Friday, November 26, 2010

Nightmare Scenarios: If the Yankees Hadn't Re-Signed...

Nightmare Scenario 1: After the 1933 season, the Yankees decided that it was unseemly of Babe Ruth to keep asking for more money in the depth of the Depression. Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey was more than happy to send the Yankees $200,000 to bring the Babe back to his original big-league team. And the Babe was thrilled to be reunited with his fans back in Boston.

Not having the Babe is widely considered to be the reason the Yankees did not win the Pennant in 1934. The Red Sox didn't win it, the Detroit Tigers did. But Yawkey's money had bought several stars, including Philadelphia Athletics slugger Jimmie Foxx and pitcher Lefty Grove, and was about to go after Washington Senators shortstop and manager Joe Cronin, and give him the same jobs at Fenway Park.

The Babe suggested to Yawkey that he offer the Cleveland Indians a lot of money for Mel Harder, and the Chicago White Sox a lot of money for pitcher Ted Lyons. With a rotation of Grove, Harder, Lyons and Wes Ferrell -- and a quick medical checkup to heal an early-season leg injury for the Babe -- the Red Sox won the 1935 Pennant and World Series, their first since 1918. The Babe retired a World Champion.

(Note: The idea that the Babe was not washed-up at age 40 in 1935, but was simply hurt, and the Boston Braves ignored that possibility, was raised by Bill Jenkinson in his book The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs.)

The Yankees, who finished 3 games behind the Red Sox and 2 behind the Tigers, looked like idiots.

Fortunately, they had Joe DiMaggio coming up to join Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey. Unfortunately, a knee injury that DiMaggio had picked up in the minors prevented him from becoming a big star, and the Yankee dynasty was over.

The Tigers finally won their first World Series in 1945. The Red Sox won it the next year, although they didn't win another for 40 years.

On May 17, 1975, Hank Aaron hit his 738th career home run, breaking Ruth's career record.

On April 15, 1976, Meadowlands Stadium opened in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Yankees and the NFL's New York Giants -- the only team to win a World Championship while playing home games at Yankee Stadium between 1933 and its closing after the 1975 season -- both played there until 1997. So did the NFL's New York Jets from 1984 to 1997.

In 1986, Julia Ruth Stevens, the Babe's daughter, threw out the first ball before Game 3 of the World Series. The Sox won, and completed the sweep of the New York Mets the next day.

In 1991, Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote a book about the Yankees and their inability to win a World Series since 1932. He called it The Curse of the Bambino.

In 1998, Trump Stadium opened over the West Side Rail Yards in Manhattan, west of Madison Square Garden. The Yankees and Jets both moved in. In 2010, Giants Stadium opened, next-door to the former Meadowlands Stadium, which has been demolished.

The Mets lost the 2000 World Series to the Seattle Mariners, and have not won a World Series since their 1969 "miracle."

Although the Yankees have won Pennants in 1943, 1957, 1958, 1963 and 1981, they still haven't won the World Series since the Babe called his shot in 1932.


Nightmare Scenario 2: After the 1946 season, the Yankees decided that Joe DiMaggio hadn't come back from World War II sufficiently strong. So general manager Larry MacPhail, drinking with Yawkey, agreed on a trade: DiMaggio, whose righthanded bat was a good fit for Fenway Park and its close left-field wall (not yet known as the Green Monster because the advertising signs wouldn't come down, revealing the green underneath, until the next season), for Ted Williams, whose lefthanded bat was a good fit for Yankee Stadium and its right-field "short porch."

The next morning, Yawkey sobered up, and decided that Williams was better than DiMaggio, and demanded the Yankees throw in another player. A funny-looking Italian outfielder who could also catch.

(In the history that we know, this was the dealbreaker. Here, it's not.)

MacPhail and co-owners Dan Topping and Del Webb so wanted to get rid of DiMaggio, seemingly washed-up at age 32, and his salary demands that they threw in Larry Berra (not yet widely known as Yogi) and got Williams.

