THROWING IT OUT THERE | By Desmond Bieler

Have a Choke, and a Smile

Monday, September 24, 2007

The temperature is dropping, and so are various teams' magic numbers, which can only mean one thing: It's almost time for baseball's postseason. It's a time when legends are forged in the white-hot crucible of playoff intensity. It's also a time when some players suffer cringe-inducing meltdowns. With that in mind, we wanted to know: Which baseball player(s), past or present, would you least want.

OneMitch Williams

Wild Thing, you make my heartburn sting! Our crack staff (OCS) might not have been singing that, but that seems to be what they were thinking when they nominated pitcher Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams. Joe Carter's ninth-inning home run for the Blue Jays in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series has gone down as one of baseball's most memorable moments. The man who served up that tater, it turns out, also has not been forgotten -- or forgiven. It probably doesn't help Williams's cause that in his previous outing that Series, he was lit up so badly that death threats were called into Veterans Stadium and he finished that Fall Classic with a 20.25 ERA. And it certainly doesn't help Williams's cause that his struggles on the mound had long since earned him the nickname "Wild Thing." A handle like that doesn't exactly reassure nervous fans that its bearer will produce his best stuff at the right time. "Calm Thing," maybe. "Accurate Thing," probably. "Mariano Rivera," definitely. What may be surprising to some, including a Philadelphia-bred member of OCS who opined, "That bozo couldn't get an out if someone spotted him the O and the T," is that "Wild Thing" has not entirely become a pariah to the notoriously bitter Phillies fans. In fact, Williams appears on a Phillies postgame TV show. That's kinda wild.

TwoAlex Rodriguez

In a shocking development, we present the (choke) artist currently known as A-Rod. Let's go over the numbers, shall we? Since Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS, Rodriguez has had 42 postseason at-bats, in which he has accumulated: 4 hits; 1 extra-base hit (a double, the "Godfather III" of extra-base hits); 12 strikeouts; and a .122 slugging percentage. With runners in scoring position, he's 0 for 7 with five strikeouts. No doubt completely by coincidence, the Yankees are 3-9 in that span, including coughing up a heretofore insurmountable 3-0 lead in the 2004 ALCS.

ThreeThe 1964 Phillies

Yes, we are a) piling on the Phillies, b) calling out an entire team and c) referring to regular season play. Hey, we're piling on the Yankees, too, if you hadn't noticed. Besides, the epic choke job by this squad just can't pass without mention. After all, if a group of players can blow a 6 1/2 -game lead with 12 to play, what kind of gag-o-rama would they spring in the actual playoffs? Ironically, the Phillies may be the beneficiaries this year of a similarly monstrous collapse by the Mets, but one suspects their notoriously bitter fans know better than to expect such a happy event.

FourByung Hyun Kim

It's tough to blow a lead with two outs in the ninth. It's tougher to blow a lead with two outs in the ninth in the World Series. It's simply brutal to blow a lead with two outs in the ninth in the World Series two nights in a row. Both times on home runs, no less. So how tough is it for Yankees fans that their team was on the receiving end of all that choking and still couldn't win the Series? Kudos to them for addressing that issue by subsequently acquiring A-Rod.

FiveBucky Dent and Aaron Boone

Wait, what are these two bleeping guys doing here? Aren't they, in fact, famous for hitting crucial postseason homers? The theory here is that, in the words of OCS, "lightning couldn't possibly strike twice." If either were coming up to bat for our team, we wouldn't feel too confident that he could muster yet another legendarily clutch moment. Unless Kim was on the mound, of course. Or Wild Thing. Then it's deja vu all over again.


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