NBA playoff plans: Biggest winners and losers in a 22-team return

  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
  • Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
  • Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system

Who could benefit and who might be less pleased if the NBA moves forward with a 22-team restart of the 2019-20 regular season in Orlando, Florida?

After Friday’s remote board of governors meeting, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ramona Shelburne and Zach Lowe reported that several members of the board indicated there’s growing momentum for that plan to resume the season, interrupted on March 11 by the coronavirus pandemic.

A 22-team format probably would include additional regular-season games followed by a play-in tournament for playoff berths in both conferences, they reported. What would the implications of that scenario be for teams on the playoff bubble and elsewhere?

Let’s take a look at potential winners and losers.

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Glanville: Here’s why I’d play this year — and why I wouldn’t

    • MLB analyst for ESPN and
    • Played nine major league seasons with the Cubs, Phillies and Rangers

As we await a potential agreement between MLB ownership and the union to play the 2020 season, there is still a long bridge to cross between policy and reality. In the end, it is a negotiation, and history tells us there must be compromise if there’s going to be baseball this year. During this coronavirus pandemic, safety has no compromise, of course, but there are elements on the table that leave more room to meet in the middle.

For my entire big-league career, I was deeply involved in the Major League Baseball Players Association. Yet, nothing could have prepared me, or anyone, for the time we are living in now. The weight of deciding a policy might have life-and-death consequences. Historically, the MLBPA could band together and face the owners with a united front. Now more than ever, though, each player’s individual circumstance will impact his position: Does he live with older or otherwise high-risk family members? Does he have health issues of his own? Is this his only window to make his mark in the big leagues?

Tapping into my union experience, I know there is more than one way to look at this.

So I asked myself: Under what conditions would I play and under what conditions would I not play? And yes, it is personal.

Three reasons I would play this season

1. To protect the past and preserve the future.

I came up to the big leagues in 1996, but I was in the Chicago Cubs’ system since I signed in 1991. This was a time when many of the biggest player voices in union history were still audible in the locker rooms. They were battle-tested in negotiations and had seen what it looked like to sacrifice the present for the future. The message was loud and clear: Protect the past and the sacrifices made by the players who had come before — players who had less and gave up more. In fact, those players practically handed me a system in which I could thrive economically. There is a sense of duty that comes with being their beneficiary. And this sense of duty travels forward in time also. A decision today shapes what system I’d leave for the next generation of players.

Given the most recent public proposal from MLB, the players are facing a steep challenge. A sliding pay scale can be framed as showing sensitivity for lower-paid players, but it’s also potentially divisive. According to the proposal, players with salaries in the lower tiers would retain more, but it would hinge on higher-paid players taking a far more substantial hit. Sure, the higher-paid players make a ton of money, but the proposal does go against the all-for-one, one-for-all ideal of the MLBPA. If the players open this door, it would risk the credibility of their core mission.

If all of this comes together in ways that maintain the equity the players’ association has tried to operate under since its inception — not just for the present, but for the future — then I would play. Worst-case, I’d work on terms that allowed us to live to fight another day — or another year, when we are past this unprecedented circumstance. This sliding scale proposal, though, should be rejected out of hand. If accepted as is, it would be a recipe for internal division among the players. The superstars versus the rest. A more productive approach (and more on the shoulders of the MLBPA), would be if the players’ association collectively decides how to equitably apportion any division of funds, and then works it out in conjunction with the owners. The players should lead the movement.

2. It’s a truly historic opportunity … and responsibility.

Baseball has an opportunity. The players have an opportunity. It is difficult to tell a player, even when he is part of a time when labor peace has existed for 25 years, that he still must look at the big picture when facing a crisis. But this big picture is not just for the game and the players anymore, but for our larger society. As we saw with the NBA, once Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, everything flowed from there. Sports shut down, a wave of acceptance washed over most of our country, and a new era took over. Baseball can be the reversal of such a moment. The game can open the door, carefully, knowing that all are watching. If baseball can do it, so can we, could become the prevailing attitude across all sports — and beyond.

Being part of a thought-out return to the field that can heal, educate and improve the lives of others outside of the inner circle means baseball players would become leaders off the field. This could be a powerful opportunity for the game — and as a player, this would be a direct way to help our recovery, not just in our country, but across the world. It would take transparency and the understanding that it won’t be a linear recovery. As we saw post-9/11, it would be an honor for the game to be at its best, but also at its most selfless to set a new tone of what sports can be. I would welcome that chance.

3. If my family were on board.

One reason a unified message from the players is complicated is because each player’s circumstance is unique. When I was called up in 1996, I was 25, single and could think of my intimate circle through my parents and my brother. By this point, I was living alone, sometimes 1,000 miles away, so it would have been fairly easy to be isolated. In fact, isolation was part of the life in this game. It was familiar. Yet today, I see this through the experience of having my own family. My wife and children change my perspective completely. If they felt safe and it made sense for all of us, then I would play.

Although baseball players are nonessential workers, I can’t say whether being paid is personally nonessential for every player. Not all of these players have eight-figure contracts. Some are on the doorstep of making it after toiling away in the minor leagues. They might have financial concerns that make this less about safety and more about making a living. That circumstance still exists in the land of such privilege. For me, though, if my family and my family circumstance green-lighted it, I would play.

Three reasons I would not play this season

1. If it were too much of a risk for my family.

The opposite of my family giving me the green-light is a situation that makes the risk an impossible hurdle. In 2000, just as the season was about to start, my father had a stroke, the first of many to come. He was diabetic, and later developed lung cancer. If I were in a circumstance where I was living with my parents or had an arrangement where I was physically central to supporting them, playing while maintaining interaction with them would be a danger. Playing would be higher risk. Maybe not for me directly, but for those around me. Unless there was a way for my father to have been kept safe, where I wouldn’t be bringing unnecessary risk home, that risk would not be worth playing. This could be applied to anyone in my household. Many players have these situations, and unfortunately, we have learned that there can be risks without a family member even being aware of them. These players might have the ability to buy safety to a certain degree — to hire help, obtain a separate residence, etc. — but these are also times when supporting your family directly is ideal.

Keep in mind that there was an initial 67-page document outlining all of the safety protocols. That shows a deep concern for everyone’s safety, but it also creates a near-impossible standard. When it comes to hundreds of people who play or support the game, the longer the list of people and protocols, the more violations and errors that become possible. A player would be putting his safety (and his family’s) in the hands of everyone else, and no team will be able to follow the plan to perfection.

2. The uncertainly of Bubbleball.

Although baseball is trying to create a bubble in some ways, this will be a tall order, with or without that 67-page list of safety measures. No matter how many rules and scientifically informed protocols are put in place, there is a large degree of uncertainty. There will be errors, new information and changing dynamics, and should that misalign with what is happening outside of the bubble, I would consider that a reason not to play.

A challenge for baseball is playing amid great suffering. There are ways players can help in that regard, but there are ways they can fail miserably, too. We saw the social backlash over Blake Snell’s comments. Beyond the bargaining table, if the game is played in a way that promotes an out-of-touch isolation and ends up siphoning resources and diminishing the communities, that would be a major red flag for me, let alone the current crop of players. Although much of this would be difficult to measure, there are plenty of obvious inequities highlighted by professional sports. Some of this exists inside the sport, as we see with the many furloughs, layoffs and pay cuts across teams. There very well could be a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. Will baseball adjust accordingly from a leadership position or will it wait for another NBA moment to take action? Being proactive will be even more important if baseball is a pioneer in its return.

So far MLB appears to be embracing the social responsibility of the moment. But time will tell.

3. It’s not just billionaires vs. millionaires.

Although I have always believed this billionaires-versus-millionaires framing is oversimplified, there is no denying the economics. While there is a real battle over how to divide the wealth, it is also a privilege to be in a position to take financial motivation out of the equation. When eviction notices or foreclosures are not arriving, or the loss of unemployment pay are not part of a player’s calculus, decisions can be reduced to certain principles. However, there is a segment of players, even in the big leagues, who do not have the same bandwidth to sit out or elect to play at a substantial reduction. A prorated share could still put you in a bad economic situation, even if it’s better than no share at all, particularly if you’re helping provide for a family in crisis far away, something many international players are facing. There could be a situation in which the numbers do not add up in a way that works well — or well enough, given the additional risks.

If a player, too, is at a certain stage of his career when this cannot work — for example, being on an expanded big league roster but not playing in a way that can bring value — then that might be too difficult a spot. When I first was called up to the Cubs in June 1996, I did not play much, so after a while, even being in the big leagues started to erode my value as a starter. When I was sent down to Triple-A, although disappointed, I was excited to play every day again. It raises the age-old debate: Would you rather be on the bench, possibly pigeonholing yourself to role-player status, or play somewhere else to show you’re a starter? There will be a substantial number of players on the bubble who might face a similar circumstance. This “taxi squad” that is being kicked around might present this challenge to a number of players — again, along with all the many risks we’ve already mentioned.

This is an extremely difficult decision for all players. It will hinge on health, economics, travel, family and a whole host of other factors. This is their profession and they will ultimately seek an end result that allows them to work. I realize that my career at 25 and my career at 35 would yield a completely different set of priorities, but at the core, I would follow a fair and collective solution, as long as my family could fully support the risk.

Clearly, the essential workers who are keeping us afloat are facing far greater challenges. Still, in the land of the nonessential worker, there is this possibility of what it would mean to come back. Those who are fans would love to see the game return. Those who are not might still appreciate the normalcy. Yet in the deeper lives of the players, they can never be 100% sure, given the unprecedented nature of these times. More than ever, individual circumstances will weigh on the collective mission of the players’ union, and those in a certain strata will reconsider what the greater good is when it involves not just economic sacrifices, but potentially major health risks as well.

As I have learned, the game will march on with or without you, even in the face of dangerous uncertainty. This time, though, many will understand if you choose not to play.

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The 10 biggest MLB draft busts of the past decade

  • Senior writer of SweetSpot baseball blog
  • Former deputy editor of Page 2
  • Been with since 1995

Playing baseball is hard. Drafting baseball players might be even harder. To call the MLB draft a crapshoot isn’t exactly accurate because scouts and front offices actually do a really good job. It’s just that invariably there are going to be a lot of misses along the way.

What follows is a list of 10 of the biggest misses of the decade, and yes, injuries are, unfortunately, sometimes a factor. Fair or not, that’s the roll of the dice any time you select a pitcher, in particular. I considered only players selected among the top 10 overall picks, and there is nobody included from 2016 or later — it’s a little soon to make a declarative statement on any of those players, even if they have struggled in the minors so far.

Mark Appel, Houston Astros (first overall, 2013)

The Pirates drafted Appel eighth overall in 2012, but he didn’t sign, returned to Stanford, finished his degree in management science and engineering, then was selected by the Astros with the first pick in 2013, allowing the Cubs to happily snag Kris Bryant with the second pick. Appel was the consensus top talent in the draft, viewed as a future No. 1 starter and polished enough to reach the big leagues quickly — probably in 2014, following a similar path as Stephen Strasburg a few years prior.

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The coronavirus and college sports: NCAA reopening plans, latest news, program cuts, more

The coronavirus pandemic continues to rattle the college sports landscape, leaving many questions unanswered.

But before a new normal can begin to take shape, colleges and universities will have to find a safe way to reopen campuses. Complex, high-stakes public health issues need to be dealt with before there is a good sense of what college sports will look like.

Here is the latest news and updates from the college sports world.

Latest news: SEC sets its plan in motion

Friday, May 22

The SEC announced athletes can begin using facilities on campus for voluntary workouts June 8 under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each university. Presidents and chancellors from the SEC’s 14 universities made the final call after extensive conversations within the league involving commissioner Greg Sankey, athletic directors and medical officials.

Big Ten leaving decisions up to individual schools: The Big Ten is not expected to make a league-wide announcement on athletes returning to campus, leaving the decision to individual schools, league sources told ESPN on Friday. The conference will defer to NCAA rulings and guidelines with each campus, state and local area.

Thursday, May 21

Nick Saban scolds Crimson Tide mascot for lack of mask in PSA

Alabama coach Nick Saban scolded Crimson Tide mascot Big Al for not wearing a mask and not maintaining proper social distancing as part of a public service announcement released Thursday by Alabama football. It’s the latest PSA that Saban has participated in since the coronavirus pandemic shut down college sports more than two months ago.

Wednesday, May 20

Ohio State game models show potential for 20,000-50,000 fans

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said his athletic department has run several social distancing models to consider having fans in stands at games this fall. Ohio Stadium, with a normal capacity of more than 100,000, would hold closer to 20,000-22,000 fans but up to 40,000-50,000 “if guidelines are relaxed.” … “We’ve played with that a little bit as a framework to start as we move forward and think about what we’d ultimately be allowed to do,” Smith told reporters, before later clarifying the low-end estimate in a tweet.

Voluntary on-campus activities to resume in football, basketball starting June 1

The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to allow voluntary on-campus athletic activities to resume in football, and men’s and women’s basketball starting June 1, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN. After the coronavirus pandemic forced the shut down of sports across the country, the council banned all on-campus athletic activities. That moratorium was set to expire May 31.

Tuesday, May 19

Bowlsby: Big 12 needs to be ‘up and running’ by mid-July for football season to start on time

The Big 12 conference doesn’t have a date yet for its sports to resume, but commissioner Bob Bowlsby said Tuesday the league needs to be “up and running” by mid-July if the college football season is going to start on time.

COVID impact: How do schools test, recruit and stay afloat?

100 days to college football? The biggest questions as the sport looks to return: The college football season is slated to begin in 100 days, highlighted by Notre Dame-Navy in Dublin, Ireland. Here’s the latest as the sport’s power brokers try to find a way to save the season. Read

No football would cost $4B, alter college sports: As more college athletic departments cut sports programs, the financial wreckage is becoming clear. And it gets even worse if college football doesn’t return. Read

College recruiting challenges during the coronavirus pandemic: With the state of college football and basketball in limbo, coaches and recruits across the country have had to find new ways to go about age-old practices during the spring. Read

Power 5 conferences: When will sports return?

As states begin to initiate phases re-openings throughout the country, schools and athletic programs are also beginning to set new protocols for students and student-athletes. Right now, college football season is tentatively scheduled to start on Aug. 29; and while there is still no definitive timetable for college sports to return across the board, the May 31 moratorium that was imposed in March at the onset of the pandemic is quickly expiring.

Here is a school-by-school breakdown of dates for stages of reopening in each Power 5 conference (*-denotes Notre Dame as independent):


The ACC announced it would leave it up to individual universities to determine when to start opening up campuses and athletic facilities. Here are the dates we know so far:

Boston College: TBD.
Clemson: TBD.
Duke: TBD.
Florida State: TBD.
Georgia Tech: TBD.
Louisville: June 8
Miami: TBD.
North Carolina: TBD.
NC State: TBD.
Pittsburgh: TBD.
Syracuse: TBD.
Virginia: TBD.
Virginia Tech : TBD.
Wake Forest: TBD.
*-Notre Dame: TBD.

