With all due respect to the great years by my friends George, Wade and Brooks, the greatest year ever by a third baseman will very soon be owned by Alex Rodriguez.
He’ll eclipse my year in 1980 when we won the World Series, Brett’s MVP and near-.400 year, and you can pick any one of several great years by Boggs and Robinson.
My regular season of 48 home runs and 122 RBIs looks rather minuscule in comparison, but project that into today’s environment and it would be similar.
A-Rod winning a unanimous MVP is his next hurdle, and that should be no problem. The challenge ahead is his well-documented nemesis, as it was for me: the postseason.
In my case, the 1980 NL East race wasn’t decided until the final series in Montreal. There was no wild-card fallback — you either were the best in the division or you went home.
For me, that was a career-defining series, the series that erased the ghosts of postseason past. You see, you can take all the regular season game-ending home runs, Gold Gloves and MVP awards, and they mean very little compared to success in the postseason.
For our Phillies, Montreal might as well have been the postseason. We had to win two of three at Olympic Stadium to win the division against Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, Steve Rogers and company.
I mention my stats not to brag, but to make the point that those two games erased the ghosts of my past and established my ability to come through in the clutch. We failed in 1976, ’77 and ’78, and in each case I stunk it up as a hitter.
I carried that burden of postseason flops with me each year. It’s the same burden A-Rod should erase this fall.
The last two weeks of a great season, in the fans’ eyes, can define your year, maybe your career.
By the way, in 1980, this big year I’m referring to, I must mention I took a little snooze in the NL championship series. Del Unser, Trillo (1980 NLCS MVP) and the rest of the boys conquered Houston in the greatest playoff series ever, opening the door for my final hurdle, the 1980 Series MVP.
Remember 1977, the year Reggie hit three home runs in a World Series game against L.A. But Mr. October was benched in the deciding Game 5 of the ALCS in Kansas City.
In 1983, after hitting over .400 in the NLCS, I went 1-for-20 in the Series and my counterpart, Eddie Murray of the Orioles, hung right with me. Well, he did hit a couple bombs in the final game, but we both stunk the first four games.
There was no TV over-analysis of every second of the games back then. The hitting struggles of individuals weren’t exposed as much as today.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
“He’s pulling his front shoulder out,” or “he’s not as aggressive as he was during the season,” or my favorite, “he’s trying to do too much”. All will be standard lines this fall. Oh yes, also include “nice piece of hitting” as standard.
Here’s the real story on postseason pressure” Most major league players treat every at bat, every pitch and every game like nothing else matters at that moment.
Winning the battle of who you’re facing, the pitcher-hitter battle, is the ultimate in sports. It’s our competitive nature, it’s part of why we are in the highest league.
For some of us, though — and I include A-Rod and myself in this group — we sense and apply a greater importance to our role in the big games, in the more important series, in the postseason.
It would be better for us if we didn’t, if we could treat them like games in April. The ol’ “big bucks” theory applies again. When I played, I was the highest paid, I did feel the need to lead. Same with A-Rod today.
The problem comes when this sense of increased pressure affects your metabolism and your thinking process, and that increases your anxiety level. For someone like A-Rod, an intelligent hitter with a strong sense of “feel,” a small flaw in the stroke can become a big problem when the pressure is on.
Combine that with opposing pitchers grinding on every pitch to him, a couple key hard-hit outs, and announcers and fans waiting for him to give them a slight opening for criticism. Boom, 0-for-12!
That’s how it happens — and it will to somebody this fall.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.