And I think it's Junior's return tonight! I cannot wait for the ovation he gets tonight. He's a tough emotional nut to crack, and is typical of Junior he's downplaying the whole thing right now, but if anything is going to stir his emotions, ever, it's going to be tonight. I can't wait.
Outside of the 1997 Apple Cup win at Husky Stadium where I cried like a newborn when it was all over, and the Seahawks NFC title game, the 1995 ALDS was the most amazing, emotional, fantastic moment in my sports life, and I'll never forget Junior's dash around the bases to win Game 5. To this day, I can still see that ball running up the left-field line off Edgar's amazing swing, and my eyes going from Gerald Williams running to the wall to picking up Junior absolutely FLYING around second, and thinking "OH MY GOD, THEY ARE GOING TO SEND HIM!" The man was floating, running at a speed that I've never, ever seen Junior hit and maybe he's never hit that gear again. I looked again back as Tony Fernandez caught the relay and make the quick throw, and then looked to the plate to see Junior sliding in ahead of the throw, and then it was eruption-city. What an unbelievable ride. Maybe the best thing of all was after they lost game 6 to the Tribe, and all the fans stayed in the Kingdome cheering. We didn't want to leave, didn't want it to end. I remember the Kingdome diamond vision cameras were just panning around the entire stadium, slowly, capturing all the fans that were still there, cheering, for 30 minutes after the game. I remember when the camera panned to Dave in the broadcast booth, and right in the middle of the postgame show, he stopped talking, stood up and waved and appeared to be choked up, and the crowd went bananas. I remember the M's players coming back out onto the field and throwing sweatbands, hats, t-shirts, etc, into the crowd, waving and thanking them. And I even remember Peter Gammons and Omar Vizquel doing an interview on the field, and the crowd was cheering so loudly you would have thought it was a Cleveland celebration, and Omar and Gammons were both amazed at what they were experiencing. Now THOSE WERE THE DAYS.
Meanwhile, look at that photo, and think about that power in the everyday lineup. A-Rod, Junior, Edgar and Buhner? A-Rod and Junior were legit MVP candidates, Edgar is the greatest DH of all-time and one of the best pure righthanded hitters of our generation, and oh yeah, Buhner could hit 40 jacks and drive in 100+. Just goes to show you that to win the whole thing, you gotta follow the pitching! Just like we look at a photo like that and shake our heads over how the hell they didn't win it all back in the day, the Yankee fans will look at photos of A-Rod, Jeter, Sheffield, Matsui, Giambi, etc, from the last few years and ask the same questions. Or Mets fans will look at Beltran, Delgado, Jose Reyes and David Wright and wonder the same thing. It's all about the arms. St Louis' pitching got hot last October, and Detroit's young guns blew through the AL like a hot knife through butter. Think back to teams like the Marlins, with those great young arms, or even the Angels and their power bullpen. The Red Sox could rake with anyone when they won it, but it was the pitching of Lowe, Schilling and Pedro plus the hot closer in Foulke that got them their title. Even the ChiSox of a few years ago with their pitching and power closer, or their opponent, Houston, with Oswalt, Rocket, Pettitte and Lidge in lights-out fashion. Follow the pitching!
I guess it gives me hope that someday the M's will put it all together. They have a pitchers ballpark, and they have a young stud to anchor the rotation if he can stay healthy. Maybe they'll catch lightning in a bottle, someday.