Big Ten

While the Big Ten said it will leave plans up to individual schools, Illinois announced detailed plans for its athletes to return for voluntary activities beginning in mid-June. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told reporters earlier this week that its athletes would begin returning to campus June 8, pending university approval. Here are the latest dates:

Illinois: Mid-June (voluntary on-campus workouts).
Indiana: TBD.
Iowa: TBD.
Maryland: TBD.
Michigan: TBD.
Michigan State: TBD.
Minnesota: TBD.
Nebraska: TBD.
Northwestern: TBD.
Ohio State: June 8 (voluntary on-campus workouts).
Penn State: TBD.
Purdue: TBD.
Rutgers: TBD.
Wisconsin: TBD.

Big 12

Baylor: TBD.
Iowa State: TBD.
Kansas: TBD.
Kansas State: TBD.
Oklahoma: TBD.
Oklahoma State: TBD.
Texas: TBD.
Texas Tech: TBD.
West Virginia: TBD.


Earlier this month, the 23-school California State University system announced it would primarily remain in a virtual learning model this fall, raising questions about the ability for member schools to field athletic teams for the rest of 2020. Here are the Pac-12 school breakdowns:

Arizona: TBD.
Arizona State: TBD.
California: TBD.
Colorado: TBD.
Oregon: TBD.
Oregon State: TBD.
Stanford: TBD.
Utah: TBD.
Washington: TBD.
Washington State: TBD.


Alabama: TBD.
Arkansas: TBD.
Auburn: TBD.
Florida: TBD.
Georgia: TBD.
Kentucky: TBD.
Ole Miss: TBD.
Mississippi State: TBD.
Missouri: TBD.
South Carolina: TBD.
Tennessee: TBD.
Texas A&M: TBD.
Vanderbilt: TBD.

College Football Playoff: Will there be one?

CFP officials have stated they are moving forward with a plan to still have a Playoff as scheduled. Here is the latest news:

  • No change to CFP format or selection protocols

  • Mike Pence, CFP committee discuss college sports’ differing dynamics

  • CFP director Hancock: We’re planning on playoff

Schools that have cut pay, programs, staff

A day after the University of Cincinnati announced it would permanently cut its men’s soccer program, a letter from five conference commissioners to NCAA president Emmert asked, in part, for the NCAA to lift rules that require Division I schools to sponsor at least 16 varsity sports.

Here are other programs that have disbanded, plus schools that have made staffing changes and pay cuts:

  • Minnesota, Wisconsin thrown for losses in sports budget crunch

  • Cincinnati drops men’s soccer program amid “widespread uncertainty”

  • Old Dominion cuts wrestling, citing financial impact of coronavirus

  • Louisville furloughs 45 athletic department staffers, others take 4% pay cut

  • Boise State coaches, athletics staff to be furloughed

  • Colorado athletic director, three head coaches to take 10% pay cuts

  • Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck confirms taking unpaid week

  • Syracuse coaches Jim Boeheim, Dino Babers take voluntary pay cuts

  • Rutgers athletic director, three highest-paid coaches taking pay cuts

  • Kansas’ Les Miles, Bill Self, Jeff Long take salary cuts

  • Texas Tech to trim $7 million from athletic budget

  • Kansas State football, men’s hoops coach agree to salary reduction

  • Arizona’s Sean Miller, Kevin Sumlin among coaches taking 20% pay cut

  • Report: Florida International AD defers year’s salary amid furloughs

  • Akron to eliminate 3 sports in cost-cutting move

  • Bowling Green ends baseball program to save $500K

  • Furman eliminates baseball, men’s lacrosse

  • Central Michigan stops track amid coronavirus pandemic

  • South Carolina football, basketball coaches among those taking 10% pay cut

  • East Carolina eliminates swimming and diving, tennis programs

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Overrated? Underrated? Our experts debate the top 74 players in NBA history

With the season on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN polled its NBA experts to rank the greatest players in the league’s 74-year history. It’s no surprise that Michael Jordan ended up on top, but there were close calls and heated debates throughout the rankings — and outside of them.

We turned back to our experts to take a closer look at some of the biggest questions coming out of this year’s edition of all-time NBArank, and we asked those experts to look into their crystal ball at what this list might look like in a few more years.

Top 74 players of all time: Nos. 74-41 | 40-11 | 10-1

1. What’s your biggest takeaway from the rankings?

Tim Bontemps: That doing any list like this is hard. It is easy to poke at specific decisions, whether it’s why a certain player is on it or not, or why one player is ranked ahead of another. But trying to compare players going up against one another can be difficult at times, as we see almost every year with the MVP race. Trying to do it over the course of the history of the sport, and all of the various eras and changes it has undergone? That is another problem entirely.

Andrew Lopez: Stephen Curry vs. Kevin Durant will be a debate that follows both players for the rest of their careers. Durant holds the edge in Finals MVPs (2-0), first-team All-NBA selections (6-3) and total All-NBA selections (9-6) while Curry is first in regular-season MVPs (2-1) and total titles (3-2). When ESPN last did this exercise in 2016, Durant was No. 22 and Curry was No. 23.

Dave McMenamin: I remember how big of a deal the NBA at 50 celebration was for the league’s golden anniversary in 1996. Twelve of those 50 players not only don’t make our top 50 but don’t make our top 74. That means we have 38 from the original list chosen by the league and 36 new faces, which speaks to the advancements in the league in the past two decades but could also suggest some recency bias.

Kevin Pelton: That the timing of “The Last Dance” seems to be influencing the rankings. Scottie Pippen is the only player who was in the Hall of Fame at the time we last ranked players historically in 2016 to move up at least four spots from then, and Dennis Rodman also moved up two spots. Meanwhile, some of the players the Bulls vanquished in the Finals have tumbled: Gary Payton by 12 spots and Clyde Drexler by 21, the largest drop of anyone between the two lists.

Tim MacMahon: Recency bias played a significant role in these rankings, both positively and negatively. I believe Giannis Antetokounmpo is en route to all-time greatness, but it’s ridiculous for a 25-year-old who has never played in the Finals to be No. 27 on the list. Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony both clearly belong thanks to their overall bodies of work, but their reputations have been tarnished by their decline and difficulty adapting to the NBA’s changes in recent years.

2. Which player most deserved to make the top 74 but didn’t?

Lopez: It feels like Chris Webber should be on the list. A five-time All-NBA selection, Webber played 15 seasons and averaged 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG and 4.2 APG throughout this career. Webber has a career PER of 20.9, and every eligible player ahead of him has made the Hall of Fame — a call that already feels overdue for Webber.

McMenamin: What if I told you there was a guard with 10 rings, five All-Star appearances and a career scoring average of 18.9 PPG in the playoffs and he wasn’t on this list? It would have to be a mistake, right? Sam Jones, known as “Mr. Clutch” by Boston Celtics fans, has a pretty compelling case to make it.

Pelton: Dolph Schayes. For better or worse, our voting panel largely ignored the 1950s, with George Mikan the only player in the top 74 who retired earlier than 1965. That worked against Schayes, a 12-time All-NBA pick who earned that honor every season in the 1950s.

MacMahon: I’ve already mentioned a couple of active players who were glaring omissions, so I’ll go to an earlier generation and pick Adrian Dantley. He was simply one of the most efficient elite scorers in NBA history. Of the 70 instances when a player averaged at least 30 points in a season (minimum: 50 games), Dantley accounted for three of the top six when ranked by true shooting percentage. We included 14 of the 15 players who had multiple seasons averaging at least 30, with Dantley the lone exception.

Bontemps: I know Dwight Howard’s reputation has taken a hit the past few years, but it is absurd that he did not make this list. There have been 26 players in NBA history named to the All-NBA first team at least five times. Only two of them — Howard and Dolph Schayes, one of the first stars in the history of the sport — did not make the list. He was clearly the NBA’s second-best player behind LeBron James over a five-year period, and nearly carried the Orlando Magic to a title in 2009. Because people don’t like him or his personality, his game has been given short shrift for years now. But that doesn’t change the fact that Howard will unquestionably be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and that he should definitely be part of any list like this.

3. Which player in the top 74 is ranked too high?

McMenamin: Dennis Rodman. He was a joy to watch and a pain to coach. His five rings and two Defensive Player of the Year trophies certainly put him in consideration for having one of the best careers of all time. But he was so one-dimensional that he became an offensive liability at times — averaging 7.3 points and shooting 58.4% from the free throw line for his career. I’m not saying he should be off the list, but I’d slide a handful of names ahead of him.

Pelton: Pete Maravich. Given his amazing exploits at LSU playing for his father, it’s possible that Maravich’s career would have gone better had he played with the 3-point line and modern spacing. Maravich’s actual career, however, was mostly filled with low-calorie scoring that didn’t translate into team success. I don’t think he belongs among the top 100 NBA players all time.

MacMahon: This might not help with my ambitions to make more appearances on The Jump, but it’s hard to justify Tracy McGrady’s spot at No. 52 overall, 22 rungs higher than he is on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. T-Mac was certainly much more than just a scorer, but his lack of playoff success and longevity should be held against him when compared with the league’s legends.

Bontemps: If this were a list of the 74 most important players in the history of the sport, or the 74 to make the biggest impact on it, Vince Carter would merit inclusion. He helped establish basketball in Canada and influenced the current generation of Canadian stars hitting the league. He is also widely considered the greatest dunker of all time. But while he’s had tremendous longevity, and has been one of the league’s model citizens, it’s hard to justify his ranking where it is, or, arguably, his being included at all.

Lopez: If we were ranking a player’s peak, Bill Walton might be properly ranked or even undervalued at No. 48. But ranking an entire NBA career, Walton’s injuries just zapped him of his talents far too early. He was a great NBA player, but other players had better careers and should bump Walton out of the top 50.

4. Which player in the top 74 is ranked too low?

Pelton: Clyde Drexler, who seems to have dropped mostly because of the focus in “The Last Dance” on the way Michael Jordan made him pay for the media claiming Drexler and Jordan were on the same level entering the 1992 NBA Finals. Drexler ranks 44th in my championships added metric, and the 13-spot difference from his finish in the voting is the largest for any player who retired after 1965 and played his entire career in the NBA.

MacMahon: Compare the six wings between No. 49 and 57 — Reggie Miller, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Ray Allen and Clyde Drexler — and explain to me how Drexler was the lowest-ranked among that group. Drexler had the highest career scoring average of that group and was the best rebounder, passer and defender. Drexler is the only one on that list who was the best player on a Finals team (twice with Portland) and he won a ring as a star with the Rockets.

Bontemps: Rick Barry is a victim of some of his prime years coming in the ABA and, as a result, his NBA numbers looking lesser than they otherwise would. Barry was a first-team All-NBA selection five times — with those selections coming both before and after his ABA career — and was named to four straight first teams in the ABA. Only 14 players have been named to the first team nine or more times, and Barry ranks last among them. He might not ever win a popularity contest, but he won a championship in both leagues and was consistently among the best players in the sport for a decade. He should be a solid 10-20 spots higher than he is.

Lopez: He hasn’t had the team success or individual accolades of other point guards (although you can argue he should have had an MVP in 2007-08), but Chris Paul should be in the point guard cluster around 28-31 with John Stockton, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash and Isiah Thomas instead of the one at 39-41 with Walt Frazier and Bob Cousy. And as this year has shown, he isn’t slowing down like many thought he would.

McMenamin: Ray Allen. He was the best outside shooter of his era, hit perhaps the biggest shot in NBA Finals history and had more than two full seasons’ worth of playoff games — winning two rings and making four trips to the Finals in the 171 postseason games he suited up for. He’s too low at No. 56.

5. Bold prediction: What will change most about this list by the end of the 2022-23 NBA season?

MacMahon: Anthony Davis probably has the best chance among active players to shoot up the rankings over the next few years, considering his talent and the likelihood of him playing for a contender. You could argue that Kevin Durant is underrated as is (No. 14, a spot behind Stephen Curry?) and he could cement top-10 status with a strong comeback in Brooklyn from his Achilles tear.

Bontemps: Both Kawhi Leonard and Antetokounmpo will merit inclusion among the 20 best players of all time. I would argue that both players are too aggressively ranked right now, given that they have only had a few seasons playing at their current level (each has been selected to only three All-NBA teams so far). But with another four seasons (including this year’s playoffs, if they happen) in the books, if both are able to stay on their current pace, they should do enough to not only justify their current ranking but also earn a hefty bump up the ladder.

Lopez: We’ll be arguing about Antetokounmpo’s place on the list and whether he’s deserving of being a top-15 player of all time. The end of the 2022-23 season is three years from now, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Greek Freak could add two more MVP trophies by then, giving him a total of three — something only eight players have accomplished in NBA history.

McMenamin: If Kevin Durant comes back from his Achilles injury looking like the KD of old, he could vault into the top 10 by stringing together a strong couple of seasons and putting Brooklyn in the mix for a championship or two.

Pelton: There has already been a little bit of projection in putting Antetokounmpo 27th on the list, even if we assume he’s set to win a second consecutive MVP award. Nonetheless, three more healthy seasons from Giannis should firmly establish him as one of the 20 greatest players in NBA history.

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College football’s best ‘one-hit wonders’: Kenny Trill, Trevor Knight beats Saban and more

College football has the knack of propelling the “out of nowhere” story. The tale of the near impossible, the astonishing underdog and the stars that burn the brightest for a moment and never return. Our writers dove head first into the players, teams and even seasons that captured the nation and disappeared just as fast in this “one-hit wonder” greatest hits list.

Ivan Maisel: In 1988, I attended a luncheon at USC celebrating the Trojan football centennial. The emcee introduced a short, slight, white-headed man named Doyle Nave, who carefully stood and gave an embarrassed wave. In the fourth quarter of the 1939 Rose Bowl, USC trailed Duke, 3-0, and that wasn’t as close as it sounded. The Blue Devils hadn’t allowed a point all season. Trojans assistant Joe Wilensky grabbed the sideline phone and pretended to receive a call from the press box. Wilensky saw the Duke secondary tiring and knew that Nave, the fourth-string quarterback, could throw. Wilensky told head coach Howard Jones that the coach upstairs wanted Nave in the game. Jones acquiesced. Nave completed four consecutive passes to Al Krueger, the last for a touchdown. Forty-nine years later, Nave remained a Trojan hero.

Bill Connelly: I nominate the 1990 season. The whole thing.

Here’s a list of the teams that have won or shared college football’s national title in the past three decades: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Colorado, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, USC, Washington.