Big mistake. Williams didn't get along with the New York press any more than he did the Boston press. He lost a lot of hits in Yankee Stadium's spacious center field. Meanwhile, DiMaggio recovered his stroke, and won the Triple Crown, the MVP, and the World Series with the Red Sox in 1947 and 1949, and won the Series in 1948, 1950 and 1951 as well, before hanging 'em up.

Williams clashed with Yankee manager Casey Stengel too often, and when the Marine Corps called Ted back for the Korean War, the Yankee organization, from management to players, was a bit relieved. They were all too happy to give Williams' Number 9 to that kid from Oklahoma, who until now had been wearing DiMaggio's Number 5.

That was Mickey Mantle. He helped the Yankees win World Series in 1956, '58, '61 and '62, before injuries and alcohol slowed him down. The Yankees haven't won the Series since the Cuban Missile Crisis -- not at Yankee Stadium (1963-75), not at Meadowlands Stadium (1976-97), not at Trump Stadium (1998-present).


Nightmare Scenario 3: After his Triple Crown season of 1956, Mantle asked for a doubling of his salary from $32,500 to $65,000. "We don't double salaries," said Yankee GM George Weiss. "I want $65,000," said Mantle. "You'll take what we give you, or we'll trade you to the Cleveland Indians," said Weiss. Mantle went over Weiss' head to co-owner Topping.

(In the history that we know, Mantle got his $65,000.)

Topping and Webb stood by Weiss, and the Yankees sent Mantle to the Indians for their amazing young lefthander, Queens native Herb Score.

On May 7, 1957, Indian 3rd baseman Al Smith hit a line drive right back at Score. The accident had devastating consequences. Bones in his face were broken. His vision was affected. He was never the same pitcher again.

(In the history that we know, Score stayed with the Indians, despite Yawkey offering the Indians $1 million, and the franchise, so often in financial trouble over the next 30 years, turned it down. And it was the Yankees' 3rd baseman, Gil McDougald, who hit the liner that curtailed Score's career.)

Mantle didn't like hitting in Cleveland's cavernous Municipal Stadium, but the Indians were willing to pay him the $65,000. They won the Pennant in 1957 and the World Series in 1958 and 1959.

Just before the 1960 season, Indian GM Frank Lane traded Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. Mantle complained about this to the press. Shortly thereafter, Mantle was traded too, for Charlie Maxwell and Steve Bilko.

Pennants were won by the Baltimore Orioles in 1960 (lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates), Mantle and the Tigers in 1961 (Mickey broke Ruth's record with 61 home runs while Roger Maris hit 54 for the Yankees, and the Tigers beat the Cincinnati Reds), Mantle and the Tigers again in 1962 (lost to the San Francisco Giants), the Yankees in 1963 (lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers), and the White Sox in 1964 (their first Pennant since the Black Sox scandal of 1919, but lost the Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, and wouldn't win another Series until 2005).

The Yankees still haven't won a Pennant since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy -- not the strangest thing about that assassination, not even connected to it, but interesting nonetheless.


Now, let's reverse the nightmare scenario. What if the Yankees HAD re-signed... Reggie Jackson after 1981?

Although Reggie had his last great season in 1982, it probably wouldn't have helped, as the Yankees were too far back. In 1983, Reggie had his lowest batting average and home run and RBI totals for a full season, and George Steinbrenner would have thought he'd made a mistake to re-sign Reggie. A better season in 1984 probably doesn't derail the Tiger express that year. But in 1985 and 1986, Reggie's still-there power could have made the difference between winning the AL East and not.

In 1985, the Yankees sweep a 3-game series from the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on the final weekend of the regular season. Then, for the 4th time in 5 tries, they beat the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. And I really wish those Cardinal fans would shut up about Don Denkinger's call: They still needed just 3 more outs, and could have gotten them, and there was still a Game 7. "Best baseball town in America"? Not St. Louis, not as long as they whine about Denkinger costing them the 1985 World Series. Yankees win.

