opposite way to left-center field, with the ball landing in the back of the lower deck, to give the Padres a 2-0 lead.
Yu Darvish got the start for the Padres, and he ran into trouble in the bottom of the first when Francisco Lindor was hit by a pitch, and Jeff McNeil followed with a single to give the Mets two runners on with one out.
Pete Alonso, who hit 40 home runs in the regular season, was up next in a perfectly set-up moment to deliver, and he struck out looking, and Daniel Vogelbach then gave one a ride to right field for the third out.
The Padres responded by adding to their lead in the second when Trent Grisham crushed a solo shot to right field to make it 3-0 San Diego.
In the bottom of the second, Starling Marte, in his first action in a month, led off with a seeing-eye single, and he then stole both second and third bases, but Darvish got Mark Canha to fly out to left, struck out Eduardo Escobar, and got Tomas Nido to fly out to center.
Those three outs began a run in which Darvish retired 10 in a row, and Scherzer also appeared to settle in, as he retired the Padres in order in the third and fourth innings.
In the top of the fifth, Ha-Seong Kim led off with a single, and Austin Nola got a one-out double before Profar blasted one into the right field corner, just inside the foul pole, for a three-run shot to open up a 6-0 lead for San Diego.
Two batters later, Machado hit a laser to left field for a solo shot to give the Padres the extra point, and make it 7-0.
Scherzer was pulled right after that, and he was booed lustily as he left the field, as Mets fans were extremely let down to see their $43-million-per-year ace, one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, surrender four home runs.
"Of course I'm disappointed, but I don't know what else -- yeah, the baseball can take you to the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows, and this is one of the lowest of lows," Scherzer said afterward.
"I felt like my fastball was running on me. I didn't have a good fastball location. For me, working glove side with my fastballs, usually when I execute that, it stays on - plain on the glove side part of the plate, and it usually has ride. So I keep on the glove side. From watching the film and just watching how they were able to take swings, my fastball was running on me. I wasn't able to command that fastball the way I usually can. That's my bread and butter to be able to set up everything else."
Mets Manager Buck Showalter said of Scherzer having issues with his fastball, "Well, he's got such good command of all his pitches. He was having trouble getting the ball away from his glove. He was trying to throw the ball in, for instance, to Bell, and he can't get it there.
"He had a lot of pitches that were leaking on him, but with Max that's happened before early in the outing, and he's made the adjustments. Tonight he wasn't able to.
"But we didn't score any runs regardless of what - obviously the expectations for Max are always high because of his track record, but we just didn't score any runs. We knew Darvish was going to be a challenge, and he was."
Darvish went seven innings to earn the win, as he allowed one run, on a solo home run by Escobar in the fifth, on six hits and no walks, with four strikeouts. He fooled the Mets all night with his offspeed stuff, so much so that Alonso flung his bat into the net when he struck out in the fourth inning.
On pitching at a frenzied Citi Field, Darvish said, "So during the warmup, as I was warming up to go into the game, I had my headphones on. I basically try to block all the noise out of the crowd of the stadium. So that was good going into the game. But once I was in trouble in that inning (the two on base, one out jam in the first), the stadium was so loud that it felt like basically someone was screaming into my ears. I just kind of reminded myself that it's just noise and just go out there and do your thing. So that's kind of how I got through it."
Darvish said of matching up with Scherzer, "Just for me going into this game, you're facing a pitcher that's most likely going to go into the Hall of Fame. It's a special pitcher that you're facing. Just being on that mound, being on that field today in this game, it's just an honorable thing for me. So just wanted to go out there and give my best."
Showalter said of Darvish's performance, "He's got two breaking balls - he really throws so many pitches, and he commands them, but I think he threw - I know there were a number of times - behind the count there are no-hitter counts with him as far as everything's - there's two shapes of breaking balls, really three with the cutter, the slider, and the curveball. When he wants to, he makes pitches with that even to the left-handed hitters.
"Obviously Max, with the expectations that he has for himself and what he's done for us and throughout baseball, but Darvish is on top of his game. We knew that was going to be a challenge. He's just got so many things you have to defend. I don't think - I think he ended up - did he walk anybody? I think he had one hit by a pitch, and that's the difference."