Admittedly, there are some names on there that probably don’t resonate as national powers to current college football recruits — hello, Vols and Huskers (and, if we’re being catty, Wolverines) — but this is basically a list of college football’s blue-blood royalty … and Colorado and Georgia Tech. Colorado enjoyed a few elite-level seasons in the late-1980s and early-1990s but only broke through at the title level with help from a fifth down against Missouri and a controversial clipping penalty against Notre Dame. Georgia Tech has only enjoyed one top-five finish since 1956, but it scored the team a title ring. Virginia spent half the season at No. 1. Eighteen different teams spent time in the top five. Only 2007 can compete with this year from a wildness and unpredictability perspective.

Chris Low: Mississippi State’s 6-3 win over Alabama in 1980 remains one of the more epic upsets in SEC history. Bear Bryant seemingly had the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide on their way to an unprecedented third straight national championship before having their 28-game winning streak snapped that November day in Jackson, Mississippi. The game went down to the final seconds and included fumbles by both quarterbacks. Afterward, Bryant visited the Mississippi State locker room to congratulate the Bulldogs’ players. It was Mississippi State’s only win in the series during a 38-game stretch from 1958-95. The Bulldogs had a strong team that season and finished with nine wins, but have won nine or more games in the regular season only two times since (1999 and 2014).

Mark Schlabach: Before the 2014 Sugar Bowl, perhaps no quarterback had embarrassed Nick Saban’s Alabama defense like Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight did that night. After completing only 52.2% of his passes during the regular season, Knight completed 32 of 44 attempts for 348 yards with four touchdowns and one interception (off a receiver’s hands) in the Sooners’ 45-31 stunner over the No. 3 Crimson Tide. That magical night in New Orleans was the highlight of Knight’s college career–unless you count Katy Perry’s flirtations on College GameDay the next season. It wasn’t like Knight was a bust; he was a solid college QB but just never as good as he was against Alabama. He threw for 2,400 yards with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions at OU in 2014, lost his starting job to Baker Mayfield the next season, and then transferred to Texas A&M, where he threw 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions as a senior in 2016.

Andrea Adelson: I was a junior journalism student at the University of Florida when the Gators played No. 2 Florida State in 1997. Florida had a fairly disappointing season by its standards, a year after winning its first national championship. Florida State was undefeated with national championship aspirations. Steve Spurrier pulled off one of the most unexpected moves of his career, rotating starting quarterback Doug Johnson and backup Noah Brindise, a former walk-on who Spurrier sometimes referred to as “Nacho Noah” for his girth. The quarterbacks rotated every snap, so thoroughly confusing the Seminoles that the underdog Gators inexplicably won the game 32-29 when nobody gave them any shot at winning. That remains the defining game of Brindise’s career, one that will always have its place in Florida football lore as one of the greatest victories in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. I watched the final minutes unfold from the field, and when the clock ticked to zero, I felt the ground shake underneath me. It was a scene I will never forget.

Harry Lyles Jr.: Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill is the correct answer here. Hill was Johnny Manziel’s backup, and took over as his successor for the 2014 season. The Aggies opened up against No. 9 South Carolina that year, and kicked off the season on a Thursday night in Columbia. Following up a player like Manziel was no small task, and Hill passed any expectations in his first game, throwing for 511 yards and three touchdowns, completing 44 of his 60 pass attempts. He also earned a fun nickname, “Kenny Trill.” Hill was able to continue some sort of dominance against opponents like Lamar, Rice, and SMU. But once conference play came around, Kenny wasn’t so “Trill” anymore, and was eventually replaced by Kyle Allen. But that opening game, and the nickname Kenny Trill, was a fun few weeks.

Ryan McGee: The Steve Taneyhill phenomenon at South Carolina was the greatest college football meteor I’ve ever seen. Actually, it was a comet. Because that’s what his rat tail looked like. He was a three-year starter, but it was his freshman year when he took over after the team started 0-5 and then went 5-1 with wins over top 25 Mississippi State, Tennessee and at Clemson. They still sell posters of his celebration at Clemson, and it was 28 years ago.

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KBO Weekly: Power rankings, top plays and performers, and what’s ahead

And on the seventh day, the KBO rested.

Baseball-starved fans everywhere rejoiced as the Korea Baseball Organization, the highest level of baseball in South Korea, opened its season last week, becoming one of the first major professional sports leagues to return to action during the coronavirus pandemic. It wasn’t the major leagues American fans have longed to see, but there was plenty of excitement (even in empty stadiums), with diving plays, great pitching performances and plenty of home runs — plus the KBO signature bat flips.

Monday traditionally is a league-wide off day in the KBO, and that provides us an opportunity to update our Power Rankings, look back at Week 1 and peek ahead at what’s to come.

ESPN’s KBO Power Rankings

1. Kiwoon Heroes: 5-1 (Last week: 1) — Sang Woo Cho has been the anchor for the busy Kiwoon bullpen, going 3-for-3 in save chances.

2. Doosan Bears: 3-2 (3) — Jose Fernandez of Cuba, who hit .344 for Doosan last year, leads the KBO with a .591 average (13-for-22).

3. LG Twins: 2-3 (2) — The Twins rallied from a 6-0 first-inning deficit Sunday to hand the NC Dinos their first loss 10-7.

4. NC Dinos: 4-1 (6) — The Dinos broke out of the gate 4-0, getting solid starts from former big leaguer Drew Rucinski and Chang Mo Koo, who combined to throw 12 shutout innings.

5. Lotte Giants: 5-0 (8) — A league-best 3.13 team ERA led to a big start for the Giants, who finished last in 2019.

6. SK Wyverns: 1-4 (4) — SK has scored a league-low 17 runs despite Dong Min Han’s league-high .944 slugging percentage.

7. KT Wiz: 1-4 (5) — The young Wiz pitching staff is off to a slow start, with a 7.19 team ERA.

8. Samsung Lions: 2-4 (7) — The Lions, who are hitting just .199 as a team, scored more than half of their 27 total runs in a 14-2 win over Kia.

9. Kia Tigers: 2-4 (9) — The Tigers have the league’s worst run differential (-15), but they also have Week 1’s top hitter in Preston Tucker (.476, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs). Tucker played three MLB seasons with the Braves, Reds and Astros.

10. Hanwha Eagles: 2-4 (10) — Hanwha looks to bounce back from a three-game weekend sweep against the Giants.

(Selected by Joon Lee, Alden Gonzalez and Dan Mullen)

The week that was and what’s ahead

One thing to know that happened last week: Dan Straily, one of the most recognizable names to American fans, had one of the best outings of Week 1, throwing seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts, no walks and three hits allowed in Lotte’s 4-0 win over SK on Sunday. Straily, an eight-year MLB journeyman, appeared in 14 games for the Baltimore Orioles in 2019.

One thing to watch this week: Are the Lotte Giants for real? They’ll get a major test when they face the Doosan Bears, the defending Korean Series champs, in a three-game series starting Tuesday.

Viral moment of the week: KBO newcomer Dixon Machado, who played 172 games with the Detroit Tigers from 2015 to ’18, has created a lot of excitement for the unbeaten Lotte Giants, as you can tell from the announcer’s call on his third home run of the young season:

Bat flip of the week: We can’t have a KBO Weekly without at least one bat flip.

Most impressive stat of the week: The Dinos led the LG Twins 6-0 after one inning Sunday but ended up losing 10-7. For comparison, MLB teams holding a six-run or greater lead after one inning are 113-1 since 2010. And in the KBO, that wasn’t even the biggest comeback of the day! Doosan held a 10-3 lead over the Wiz after five innings, only to see KT score twice in the ninth to tie it 11-11. The Wiz went up 12-11 in the 10th inning but couldn’t close the deal. The Bears pulled even on a homer by Jae Il Oh in the bottom of the 10th and won in the 11th on a Wiz error.

KBO on ESPN broadcast schedule

Stream live KBO games and replays on WatchESPN

(All times ET; In addition to the game replays listed, all KBO League games on ESPN2 will also re-air leading directly into the next live game telecast.)

Tuesday, May 12

5:30 a.m.: ESPN2 — KT Wiz vs. NC Dinos (Live)
2 p.m.: ESPN2 — KT Wiz vs. NC Dinos (Rebroadcast)

Wednesday, May 13

5:30 a.m.: ESPN2 — SK Wyverns vs. LG Twins (Live)
2 p.m.: ESPN2 — SK Wyverns vs. LG Twins (Rebroadcast)

Thursday, May 14

5:30 a.m.: ESPN2 — SK Wyverns vs. LG Twins (Live)
2 p.m.: ESPN2 — SK Wyverns vs. LG Twins (Rebroadcast)

Friday, May 15

5:30 a.m.: ESPN2 — Doosan Bears vs. KIA Tigers (Live)
2 p.m.: ESPN2 — Doosan Bears vs. KIA Tigers (Rebroadcast)

Saturday, May 16

4 a.m.: ESPN — Doosan Bears vs. KIA Tigers (Live)

Sunday, May 17

4 a.m.: ESPN — Kiwoom Heroes vs. LG Twins (Live)

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Which World Series is the best ever? We rank all 115 Fall Classics

    ESPN baseball columnist/feature writer
    Former editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus
    Co-author of “The Only Rule Is It Has To Work”

The World Series begins with only one promise: It will produce a winner. It won’t assure us a compelling story, though it does often deliver. It won’t guarantee seven nights of entertainment, though we’re frequently so blessed. There’s no pledge that we’ll remember more than one or two things about it 20 years later, but some produce dozens of unforgettable details.

In other words, some World Series are better than others. The last major league game that counted was the final game of the 2019 World Series, the 115th one ever played. This is a ranking of those 115. It’s based on … well, ultimately, it’s based on one writer’s opinion. But there are four primary factors we leaned on:

1. Game leverage index, at Baseball-Reference, which measures how close the game is on each play and how likely the next play is to shift each team’s chances of winning. A game that’s close for nine innings and won by a walk-off in the 10th will rate much better than one in which a team jumps ahead early and runs away with it.

2. Championship leverage index, at The Baseball Gauge. It’s similar to game leverage, except it includes how close the series itself is. A seven-game series will rate much better than a sweep.

3. How memorable the series was. The 1988 World Series wasn’t particularly close, but it produces instant recall for one inning alone.

4. How historically significant it was, and how satisfying that history is.

We’ll list each World Series’ rank in the first two categories. The latter two are subjective, so we’ll just describe them as best we can.

The ones that were over before they began

115. 1919: Reds over White Sox in eight games (best of nine)
Series leverage rank: 104th
Game leverage rank: 102nd

Rigged by eight White Sox players who had been paid to lose, and the games weren’t even close. Pity the Reds, who might well have won anyway but never got the satisfaction of knowing.

114. 1989: A’s over Giants in four
Series leverage: 115th
Game leverage: 115th

It’s not just that the Giants never led. It’s that they managed to end only two innings in the series even tied. Also, a deadly earthquake split it into two parts, and when play resumed (against the objections of some civic leaders) we were still terrified the ground would shake.

113. 2007: Red Sox over Rockies in four
Series leverage: 109th
Game leverage: 99th

Game 3 took 4 hours and 19 minutes for no good reason except “the Red Sox.” It’s still the longest nine-inning game in Series history.

112. 1937: Yankees over Giants in five
Series leverage: 104th
Game leverage: 102nd

A repeat of the not-very-close 1936 World Series matchup. Less close.

111. 2012: Giants over Tigers in four
Series leverage: 110th
Game leverage: 64th

History flattens narratives, so we remember this as just part of the Giants’ mini-dynasty. But for the individual Giants, the years from 2010 to 2014 contained sprawling arcs, full of twists. Barry Zito, the Giants’ highest-paid player, didn’t appear in the 2010 World Series but won Game 1 in 2012; Pablo Sandoval was benched for the 2010 Series, but he won the MVP in 2012; and Tim Lincecum’s career was collapsing, and he wouldn’t appear in 2014, but he starred as a multi-inning relief ace in 2012.

110. 1939: Yankees over Reds in four
Series leverage: 111th
Game leverage: 41st

The winning run in Game 4 came on Joe DiMaggio’s extra-inning single. When the Reds outfielder misplayed it, a second run raced for home. Catcher Ernie Lombardi dropped the throw, then “squatted on the ground, apparently brooding over the futility of it all,” as DiMaggio himself ran home and scored for a Little League homer.

109. 2008: Phillies over Rays in five
Series leverage: 70th
Game leverage: 39th

The best game in the series — Game 3 — started 90 minutes late because of rain, and didn’t end until almost 2 a.m.. The next-best game in the series — the clinching Game 5 — was interrupted by rain, and then snow, and ended up with a two-day weather delay in the sixth inning. Other than that, it was played with general haplessness.

108. 1976: Reds over Yankees in four
Series leverage: 100th
Game leverage: 55th

“I’d like to sweep so this team can be rated with the great teams where it belongs,” Reds manager Sparky Anderson said, and it worked. Yankees manager Billy Martin got ejected late in the final game for chucking a ball toward an umpire.

107. 1966: Orioles over Dodgers in four
Series leverage: 103rd
Game leverage: 79th

The Orioles scored three runs in the top of the first inning of Game 1, then held the Dodgers to two runs in the entire series.

106. 1905: Giants over A’s in four
Series leverage: 81st
Game leverage: 65th

The World wasn’t convinced yet that this was its Series. The AL pennant had very nearly been won by the White Sox, whose owner had vowed not to participate — just as the Giants had skipped it in 1904, calling it a mere exhibition. That raised the possibility that the AL would send a second-place team instead. The Athletics pulled out the pennant, saving us from that timeline, but A’s star Rube Waddell didn’t pitch, for reasons still unclear. One accusation is Waddell had been bribed to skip it.

105. 1920: Indians over Brooklyn Robins in seven (best of nine)
Series leverage: 95th
Game leverage: 105th

Cleveland arguably made it only because the White Sox lost their best players to suspension late in the season, when the Black Sox scandal broke. Brooklyn pitcher Rube Marquard was arrested for scalping tickets to a police detective.

104. 1990: Reds over A’s in four
Series leverage: 97th
Game leverage: 67th

Two close games, but not a close series — at least until Game 4, when the Reds lost two of their best hitters to season-ending injuries early in the game and an A’s comeback seemed, if unlikely, suddenly plausible. But the greatest gift this Series gave us was the answer to a pretty good trivia question years later: Who is the only pitcher to win a game after getting a Hall of Fame vote? It’s Jose Rijo, whose MVP performance in the 1990 World Series — including 8⅓ sterling innings in the aforementioned Game 4 — was probably what earned him a single vote on the 2000 ballot. (After many attempts to come back from injuries, Rijo finally got healthy enough to “unretire” in 2001. He didn’t win — or lose — any games in ’01, but he went 5-4 in ’02.)

103. 2010: Giants over Rangers in five
Series leverage: 102nd
Game leverage: 106th

In a tied Game 2, the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler hit one off the very top of the padded center-field wall, and physics failed him: The ball somehow stopped its forward progress and bounced back for a double instead of a homer. The Giants won 9-0. Baseball is a game of inches and a game of blowouts.

