THE REPLAY ZONE
By Jeff Polman
Janurary ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out all four of my season replay-inspired baseball novels on Amazon.
The First-Ever MLB Cup
Joe Sheehan, a fine baseball writer with a great subscription newsletter
and frequent baseball articles in Sports Illustrated, is also a known Strat-O-Matic fanatic who often attends Opening Days in Glen Head.
A few years back, one of his newsletters included a proposal for an “MLB Cup” that would replace All-Star Game week and be modeled after the World Cup for soccer. I thought Sheehan’s plan had a lot of merit, and thought it might be fun to play out one of these Cups using the 1999 super advanced cards.
In Sheehan’s words, here’s how it works:
“MLB has 30 teams, so you take two of them, give them byes to the second round and have 28 teams play 14 games in the first. The bye teams would be the previous year's World Series teams, although I'm open to assigning them by random draw. There should be as little connection between the championship season and the MLB Cup as is possible.
“The 14 matchups would be set by random draw, and home team is the first one called…You can have the Nationals heading to Target Field to take on the Twins in this round. The 14 winners and the two bye teams would play out the rest of the event…and allow for…wait for it…brackets! The Initial draw would become a bracket and the rest of the tournament played out accordingly.”
For my 1999 Cup, using the DH and three starting pitchers, I allowed the two teams with the best records (Atlanta and Arizona) to have the first-round bye. Here’s what my random 20-sider rolls determined for the opening matchups, along with game results:
ROUND OF 28
DODGERS 8, at CUBS 4
Kevin Brown not at his best for L.A., but the Dodgers jump all over Jon Lieber and two relievers, Hollandsworth, Mondesi, and Todd Hundley all smacking homers and Jeff Shaw going an inning and two-thirds for the save.
at WHITE SOX 13, EXPOS 5
32 hits combined in this one, and the Pale Hose racks up 20 of them off Hermanson, Mota, Telford, and Urbina, while James Baldwin survives two home runs by Fernando Seguignol to go the distance.
BREWERS 3, at MARLINS 1
A nice change after the previous game, with Nomo and Wickman silencing the Marlin bats. Geoff Jenkins with a run-scoring double in the 1st and Jeff Cirillo with a solo shot in the 2nd off Alex Fernandez.
at ANGELS 5, REDS 2
Chuck Finley with a complete game 5-hitter, and Garrett Anderson clubs homers his first two times up off Pete Harnisch.
at YANKEES 12, CARDS 7
St. Louis walks nine times, eight of them off David Cone, but it’s no match for the Yanks’ 16 hits, three apiece by Jeter and Bernie Williams.
at TWINS 8, TIGERS 7
The first thriller of the Cup, as the Twins take a 3-0 lead on Dave Mlicki, the Tigers roar back on Brad Radke and take a 7-5 lead to the last of the 9th, but the Twins score three times off Todd Jones, winning it on a Denny Hocking walkoff single!
GIANTS 8, at RANGERS 4
Todd Stottlemyre walks eleven Giants, including five in a row in the 1st, and Russ Ortiz handles the powerful Ranger lineup with relative ease.
BLUE JAYS 6, at METS 5
Al Leiter has a 4-1 lead at Shea Stadium going to the 8th, but comes out for John Franco, who totally loses it, giving up two hits, four walks and five runs.
at ATHLETICS 4, ORIOLES 3
Another thriller. Oakland ties it with two in the 8th off Mussina, before John Jaha whacks a walkoff homer against Mike Timlin with one out in the 9th.
at RED SOX 6, ROYALS 4
Pedro Martinez’s nearly unhittable ’99 card isn’t exactly dominating—the Royals outhit the Sox for the game—but a double by Garciaparra and three-run shot by Butch Huskey in the 7th give Boston the win.
at PIRATES 5, PADRES 0
San Diego has no answers for Kris Benson and Scott Sauerbeck, and the Bucs use a Brian Giles homer and RBI double from Brant Brown to take an early 2-0 lead on Ashby and not look back.
at ROCKIES 6, ASTROS 5
In a one-game elimination format, a last place team can topple a first place team much easier, and it happens here. Astacio over Hampton, though Dave Veres barely survives a ferocious Houston rally in the 9th that almost ties the game. Russ Johnson lines a two-run single with two outs, then gets thrown out rounding the first base bag too far to end it!
at DEVIL RAYS 7, INDIANS 6
And another last place team edges a first place team. Fred McGriff clubs a double, two homers, and knocks in five, walking it off in the 9th after a leadoff Boggs double against Paul Shuey.
PHILLIES 4, at MARINERS 2
Complete game 3-hitter for Curt Schilling, as the Phils score four times in the 1st off Freddy Garcia. Griffey, Edgar Martinez and A-Rod go a combined 2-for-10 for Seattle.