In 1986, well, let's just say that Dave Righetti was not Bob Stanley, and Don Mattingly was not Bill Buckner. First Subway Series since 1956, and Yankees win.

In 1987, Reggie plays one more year, but it's not enough for the Yanks to edge the Tigers for the AL East title.


The Yankees didn't re-sign Tino Martinez after the 2001 season, getting Jason Giambi instead.

We can't be sure that the Bamtino would've hit in the regular season or the postseason better than the Giambino. Especially since Giambi's 2 homers gave the Yanks a chance to come back in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. But all Tino would've needed was one RBI more than Giambi got in Game 4 or Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, and we'd still be talking about the "real" Curse of the Bambino.

I've already done one of these examining what might have happened if Andy Pettitte had been re-signed after 2003. His injury in 2004 would have caused him to miss the postseason for the Yankees every bit as much as for the Astros in real life, so that's not a help.

The Yankees didn't re-sign either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui after the 2009 season. Would either of them have been better, in the regular season or the postseason, than Curtis Granderson (with Damon staying in left and Brett Gardner staying in center) or Marcus Thames (Matsui as the usual DH)?

Both had their moments, and Granderson was one of only 2 Yankees to hit well in the 2010 ALCS, along with Robinson Cano. But Thames was horrid in that series, with a .301. That's not a batting, on-base or slugging average, that's his OPS, on-base PLUS slugging. He reached base in just 3 out of 17 plate appearances. Either Damon or Matsui, batting in place of Thames, might have meant a Pennant, or more.


Now, let me bring you Nightmare Scenario 4:

It's the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 2011 American League Championship Series. The home crowd is going wild. Their team is down 4-3 with 2 outs. But the tying run is on 2nd, and the winning run is on 1st.

The batter is Derek Jeter.

The opposing team's closer looks in. He fires. Jeter swings.

He drives the ball into the left-center gap. The tying run scores easily. Here comes the winning run. Here's the throw from left field, the shortstop takes it as the cutoff man, he throws to the plate...

A good throw would have gotten the runner. Instead, the shortstop screws it up. Ballgame over. Derek Jeter has led his team to the American League Pennant.

Final score, Angels 5, Yankees 4.

Mariano Rivera sits in the visitors' clubhouse at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, head down, seriously considering retirement. Yankee Fans are already inundating message boards with suggestions that the Yankees shouldn't have given Mo a big new contract a year earlier, and that he can't be trusted to close out the big games anymore.

There's also some mention on said boards of how Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-28 with just 1 RBI, a 450-foot homer in Game 5 after the Yankees were already down 8-2 following another spit-the-bit performance by A.J. Burnett.

In the Angels' clubhouse, team owner Arte Moreno is so glad he decided to show Jeter the money... money he was willing to spend, and the Steinbrenner brothers and Brian Cashman were not.

In the World Series, Jeter spends the first 5 games flailing away at the plate. In the Daily News, Lupica writes in his column that the Steinbrenners were right after all.

Then in Game 6, Jeter hits a single and a double for 3 RBIs, and the Angels finish off the Reds. Over the next 3 days, first Yankee manager Joe Girardi and then Reds manager Dusty Baker are fired.

The Yankees pry Don Mattingly away from the Dodgers to be their 2012 manager. He lasts until 2015, and is fired after 3 seasons with no Playoff berths. Yankee Fans finally realize there is one true curse in baseball: The Curse of Donnie Regular Season Baseball. No team with Don Mattingly in uniform, as player, coach or manager ever wins a Pennant.

Derek Jeter retires after the 2016 season, at age 42, with 3,786 hits, 3rd all-time, and 8 World Championships to his credit: 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

The Mets celebrate the 50th Anniversary of their 1969 Miracle by winning the 2019 National League Pennant. But they lose the World Series to the Utah Buzz, in only their 5th season since moving to Salt Lake City following their inability to get a new ballpark to replace the inadequate dome they'd played in as the Tampa Bay Rays. Don't ask Met fans about the play that caused them to lose Game 7 in 2019: It's still too painful. Terry Collins last 2 more years as manager before he is fired.