102. 1908: Cubs over Tigers in five
Series leverage: 91st
Game leverage: 68th

The National League produced the greatest pennant race ever, capped by the craziest day of baseball ever, and then the Cubs rode to Detroit to face the vastly inferior AL team they had swept the year before. Like watching Superman beat Lex Luthor in Act 2, then spending Act 3 investigating agribusiness price-fixing — very anticlimactic.

101. 1961: Yankees over Reds in five
Series leverage: 93rd
Game leverage: 104th

The Yankees’ 12th Series in 15 years, and the routine of it was showing: Mickey Mantle undressed and left the stadium before it was over, and Roger Maris declined interviews. “I’m in a hurry, boys,” Maris told reporters. “Parties don’t mean anything to me.”

100. 2006: Cardinals over Tigers in five
Series leverage: 85th
Game leverage: 70th

The biggest hit in this series, by championship win probability added (cWPA), was David Eckstein’s tiebreaking double in Game 4 — just the 447th-biggest play in Series history. The 83-win Cardinals are, by that measure, the worst champion ever.

99. 1998: Yankees over Padres in four
Series leverage: 99th
Game leverage: 60th

These Yankees won 114 regular-season games, the third-most ever, and as the World Series began, it was agreed that they needed to beat the Padres so they could secure the club’s legacy as an inner-circle greatest team of all time. But midway through the series, it was agreed that to prove anything they must not just win but crush the Padres. And so they did. The Yankees ended up with a record 125 wins in the year and a winning percentage (including postseason games) behind only the 1927 Yankees and the 1909 Pirates. I’d personally put them maybe fifth in the GOAT conversation, but other smart folks could put them first.

The bad Series with great players

98. 1938: Yankees over Cubs in four
Series leverage: 98th
Game leverage: 62nd

Lou Gehrig was dying, but nobody knew it yet. He just knew he was tired. He singled in each game of what would be his final World Series.

97. 1951: Yankees over Giants in six
Series leverage: 66th
Game leverage: 98th

A Series between rookies Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle: What could go wrong? Mays hit .182 with no extra-base hits. Mantle caught his cleat on a drain cover, collapsed as if shot, and played in pain the rest of his career.

96. 1913: A’s over Giants in five
Series leverage: 89th
Game leverage: 71st

In Game 2, Christy Mathewson took a shutout into the bottom of the ninth, the score tied. He escaped an inescapable jam — runners on second and third with nobody out, after a teammate’s error — then singled home the winner in the 10th. That’s tied for the highest WPA in a postseason game: 1.0.

95. 1970: Orioles over Reds in five
Series leverage: 101st
Game leverage: 76th

Brooks Robinson’s defense at third base won it. “The unhappy Reds pilot, Sparky Anderson, kept shaking his head and muttering, ‘He’s the whole series so far,'” The New Yorker reported.

94. 1930: A’s over Cardinals in six
Series leverage: 80th
Game leverage: 92nd

Game 5: Lefty Grove, the best pitcher in the world, came in to relieve starter George Earnshaw in the eighth inning of a scoreless game. Grove, who had thrown a complete game the day before, threw a scoreless eighth, then Jimmie Foxx homered in the top of the ninth, and Grove threw a scoreless bottom of the ninth for the win.

93. 1967: Cardinals over Red Sox in seven
Series leverage: 62nd
Game leverage: 109th

Bob Gibson made three starts: three complete games, three runs allowed, three wins. This is not the World Series he’s most remembered for!

92. 1963: Dodgers over Yankees in four
Series leverage: 112th
Game leverage: 103rd

Sandy Koufax made two starts, two complete games, one with a then-record 15 K’s. This is not the World Series he’s most remembered for!

91. 2009: Yankees over Phillies in six
Series leverage: 92nd
Game leverage: 95th

The Yankees won their 27th title and ended Pedro Martinez’s career. Martinez, after a terrible 2008 season with the Mets, had signed a one-year contract with the Phillies in July. He was pretty good down the stretch, then dominant in his one NLCS start — revived and refreshed, if no longer the greatest of all time. But in Game 6, the Yankees knocked him out after four innings, four runs in, for his second loss. He topped out at 84 mph. After the game, he tried to avoid reporters, but they found and encircled him by an elevator “while a random Yankees fan — who somehow escaped security’s notice — yelled at him over reporters’ questions,” Amy K. Nelson wrote. “If this is how Martinez exits baseball, it will be an unfortunate ending for one of the best pitchers to play the game.” It was, but maybe it was the right ending after all. Pedro was among the greatest of all time, nobody denies it. He had some of his biggest moments against the Yankees, but nearly all of his worst ones, too. He admitted that, even had fun with it. Ending his career with “a random Yankees fan” yelling “Who’s your daddy” at him — it’s either depressing or perfect.

90. 1977: Yankees over Dodgers in six
Series leverage: 86th
Game leverage: 90th

“It all flows from me,” Reggie Jackson said that summer. “I’m the straw that stirs the drink.” Manager Billy Martin hated him for it — they almost came to blows in the dugout shortly afterward — but then Jackson backed it up: five homers in the series, three in the clinching Game 6.

The fine Series where something was just off

89. 1910: A’s over Cubs in five
Series leverage: 105th
Game leverage: 75th

The league chose the World Series, of all times, to introduce a new, livelier baseball, and the results were immediate: Scoring went from 3.8 runs/game in the regular season to 5.0 in the World Series (and 4.5 in 1911). Baseball needed the change, probably, but using the World Series to run an experiment — it’d be like if Rob Manfred had declared the league was switching to robo strike zones just before Gerrit Cole threw the first pitch last October.

88. 1944: Cardinals over St. Louis Browns in six
Series leverage: 48th
Game leverage: 48th

(See below.)

87. 1943: Yankees over Cardinals in five
Series leverage: 49th
Game leverage: 24th

(Keep going.)

86. 1945: Tigers over Cubs in seven
Series leverage: 30th
Game leverage: 97th

These champions are, officially, canon, but in all three seasons the talent in the league was depleted. By the end of WWII, about 500 major leaguers had served — in a league with 400 active players at any given time — and the standings were weird. The Browns, baseball’s worst major league franchise, won their only pennant in 1944, and the dysfunctional Cubs somehow won in 1945. That said, all three series were competitive and well attended, and at the time the population was grateful that baseball had found a way (at the president’s request) to keep play going.

The 1945 Series is where we get the Cubs’ Curse of the Billy Goat. Local tavern owner Billy Sianis was ejected from the stadium with his stinky wet goat. Sianis cursed the team, according to a legend that wasn’t really crafted until Sianis died in 1970. That was just after the Cubs collapsed to the Mets in 1969, and as the Cubs’ narrative of futility was just starting to pick up national momentum, and when the anomalous 1945 World Series had perhaps blended in with all the others.

85. 1903: Boston Americans over Pirates in eight (best of nine)
Series leverage: 94th
Game leverage: 112th

Undeniably successful, with huge attendance figures that gave the event enough momentum to repeat itself in 1905 and become a thing. There were 17 ground-rule triples, 33 errors and Deacon Phillippe threw five complete games.

84. 1983: Orioles over Phillies in five
Series leverage: 74th
Game leverage: 58th

As the eighth inning of Game 1 approached, the score was tied 1-1. President Ronald Reagan was preparing to leave the ballpark, and he did a brief interview on the broadcast with Howard Cosell.

Orioles starter Scott McGregor had already warmed for the eighth when an ABC crewman signaled for him to wait. He did. When he was given the all-clear to pitch, his first throw was a poorly located fastball that Garry Maddox hit out. The 2-1 score held. “There is a certain flow to the game,” McGregor said. “I told that guy never to do that to me again. I said, ‘Sell your Datsuns some other way.'”

Then the Orioles won four straight, including three come-from-behind wins, to take the so-called I-95 Series. The 1980s were filled with nicknamed Series. The Brewers and Cardinals played the Suds Series, the Giants and A’s played the Battle of the Bay, the Cardinals and Royals played the I-70 Series, and the Dodgers and A’s series was called, I swear, the Fog to Smog Series.

83. 1985: Royals over Cardinals in seven
Series leverage: 42nd
Game leverage: 69th

Before Game 6, this one was going to go down as “dull but quick,” in the New York Times’ description of it. Whether what happened next should move it higher or lower on this list is a matter of personal philosophy.

The Cardinals were up three games to two in the sixth game, and up 1-0 in the bottom of the ninth in that sixth game. (MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth actually cut through the Royals’ dugout around this time so he would be in place to present the World Series trophy to the Cardinals. The Royals players definitely noticed this. “That jacked us up,” one Royal said.) The Royals’ Jorge Orta led off the inning and grounded to first base. The throw to Cardinals pitcher Todd Worrell covering the bag was clearly in time, but first-base ump Don Denkinger called him safe. Worrell pointed at the bag to insist he tagged it with his foot. Denkinger said Orta had simply beat Worrell.

From there, the Royals rallied, while Denkinger — afraid he might have missed the call — was secretly rooting for the Cardinals to hold the lead and make his call moot. Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog went on a tirade to reporters after the game: “The two best teams are supposed to be in the World Series. They ought to have the best umpires in it, too. I think it’s a disgrace. It’s a joke. We haven’t got one call from the three American League umpires in this thing. You want my opinion? It stinks.” He noted, with a final sense of fatalism, that Denkinger would be the plate umpire for Game 7. “We got about as much chance of winning as a monkey.”

They lost that one 11-0.

Denkinger’s missed call would be the most famous missed call in baseball history for about 25 years, until Jim Joyce missed a similar call on what would have been the final out of Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. There were two huge differences in the fallout of the two missed calls:

While the sport and Galarraga himself largely rallied in support of Joyce — an umpire with an excellent reputation who tearfully expressed regret for his missed call — Denkinger was vilified. Herzog and pitcher Joaquin Andujar were both ejected for arguing with him the next day, and Herzog’s quotes above not only don’t give him the benefit of the doubt but also imply actual bias. St. Louis disc jockeys revealed his phone number and home address, and he got hate mail and death threats, some of which were investigated by the FBI, some of which instigated police protection. In the years that followed, the Cardinals continued to say they’d been “cheated” out of the title, and it took a decade for Herzog and the Cardinals to publicly soften toward him.

While Joyce’s missed call led to even more vocal calls for instant replay in the game — to protect players like Galarraga, and to protect umpires like Joyce — Herzog declined to make the same case after Denkinger’s mistake. When, during his rant against bad umpiring, Herzog was asked whether the league should use replay for close plays, he first answered that “they better use something.” He quickly backtracked: “No, they can’t use instant replay on plays like that. It would take four hours to decide.” It would take 30 years before calls like Denkinger’s would be made reviewable, something Denkinger said in 2010 he would have been grateful for.

82. 1997: Marlins over Indians in seven
Series leverage: 9th
Game leverage: 53rd

A fantastic series at the time, but the wrong team won. We sort of knew it then: The Marlins were a pop-up contender built on a free-agent spree the club’s owner immediately repudiated, while Cleveland, with a citywide sports championship drought to end, was an underdog story that had transformed from the punchline of “Major League” into a truly homegrown powerhouse. But after the Marlins won, and then traded all of their good players in a shocking fire sale, they became an unscrubbable blemish on the history of baseball.

81. 1959: Dodgers over White Sox in six
Series leverage: 67th
Game leverage: 85th

The Dodgers drew 92,000 fans in each of their three home games. The awkward dimensions of the Los Angeles Coliseum helped start the tradition of fans bringing transistor radios with them, filling the stadium with the voice of Vin Scully.

80. 1906: White Sox over Cubs in six
Series leverage: 50th
Game leverage: 83rd

The 1906 Cubs are one of two teams to win a record 116 games in a season, but as with the 2001 Mariners, the historic regular season preceded postseason defeat.

79. 1914: Braves over A’s in four
Series leverage: 87th
Game leverage: 16th

The “Miracle Braves” were in last place in July but roared back, then swept the heavily favored Athletics. A’s owner Connie Mack essentially threw a fit, sold off a bunch of his best players, and his team dropped to 43-109 in 1915.

78. 1918: Red Sox over Cubs in six
Series leverage: 38th
Game leverage: 22nd

It’s quite likely the 1919 World Series wasn’t the only one “thrown” by players trying to lose. Sean Deveney’s book “The Original Curse” argues the 1918 Cubs might have preceded their crosstown rivals into corruption.

77. 1922: Giants over Yankees in five (one game tied)
Series leverage: 78th
Game leverage: 8th

Game 2 had, according to the New York Times’ telling, “the most dramatic ending that any world’s series game ever had,” and it’s frustrating even 100 years later: The umpire called it for darkness at 4:45 p.m. with the score tied in the 10th and, according to spectators, the sun out. The players were “thunderstruck,” the crowd “bewildered.” Thousands mobbed the commissioner and shouted charges of corruption, claiming baseball wanted another day’s gate receipts. The league quelled anger by donating the ticket sales to a veterans charity.

76. 1948: Indians over Braves in six
Series leverage: 41st
Game leverage: 36th

It’s nearly certain the 2017 World Series wasn’t the only one marred by players stealing signs using illegal technology or personnel. If you had to pick another team to go nuts over, it might be the 1948 Cleveland club. According to Paul Dickson’s “The Hidden Language of Baseball,” Cleveland that year “employed a telescope that Bob Feller had used as a gunnery officer during World War II. The telescope was mounted on a tripod, placed in the Cleveland scoreboard, and operated alternately by Feller or Bob Lemon, who remembered that he could ‘see the dirt under the catcher’s fingernails.’ They would call out the next pitch to a groundskeeper, who would then use another opening in the scoreboard to relay the signs to Cleveland hitters.”

A bunch the Yankees won

75. 1953: Yankees over Dodgers in six
Series leverage: 76th
Game leverage: 74th

Over a 10-year period, the Yankees and Dodgers faced off in the World Series six times. In good moments, that repetition added heft and history: a whole World Series of World Series! In lesser moments, though — well, how often do you ever listen to the sixth-best album by any band? This, the fourth in the sequence, was the most forgettable of the six. It was Vin Scully’s first one broadcasting, though.

74. 1927: Yankees over Pirates in four
Series leverage: 96th
Game leverage: 35th

If this series had been a best-of-99, the Yankees would have won in 50. The only surprise was the disappointing ending: Babe Ruth had a chance to end it with a walk-off, but a wild pitch opened first base and he was intentionally walked. Then Lou Gehrig had a chance to end it with a walk-off but struck out. Instead of a signature moment in one of these all-time great careers, the Yankees won on … another wild pitch.

73. 1949: Yankees over Dodgers in five
Series leverage: 65th
Game leverage: 44th

Tommy Henrich hit the first walk-off homer in a World Series game. You can watch it, and hear the call by Red Barber, and marvel at how much less excited they used to get. Barber barely raises his voice. Henrich merely smiles. “Look at him grin,” Barber says, “big as a slice of watermelon.” He shakes some hands.