Using the 20-sider again, I then re-configured the remaining teams into four brackets…
ROUND OF 16 - COBB BRACKET
at DEVIL RAYS 11, BREWERS 5
The Rays continue their Cinderella ways, hammering Scott Karl and two other Brewer hurlers early and often. Jose Canseco and Mike DiFelice with homers.
at YANKEES 4, WHITE SOX 1
El Duque with a 5-hitter, and the bottom of the Yanks’ lineup gets on base 10 out of 13 times and knocks in three of their runs.
ROUND OF 16 - RUTH BRACKET
at TWINS 4, BRAVES 2
Atlanta joins the Cup competition and gets kicked to the curb immediately, continuing a trend of awful play in every tournament I’ve ever had them in. This time they manage just four hits off Eric Milton, miss four 1-4 ballpark HR chances, and see Bret Boone get thrown out trying to score on a 1-13 chance. Walker and Cordova both hit solo blasts off Kevin Millwood.
at GIANTS 6, ANGELS 0
Livan Hernandez spins the whitewash, scattering eight singles, while the Giants are busy clubbing five doubles and a Bonds homer off three Angel pitchers.
ROUND OF 16 - AARON BRACKET
DIAMONDBACKS 14, at ROCKIES 0
Not as close as the score indicates. Four D-Back homers, including two by Kelly Stinnett, and Randy Johnson mows down the Rockies, whiffing a dozen.
DODGERS 12, at BLUE JAYS 4
Four Dodger blasts, two by Karros, highlight the onslaught against Roy Halladay and two other tattered Jays. Toronto actually gets only two less hits but eight less runs—not easy to to do.
ROUND OF 16 - MAYS BRACKET
at PIRATES 5, RED SOX 1
Boston is pretty helpless against Jason Schmidt, with Brian Daubach missing a 1-12 grand slam roll in the 3rd that would have changed everything. Bret Saberhagen gets knocked around pretty often.
ATHLETICS 7, at PHILLIES 4
Homers from Giambi, Becker, and Stairs support Tim Hudson’s fine pitching until the the 8th, when a 3-run shot by Scott Rolen puts Philly more or less back in the game, but Doug Jones retires all five guys he faces for the save.
at YANKEES 7, DEVIL RAYS 4
Chad Curtis knocks in four, a shaky Clemens pitches into the 7th, and Mariano Rivera nails down the win to put New York in the semi-finals.
at GIANTS 1, TWINS 0
Jeff Kent’s RBI single off Joe Mays in the 1st is the only run of the game, as Shawn Estes provides the best-pitched game of the Cup so far with a brilliant 2-hitter.
at DIAMONDBACKS 6, DODGERS 3
Sloppy affair in the desert, with L.A. making two errors and Arizona four, but three hits from Luis Gonzalez and a two-run shot by Matt Williams gives the Snakes the win for Omar Daal.
PIRATES 12, at ATHLETICS 5
Kevin Young goes ballistic for the Bucs, with three singles, a double, homer, and five knocked in, while Brant Brown collects a homer and three singles and the Pirates blast Gil Heredia and others to make the “final four”.
Wrigley Field in daytime was used for the final three games…
at YANKEES 4, GIANTS 0
With #1 starters Russ Ortiz and David Cone back in play, Cone prevails despite putting 13 Giants aboard. Yanks string two 2-run rallies together in the 4th and 6th to advance to the Cup Final.
DIAMONDBACKS 5, at PIRATES 1
Where they will be joined by Arizona, as the Big Unit throws his second gem. Jay Bell and Gonzalez with homers off Benson. Because the D-Backs received a first-round bye, I gave them the option of starting their third pitcher and saving their ace for the final, or going with Johnson here, and their decision paid off for the time being.
1999 CUP FINAL
An absolute classic slugfest, the only real one of the entire Cup. El Duque back to the hill against third Arizona starter Todd Stottlemyre. Arizona is the home team, but Yanks have a 3-1 lead until a Tony Womack triple and David Dellucci sac fly ties it 3-3 in the 3rd. Stinnett mashes another homer with two aboard for a 6-3 lead, and the D-backs soon score four more. Up 10-3 into the 7th, New York scores five times, helped by a Womack error and capped by a Curtis two-run homer. Arizona scores again for an 11-8 lead but Yanks put three singles and a DP ball together for two more and it’s 11-10.Mariano comes on to keep it close but Erubiel Durazo and Steve Finley shock him with back-to-back blasts for the final 13-10 score! ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS TAKE THE CUP!
NYY 111 000 520 - 10 13 2
ARZ 012 331 12x - 13 11 2
W-Stottlemyre L-Hernandez Sv-Swindell
HRS: Posada, Curtis, Stinnett, Durazo, Finley