Thursday, October 19, 2006 Updated: October 25, 4:11 PM ET
Time for Quadruple-A Game 7
By Bill Simmons Page 2
Come on, you knew I couldn't resist. Let's give this baby a fetching 18-point font in huge dark letters.
IT'S GAME 7 OF THE NLCS ...
RIGHT NOW ON FOX!
I have few rules in life, but this is one of them: Any time the worst Game 7 in the history of baseball is being played, I'm keeping a running diary. Here's what transpired:
5:00 p.m. (PT) -- My buddy Gus (a die-hard Mets fan) calls just to say, "I'm a nervous wreck." I have three die-hard Mets friends (Gus, Paul and Sal) and all of them have been a complete mess all week. It's bad enough when your team appears in the baseball playoffs, but when you have a decimated pitching staff? That's like having your appendix burst, only for 10 straight days.
And that's why I've enjoyed this series. Sure, it lacked the artistic quality of, well, just about every other playoff series every played. But it has been consistently interesting because of the fan bases involved. And that's really all that matters. Even if the dwindling TV ratings might not reflect it.
5:01 -- Decent opening Goosebump Montage by Fox with that weird U2 song that features the classical singer. That's followed by Jeanne Zelasko calling Game 7 "one of the most magical nights in all of sports." Even with Jeff Suppan and Oliver Perez prominently involved? We might need a ruling on this.
5:05 -- Oliver Perez's postseason stats: 1-0, 7.94 ERA, 3 Ks. Is it bad for the Mets hopes that I'm sitting here thinking, "Wow, I thought those stats would be worse?" By the way, I think the other Mets should call him "Ollie" all night for "Hoosiers" karma.
5:09 -- "House" takes the lead in tonight's promo race against "Prison Break" and "The O.C." Hey, is anyone else disappointed that there hasn't been a breakout promo quote this October along the lines of "His father is the DISTRICT ATTORNEY!!!"
5:12 -- Note to Fox: The next time someone in a Game 7 ideas meeting says, "Coming out of the last break in the pregame show, let's play 'Fields of Gold' by Sting," do us a favor and just start punching that guy in the face.
5:14 -- Joe Buck welcomes us to Shea Stadium by saying, "This place is literally shaking." Literally? I'm much more excited that Ron Livingston's sidekick in "Standoff" was the same guy who took Brenda Walsh to the 1993 Beverly Hills High senior prom. You're right, I shouldn't know these things.
5:15 -- Shot of Ollie warming up in the bullpen along with the three-part graphic: "6.55 ERA in regular season; highest ERA by postseason starter all-time; only Game 7 starter above 5.00." That's followed by dead silence in the living room of every Mets fan.
5:20 -- Just called my buddy JackO to do the "SUPPAN! PEREZ!" routine. "I'm watching Survivor," he says. "I don't have a ton of interest in a Quadruple-A Game 7." Oh.
5:22 -- With two outs in the first, Albert Pujols comes up to a round of boos. Win or lose, he has been the breakout star of this playoffs as everyone collectively realized that he's kind of a jerk. Barry Bonds, move on over! There's a new sheriff in Jerk Town!
5:34 -- Classic Quadruple-A play: Pujols pops up to the mound to end in the inning, only Delgado tries to catch it with the nonchalance of someone trying to catch a baby that has been thrown from the 10th floor of a building ... and ends up booting it 40 feet for a two-base error. One highlight: The replay of Pujols jogging to first, then only being able to reach second base on the error as Buck says, "You see him not hustling out of the box. He would not have gone further than second on the play." Way to make excuses for one of your St. Louis boys, Joe. Sure you would have announced it the exact same way for Manny Ramirez. Right.
5:25 -- Perez gets out of the first and looks pretty good. I'm convinced that any pitcher can turn into the '63 Sandy Koufax with the right crowd behind them. Hell, just look at what happened to Kenny Rogers this month. By the seventh inning of those playoff games, it looked like he could have lifted a minivan over his head.