72. 1999: Yankees over Braves in four
Series leverage: 107th
Game leverage: 100th

The 1998 Yankees won 16 more games than these Yankees, and the ’98ers are justifiably the club most remembered from the modern dynasty years. But these Yankees’ postseason run was the more impressive one: They went 11-1 across three playoff rounds, outscoring their opponents by a combined 70-19. Their sweep of Atlanta was in a different category than their 1998 sweep of San Diego: The Braves were, unlike the Padres, an all-time great team of their own, their 103 wins marking a third consecutive season over 100. In the year of all-century teams, all-century rankings, all-century memories, when the culture was looking back on the previous 100 years and reassessing what historians would keep from them, this sweep was a fitting end to the century: The Yankees won eight World Series by sweep in the 1900s. Only one other team won eight World Series at all.

71. 1978: Yankees over Dodgers in six
Series leverage: 54th
Game leverage: 66th

The 21-year-old rookie Bob Welch was told to protect a one-run lead in Game 2, which required facing Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson, with two on and a one-run lead in the ninth. Jackson made Welch throw nine pitches before striking out. Three days later, in the 10th, Welch took the loss. Fickle game.

Short but memorable

70. 2004: Red Sox over Cardinals in four
Series leverage: 106th
Game leverage: 89th

This is one of the most memorable Series of the past 50 years — except that what you’re really remembering is the ALCS between the Red Sox and the Yankees. The World Series itself was a dud, but it gets credit for what it was, and for Joe Buck’s poignant description: “It has been 86 years. Generations have come and gone.” That second sentence cuts.

69. 1984: Tigers over Padres in five
Series leverage: 90th
Game leverage: 84th

Like the rest of the Tigers’ season — a 35-5 start, wire to wire in first place, a sweep of the ALCS — this wasn’t close at all. But besides the pleasure of seeing a great team dominate, there was a sequence in Game 5 that is one of October’s finest: Goose Gossage, ordered to intentionally walk Kirk Gibson, talked his manager out of it. Then Gibson homered to put the series away, arms raised as he circled the bases. Just delicious.

68. 2018: Red Sox over Dodgers in five
Series leverage: 72nd
Game leverage: 17th

The Red Sox won the most games. The Dodgers won the best one: the 18-inning Game 3 that took more than seven hours to play.

67. 1917: White Sox over Giants in six
Series leverage: 52nd
Game leverage: 73rd

At 4:10 in this video, you can see delightfully exciting footage of Benny Kauff racing for an inside-the-the-park home run in Game 4, as old-timey men wave their hats and punch the air. Kauff was later banned from baseball for auto theft.

66. 1907: Cubs over Tigers in five (one tie)
Series leverage: 77th
Game leverage: 23rd

Ty Cobb was 20 years old and had just won the batting title, but the Cubs shut him down. Their .704 winning percentage in the regular season is the seventh-highest of all time.

65. 1942: Cardinals over Yankees in five
Series leverage: 82nd
Game leverage: 40th

Before Game 5, the Yankees tried to rattle the Cardinals by demanding that the Cards’ equipment manager be prohibited from the dugout. The umpire acceded, but it just made the Cardinals mad: Team captain Terry Moore declared, to a Yankees coach, “This is just one more reason why there’s going to be no tomorrow in this World Series.” He was right, as the Cardinals broke a ninth-inning tie with a two-run homer to win.

64. 1974: A’s over Dodgers in five
Series leverage: 61st
Game leverage: 31st

The Herb Washington experiment — sign an elite competitive sprinter to do nothing but pinch run — was delightful in theory, depressing in practice, as Washington struggled to learn and his teammates griped. It hit nadir in Game 2: He entered as the potential tying run with one out. Dodgers pitcher Mike Marshall stepped off three times and Washington scampered back three times, and on the fourth move he got picked off. He punched the ground in frustration, perhaps shame, knowing he’d have to face his teammates yet again. You feel the hopelessness of somebody trying his earnest best to do something that’s just too hard.

63. 2013: Red Sox over Cardinals in six
Series leverage: 39th
Game leverage: 57th

The Red Sox have won four titles this century, but this particular club fits awkwardly into the lineage: The Sox won 69 games (and finished last) the year before, won 71 games (and finished last) the year after, but for one year had everything break right. They had signed a bunch of free agents to short-term contracts, and when those signings paid off — Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes, David Ross, Mike Napoli, etc. — the front office was “damn near as surprised as the fans,” Alex Speier wrote in the Baseball Prospectus Annual. The problem with short-term deals: If those players work out perfectly, you’ve got to replace them the next year. Boston’s pop-up reign was brief.

Where it fits well in the 21st century Red Sox lineage is here: David Ortiz had his best postseason series. He batted 25 times and made only six outs — and one of those was a sacrifice fly. (For that matter, another was a groundout that moved a runner over to third.) His .760 OBP was the second highest in World Series history. Ortiz, in his career, had the most WPA as a hitter in postseason history, and as defining moments go, nothing tops Bullpen Cop from a week earlier. But this whole series came close.

62. 1911: A’s over Giants in six
Series leverage: 63rd
Game leverage: 37th

A rematch of the 1905 series — Connie Mack managing against John McGraw — but by now the World Series was a myth-making force. Frank Baker homered in Games 2 and 3. That got him the nickname “Home Run” Baker, and 109 years later every baseball fan knows the name, if not the career home run total (96).

61. 1933: Giants over Washington Senators in five
Series leverage: 71st
Game leverage: 18th

Of the 60 biggest plays in baseball history — by cWPA — 56 are hitters doing good hitting. It’s a lot easier to dramatically change the state of the game with a homer than an out. But at No. 60 is one of the exceptions. Carl Hubbell had a one-run lead in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 4. Bases loaded, one out and the Giants gambling by playing the infield back. Hubbell got the game-ending double play.

Long but forgettable

60. 1982: Cardinals over Brewers in seven
Series leverage: 25th
Game leverage: 93rd

On paper, this should have been a great clash between wildly different offensive styles. The Brewers — “Harvey’s Wallbangers” — hit 30 more homers than any other team in baseball that year. A New York Times preview called them the deepest nine-man lineup in World Series history. The Cardinals, meanwhile, hit just 67 homers as a team, barely more homers than they hit triples, while stealing 200 bags. Then the Cardinals outslugged the Brewers. The series gets points for going to Game 7 but loses them for the brutally dull Game 6 that preceded it: Nearly three hours of rain delays interrupted a 13-1 Cardinals victory.

59. 1921: Giants over Yankees in eight (best of nine)
Series Leverage: 53rd
Game leverage: 34th

The first World Series on the radio, the first with the Yankees. Also Babe Ruth’s first as an outfielder, but he was ailing and only intermittently available. He hit his first postseason homer in Game 4 but grounded out as a pinch hitter — representing the tying run — in the ninth inning of the clinching Game 8.

58. 2003: Marlins over Yankees in six
Series leverage: 35th
Game leverage: 30th

Few things are better than a young star’s superstardom manifesting itself in the middle of a World Series, and Josh Beckett — ahead of 2002 Francisco Rodriguez, 1996 Andruw Jones and 2019 Juan Soto — might be the best modern example. His 2-0 shutout of the Yankees in New York in the clinching Game 6 is the greatest World Series start in at least 50 years by a pitcher 23 or younger.

57. 1940: Reds over Tigers in seven
Series leverage: 33rd
Game leverage: 107th

The Tigers, afraid of detection, abandoned an elaborate binoculars-and-relay sign-stealing scheme for the World Series. But Tiger Birdie Tebbetts still claimed they “knew every pitch the Reds’ pitchers were going to throw. Catcher Jimmy Wilson was giving away the pitches by twitching his forearm muscles when he called a curve.” They still lost.

56. 1987: Twins over Cardinals in seven
Series leverage: 22nd
Game leverage: 91st

The home team won every game in this series, a fitting conclusion to a season in which the Twins went 56-25 at home (a .691 winning percentage) and 29-52 on the road (.358). “I don’t mind losing the seventh game of the World Series,” Whitey Herzog said, but you can choose not to believe him. “If I can do that for the rest of my life, I’ll be satisfied.”

55. 1909: Pirates over Tigers in seven
Series leverage: 36th
Game leverage: 108th

The first World Series to go the full seven games — but then the final game was a blowout. The great Honus Wagner had been the goat in 1903, but this time — his only other postseason appearance — he hit .333/.467/.500 and stole six bases.

54. 1957: Braves over Yankees in seven
Series leverage: 31st
Game leverage: 80th

In Game 5, the hampered Mickey Mantle pinch ran in a 1-0 game. He was thrown out stealing.

53. 1931: Cardinals over A’s in seven
Series leverage: 60th
Game leverage: 94th

The same matchup as the previous season, but this time both teams had gotten better. Sleeper candidate for the best two-team matchup in history.

52. 1935: Tigers over Cubs in six
Series leverage: 47th
Game leverage: 25th

It’s a tiny detail in an exciting series, but for a long time I’ve been fascinated by the Cubs’ infield alignment for Goose Goslin’s walk-off hit, which ended the clinching Game 6. The first baseman is playing about 175 feet from home. The third baseman appears ready for a bunt.

51. 2019: Nationals over Astros in seven
Series leverage: 43rd
Game leverage: 87th

The games weren’t close until Game 7, and even by postseason standards they were uncomfortably long — six of the 13 slowest World Series games of the decade came in this series — and I clearly recall conversations in the middle of it about how boring the series had been, relatively speaking. But seven months later, with no meaningful game played since, I remember this one quite fondly! Remember Juan Soto and the Soto Shuffle? Alex Bregman trying to invent a new home run bat “flip” and getting mercilessly outcooled by Soto four innings later? Max Scherzer getting scratched from Game 5 and then being questionable for the rest of the series? And starting Game 7 anyway and gutting through five pretty good innings with pretty bad stuff? When Trea Turner was called out for running to first base wrong and we all lost our minds? Adam Eaton and Howie Kendrick’s Drive the Car home run dance? Baby Shark? Getting to go outside and hang out at a bar and shake your friend’s hand and buy flour at the grocery store whenever you needed it? Kendrick hitting a perfect pitch off the right-field foul pole in Game 7, the 10th-biggest championship probability swing in major league history? Gerrit Cole not being used in Game 7 for some reason, then showing up to the postgame news conference in a Boras Corporation cap? How divinely just the outcome felt when we learned about the Astros’ banging scheme? We should have appreciated baseball more when we had it.

A bunch more the Yankees won

50. 1996: Yankees over Braves in six
Series leverage: 44th
Game leverage: 47th

The paradox of momentum, encapsulated: The Braves won the first two games — in New York — by a combined score of 16-1. They’d won their previous five postseason games by a total score of 48-2 and were heading back home to Atlanta. They never won another game, as the Yankees rapped off four straight. Does that thoroughly disprove the power of momentum, since no team had more of it than the Braves and it didn’t do them any good? Or does the Braves’ bipolarity prove the power of momentum — that they could be as great as they were, but once they lost momentum, completely hapless?

49. 1958: Yankees over Braves in seven
Series leverage: 26th
Game leverage: 59th

The Yankees came back from three games to one. In Games 6 and 7, New York — playing on the road — broke 2-2 ties late against exhausted Braves starting pitchers.

48. 1950: Yankees over Phillies in four
Series leverage: 69th
Game leverage: 4th

An incredible bit of trivia that would be familiar to every baseball fan alive in the 1950s is that, from the start of the 1949 Series until midway through the 1957 Series, every World Series game was won by a team in New York. The Giants and Dodgers get credit for 19 of those wins, but the Yankees took the other 28, in the greatest run any team ever had.

47. 1932: Yankees over Cubs in four
Series leverage: 108th
Game leverage: 72nd

Babe Ruth’s “called shot” wasn’t that big a deal at the time. It took a little while for Ruth to warm up to the legend and indulge in it. Now it’s the most famous moment from any of the first half-century of World Series, which is ironic in a way. Ruth was a celebrity with no filter, no nuance, no volume-down button, no moderation — and his greatest moment would turn out to be an ambiguous flick of his arm that he probably didn’t even mean.

46. 1928: Yankees over Cardinals in four
Series leverage: 114th
Game leverage: 101st

This is the second-least-close series in the pile, according to our leverage index, but when it’s the 1928 Yankees, the size of the thumping is the whole point. Babe Ruth hit .625/.647/1.375, with nine runs scored. Lou Gehrig hit .545/.706/1.727, with nine driven in. Forget seven-game series — could anything be more fun than watching Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth do that?

45. 1923: Yankees over Giants in six
Series leverage: 55th
Game leverage: 86th

From 1921 through 1923, it was the Giants and the Yankees every year, with the Giants winning the first two. Babe Ruth had been fine the first year and terrible the second, but he finally broke out this time: He hit .368/.556/1.000 with three homers. But his biggest moment came in Game 6, when he batted with the bases loaded, one out and his Yankees down by one. Ruth … struck out. Bob Meusel, batting behind him, was the hero instead, bringing all three runs home to all but end the series.

44. 1936: Yankees over Giants in six
Series leverage: 40th
Game leverage: 38th

Babe Ruth retired in 1935, and Joe DiMaggio debuted in 1936, so you might call this the start of the Yankees’ mid-century dynasty. Ruth’s best Yankees clubs were better than any of DiMaggio’s — and maybe better than any other team in history — but DiMaggio’s years were really the team’s golden age: He won nine rings in a 13-season career.

43. 2000: Yankees over Mets in five
Series leverage: 59th
Game leverage: 3rd

Game 1 was, by leverage index, the closest game in World Series history. It was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth, then the Yankees scored two, the Mets bounced back with three, and the game went to the bottom of the ninth with the home team down one. Here’s where it went after that: The Yankees loaded the bases in the ninth and tied it; they loaded the bases with one out in the 10th but didn’t score; they put runners on second and third in the 11th but didn’t score; and they loaded the bases with one out in the 12th before finally pushing home the winning run with two outs.

Game 5 was the last time a starting pitcher was allowed to face the potential winning run in the ninth inning of a World Series. The pitcher was Al Leiter, making his 11th postseason start and still looking for his first win as a starter. He struck out the first two batters, and on a 2-2 count to Jorge Posada he had five shots at finishing off Posada and striking out the side. But Posada fouled three away, took a borderline fastball that had frozen him, and finally worked the walk. A broken-bat single and a trickler through the infield — with Leiter still on the mound — brought Posada racing home, and a strong, accurate throw that might have been in time for the out hit Posada’s thigh and bounded away. Leiter’s home stadium was boisterous with Yankees fans. He never did win a postseason start.

Pitching and defense

42. 1929: A’s over Cubs in five
Series leverage: 83rd
Game leverage: 52nd

Connie Mack’s secret plan was to take an old journeyman starter named Howard Ehmke, give him most of September off — so he could rest, and so he could scout, and because he was only the Athletics’ fifth or sixth starter anyway — and then spring him on the Cubs as the surprise starter in Game 1 of the World Series. And it worked! Ehmke struck out a record 13 batters, allowed only an unearned run and won.