Jeter is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020. His plaque shows him wearing a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim cap.

The Yankees still haven't won a World Series since 2009, or made the Playoffs since 2011.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes a book titled The Curse of Derek Jeter: How the Yankees Threw It All Away.

It will be another few years before a dying Reggie Jackson asks Hal Steinbrenner to make peace with Jeter, to bring him back for Old-Timers' Day, to retire his Number 2, and to give him his Monument Park plaque. Too stubborn, Hal refuses to do so.

In 2036, Alex Rodriguez is snubbed by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for the 15th and final time. Neither he, nor Barry Bonds, nor Mark McGwire, nor Sammy Sosa, nor Gary Sheffield, nor Roger Clemens have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this way. Nor has Pete Rose, still on the permanently ineligible list, well after his death.

In 2040, Alex Rodriguez dies of a stroke. He is only 64 years old.

Shortly thereafter, Derek Jeter, about to turn 66, decides it's all silly, and patches things up with Yankee management. On Opening Day, his Number 2 is retired, he is given his Plaque, and he tells the fans, "It's good to be home." Before Game 1 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium II, Jeter and Rivera throw out ceremonial first balls to Natasha and Ella Rodriguez, A-Rod's daughters. The Yankees win the Series in 6 games, over the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants.

(Note: There was a TV show a few years back called Space Precinct, which predicted exactly this matchup for the 2040 World Series: Yankees vs. Yomiuri Giants. I figure that Hideki Matsui, formerly of both teams, will throw out the first ball before one of the games at the Tokyo Dome.)

Jeter, like Yogi Berra and Ted Williams did before him, uses his influence with the Commissioner of Baseball and the Hall of Fame's Committee on Veterans. In 2041, shortly before what would have been Pete Rose's 100th birthday had he lived, Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson are removed from the ineligible list, and they are elected to the Hall of Fame. So are A-Rod, Clemens and Bonds, with the reasoning that, in spite of the criminal convictions against the latter two, they would have made it to the Hall even if they hadn't used steroids. McGwire, Sosa and Sheffield remain on the outside looking in.

In 2042, an author writes a book of sports what-ifs, with one of the chapters being, "What if the Yankees had re-signed Derek Jeter in 2010?"


Wouldn't that be a great question to NOT have to ask?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What If There Were Earlier Super Bowls?

January 1, 1961: The Houston Oilers defeat the Los Angeles Chargers, 24-16 at Jeppesen Stadium in Houston (now known as Robertson Stadium), in the first-ever American Football League Championship Game.

January 2, 1961: Oilers owner Bud Adams calls a press conference and proclaims his team "the world champions of professional football."

"Since the Philadelphia Eagles won't play us," Adams says of the team that won the NFL Championship 2 weeks ago, by beating the Green Bay Packers, 17-13 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, "we win the championship of the world by forfeit."

January 3, 1961: NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle calls a meeting of team owners, to debate the challenge by Adams. Aside from Walter Wolfner of the St. Louis Cardinals and George Preston Marshall of the Washington Redskins, the owners all vote to accept the challenge of the AFL. Vince Lombardi, representing the stockholders of the Packers, made a speech attesting to the AFL's challenge to the NFL's pride, suggesting that refusing the challenge would amount to cowardice.

January 4, 1961: The details are hammered out. The Eagles and Oilers will play at a neutral site likely to have good weather, the Orange Bowl in Miami. To give each team more time to prepare, the game will be held not the next Sunday, but the one after. And a team of collegiate referees, beholden to neither league, will officiate.

January 15, 1961: The AFL-NFL World Championship Game is played. The Oilers take to the air, with George Blanda throwing 2 first-half touchdown passes to Charlie Hennigan. But late in the half, Eagle linebacker Chuck Bednarik sacks Blanda, injuring him. Backup quarterback Jacky Lee is not up to the task, and Norm Van Brocklin's pass to Timmy Brown in the 3rd quarter makes the difference. The Eagles win, 21-14, and "prove" the NFL's superiority.