5:28 -- This seems like a good time to mention a story I told in my book: Back in 2003, when the Red Sox acquired Suppan, we watched him stink it up for a few weeks, followed by me angrily calling Gus (who was producing "Baseball Tonight") to scold him for not telling me that Suppan sucked, followed by Gus laughing, "I thought you knew!" Now Suppan has a chance to knock Gus' team out of the playoffs. I thought this was interesting. OK, maybe not.
5:32 -- McCarver, unedited: "If Oliver Perez throws in the succeeding innings like he did in the first, you might not need the bullpen early." Thank God he's here.
5:37 -- Beltran hits a two-out double and Delgado walks, bringing up the Struggling David Wright, who reached "Struggling David Wright" status about three days ago. Of course, he flares a dink hit down the line for an RBI single. 1-0, Mets. That was right out of the Derek Jeter Playbook.
5:40 -- Suppan (wearing Rick Aguilera's beard for the evening) gets The Artist Formerly Known As Shawn Green to line out to end the first. Also, he hit 128 on Fox's bizarro radar gun. I think we might need to recalibrate that thing.
5:44 -- After an Edmonds single and Scott Rolen flyout, Buck tells us that Rolen and Tony La Russa aren't speaking, so it has been frustrating for the Cards because they never know if Rolen's shoulder is good enough for him to play. Wait a second. ... Rolen and La Russa aren't speaking? What is this, an episode of "Laguna Beach"? Did Rolen make a move on Kyndra at a bonfire after she and La Russa broke up?
5:48 -- Keenan Ivory Molina slaps a dink single to left. First and third, one out. That's followed by Ronnie Belliard's pretty safety squeeze to score St. Louis's first run and an orgasmic McCarver describing the difference between a suicide squeeze and a safety squeeze. Seriously, thank God he's here. Suppan Ks to end the inning.
6:05 -- True or false: Jose Valentin looks like Kevin Federline. I say true. Meanwhile, the Mets go down 1-2-3 in the second.
6:09 -- Sad shot of Pedro in the Mets dugout wearing a sling. Bummed me out on about nine different levels. I'll get over it. Give me a second.
6:10 -- Leading off the third, David Eckstein rips a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line for a double. You know what Fox? You can show me every conceivable stat to prove how much Oliver Perez sucks, but I'll settle for this one: David Eckstein just ripped a double down the left field line.
6:14 -- The Mets walk Pujols to take their chances with Encarnacion ... and he hits into a double play to end the inning. Hey, what about the Mets fans waving these white hankies? What is this, amateur hour? I thought the Mets had real baseball fans? I'd expect that crap at Tropicana Field or Chase Field, but not a place like Shea. Come on.
6:19 -- Looks like Campbell's Chunky Soup had to cut its budget again: They just ran a commercial with Matt Hasselbeck. This is terrible. I'm buying $20 worth of Chunky Soup tomorrow. We can't let this happen. They're two more bad years away from Jon Kitna.
6:20 -- Twist my arm, I'll join in: "Ho-zaaaaaaaaaaaay, ho-zay ho-zay ho-zay ... hooooooo-zay. ... ho-zayyyyyy..." Whoops, he flew out.
6:22 -- Hey, Mets fans, do you feel better or worse about this game knowing Carlos Beltran owns two toy poodles named "Toy" and "Zion?" You don't have to answer that one. Suppan retires the Mets 1-2-3 in the third.
6:23 -- Common side effects of an Oliver Perez Game 7 start for Mets fans are runny nose, dizziness and decrease of semen. Wait, that was a Flomax commercial. Sorry.
6:26 -- Buck reminds Mets fans that Perez went 3-13 with an ERA more than 6 this season. It's becoming Buck's new Curse of the Bambino -- he's going to mention this every inning so Mets fans never feel safe.
By the way, Luis Gonzalez is like the random ninth man at a Vegas bachelor party right now -- he doesn't really know anyone, we're not sure why he's here, and now we have to pay for three cabs to go anywhere -- but he just made a good point about not pitching Rolen inside because he can't get around on the pitch without extending his arms. Can we turn Luis' mike up please?