Showalter did confirm that it will be Jacob deGrom facing off against San Diego's Blake Snell in Game 2 on Saturday night.
DeGrom suffered a blister during his start last Friday in Atlanta, and he said of where he is at physically, "Finger's good. I feel really good. Was able to get off the mound twice this week and felt great. I look back at that Atlanta start, and I made a couple of mistakes that they capitalized on. Other than that, I feel like I threw the ball pretty well. The goal is to eliminate mistakes in big situations and try to stick to your game plan."
This will be the second time deGrom will be pitching in an elimination game, after he won his first, Game 5 of the Division Series in Los Angeles over the Dodgers.
On being successful in a moment like that, deGrom said, "The one in 2015, I didn't have my best stuff. So go out there and you leave it all out on the field. You go out there and compete, you try to execute to the best of your ability and try to keep your team in a position to win...
"This will be my first time pitching in seven years in a postseason and first time at Citi Field, so I'm excited. Like I said, you go out there and execute to the best of your ability and leave it all out on the field...
"You look at yourself in the mirror at the end of the day and know you gave 100 percent."
|Photo by Jason Schott.|
Max Scherzer will be taking the mound for the Mets on Friday night in the first game of the Wild Card Series at Citi Field.
This is what the Mets envisioned when they brought in arguably the best pitcher of his generation last November, and it comes after a regular season in which he went 11-5 with a 2.29 earned run average (ERA) in 23 games (he missed two months with multiple injuries). He threw 145 1/3 innings, allowing 39 runs (37 earned) on 108 hits and 24 walks, with 173 strikeouts.
|The Mets posted this on social media Friday, revealing they will wear black, per their usual on Friday night. @Mets.|
Scherzer got the nod over Jacob DeGrom for this one because of his postseason experience.
This will be the seventh time Scherzer has pitched the opener of a series, and it’s the second straight year he will, as he pitched in the Wild Card Game last year for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With this start on Friday night, Scherzer will move into a tie for eighth in Game 1 starts in the World Series era, which began in 1903. Jon Lester, who pitched for Boston, Oakland, and the Cubs in the postseason and has three rings, is the all-time leader with 12 Game 1 starts.
Scherzer has a championship ring, from when he was part of the Washington Nationals in 2019, when he won Game 7 in Houston.
Scherzer’s postseason rankings are astounding, starting with his seven victories, which are tied for fifth among active pitchers and tied for 24th all-time. His 21 games started is tied for third among active players, and tied-12th all-time. He has thrown 128 2/3 innings in the postseason, ranked third among active pitchers and 18th all-time. Opponents have hit just .195 against Scherzer in the playoffs, giving him a rank of seventh among active pitchers and 16th all-time.
|The Parma Tenders (left) and The Heater are two of the new options for the postseason. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets open the postseason on Friday night with the first game of the Wild Card Series against the San Diego Padres, and to mark the Amazin's return to playoff baseball, there will be plenty of new food options at Citi Field.
|Max Scherzer throwing a pitch in his start against the Padres in July. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets will host the San Diego Padres on Friday night to start the playoffs in the Wild Card Series, a best-of-three series with all the games at Citi Field.
|James McCann (33) returning to the dugout after his home run. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets beat the Washington Nationals, 9-2, in the regular season finale on Wednesday night at Citi Field for their 101st win, and Jeff McNeil also clinched the batting title.
|Carlos Carrasco facing C.J. Abrams in the first inning of Game 1 on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Jason Schott.|
The Mets entered Tuesday night still in the hunt for the National League East crown, and they did all their part, as they swept the Washington Nationals in their doubleheader on Tuesday night, 4-2 and 8-0, giving them 100 wins for just the fourth time in their history.
|Eduardo Escobar. @Mets.|
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced their September honors, and Eduardo Escobar of the Mets was named National League Player of the Month, while the Yankees' Aaron Judge was the American League Player of the Month.
This is the first time a player from each New York team has been honored as their league's Player of the Month since April 2007, when the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez and the Mets' Jose Reyes won them.