January 7, 1962: The 2nd World Championship Game is no contest. The Packers slaughter the Oilers, 45-7 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

January 6, 1963: Again, the NFL Champions beat the AFL Champions. The Packers pound the Dallas Texans, 37-14.

January 12, 1964: Make it 4-0. It goes to overtime at the Orange Bowl, but the Chicago Bears beat the San Diego Chargers, 27-21 on a touchdown run by Willie Galimore.

July 27, 1964: Galimore attends a banquet in his honor in Chicago. He is not killed in a car accident. Neither is his teammate, Bo Farrington.

January 2, 1965: Finally, the AFL Champions are World Champions. The Buffalo Bills defeat the Cleveland Browns, 28-10 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

January 9, 1966: "We have restored order to the football universe," says Packer coach Vince Lombardi. Packers 34, Bills 10.

June 8, 1966: The full merger between the two leagues is finally approved. The 1966 season will feature exhibition games between AFL and NFL teams, a common draft will occur for the first time in 1967, and full regular-season games will be played starting in 1970.

It is not until 1969 that the World Championship Game begins to be called the "Super Bowl." Joe Namath says, "We're going to win, I guarantee it," and he backs it up, quarterbacking the New York Jets to a 16-14 win over the Baltimore Colts at the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl IX. An injured Johnny Unitas had come off the bench to relieve the man who had filled in for him all season, Earl Morrall, and Gale Sayers scored a touchdown with 3 minutes remaining. But the Jets recovered the ensuing onside kick, and held on to win. It was one of the greatest games of all time.

(Sayers was drafted by the Colts, because the Bears didn't need him. They already had Willie Galimore, alive and well.)

In 1979, Willie Galimore, who became the 2nd man (after Jim Brown) to rush for 10,000 yards in a career, is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Gale Sayers, the 3rd man to reach the milestone, is elected in 1982.

Super Bowls won:

Philadelphia Eagles: I (retroactively named, of course).
Green Bay Packers: II, III, VI, VII, VIII, XXXVII.
Chicago Bears: IV, XXVI.
Buffalo Bills: V.
New York Jets: IX.
Kansas City Chiefs: X.
Colts: XI (Baltimore), XLVII (Indianapolis).
Miami Dolphins: XIII, XIV.
Pittsburgh Steelers: XV, XVI, XIX, XX, XLVI, XLIX.
Raiders: XVII, XXI (Oakland), XXIV (Raiders).
San Francisco 49ers: XXII, XXV, XXIX, XXX, XXXV.
Washington Redskins: XXIII, XXVII, XXXII.
New York Giants: XXVII, XXXI, XLVIII.
Denver Broncos: XXXVIII, XXXIX.
St. Louis Rams: XL.
Baltimore Ravens: XLI.
New England Patriots: XLII, XLIV, XLV.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: XLIII.
New Orleans Saints: L.

(I'll do these for the ABA & NBA, and WHA & NHL sometime.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What if the Red Sox Had Won the Bucky Dent Game?

Well, for starters, it wouldn't be remembered as the Bucky Dent Game.

October 2, 1978: Carl Yastrzemski doubles off the Wall, and Rick Burleson and Jerry Remy score. Final score: Boston Red Sox 6, New York Yankees 5.

Do the Red Sox win the Pennant against the Kansas City Royals? Unlikely: If Sox manager Don Zimmer gave his starters 3 days' rest, Dennis Eckersley wouldn't have been available until Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, and Luis Tiant and Mike Torrez not until Game 3 (when Tiant would have had 4 days'). Who starts Game 1? Bob Stanley started a couple of games down the stretch, but relieved in the AL East Playoff, and wouldn't have been available for Game 1.

Would Zim have swallowed his pride and handed the ball to Bill Lee, for whom so many clamored going into the "Boston Massacre" series of September 7-10? As he explained years later, the Spaceman didn't have good stuff most of the year. He wasn't benched because he was insubordinate, he was benched because he was pitching lousy.

