LONGSHOTS: Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
by Dave Long
Since weíre in the midst of what used to be the greatest time of the year for me during the greatest time of my life ó summer vacation ó Iíve been thinking about the olden days. Like most from my pre-historic age group, I was on my own a lot more during summer vacation than kids now, where for many itís camps and organized activities all day long. For me and my friends it was playing baseball from 9 a.m. until dinner with a break for lunch. It was the greatest.
The friends I grew up with were ultra-competitive and from time to time (like every other play) weíd get into a squabble over being safe or out. Our parents generally left us to our own imagination, but did step in on that one to make a rule. If we couldnít agree on a play, it would be a do-over. It was a good way to settle things even with our imaginative ways to get around the system, which helped us spend a lot more time playing and less time arguing.
Too bad we wouldnít get do-overs in real life. But if the sports gods did grant them, imagine the impact it would have had on the space-time continuum. Like if Harry Frazee could buy a do-over like they buy mulligans at charity golf tournaments, would he still sell the Babe, or find another way to finance No-No Nannette? And if not, think about the impact on baseball history. If they donít get Ruth, itís possible the dynasty never starts, which would have meant a lot less mental anguish in these parts. But if they donít have their cache internationally, do they win the Jose Contreras and Carl Pavano battles where both said it was the mystique they wanted? Since both were busts it shows a do-over isnít automatically good.
So hereís a little game. I think of a do-over and you think how it might have changed things. Iíll do it in two categories. First to erase awful outcomes from the memory bank. Iím guessing thatís the case for Bill Buckner and October 28, 1986, as thereís never been a more dramatic change of perception for a playerís career than that moment. If he had a do-over, people would remember him for his 2,800+ hits and nine .300 seasons. Now itís Vince Scully saying, ďand the ball gets through Buckner.Ē However, would winning in 1986 have diminished 2004? Ending an 18-year streak without a title isnít quite the same as ending the Curse and 86 years of misery, is it?
The other is seeing category is the reversal of either-or decisions gone bad. Grady Little in 2003 comes to mind here, as everyone from Coos to the Sea now says he should have yanked Pedro after seven, or at the very least, after Derek Jeter hit that shot over Trot Nixonís head to open the eighth. But since thereís no guarantee, itíd be interesting to see if the public reaction that so vilified Little would have been as bitter if the bullpen coughed it up too. It was the ultimate lose-lose proposition where the only chance he had to keep his job was if the players had done theirs better.
Sports Do-Overs to Wipe It from the Memory Bank: How about the Celtics picking Len Bias in the 1986 draft? Theyíd take that one for sure, but mine would be for Bias to get a do-over so he could pass on doing the cocaine that night.
You probably want a lottery do-over for Tim Duncan and Greg Oden, but thatís risky since the odds remain the same. Still, Iíd be curious to see what would have happened if Rick Pitino had gotten Duncan. Would he have flamed out anyway or still be here with multiple rings like Gregg Popovich after getting the big guy? Personally Iíd settle for keeping what they had in Chauncey Billups, Bruce Bowen, Joe Johnson, and Ben Wallace to see where theyíd be now.
How about a do-over on a different Bruins owner, where anyone from Bob Kraft to Bozo The Clown steps up to buy them 30-some years ago instead of Jeremy Jacobs?
Do you think if Barry Bonds had one heíd avoid all the actions that led to the steroid mess ó even if it meant no 73-home-run season and no chance of reaching Aaronís 755? Strangely I donít think that one would have much impact on the big picture.
Iím betting if Arne Tellem, the agent for Nomar Garciaparra, had one, heíd use it to sign the $60 million deal he passed on in 2003 because he thought the market would go higher. Wouldnít you if you were behind one of the most colossal agent mistakes of all-time? But it also started a remarkable slide for a guy who was on his way to the Hall of Fame as well. And if Nomar did sign, do they win in 2004, because it gave him trade protection?
Sports Do-Overs to See What Would Have Happened with the Other Decision: If Dan Duquette had a mulligan, would he have turned to signing Manny to his huge contract after losing out on getting Mike Mussina? And would they have been as good without him and with Mussina?
If you throw out the life-threatening-injury part of it, would Bill Belichick have thrown a yellow flag for a replay after Mo Lewis splattered Drew Bledsoe on the sideline in 2001? If he did, would they have won in 2001? And how long would it have taken before Tom Brady emerged to take over for Drew ó some other time in 2001, 2002, later?
After seeing the Yankees win nine pennants and nine World Series in the career of the great DiMaggio would Tom Yawkey want a do-over from calling off to swapping Ted Williams for Joe D even up he supposedly made one drunken night with Yankee owner Dan Topping? Would that have made them even greater since each was so perfectly suited for the otherís home park? And regardless, how would it be judged years later in Kenmore Square and in the Bronx?
I want one for swapping Kobe Bryant for any of Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Steve Nash and Ray Allen in L.A.ís pre-championship days. That would show my friend Jeff Gore the Lakers would have won three in a row with any of them in the Kobe roll because, as history has clearly shown, the Big Fella was the irreplaceable one in that run, not Kobe.
Thatís it for now. But if you have some others, send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org and weíll kick around again in the future.
Dave Long is host of Home Team Saturday with Dave Long and Company, 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday morning on WGAM (1250 AM in Manchester and 900 AM in Nashua).