Weekly Sports Replay: One man changed World Series fate

By Shawn Annarelli

One player’s choice between two teams ultimately foreshadowed which team would win the World Series.

It was Dec. 4, 2010, and veteran slugger Lance Berkman had received contract offers early in the day from the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals. Berkman, who had been contemplating retirement for two months, decided he had to take one last shot at winning a World Series. Berkman chose the Cardinals’ $8 million deal for one year and left a higher offer from Texas on the table. He would explain his decision on a Houston radio station one month later.

Berkman said that he felt the Rangers could not re-sign Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, who signed with the Philadelphia Phillies 10 days after Berkman signed with the Cardinals. Berkman made his feelings public. He said that the Rangers were an average team without Lee. He even went as far to say the Rangers pitching staff had overachieved in 2010, a year in which they won the American League pennant and lost the World Series.

Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson responded to the slugger’s remarks days later. Of course, he defended his team’s talent and said he felt the Rangers would be an improved team in 2011. He also told Texas fans to send Berkman a message if St. Louis visited Arlington in 2011. Problem is, the Cardinals and Rangers were not scheduled to play each other in the regular season.

The only way Berkman’s Cardinals and Wilson’s Rangers could face each other would be in the World Series.

Eight months later, on Sept. 28, Berkman’s Cardinals faced a must-win game against division rival Milwaukee. A win would put the Cardinals into the playoffs as the National League’s wild card. A loss would likely send Berkman into retirement.

In due fashion Berkman hit in the game-winning run in the first inning of a game that the Cardinals would win 8-0. The Rangers had clinched their division a week earlier.

All that stood in the way of the two teams were seven wins. Berkman stepped up again for several significant moments in the playoffs. In the fourth game of the NLDS against the Phillies, he sparked a fourth-inning, three-run rally to take the lead in another must-win game to avoid playoff elimination. In game six of the NLCS he began a first-inning, four run rally in a game that the Cardinals won 12-6 to put them into the World Series.

Finally, in game six of the World Series, Berkman hit a home run, knocked in three RBIs and scored four runs en route to saving the Cardinals from a must-win in a 10-9 extra-innings victory. The extraordinary performance symbolized a major momentum swing in St. Louis’ favor for game seven of the World Series.

Berkman connected with the biggest hit of his career in that eleven-inning victory. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Berkman stepped up to the plate with two outs, two runners on base and down a run. The slugger ripped a single into center field to tie the game and to keep the Cardinals’ World Series hopes alive.

Of course, the Cardinals won 6-2, and Berkman’s gut feeling from last December paid off.

Had he chosen to be a Ranger, this story might be flipped upside down.

Mark Cuban playing moneyball

The eight-year tumultuous relationship between Major League Baseball and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is definitively coming to an end, and with that comes an expected surfacing of NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Cuban has attempted to purchase the Dodgers from McCourt in the past, but baseball’s bankrupt owner asked too high a price. McCourt’s selling price was between $1 billion and $1.2 billion.

Cuban has been close to playing ball with MLB before. In 2008, MLB sold the Texas Rangers to Nolan Ryan’s investment group for $600 million. Ryan’s investment group had outbid Cuban’s for the Texas Rangers.

Cuban has been cleared to be a minority owner for the auctioning off of the Dodgers, but he was not cleared to be the majority owner. MLB does not want a brash, outspoken majority owner controlling one of its baseball teams. But as long as Cuban doesn’t have a vote and voice in baseball owner meetings they are perfectly fine with the billionaire stirring the pot.

Ndamukong Suh the new face to fear

Throughout NFL history one defensive player has symbolized each decade.

The 1950s had Chuck Bednarik. The 1960s had Ray Nitschke. The 1970s had Mean Joe Greene. The 1980s had New York’s Lawrence Taylor. The 1990s had Reggie White. The 2000s had Ray Lewis.

The 2010s has a two-year veteran by the name of Ndamukong Suh taking the reins and striking fear into offensive players around the league.

Suh met this past week with league officials after being concerned with how he has been officiated this season and last season. He feels there may be a bias from the NFL and its officials with the way they make calls against him. That may have something to do with him explicitly saying he wants to hurt quarterbacks and him being a 6’4’’ and 307 pound wrecking ball.

The NFL even promoted a game between Suh’s Lions and Tim Tebow’s Broncos as “good versus evil.” Evil was written above Suh, and good was written above Tebow.

The Lions defender might not be a demon, but he sure as hell is making a name for himself as the NFL’s next great defensive player.

Sweet Play of the Week

On Halloween, the locked out and lonely NBA superstar Kevin Durant took to Twitter saying he was bored.

That’s why when twitter user George Overbay offered  Durant a chance to play flag football the young basketball phenom jumped at the opportunity to compete. Durant switched into a new uniform and played an intramural flag football game. Durant stood at least a foot and sometimes two feet taller than every other player and threw four touchdowns and caught an interception on defense.

This is just another example in a long line of occurrences that Durant has taken his talents to anywhere but NBA arenas. He has played pick-up basketball games in adult leagues across the nation.  He would have blown off the roof at Rucker Park if Rucker Park had a roof. And he led the U.S. basketball team to a victory over the Phillipian’s national team.

Sour Play of the Week.

It’s supposed to be the simplest play in football.

Coach’s across the world call the play formation “victory,” for it usually means the offense is running out the clock in the fourth quarter en route to a win.

The play is the quarterback kneel, in which the quarterback receives the snap and takes a knee. That is all San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had to execute in order to drain the clock to 20 seconds left in regulation. Then, Chargers kicker Nick Novak would attempt a 35-yard field for the game-winning score, as long as Rivers executed the easiest play in sports.

Instead, the San Diego signal caller clasped his hands together long before the center completely snapped the ball.

Insanity ensued, and Kansas City’s Andy Studebaker recovered the football and forced the game into overtime. The Chiefs won 23-20.

Did You Know?

  • Penn State’s Joe Paterno won his 409th game on Saturday, an NCAA Division I record.
  • Kelly Slater won his record 11th Association of Surfing Professionals world title on Wednesday.
  • High School football games in western PA, like the one last Friday between Shaler and North Allegheny, are being bet on by gamblers in Costa Rica.
  • Theo Epstein’s first official transaction as the Chicago Cubs’ general manager was to fire manager Mike Quade, an interesting start to his first day on the job.
  • Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir, three Pakistani cricket players and one-time national heros, pled guilty for fixing matches.
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