But Zim may not have had a choice. So Lee takes the mound at Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium in Game 1, and the Royals smack him around as Dennis Leonard pitches strong. Game 2 would be Eck against Larry Gura, and in RL, that was the only game the Royals won in the series; but the Yankees still scored 4 runs on 12 hits, and it was only because the Royals scored 10 on 16 that they won. Maybe Eck outpitches Gura, and the series is tied going to Fenway. Game 3, George Brett won't have that short right field porch like he had at Yankee Stadium, and Luis Tiant might mix him up; but are the Sox going to hit that nasty lefthander Paul Splittorff? I doubt it. 2-1 Royals. Game 4 is Torrez against Leonard, and the Royals win their first Pennant 2 years early.

For all their courage in overcoming September 1978, and October 2, the Red Sox do not win the Pennant.

I suspect the Royals would have beaten the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. If Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda was upset by Reggie Jackson's "sacrifice thigh" in RL-Game 4, how would he have felt about Brett punching Ron Cey at third base, or Hal McRae kicking Davey Lopes out into center field? The Royals win their first World Series 7 years early. Maybe this gives them the boost of confidence they need in 1980 to beat the Phillies. Suddenly, as 3-time World Champions, their history looks a bit better.

That is a crushing blow for the Phillies, not just the last of the "Original 16" to win one (as they were in RL), but perhaps they still haven't won one. Maybe their fans, already turned off by 1964 and 1977, are so fed up that they abandon the team. Citizens Bank Park is not approved. They remain stuck at Veterans Stadium. And maybe, just maybe, the Phillies are moved. Where? Maybe they go down Interstate 95 to D.C., and they, rather than the Montreal Expos, become the Washington Nationals.

What happens to the Expos? Hard to say: There are other metro areas that are looking to lure a team, including Charlotte, Nashville, Salt Lake City, and Portland, Oregon. Most likely Charlotte: They can expand the current Triple-A ballpark in Fort Mill, South Carolina to 30,000 or so seats as a stopgap until they build a new one downtown. (Remember, in TTL, the funding might already be there before the September 2008 stock-market crash.)

The Red Sox, one of the AL's strongest teams from 1972 to 1979, were pretty much broken up after 1980 anyway, so their history doesn't deviate much. Or does it? Maybe without that 1978 choke on their record, they don't have that mentality, and they beat the Mets to win the 1986 World Series. And we're talking about the Mets not winning it all since the Miracle of '69, and the Curse of Joe Foy.

Which means the Sox might also win it all in 2003, as well as in 2004 and 2007. Or... do they? Stay tuned.

And the Yankees? Probably very little changes, at least in the short term. George Steinbrenner has a fit, but knew Bob Lemon from his days in Cleveland, and probably doesn't fire him on the spot. But if TTL-1979 turns out like RL-1979 does, then history reasserts itself, and the Yankees don't win for years, and we're talking about no title since 1977, and just the one since 1962, and either the Curse of Mike Torrez (if you want to emphasize '77) or the Curse of Topping & Webb or the Curse of Mel Allen (if you want to emphasize '62).

Maybe Steinbrenner goes too far, and he does something worse than he did in 1990, and gets banned for life, and is forced to sell the team. To whom? My big fear back then was that the only guy who could have bought the Yankees would be Donald Trump, and that, sometime in the 1990s, the old Yankee Stadium would be gone, and they'd be playing in Trump Stadium, an incredibly tacky ballpark looking nothing like the old Stadium or a Camden Yards-style retropark. And maybe, after not winning for a few years, and needing cash (he did lose a billion or so dollars at one point), Trump sells the Yankees to Charles Dolan, and his son James screws them up the way he's screwed up the Knicks and Rangers.

Imagine it:

* Wade Boggs, Tim Raines, Cecil Fielder, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia really don't want to go to that circus, and each goes to a different team, and each retires without a World Series ring.