6:30 -- McCarver gives an upcoming statistical graphic the breathless intro, "What you're about to see is one of the most important statistics in baseball." Sounds intriguing, right? Here's the stat: During the 2006 season, if a runner reaches base with no outs, he scores 43 percent of the time. With one out, 30 percent of the time. With two outs, 15 percent of the time. "A dramatic, dramatic difference," McCarver adds. Just kill me. Bludgeon me in the head. Meanwhile, the Cards go quietly in the top of the fourth.
6:34 -- Our first "Borat" ad. That movie is like LeBron back in 2003 or Greg Oden right now -- just a sure thing coming out of the gate. I only wish Chad Ford reviewed movies: "Borat has an almost freakish comedic upside!"
6:38 -- Time for a taped in-game interview with La Russa. "Tony, the Sadie Hawkins dance is coming up. ... How are things with you and Scott Rolen? Will you be going to his house for the after-party?"
6:41 -- I have to say, the Mets offense doesn't look too lively -- hard to say if it's Suppan's pitching (doubtful) or guys just aren't hitting (probable). They're in the process of wasting a leadoff walk from Delgado in the fourth. Meanwhile, Tom from New York just sent me this e-mail: "Since watching Belliard fall on Reyes [on Wednesday night] after he stole second, I have seen two Mets halfheartedly try to break up double plays in this the seventh game of the NLCS. Do you think that having the thought of Ronnie Belliard fall on you to try and break up a double play is worth it? Kind of like trying to take a charge from Shaq?"
6:44 -- Suppan bounces a pitch in front of home plate that hits Valentin in the face. That's quickly followed by Endy Chavez stranding two runners to end the inning. This is terrible. I feel like I'm sitting in the stands watching one of my neighbor's kids play in a Babe Ruth game. Can we all agree that this game can never be shown on ESPN Classic, no matter how it ends?
6:47 -- Wait, another stingray attack? Yikes. I think the stingrays are furious that we haven't respected them enough to name a professional sports team after them. Now they're taking it out on us. And frankly, I don't blame them.
6:50 -- You know, in HDTV, you can practically see the chicken mole stains on Ronnie Belliard's jersey. He just singled to lead off the fifth. "That will give Suppan a chance to bunt," Buck tells us. Hold on to your seats, folks.
6:54 -- Guess which one of the following three things McCarver did NOT say in the past three minutes:
"Nothing in baseball can quiet a crowd like good pitching."
"Well, David Eckstein, like most of us, has 20 digits. Ten fingers. Ten toes."
"Joe, you haven't truly lived until you've had an enema."
(Note: it was No. 3. But you had to think about it for second, right?)
6:56 -- After the obligatory Preston Wilson strikeout, the Mets pitch to Pujols with runners on second and third and two outs ... and he pops out to end the inning! Best moment of the game so far. The Mets are slowly turning Pujols into the new A-Rod. He's A-Poo.
6:58 -- All right, one more inning of Suppan looking good and I'm going to become officially bitter that he crapped the bed for the Red Sox three years ago. (Speaking of the Red Sox, happy second anniversary of the greatest comeback in the history of sports, everybody! Good times!) He just retired the Mets 1-2-3 in the fifth, with the inevitable Wilson-Edmonds semi-collision on the final out of the inning and Edmonds limping around in pain for a few seconds. I had 7:23 in the ESPN.com office pool.
7:03 -- After a one-out walk to Edmonds, Willie leaves Perez in the game to pitch to Rolen. ... And thank God, because that led to Endy Chavez making the greatest catch of all-time! Holy crap! He just snow-coned a homer over the left-field wall, then threw out Edmonds to end the inning. That was like the Gary Matthews Jr. catch, only in a game that actually mattered. I can't speak.
7:04 -- Still in shock.