41. 1955: Dodgers over Yankees in seven
Series leverage: 34th
Game leverage: 88th

Sandy Amoros’ running catch down the left-field line wasn’t nearly the physical performance that Willie Mays’ catch in the previous year’s World Series was. But Amoros’ catch was, by cWPA, about 20 times more consequential. It was the biggest play in the series, turning what would have been a game-tying double in Game 7 into an inning-ending double play.

40. 1954: Giants over Indians in four
Series leverage: 88th
Game leverage: 26th

On the other hand, plenty of outfielders might have made the Sandy Amoros catch. None who had ever lived could have made the one by Willie Mays.

39. 1915: Red Sox over Phillies in five
Series leverage: 51st
Game leverage: 15th

Game 1 was the only blowout: The Phillies won 3-1. Every other game was decided by one run.

38. 1995: Braves over Indians in six
Series leverage: 58th
Game leverage: 13th

The decade’s best offensive dynasty met the decade’s best pitching dynasty, and the pitching won: Aside from Alvaro Espinoza (1-for-2), no Cleveland hitter batted better than .235.

37. 1916: Red Sox over Robins in five
Series leverage: 75th
Game leverage: 29th

The ultimate Huge Band When They Were Still on an Indie Label show: the 21-year-old Boston pitcher Babe Ruth throwing a 14-inning complete-game victory in Game 2. He allowed a first-inning run on an inside-the-park homer, then threw the next 13 scorelessly.

36. 1969: Mets over Orioles in five
Series leverage: 73rd
Game leverage: 54th

“After a season of such length and so many surprises,” Roger Angell wrote, “reason suggested that we would now be given a flat and perhaps one-sided World Series. There would be honor enough for the Mets if they managed only to keep it close. None of this happened, of course, and the best news — the one true miracle — was not the Mets’ victory but the quality of those five games — an assemblage of brilliant parables illustrating every varied aspect of the beautiful game.” The Mets won the third game 5-0; Tommie Agee made two great catches — both, it can be admitted, a bit awkward — to save five runs.

35. 2005: White Sox over Astros in four
Series leverage: 56th
Game leverage: 1st

By our series leverage index — which measures how tight the World Series was — this ranks just 56th all time. But the games themselves were outrageously good. By our game leverage index, this was the tightest collection of World Series games ever. Every game was either tied or within one run in the eighth inning or later. Every White Sox starter went at least seven innings. Compare that to the seven-game series between the Cubs and Cleveland in 2016, in which no starting pitcher went seven. The White Sox’s 11-1 postseason record ended a World Series drought that was two years longer than the Red Sox’s had been.

34. 1981: Dodgers over Yankees in six
Series leverage: 46th
Game leverage: 50th

In the year of Fernandomania, the great rookie Fernando Valenzuela faced the great Yankees rookie Dave Righetti in Game 3. Righetti didn’t last long, but Valenzuela did. No matter how many batters he walked — seven, eventually — or pitches he threw (in the end, 147), he stayed on the mound to protect the one-run lead Los Angeles had taken in the fifth. In the eighth, he put the first two men on base, but manager Tommy Lasorda still left Valenzuela in, and the pitcher got a double play and a groundout to escape. In the bottom of the eighth, with a runner on and nobody out, Valenzuela batted for himself, grounding into a fielder’s choice. In the ninth, with the Yankees’ 2-3-4 hitters (all batting right-handed) due up, still the rookie held the mound. And he did it!

A week later, he turned 21.

33. 1968: Tigers over Cardinals in seven
Series leverage: 79th
Game leverage: 114th

In Games 1 and 4, Bob Gibson threw complete-game victories, striking out 27 while allowing one run. In Games 2 and 5, Mickey Lolich threw complete-game victories. In Game 7, one of them was going to become the 12th pitcher ever to win three World Series games. Lolich outdueled Gibson, and the Tigers won. (In the half-century since, only one pitcher has won three in a series: Randy Johnson, whose third win came in relief.)

32. 1965: Dodgers over Twins in seven
Series leverage: 57th
Game leverage: 113th

Remembered for two things. One is Sandy Koufax sitting out Game 1 for Yom Kippur, an incredible statement of the “it’s just a game” truth we all strive to keep in mind. The other is Koufax’s pitching in Games 2, 5 and 7: one earned run allowed in 24 innings, with 29 strikeouts and a shutout in the clinching Game 7.

The ones defined by huge moments

31. 1946: Cardinals over Red Sox in seven
Series leverage: 17th
Game leverage: 82nd

Enos Slaughter’s “Mad Dash” in popular telling: With the score tied in Game 7’s eighth inning, Slaughter — two outs, going on the pitch — scored from first on a single. Great story, except it was officially scored a double.

30. 2015: Royals over Mets in five
Series leverage: 64th
Game leverage: 14th

Before the series, the Royals’ advance team — scout Alex Zumwalt generally gets credited — revealed that Mets first baseman Lucas Duda had a poor throwing arm, and the Royals should run on it when they had the chance. The report “mentioned his sidearm throwing motion,” Andy McCullough wrote. “His volleys often tail away from the intended target.” Sure enough, in the ninth inning of Game 5, on a routine 5-3 groundout to third base, Eric Hosmer sprinted home and forced Duda to try to turn the 5-3 groundout into a 5-3-2 double play. The throw was wild, Hosmer tied the game with two outs, and the Royals would score five in extra innings to finish the series. What a satisfying story! The Royals identified the Mets’ smallest weakness, one so obscure and pointless it sounds like a joke: The first baseman’s throwing arm? How often do you notice the first baseman’s throwing arm? The catcher’s throwing arm, definitely. The left-fielder’s throwing arm, sure. But the first baseman’s throwing arm? OK, boys, let’s go out there today, stay loose, stay focused and find a way to exploit the first baseman’s throwing arm! And then the Royals did, in one of the biggest moments in baseball history. They found the opponent’s secret pressure point, and with a tiny flick of the finger, they killed the Mets.

29. 2014: Giants over Royals in seven
Series leverage: 24th
Game leverage: 96th

Alex Gordon singled, as the possible tying run, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7. The ball bounced past the Giants’ center fielder, the left fielder fumbled it at the wall, and it seemed Gordon might try to score, at which point there were three possibilities:

1. If Gordon held at third and Salvador Perez had driven him in, that sequence (single, error, single, tie game!) would have elevated an otherwise bland World Series — five of the first six games were decided by five runs or more — to a pretty good one. It would have ranked 66th on our list.

2. The actual event — Gordon held at third and Perez popped out — makes it a nearly great one. It turns Gordon’s decision to hold at third — his coach’s decision to hold him, and his decision to obey — into an all-time what-if. Yes, Gordon probably would have been beaten by the throw home. But it would have required a good relay and throw by the Giants’ shortstop, a clean catch at home and a tag, and the play would have been close enough to have been physical. The Royals were the team that, in that postseason and the next, aggressively pushed the other team’s defense until the other team’s defense made a mistake.

3. If Gordon had gone for home, meanwhile, then no matter what happened — safe or out — this World Series would be a classic. No matter what happened, that would have been one of the two or three best moments in modern baseball history. This Series would have ranked 16th on our list.

28. 1941: Yankees over Dodgers in five
Series leverage: 45th
Game leverage: 9th

With a one-run lead and two outs in the ninth inning of Game 4, Dodgers pitcher Hugh Casey struck out Tommy Henrich swinging. But catcher Mickey Owen couldn’t catch it, Henrich reached, and the Yankees rallied for four runs. Owen was the Bill Buckner of his era, though the subsequent meltdown would in some ways more closely resemble the Cubs’ fumbles after the Steve Bartman play. “Those are good memories now,” Owen said in 1989. “I’ve gotten over it. It’s part of baseball history.”

27. 1993: Blue Jays over Phillies in six
Series leverage: 68th
Game leverage: 63rd

Joe Carter’s knee-knocking skip around the bases is one of the greatest visuals of a triumphant baseballer. But it’s Mitch Williams whose body language I most remember from that game. It’s 15 minutes of failure, all captured in Williams’ exaggerated physicality and the sheer inevitability of what was happening.

26. 1960: Pirates over Yankees in seven
Series leverage: 28th
Game leverage: 111th

If the Pirates had simply won Game 6, this World Series — marked by alternating Yankees blowouts and Pirates squeakers — would probably rank in the 90s or worse. But Game 7 is in contention for the greatest game in baseball history: A Yankees comeback in the sixth, a Pirates comeback in the eighth, a Yankees comeback in the ninth, and a series-ending walk-off homer by Bill Mazeroski. The inning before Maz ended things, Hal Smith hit a three-run homer with two outs in the eighth, turning a deficit into a lead. By cWPA, that’s the biggest hit in major league history. It’s hardly remembered, because the lead lasted barely 10 minutes. (One wonders whether Rajai Davis’ homer off Aroldis Chapman in the 2016 World Series will suffer the same fate.)

25. 1988: Dodgers over A’s in five
Series leverage: 84th
Game leverage: 43rd

The Dodgers’ lineup in Game 4 had hit 36 homers in the regular season, six fewer than Jose Canseco alone had hit. Their cleanup hitter in that game, Mike Davis, had hit .196/.260/.270, and John Shelby was the only player in the lineup with an above-average OPS. Kirk Gibson was out, of course, but so was Mike Marshall, and they’d traded the slugger Pedro Guerrero midseason to get star pitcher John Tudor, who also got injured during the World Series. Against the 104-win Athletics, the hobbled Dodgers were a true underdog, which was part of why that Gibson homer in Game 1 slapped so hard.

24. 1956: Yankees over Dodgers in seven
Series leverage: 37th
Game leverage: 81st

Vin Scully’s call as Don Larsen prepared to face the 27th batter of his perfect game: “I think it would be safe to say no man in the history of baseball has ever come up to home plate in a more dramatic moment.”

The great seven-gamers

23. 2017: Astros over Dodgers in seven
Series leverage: 17th
Game leverage: 8th

This is a hard one to place. At the time, it was an extraordinary series between probably the best pair of World Series teams in history. Six of the games were close, and arguably all seven were memorable: Clayton Kershaw throwing the best postseason start of his career in Game 1; Cody Bellinger hitting the walk-off that wasn’t in Game 2; Yu Darvish getting knocked out early in Game 3; Ken Giles melting down and losing the Houston closer’s job in Game 4; the five-hour, 13-12, extra-inning masterpiece of Game 5; Justin Verlander, cruising in what looks to be the signature start of his career, suddenly losing a sixth-inning lead in Game 6; and Charlie Morton as the four-inning closer in Game 7, making the Sports Illustrated cover come true. But after the Astros’ systematic cheating scheme was revealed, this whole series has a whiff of 1919 to it. We don’t really know what we saw, or who would have won if it had been played straight up. Instead, it produced a champion we all regret having felt happy for.

22. 2002: Angels over Giants in seven
Series leverage: 32nd
Game leverage: 78th

Only one World Series champion has had, at any point in the series, lower championship win expectancy than these Angels had late in Game 6.

21. 1964: Cardinals over Yankees in seven
Series leverage: 23rd
Game leverage: 46th

Parts of Mickey Mantle were as strong as ever; parts were washed up. Mantle was no longer a center fielder, but a right fielder whose arm the Cardinals had been running on aggressively. In Game 3, Mantle made an egregious error on a single, which set up the Cardinals’ only run in the game. The score was still 1-1 in the bottom of the ninth, when Mantle led off with a walk-off home run.

20. 1971: Pirates over Orioles in seven
Series leverage: 15th
Game leverage: 56th

In Game 3, with his team down two games to none, Pirates star Roberto Clemente led off the seventh inning. He took a big swing and “half topped a pitch and sent an easy bouncer back to the mound,” Roger Angell wrote. “[Mike] Cuellar turned to make the leisurely toss and was astonished to discover Clemente running out the play at top speed. Now hurrying, Cuellar flipped the ball high, and Clemente was on.” A three-run inning followed, and the Pirates got back into the series. Clemente also had the big hit — a fourth-inning homer — in Game 7.

19. 1934: Cardinals over Tigers in seven
Series leverage: 20th
Game leverage: 51st

After a near-brawl involving Joe Medwick sliding into third base — and with the Cardinals running away with the Game 7 victory — the Detroit fans waited for Medwick to take his position in left field, then pelted him with fruits, vegetables and maybe some non-organic objects. Repeatedly, Medwick had to flee for safety, while various authorities pleaded for peace. An announcement threatened the game would be forfeited — setting up the potential for the only Game 7 walk-off forfeit in World Series history — but commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis found a more elegant solution: He ejected Medwick from the game.

18. 1973: A’s over Mets in seven
Series leverage: 19th
Game leverage: 27th

In Game 7, Oakland’s elite closer, Rollie Fingers, came into the sixth inning. He got out of the jam he had inherited, pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings, got two outs in the ninth and appeared to have the final one. But an error on his first baseman brought the tying run to the plate and Fingers’ manager came out to pull his closer from the game. He brought in his lefty specialist instead, and Darold Knowles got the final out of the game.

The straight-up classics

17. 1992: Blue Jays over Braves in six
Series leverage: 12th
Game leverage: 2nd

Sandwiched between a popular pick for the greatest Series ever and a popular pick for the best modern Series ending, this one gets overlooked. But the games were the second-closest ever, and Game 6 was the second-closest clinching game ever. Charlie Leibrandt, one of postseason baseball’s most misunderstood heroes, was on the mound for the conclusion of it: Brought into the game as a reliever, he threw a scoreless 10th, but his Braves couldn’t score in the bottom of that inning. The 11th turned out to be one inning too much for him, and he allowed the two runs that would decide the game. It was consistent with the rest of his postseason career, which included two blown leads in 1985 and the Game 6 walk-off homer in 1991: Asked to do a lot, he would pitch beautifully; asked to do still more, more perhaps than was reasonable, he would finally falter. He retired with a better postseason ERA than that of Jack Morris, but his career cWPA is the 14th worst in history.

16. 1980: Phillies over Royals in six
Series leverage: 29th
Game leverage: 11th

This one featured the greatest Game 5 ever. The Phillies came from behind with a two-run rally in the ninth inning, started by a Mike Schmidt infield single — enabled by George Brett playing in on the grass, anticipating that the 48-homer-hitting Schmidt might try to bunt for a hit — and finished by a Manny Trillo single off Dan Quisenberry’s glove. The Royals then loaded the bases on three Tug McGraw walks in the bottom of the ninth, before McGraw escaped and tilted the series in the Phillies’ favor. By average leverage index, this is the closest nine-inning game in World Series history.

15. 1962: Yankees over Giants in seven
Series leverage: 13th
Game leverage: 49th

What a different world it used to be. With a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth, with runners on second and third and the left-handed superstar Willie McCovey up — a hit would give the Giants the title, an out would give it to the Yankees — Casey Stengel left his right-handed starting pitcher in. Ralph Terry famously got the out he needed — a lineout to second base — and his cWPA in that World Series is, cumulatively, the highest ever: 0.994. Just about the whole thing.