* Derek Jeter is drafted not by the Yankees in 1992, but by the team that had the next pick: The San Francisco Giants. They win the World Series in 1997 (over the Cleveland Indians), 2000 (over the Seattle Mariners), 2002 (over the Anaheim Angels), 2003 (over the Red Sox) and 2010 (over the Texas Rangers).

* Mariano Rivera lands with some team that doesn't know how to handle him, and by 2010 is long forgotten.

* The Atlanta Braves really do become the Team of the '90s, winning the World Series in 1995 (over the Indians), 1996 (over the Baltimore Orioles) and 1999 (over the Red Sox).

* The Florida Marlins don't win the World Series in either 1997 or 2003, and they move out of the Miami suburbs. Where? Maybe up the Florida coast to Orlando, allowing them to keep the name.

* The Cleveland Indians win the 1998 World Series, beating the San Diego Padres for their first title in 50 years.

* The Mets lose to the Giants in the 2000 NLCS, but from 1984 onward, they remain the most popular team in New York, even though they haven't won the World Series since 1969.

* The Seattle Mariners win their first Pennant in 2000, but lose the World Series to the Giants.

* The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Oakland Athletics in the 2001 World Series, remembered throughout history as the Steroid Series after Curt Schilling, Luis Gonzalez and Matt Williams of Arizona; and Jason and Jeremy Giambi of Oakland are all outed by the Mitchell Report.

* The Anaheim Angels lose the 2002 World Series to the Giants, and are still without a World Championship, and the Curse of the Cowboy (Gene Autry) lives.

* The Chicago Cubs lose to the Giants in the 2003 NLCS, as Giant shortstop Derek Jeter's fly ball to left field is prevented from being caught by Moises Alou due to the hands of Steve Bartman.

* Aaron Boone retires without ever hitting a home run that anybody remembers. The Red Sox beat the Yankees to win the 2003 AL Pennant. But they lose the World Series to the Giants.

* The Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS... in 5 games. They still beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

* No change for 2005 and 2006: The Chicago White Sox still beat the Houston Astros in '05, and the Cardinals still beat the Detroit Tigers in '06.

* Red Sox reliever Jonathan Papelbon loses Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series due to a swarm of midges that hits Jacobs Field, and the Indians go on to win the Pennant, and beat the Colorado Rockies in the World Series.

* The Washington Nationals (RL's Phillies) close their first season at Nationals Park by beating the Tampa Bay Rays win the 2008 World Series, the first World Championship for a Washington baseball team in 84 years. They make it back-to-back titles by beating the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009.

* No change in the 2010 World Series: Giants over Texas Rangers.

* Rich "Goose" Gossage, never having won a World Series ring, is never elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Reggie Jackson is, but has an Oakland A's cap on his plaque. Frank White joins his Royal teammate George Brett in the Hall, their manager Whitey Herzog (who went on to manage the Cardinals) gets in a few years sooner, and Edgar Martinez is elected for the Mariners (as he has not yet been in RL). Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton of the Phillies still make the Hall of Fame, but, not having won a World Series, neither gets his number retired by the team.

* Joe Torre is remembered as a really good player, a fair manager, and an okay broadcaster, but never manages the Yankees, and is not a serious candidate for the Hall of Fame.

* Davey Johnson, however, having managed a World Championship with the Mets in 1986 and a Pennant with the Orioles in 1996, is elected to the Hall of Fame. So is 1960s & '70s Orioles and '80s Mets general manager Frank Cashen. So is Keith Hernandez, and Gary Carter gets in a little sooner, even though the '80s Mets aren't directly helped by any of this, except maybe due to the perception that, since 1984, they have unequivocally been New York's favorite baseball team.

* George Steinbrenner is remembered as a quirky fluke of baseball history, much like his 1970s contemporaries Charlie Finley and Bill Veeck -- but not Ted Turner, who had 3 rings, one less than George, Charlie O and Sportshirt Bill combined.

So if the Red Sox had won the Boston Tie Party on October 2, 1978, it would have been a very different world.

A world in which the Yankees have "only" 21 titles, and just one in the last 48 years.

This is one of the few times when I like the real world better.