7:05 -- Just watched it for the sixth time on TiVo. Gets better every time. And kudos to Buck for nailing the call from start to finish, right down to the "Have you ever seen better?" as they went to commercial. You could have hit Chavez 10,000 straight fungos and not given him a more perfect ball to scale the wall on. One more inch and it's a homer. Wow. Can't get over that one.
7:08 -- Great replays of the catch by Fox. I'm giddy. That was a "two curtain call" catch. No, really, they gave him two curtain calls. Another thing I love about great baseball catches -- when they show the guy rehashing the catch with teammates in the dugout with the happy smile on his face, looking like a guy who just came home from hooking up with a hot chick and can't stop smiling as he tells his roommates the details. I love baseball.
7:13 -- Poor Suppan. He has been mixing his fastballs and pitching great. Now he just loaded the bases on a one-out walk, a throwing error and then La Russa (incredibly!) electing to walk the late Shawn Green to load the bases. I thought La Russa was a genius? Would Albert Einstein have walked Green with one out? What about Stephen Hawking? I say no. Tony La Russa just lost the Cards this series. I'm writing it down right now.
7:19 -- Valentin strikes out, quickly followed by Chavez popping out to end the inning.
(The lesson, as always: Well, you knew already.)
7:23 -- Another pitcher who completely sucked with the Red Sox (Chad Bradford) relieves Oliver Perez to start the seventh ... and Fox commemorates the moment by running a Perez montage with Abba's "Take a Chance on Me." That wasn't the gayest sports moment of my life, but it's in the top five. That's still not edging out Rocky and Apollo's beach hug. I'm sorry.
7:30 -- The Cards go quietly in the seventh. We're still tied at one. Hey, where's my "O.C." promo? We're 150 minutes into the game! Come on, Fox, you're really making me beg? This is terrible.
7:37 -- It's pouring rain at Shea right now. Just for the record, in nine and a half years of writing running diaries, I've never had one interrupted by a rain delay. What would happen? Would I keep the diary going? Would I go on a delay? Do I have to stand underneath a canopy outside my house until the game is resumed?
7:40 -- Suppan carves up the Mets in the bottom of the seventh. If the Cards advance, I can't wait for him to get shelled in Game 3 of the World Series, followed by the announcers saying things like, "Well, Jeff Suppan's been great all month, but he just doesn't have it tonight." Let's get something straight: Suppan NEVER had it. OK? He pitches in an inferior league. The Tigers will shell him. It won't be a coincidence.
7:44 -- McCarver, unedited: "Something to keep in mind -- it's raining lightly. The infield could be very wet on ground balls."
7:51 -- Aaron Heilman retires Eckstein and Spiezio to start the eighth, then halfheartedly pitches around A-Poo and whiffs Encarnacion to end the inning. My magazine editor Neil sends an e-mail summing up everyone's feelings: "This game is freaking torture. I'm too old for this."
7:56 -- Left field is so Taguchi right now. And guess what else? They brought Suppan out for the eighth. I wish we knew how many pitches he has thrown. He ends up walking Beltran and getting pulled. Final line for Suppan: Two hits, one run, two Ks, four walks, no hits after the first inning, and I'm guessing on all of this.
8:04 -- Lefty Randy Flores (sporting Johnny Depp's facial hair) strikes out Pedro Serrano. One out. Sorry, I'm still reeling from the HDTV closeup of Pujols' blistering cold sore. That was worse than seeing Brandon Looper pick his nose in the dugout last night. I feel sick. Sometimes I wonder if HDTV does more harm than good.
8:09 -- Flores whiffs the Struggling David Wright, then gets the inevitable grounder from Green to end the inning. We're headed to the ninth.
(Note to the Mets: Tell the Pro Shop to hold that extra order of 35,000 Wright jerseys for Christmas season. Just trust me.)
WHERE ARE THE $%@# PICKS?
Don't worry football addicts ...
The Sports Guy's NFL picks will be here Friday at about 3 p.m. ET.