14. 1972: A’s over Reds in seven
Series leverage: 8th
Game leverage: 7th

Aside from an 8-1 blowout in Game 6, the other six games were each decided by one run, and the clubs finished with identical batting averages and slugging percentages. The great Rollie Fingers pitched in all six close ones, his only “blemish” being the failure to preserve a one-run lead for a five-inning save.

13. 1979: Pirates over Orioles in seven
Series leverage: 21st
Game leverage: 33rd

When Eddie Murray batted in the eighth inning of Game 7, the championship leverage index in the moment was higher than for any other play in history. He flied to the edge of the warning track, and after a slightly awkward break, Dave Parker ran it down. Five more feet and it could have looked a lot like the ball Nelson Cruz misplayed, for which David Freese got a triple, in 2011.

12. 2016: Cubs over Indians in seven
Series leverage: 27th
Game leverage: 77th

Jason Heyward was the Cubs’ goat all season, and all postseason, until he became their hero with a motivational speech to his teammates during a late-Game 7 rain delay.

11. 1925: Pirates over Senators in seven
Series leverage: 7th
Game leverage: 12th

In Game 7, Walter Johnson threw a complete game; he allowed nine runs and took the loss. It’s hard to overstate how much the Senators were his team. In Game 4, Johnson hurt his leg trying for a hustle double. He kept pitching, in pain, to complete his shutout. Before Game 7, his manager, Bucky Harris, told reporters: “His leg still hurts. But gosh, he don’t pitch with his leg. All we need is that good right arm of his and he’s ready to give us that.” He was not.

10. 1926: Cardinals over Yankees in seven
Series leverage: 6th
Game leverage: 32nd

Babe Ruth getting caught stealing to end the World Series — as the tying run in a Game 7 — is the sport’s all-time Mighty Casey moment.

9. 1947: Yankees over Dodgers in seven
Series leverage: 14th
Game leverage: 28th

Jackie Robinson and Dan Bankhead desegregated the Fall Classic. (Bankhead, a pitcher, appeared as a pinch runner and scored.) In Game 4, the Yankees’ Bill Bevens nearly threw the first no-hitter in postseason history, allowing the first Dodgers hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. That hit, a two-run double, gave the Dodgers a walk-off victory. Bevens pitched effectively as a reliever in Game 7, then never appeared in the majors again.

8. 1912: Red Sox over Giants in eight (one tie)
Series leverage: 10th
Game leverage: 21st

The World Series that gave baseball’s glossaries “Snodgrass’ Muff.” With a one-run lead in the bottom of the 10th, Fred Snodgrass, the Giants’ center fielder, booted a fly ball that he was camped under. He followed that up with a running catch — some say spectacular catch — on the next play, but history doesn’t do averages. A walk, a single, an intentional walk and a sacrifice fly turned the Giants’ 2-1 lead into a 3-2 defeat. Until 1960, Tris Speaker’s game-tying single in that rally was the biggest play, by cWPA, in history.

7. 1952: Yankees over Dodgers in seven
Series leverage: 4th
Game leverage: 20th

The Dodgers had a rookie relief ace named Joe Black, who had spent the first eight seasons of his career in the Negro Leagues. When he finally emerged as a major leaguer, he was a sensation: He won Rookie of the Year, finished third in MVP voting and helped advance the notion of a relief ace. He finished 41 games for the Dodgers that year, but they unexpectedly decided he would start Game 1. He threw a complete game, winning 4-2; a miracle. He was effective in Game 4, but three starts in a week — no travel days between games — was too much for him. He was knocked out of Game 7 and the Yankees won the Series yet again.

6. 2001: Diamondbacks over Yankees in seven

Series leverage: 11th
Game leverage: 45th

This was the year of peak Yankee Destiny: The Yankees had won three World Series in a row, and with a handful of veterans due to retire or hit free agency, this was seen as the capstone year. It was the autumn of Jeter’s Flip, the autumn that the Yankees crushed the 116-win Mariners in the ALCS, the autumn of Jeter’s Mr. November home run, the autumn of anthrax attacks, the Afghanistan War, President George W. Bush throwing out the first pitch, and baseball fans who would typically despise the Yankees actually rooting for them in an ad hoc solidarity post-9/11. The Yankees’ three wins in the middle of the series included two minor miracles, with two-run homers in the ninth to tie the games and walk-offs in extra innings. They sent the seventh game of the World Series into the ninth inning with Mariano Rivera on the mound with a lead. Rivera had thrown 78 postseason innings to that point in his career, had a 0.70 postseason ERA and had converted 23 postseason saves in a row (many of them two innings). One of the great things about baseball is that there’s no scriptwriter, so you can’t impose a contrived narrative predictability on anything. If ever you could: This was it.

And then they lost, on Rivera’s throwing error and three broken-bat hits, on a walk-off flare that landed a foot beyond the infield over a drawn-in Derek Jeter. They’d been unable to get insurance runs off Randy Johnson, who pitched 1⅓ innings in relief the day after he’d thrown seven innings as a starter. The Yankees wouldn’t win another World Series for eight years, and after that one they haven’t won another since. They’ve won more regular-season games than any other team, so it’s not like they collapsed, but that broken-bat flare really was the end of that dynasty. In retrospect, it almost does look like a contrived narrative: an expectations-inverting, twist-ending fraught with portentous significance. The finale of a prestige drama. At the time, it felt impossible. Of course, it was just baseball.

Buster Olney wrote in his game story that night: “Most of the Yankees seemed at peace.”

5. 2011: Cardinals over Rangers in seven
Series leverage: 5th
Game leverage: 19th

I count seven major shifts of momentum in the final hour of Game 6. The ninth inning began with the Rangers leading 7-5, and closer Neftali Feliz struck out Ryan Theriot for the first out.

But Albert Pujols, in what appeared likely to be his final plate appearance as a Cardinal, doubled. Feliz lost his control: He walked Lance Berkman on four pitches, putting the tying run on, then fell behind 2-0 to Allen Craig, six consecutive balls after the Pujols hit.

  • But Feliz came back and struck out Craig looking, for the second out. He got ahead 1-2 on David Freese, the second strike swinging.

  • But Freese hit it deep to right field, over Nelson Cruz’s wobbly pursuit, and off the wall for a game-tying triple. He was the winning run on third base.

  • But Yadier Molina flied out to end the ninth. Then, in the top of the 10th, Elvis Andrus singled, and Josh Hamilton — in a brutal monthlong slump — homered. The Rangers were back ahead by two runs.

  • But in the bottom of the 10th, the Cardinals put the first two men on with singles, sacrificed them into scoring position, and on a groundout and a single tied the game again.

  • But with Cardinals on second and third — again, 90 feet from winning — Craig grounded out to end the 10th. Mike Napoli then singled in the top of the 11th, giving the Rangers a chance to go ahead again. The Rangers sent up Esteban German to pinch hit for Scott Feldman — an aggressive move that cost them Feldman, their best available pitcher.

  • But German grounded out and ended the threat. The game went to the bottom of the 11th: Mark Lowe entered and threw a 3-2 changeup — his fourth-best pitch, one he rarely threw to righties and never threw to righties in full counts. Freese was on it.

  • Seven terrifying shifts over the course of just 11 outs. To understand how epic and disorienting it all was, consider this moment: In the bottom of the 10th inning, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pinch hit for his pitcher with a pitcher — and then pinch hit for the pinch-hitting pitcher with a different pitcher. Meanwhile, television broadcaster Joe Buck was suggesting La Russa might consider pinch hitting with a still different pitcher, before realizing that that pitcher had actually started the game “hours ago.”

    4. 1986: Mets over Red Sox in seven
    Series leverage: 18th
    Game leverage: 61st

    One of the measures we considered was “comeback percentage,” the lowest likelihood of winning that the eventual winner reached over the course of the series. We noted that the Angels’ win in 2002 had the second-highest comeback percentage, as the Angels traveled from just 1.7% likely to win to their victory parade. The ’86 Series had the greatest comeback percentage in World Series history, with the Mets just 0.8% likely to win at their lowest point. But that’s not actually even close to how unlikely they really were to win. That comeback percentage only measures the team’s chances before each play and after each play. It doesn’t measure the odds in the middle of the play, and it was in the middle of a play that this one turned.

    At the start of the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6, the Mets — trailing by two runs, down three games to two — had a 5% chance of winning the World Series. After two quick outs, they were down to 1%. That’s where our comeback percentage pegs their low point. It climbed to 2% with Gary Carter’s rally-starting single, to 5% when Kevin Mitchell singled as the potential tying run, and 11% when Ray Knight singled as the potential go-ahead run. When Bob Stanley uncorked a wild pitch to put Knight in scoring position, the Mets were at 35% to win the World Series: They just needed a single (or something) and a win in Game 7.

    But then Mookie Wilson grounded toward Bill Buckner. What were the chances they’d win the World Series when Wilson hit his “little roller up along first”? When it crossed first base fair? When Buckner positioned himself in front of it, facing it directly, both hands out? The odds Buckner botches that play are maybe 1 in a few hundred. The odds it goes right through him — rather than bouncing off his glove and staying in front of him, which would have kept Knight at third — are maybe 1 in 1,000. First basemen convert outs on about 93% of the balls they field — or attempt to field — but that includes sharp grounders, popups in the sun, line drives and so on. Few plays are simpler than this one. I could believe that the chances of the Mets winning Game 6 and Game 7, in the middle of this play, might have dropped to 1 in 5,000.

    Game 7 was a great game too! Bill Buckner had a couple of hits.

    3. 1924: Senators over Giants in seven
    Series leverage: 1st
    Game leverage: 5th

    I would consider saying this about as many as five games, but I think Game 7 of this World Series is really it: the best game in baseball history. By average leverage index, it’s the fourth-best World Series game, and it’s the only one of the top 10 that was a Game 7. For that matter, it’s the only one of the top 10 that was even a clincher. It started with subterfuge — the Giants started right-hander Curly Ogden as a decoy, had him face two batters, then pulled him for lefty George Mogridge — and ended with a walk-off, and the sequence from the eighth inning on goes:

    • Senators score two in the bottom of the eighth to tie it;

    • Giants get a one-out triple in the top of the ninth, can’t get him home;

    • Senators put runners at the corners with one out in the bottom of the ninth, can’t score;

    • Giants strand a leadoff walk in the top of the 10th;

    • Giants strand two in the top of the 11th;

    • Senators strand two in the bottom of the 11th;

    • Giants strand leadoff single in the top of the 12th — with Walter Johnson pitching his fourth inning of emergency relief;

    • Senators score after two errors in the bottom of the 12th.

    The footage somehow still exists, and it’s as clear as any baseball footage you’ll ever see from that far back.

    2. 1991: Twins over Braves in seven
    Series leverage: 3rd
    Game leverage: 6th

    Tom Kelly wanted to pull Jack Morris before the 10th inning of Game 7. Morris wanted to stay in. Kelly consulted the pitching coach, who said Morris might as well keep going. “OK,” Kelly said. “It’s just a game.”

    1. 1975: Reds over Red Sox in seven
    Series leverage: 1st
    Game leverage: 5th

    The story goes that the iconic shot of Carlton Fisk waving his Game 6 home run to stay fair was an accident. The cameraman, Louis Gerard, was supposed to follow the ball. But he told his producer he couldn’t, that there was “a rat on my leg that’s as big as a cat. It’s staring me in the face.” So he just kept the camera on Fisk, a shot out of character with broadcasts of the time but one that turned out to be revolutionary. “Before Game 6, there was no such thing as a reaction shot,” the Boston Globe reported. “Cameramen followed the action, focusing on the trajectory of a hit ball or a thrown pass or a shot. Forever after, there would be the isolation shot, looking for the reaction of the athlete to what happened.”

    In that way, the 1975 World Series made every World Series that followed better. Buckner, Carter, Gibson, Bumgarner, Mo, Papi, all the way to Howie Kendrick: The biggest moments now immerse us in them, overpower us with the emotions of them. Fisk’s home run raised everything that followed. But still, nothing that followed could top it.

    Source: Read Full Article

    Should Isiah Thomas have made the Dream Team with Michael Jordan?

    • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
    • Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
    • Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system

    Who belonged on the Dream Team? Was Isiah Thomas denied a deserved spot because of bad blood with Michael Jordan?

    “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s documentary on Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, has renewed debate about Thomas’ absence from the Dream Team. After one of Sunday’s episodes highlighted Thomas’ Pistons leaving the court rather than shaking hands with the victorious Bulls after the 1991 Eastern Conference finals, Thomas lamented the possibility that the action cost him a spot on the 1992 U.S. Olympic team — the first to feature NBA players, producing the greatest collection of star talent basketball has ever seen.

    So should Thomas have made the Dream Team?

    Source: Read Full Article

    What were the Packers and Eagles thinking? Barnwell explains the NFL draft’s biggest surprises

      Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for

    After the hype suggesting that this would be a wild 2020 NFL draft because of the coronavirus-enforced information gap between organizations, the weekend actually went mostly by the book. Teams generally stayed put and chose the prospects or attacked the positions we would have expected. Most of the trades were mild. Last year, we had two shockers across the first six picks with edge rusher Clelin Ferrell going to the Raiders and the Giants drafting quarterback Daniel Jones. There was no similarly stunning pick in the first half of the first round this time around.

    Of course, by the time we got to Saturday night, there were a few puzzling moves. We saw the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles unexpectedly draft quarterbacks and infuriate a portion of their fan bases in the process. In a draft that didn’t contain much controversy, those two quarterback situations stand out as the most controversial decisions.

    Let’s run through them and try to see what each organization might have been thinking. From my perspective, while we don’t know anything about which quarterback prospects are likely to pan out, these teams can justify their decisions pretty easily.

    What were the Packers thinking?

    How on earth could the Packers draft a quarterback in the first round when Aaron Rodgers desperately needs receiving help? While we won’t know whether the decision to trade up four spots to No. 26 to draft Utah State’s Jordan Love was the right one for several years, the arguments I’ve seen surrounding their decision don’t hold up under much scrutiny. At the very least, they’re slightly off. Let me start with the most obvious one:

    Green Bay is not one receiver away from winning a Super Bowl.

    I know it’s tempting for Packers fans to look at what happened in 2019 and think they’re a break or two away from a title. The Packers went 13-3 in coach Matt LaFleur’s first season with the team and made it to the NFC Championship Game. They have every right to expect to be in the mix again this season, given that they’ll return just about every key player from last year’s team. We all know that Rodgers is capable of just about anything if the Packers get into the playoffs.

    All of those facts about 2019 are true, but upon closer inspection, it’s tough to expect Green Bay to win with the same formula in 2020. I write about this every year over the summer when I look at the teams that are most likely to improve or decline, and I’ll get to that as we get closer to the NFL season, but this team is arguably the league’s most likely to decline next season.

