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Tom Seaver and the ’73 World Series
Rob: I didn’t write anything in the book about Tom Seaver in the 1973 World Series, but that was over the objections of my friend Rob Nelson. What follows is part of a discussion on Baseball Primer Newsblog about my interview with The Hardball Times.
Sam M: Biggest Mets’ blunders? 1 – Oy, the trades. I know most people say Nolan Ryan and Amos Otis. But I say Tom Seaver, still. Ripped the heart out for the fans, sent a message about whether they were prepared to play the game in the new free agency era that had just dawned, and just as the Yankees were awakening and preparing to steal the city. Made the owners and the management look like they didn’t care about winning or the fans, nor that they had a clue what they were doing. And the bottom completely dropped out for years afterward. 2 – Starting Seaver in Game 6 of the 1973 World Series. I doubt it made the book, because some still think it was arguable, but not me. With a 3-2 lead, you take the opportunity to have the best pitcher in the game ready to go out and dominate on full rest in Game 7, if needed. Berra should have used Stone in Game 6, leaving the Mets with Seaver as the trump card (and Matlack behind him for an inning or three if needed on short rest, instead of starting on short rest as he ended up doing in Game 7). Andy: Sam, I would’ve mentioned the 1973 Series, too, if I’d been a Mets fan. But were the Mets on a 5-day rotation back then to begin with? If they were on a 5-day rotation, of course, then your choice shares the top billing with Hargrove and Macha as dumbest managerial move ever. And you’re also right about Matlack. Like Hargrove and Macha, Berra sacrificed the combination of a well-rested ace in Game 7 and a second ace available for several innings, in return for the stale cliche of “you got to go with your best.” Sam M: A five-day rotation? No. In the NLCS, the Mets’ rotation looked like this: Oct. 6: Seaver Oct. 7: Matlack Oct. 8: Koosman Oct. 9: Stone Oct. 10: Seaver With no day off, Seaver went on three days rest with a four-man rotation. But of course, that was what I’m saying they should have done in the Series: just used Stone when they had the chance. Berra HAD to use Seaver in the NLCS Game 5 on three days rest — it was an elimination game. In the Series, though, the Mets were stuck, because Seaver couldn’t go in Game 1 or 2: Oct. 13: Matlack Oct. 14: Koosman Oct. 16: Seaver Oct. 17: Matlack Oct. 18: Koosman Oct. 20: ??????? The fact they were ahead 3-2 going back to Oakland gave Berra the chance to get out of that trap — he didn’t HAVE to use Seaver on the 20th on three days rest, because they weren’t facing elimination. Instead, he could have used Stone, who’d been great for them down the stretch, and had both Seaver (on full rest) and Matlack (on short rest, but not needing to start) on the 21st. Andy: I completely agree that he should have taken advantage of the opportunity, Sam, but since they had been on a four day rotation earlier, I wouldn’t quite put Berra in the same class of idiot that is reserved for Hargrove and Macha. They went out of their way to invent their screw-ups, and in Hargrove’s case, he wound up starting a pitcher (Colon) who at the time had gone on three days’ rest exactly once in his whole career. Of course if I were a Mets fan I might put Berra at the top of the list. Schuey: It should be pointed out the Mets scored 1 run in Game 6 and 2 runs in Game 7 of the 1973 World Series. Perhaps a fully rested Stone and Seaver would have done better but you will not win too many games scoring 1 and 2 runs. Also Felix Millan’s error on a routine ground ball in game 1 and Jerry Grote allowing a passed ball to let a runner advance on a strikeout in game 3 should be mentioned. The Mets were lucky enough to reach Game 7 after going 82-79. It’s not like Jon Matlack was chopped liver in the 1973 postseason. He pitched a 2 hit shutout against the Reds in 2, 6 innings of giving up 2 unearned runs in game 1 against Oakland and 8 innings giving up 1 run in Game 4, on 3 days rest. We know now he never really developed but at the time he looked like a perennial All Star. Let’s remember 1973 was not too far removed from the era when times used pitchers on two days rest: Stottlemyre and Gibson in 1964, Lonborg in 1967, McLain and Lolich in 1968. Sam M: A few points, Schuey. First, I agree that Matlack was great. But note that the first two games you point out were on full rest. Only the Game 4 start was on short rest, and he went eight innings in that one. To follow that effort up with another outing on short rest in Game 7 was a heck of a thing to ask. Second, how much better might he have been if he’d been able to take whatever he had left and just use it for 2-3 innings, instead of trying to make it work for 5-6, or as long as he could go? And third, whatever you might think about the bet on Matlack to win in Game 7, I kind of prefer the Seaver/Matlack exacta myself. My Racing Form shows Seaver as “Well Rested” and “In Good Form” for that race.