8:15 -- Heilman strikes out Edmonds to start the ninth. In Edmonds' defense, he's playing with two broken shoulders, cracked ribs, torn knee ligaments and a severed spinal cord right now.
8:17 -- With Rolen up, McCarver remembers "Eric Chavez's" great catch in the sixth. Might be time to get him some coffee. Meanwhile, Rolen singles while La Russa vows not to congratulate him if Rolen ends up scoring the winning run.
8:20 -- Noooooooooo! Keenan Ivory Molina just homered to left-center: 3-1, Cards! It sounds like someone just pressed a MUTE button at Shea. Shocking. You can't lose a playoff series because of one of the Molina brothers, right? Right? Oh my God. That came out of nowhere. I wasn't even thinking homer there. I'm rattled. Stunning.
8:23 -- After about 50 different shots of devastated Mets fans in the crowd, Heilman gets out of the ninth. Wow. We'll have to see if Adam Wainwright can summon the spirit of Schraldi here. Somehow I doubt it. Total Stomach Punch Game for the Mets in the making.
8:29 -- Valentin bloops a single into right-center to start the ninth. Shades of Ray Knight's hit 20 years ago. I just had a 'Nam-like flashback. Meanwhile, they're playing one of the inspirational songs from the Rocky-Drago fight on the PA system -- it's like they went out of their way to make my buddy Gus feel better. Good God. It can't happen again, can it?
8:31 -- Chavez singles. Two on, nobody out. I am staring at a ghost right now. This is eerie. The Cardinals fans must be DYING. How can Fox not show the flashback to 1986 Game Six right now? What are they waiting for?
8:33 -- Pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd is the winning run at home plate. ...
8:35 -- ... And strikes out on a pretty breaking ball. One out. Wouldn't it have made more sense to bunt there? Hmmmmm. "No left-handed hitter in baseball could have hit that pitch," McCarver yelps. I don't even have the energy to argue with him anymore. Let's see if Ho-zaaaaaaaaay Ho-zay Ho-zay Ho-zay can do something.
8:38 -- Nope. Lines out to Edmonds. Looked like a hit coming off the bat. Two outs, LoDuca batting to save the season. ...
8:41 -- ... And he walks! Holy crap. Bases loaded, two outs, Beltran up. I don't care about either team and I want to throw up. Agonizing. This game might make the cut at ESPN Classic yet.
8:43 -- Or, maybe not. Wainwright just snuck a 0-2 deuce past Beltran to end the series. Wow. I mean ... wow. Has a dramatic playoff game ever ended with the best player on the better team striking out looking? That couldn't have been more anticlimactic. It's not possible. Congrats to the Cards fans -- that's a great win. Even if they almost killed you in the process.
8:50 -- Someone calls me. I look at the caller ID and see it's my buddy Sal's house, so I pick up to talk him off the ledge. Instead, it's his wife (not a sports fan) calling to get tips for dealing with her distraught husband from the Sports Gal. We end up having this impromptu exchange:
Her (sounding slightly scared): "Bill? What do I do?" Me: "Is Sal there right now?" Her: "Yeah. I don't know what to do." Me: "Don't try to make him feel better. Stay away from him." Her: "Really?" Me: "Yeah. Stay away for the rest of the night. Let him stew over this for a couple of hours. Go into your room and read or something. Let him initiate the first conversation." Her: "OK."
You have to admit, there's nothing quite like sports.
8:57 -- Our NLCS MVP: Jeff Suppan. Never have five words summed up the quality of a league that perfectly.
8:53 -- The final word goes to Canadian reader Mike Auge: "Seriously, what did you expect out of a guy who owns two toy poodles?" A pretty good point. Sorry, Mets fans. Even though you broke my heart 20 years ago, I'm feeling for you. That was a tough one.
9:10 -- I e-mail my editor Philbrick to tell him that my column will be ready in five minutes. He e-mails me back, "No worries, I'm not going anywhere. Much like David Wright."
All right, maybe every Red Sox fan doesn't feel bad for the Mets.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace" is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.