I watched a replay of the ’98 NL West clincher Tuesday night on Channel 4. Mel Proctor and Rick Sutcliffe called the game (with Mark Grant handling the John Weisbarth “roving reporter” role), which made me realize how very dearly I will miss Matt Vasgersian this year.
The fun part of that game, of course, was that the Padres came back from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers, whose pitchers forgot how to throw strikes in the sixth inning. The cameras kept cutting to a visibly uncomfortable Glenn Hoffman, who managed the Dodgers at the time. The only thing missing was the voiceover: “Want to get away?”
It was strange to see guys like Ken Caminiti and Jim Leyritz before their lives fell to pieces. Those were happy times for Padres fans, but now it’s a little bittersweet in a Nordberg kind of way.
Meanwhile, at Wrigley Field that day, the Cubs and Brewers played a ridiculous game that featured, among other things, Sammy Sosa’s 60th home run of the season. Proctor and Sutcliffe went on at length about what Sosa and Mark McGwire were doing for the game of baseball. The Padres even planned to honor Sosa when the Cubs came to town later that week.
Was that really a decade ago? It’s funny, you don’t hear a lot of talk about honoring Sosa and McGwire these days… probably won’t for a while.
Back in San Diego, a few more items grabbed my attention:
- Fresh off the disabled list, Mark Langston made his second career relief appearance in the seventh inning, retiring Matt Luke on a weak grounder to first baseman Wally Joyner. Proctor and Sutcliffe talked about how popular Langston was among his teammates, and speculated that his curve ball might prove effective against left-handed hitters in the postseason.
It did, in spectacular fashion, when Langston struck out Tino Martinez with the bases loaded in Game 1 of the World Series to end a Yankees threat in the seventh and preserve a 5-5 tie. Home plate umpire Richie Garcia saw things differently, of course, and Martinez remained at-bat, eventually knocking a grand slam that put the game and series out of reach.
- Trevor Hoffman entered the game in the ninth to AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells.” Although we came to take that for granted over the years, at the time it was still new and Proctor actually explained what was happening. Then again, with Proctor, one could never be sure whether he explained things for our benefit or his own.
Either way, the crowd of 60,823 was delirious. Hoffman put a couple runners on before fanning Luke (who had driven in five runs on the night) with a steady diet of change-ups to end the game. Once upon a time, Hoffman could get away with that approach against lefties. Actually, “get away” isn’t the right phrase; I think “dominate” paints a more accurate picture.
Good times, those…
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Speaking of Hoffman, reader Schlom points us to Josh Kalk’s examination of the all-time saves leader’s repertoire. One of Josh’s conclusions is this:
If the ninth inning rolls around and there are several tough lefties due up it would probably be a better bet to have Brian Shouse (if resigned) or Mitch Stetter try for the save.
Given that Hoffman isn’t as effective against lefties as he used to be, I’m inclined to agree.
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Finally, the Padres have signed second baseman Chris Burke [h/t Kevin] to a 1-year deal worth $650,000. Bravo. If you’re going to stick a guy who couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag at second, at least have the decency to get him cheap.
Burke will compete with Matt Antonelli and Travis Denker for the starting gig. My guess is that Burke will land the job, before eventually yielding to Antonelli and retiring from baseball to put the band back together.
The Padres also re-signed right-hander Mark Prior. Whatever.