    Start with that 13-3 record. The Packers outscored their opponents by a total of 63 points. We can use their Pythagorean expectation to estimate that a team with that sort of point differential typically wins about 9.7 games, and we can use history to find that the vast majority of teams with that sort of difference between their actual win total and expected win total almost always decline. By that measure alone, we would expect the Packers to drop off to about 10-6 in 2020.

    By DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), the Packers were the 10th-best team in football, alongside the Eagles and Rams and behind the Cowboys. They outperformed their point differential and DVOA because they went 6-1 in games decided by seven points or fewer and had two additional wins by eight points.

    Rodgers was 34-34-1 in starts decided by seven points or fewer before the 2019 season began. Anything is possible, but the vast majority of teams that have such a lopsided record in one-score games don’t keep that up the following season. Teams that won five more one-score games than they lost in a given year since 1989 were 92-114 the following season, including last season’s Rams, who went from 6-1 in one-score games in 2018 to 3-3 last season.

    The Packers also benefited from having a healthy Rodgers for all 16 games, and that can never be guaranteed. (Adding Love is quietly an advantage in the short term if Rodgers gets injured again, although they didn’t need to use a first-round pick to find a viable backup quarterback.) Opposing offenses were able to start their Week 1 quarterbacks 11 times against Green Bay last season, with the Packers also facing a pair of rookies and three injury replacements. Most notably, they went up against Matt Moore as opposed to Patrick Mahomes in their 31-24 win over the Chiefs. Narrow victories over the Chiefs, Lions and Panthers might have gone differently if those teams had been able to use their typical starting quarterback.

    Green Bay was also incredibly healthy on defense after being forced to play defensive backs off the street because of injuries in 2018. While possible starting linebacker Oren Burks tore a pectoral muscle in the preseason, its 11 starters on defense heading into the season missed a total of four games all campaign. Darnell Savage missed two games, Kevin King was out for one and B.J. Goodson missed one after stepping in for Burks.

    The Packers dominated the NFC North in a way that’s also unlikely to keep happening. They went 6-0 in the division for the first time since 2011. There have been 21 prior cases of a team going 6-0 inside its division since the league went to its current structure in 2002, and just one of those teams — the 2013 Colts — repeated the feat the following season. The other 21 teams won an average of 3.3 divisional games the following season.

    When Caesars Sportsbook posted its over/under totals for the 2020 season before the draft, it seemed shocking to some that the Packers were posted at just 8.5 wins, 4.5 wins below their 2020 record. I suspect the factors above might have contributed to what seemed like a pessimistic expectation. Anything can happen, but the most realistic expectation for this team would be to take a step backward and finish somewhere in the 9-7 range.

    Of course, if we’re working off the idea that the 2020 Packers aren’t likely to be as good as they were in 2019, you could make an even stronger argument that they needed to draft somebody who was more likely to impact the team in 2020 than a quarterback prospect. My response there is to say …

    The Packers needed another defensive piece more than they needed a weapon for Rodgers.

    Offense was not the problem for the Packers last season. While they looked better on defense by raw totals, they finished the season eighth in offensive DVOA and 15th in defensive DVOA. Mike Pettine’s defense most notably finished 23rd in run defense DVOA, a weakness that was exploited to no end when the 49ers ran for 285 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC title game. (Another argument against the “we’re one game away” idea is the fact that the Packers were never in either of their games against the 49ers.)

    Green Bay was able to succeed on defense because it forced the league’s third-highest interception rate and was the fourth-best defense at holding teams to field goals in the red zone. Neither of those elements of the game are particularly stable from year to year. To keep things close to home, the 2018-19 Bears are a good example of a defense that thrived in those categories, but they fell from first to 26th in interception rate and fifth to 13th in red zone touchdown rate last season.

    As I mentioned earlier, this defense is also all but guaranteed to face more injuries in 2020. This offseason, they lost linebackers Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell while adding only oft-injured former Browns starter Christian Kirksey to replace them. I understand there are Packers fans who might see moving on from Martinez as addition by subtraction, and this defense has four first-rounders on the books from their prior four drafts, but defense is still the problem dragging down the team. Drafting linebacker Patrick Queen could have made the most significant impact if the Packers wanted to improve their 2020 team.

    I agree with the general sentiment that the Packers haven’t done enough to surround Rodgers with talent over the course of his career. The stat floating around noting how he has thrown just one touchdown pass to a first-round pick over the course of his career is mind-blowing.

    After former second-round pick Davante Adams, it’s impossible to argue that Rodgers has much in the way of highly touted receivers with whom to work. His top two wideouts after Adams were undrafted free agent Allen Lazard and former fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Packers used a third-round pick last year on tight end Jace Sternberger, but receiver has not been a position of priority in Green Bay going on a decade now. Their last significant selection before Adams was Randall Cobb, who was taken with the last pick of the second round in 2011.

    That’s indisputable, but what I also would say is …

    While Love is a risky prospect, so are wide receivers in that range of the draft.

    If the comparison was between Love and a wideout who was absolutely, positively guaranteed to make an immediate impact over the next two seasons, the choice would be easy. Pick the wide receiver. As you can probably guess, though, it’s not that simple. Take a look at the list of receivers who were drafted between the 21st and 31st selections between 2009 and 2018. I’ll include the receiving yards they racked up over their first two pro seasons:

    It’s a huge swath of talent with totally different careers, many of which are still in progress. The average production from these wideouts over their first two seasons, when they would be expected to have an immediate impact for the Packers, is 1,151 yards, or slightly more than what Valdes-Scantling (1,033 receiving yards) has racked up over his first two campaigns. A rookie wideout with Rodgers could expect to be in better shape than, say, Demaryius Thomas was with Tim Tebow, but you get the idea here: Adding a wide receiver at the bottom of the first round isn’t a guarantee that the Packers would have upgraded on Valdes-Scantling or Lazard.

    Doing something that seems like it’s going to help Rodgers doesn’t guarantee it’ll actually move the needle. How many Packers fans were in favor two years ago when general manager Brian Gutekunst added a weapon for Rodgers by signing Jimmy Graham to a three-year, $30 million contract? It was easy to envision Rodgers and Graham working in lockstep for red zone touchdowns, but the tight end scored just five times and averaged just under 34 receiving yards per game during his time in Green Bay.

    When you consider the relative positional scarcity of quarterbacks and wide receivers, the Packers had a far better chance of finding a useful receiver outside of the first round than they did of finding their quarterback of the future, especially given the depth in this draft. And while we know a little more now than we did then, it’s also important to make the case that …

    The first-round pick wasn’t the Packers’ only chance at improving at receiver.

    The Packers’ decision to draft running back AJ Dillon with their second-round pick (No. 62) was far more curious to me than taking Love in the first round. If you evaluate Love and think he’s a franchise quarterback, the value in drafting a quarterback is clear. There are only so many of those guys available, and if you have a chance to take one and can see a future where you don’t have one, you take him.

    A running back, though? I get that the Packers might not want to sign Aaron Jones to an extension, but running back is the position you can fill with a midround pick. Jones himself was a fifth-round selection. Dillon’s a powerful back, but he carried the ball 845 times at Boston College and caught a total of just 21 passes. In the modern NFL, there’s a near-endless supply of backs who are useful zone runners but don’t offer much as a receiver. Love offers the possibility of enormous upside; Dillon can’t really do that as a second-round running back given his skill set.

    The Packers already have added one veteran wide receiver to the mix. I understand fans aren’t necessarily excited about Devin Funchess, who missed the final 15 games of 2019 with a collarbone injury, but he averaged 558 receiving yards per season during his time with Carolina, which is right in line with what those first-round picks averaged during their opening two seasons. It’s not out of the question that Funchess outproduces rookies Tee Higgins or Michael Pittman Jr., who were the first wideouts off the board after the Packers chose Love.

    While I would question the Packers not selecting a single wideout during the entire draft, it’s not out of the question that they’ll be able to add a veteran receiver over the next few months. Those receivers get cut every year over the summer and through training camp, and some of them make an impact in their new places. James Jones’ 2015 season with the Packers comes to mind.

    I mentioned him in my piece on wideouts likely to be cut or traded in the coming months, but Kenny Stills is an obvious candidate for the Packers. He is due $8 million in 2020, which wouldn’t typically be tenable for a fourth wideout in Houston. It’s also not difficult to imagine scenarios in which veterans like A.J. Green, Tyrell Williams, Curtis Samuel and Dante Pettis come available via trade, and the Packers should pursue them if they do. If they take advantage of one of those opportunities — or if someone else totally unexpected comes available — the decision to pass on a wideout in Round 1 won’t be as damaging to their short-term chances.

    One more reason Green Bay fans are upset about passing on a wide receiver is that they’re not confident about Love. I have to admit that I’m also skeptical of Love, given that he wasn’t particularly good in the Mountain West Conference, where he nearly threw as many touchdowns (20) as interceptions (17) in 2019. What I will say is …

    This situation isn’t all that different from when the Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005.

    I could do a whole other article on this, so let me be brief. With hindsight, we can look back and say that it was easy for the Packers to draft Rodgers and that there was a dramatic difference between him and Love as prospects. That’s not realistic. There were plenty of reasons NFL teams were skeptical of Rodgers at the time, most notably the idea that he was another product of Jeff Tedford, who had sent first-rounders such as Akili Smith, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boller to the pros, only for them to fail.

    The idea that Rodgers was in the mix for the first overall pick and then wasn’t really an option for other teams before the Packers snapped him at No. 24 is also revisionist history. The Dolphins drafted Ronnie Brown at No. 2 and started a 34-year-old Gus Frerotte at quarterback. The Browns added Braylon Edwards as opposed to upsetting their mix of Trent Dilfer and Charlie Frye. Teams starting Chris Simms, Mark Brunell, Drew Bledsoe, Jake Delhomme, Trent Green, Kyle Boller and Kerry Collins all passed on drafting Rodgers before the Packers took him. Most of the league passed on Rodgers until he fell to a roughly similar spot as Love.

    Likewise, when the Packers drafted Rodgers, they were coming off a winning season. Green Bay went 10-6 and won the NFC North before losing at home in the playoffs to the Vikings. Those Packers didn’t need a wide receiver, as both Donald Driver and Javon Walker topped 1,200 receiving yards in 2004. On defense, though, they finished 29th in DVOA and allowed the league’s second-highest passer rating (99.1). They desperately needed defensive help and chose to draft Rodgers in lieu of helping a 35-year-old Favre. The Packers didn’t make the playoffs over the next couple of years, but they made it to the NFC Championship Game in 2007, Favre’s final season with the team, before Rodgers took over.

    Things weren’t exactly the same. Rookies weren’t bargains back then, so Rodgers’ five-year deal was for a total of $7.7 million, which would amount to $17.8 million after adjusting for cap inflation. Love’s four-year pact will come in around $12.4 million; he could top Rodgers’ mark with his fifth-year option, but Green Bay won’t have to decide on that for several years.

    As an aside, don’t buy the arguments that Rodgers is about to leave or get traded. It’s not financially feasible. The Packers would owe $51.1 million in dead money if they moved on from him this year and $31.6 million if they did so in 2021. They could spread that across two years if they make Rodgers a post-June 1 release after this season, but that would take an Antonio Brown-sized blowup with the organization. The most likely time frame would be 2022, when cutting or trading him would cost $17.2 million in dead money. With the cap possibly hitting $250 million that year, the Packers could move on from him without feeling too much of a pinch.

    And one final question: Are we sure adding Love is going to be a negative thing for Rodgers? All I’ve seen and heard is the perception that drafting Love is going to make Rodgers angry. Isn’t there a chance it lights a fire under Rodgers, too? I have no doubt that he wants badly to win and didn’t need another quarterback to convince him as much, but this is the first time in a decade that the Packers have exhibited any doubt in his ability to be their quarterback for years to come. Rodgers was motivated by skepticism when he entered the league; he might also be motivated by skepticism as he approaches the end of his career, too.

    What were the Eagles thinking?

    While the Eagles didn’t draft Jalen Hurts in the middle of the second round to replace Carson Wentz, Philly fans hoping to add more talent around their star quarterback were angered by the move. We’re only a little over two years removed from the Eagles winning a Super Bowl with backup quarterback Nick Foles, but they have struggled to build on that title run. The wide receiver and cornerback positions have been consistent sources of frustration. They have won one playoff game over the ensuing two years, and even that took a Double Doink.

    While general manager Howie Roseman successfully added speedy weapons for Wentz by drafting Jalen Reagor (Round 1) and John Hightower (Round 5) and trading for veteran Marquise Goodwin, the decision to use the No. 53 overall pick on Hurts attracted a mixed reaction. It fits Philadelphia’s philosophy and offers both short- and long-term value. Here’s why:

    The Eagles can’t count on Wentz staying healthy.

    While the former No. 2 overall pick has missed a relatively modest eight regular-season games across four seasons, Wentz has played just one playoff quarter out of 24. He tore an ACL in 2017, suffered a season-ending back injury in 2018 and then was knocked out of the game by a borderline-dirty hit from Jadeveon Clowney during the wild-card game against the Seahawks last season. Wentz has done enough to get the Eagles to the playoffs, but he hasn’t been able to finish a season since he was a rookie in 2016.

    Nobody doubts his toughness, but as was the case with Andrew Luck, there are questions about whether Wentz can protect himself and stay out of situations when he’s liable to get injured. The 2017 and 2019 injuries both came on plays in which Wentz left the pocket under modest pressure, improvised and was hit as a scrambler. Injuries aren’t predictive — Matthew Stafford missed time in each of his first two seasons and then didn’t miss a game across the subsequent eight years — but the Eagles can’t afford to count on Wentz playing all 16 games and throughout the entirety of the playoffs. It would be naive. It would also go against something we know about the Eagles …

    This organization has always prioritized having a second viable quarterback.

    This is a habit going back to Andy Reid, who might be the NFL’s best coach when it comes to developing young passers. This organization drafted A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb before trading them both for second-round picks. Reid also drafted Nick Foles before the Chip Kelly regime packaged Foles with a second-round pick in a deal for Sam Bradford. On the veteran side, the Eagles brought in Jeff Garcia and Michael Vick as backups to Donovan McNabb before eventually using each of them as starters on playoff runs.

    Unsurprisingly, Roseman has been similarly aggressive toward backup quarterbacks. After regaining power from Kelly in 2016, Roseman handed Chase Daniel a three-year, $21 million deal to be Bradford’s No. 2 before immediately drafting Wentz. Roseman then cut Daniel in 2017 and signed Foles to a two-year, $11 million deal. With Philly adding voidable years to deals to create short-term cap room and moving on from players such as Malcolm Jenkins and Nigel Bradham for cap purposes this offseason, it doesn’t appear like it was a serious player for veteran backups like Foles or Marcus Mariota in March.

    While the Eagles have professed their affection for undrafted free agent Nate Sudfeld, who has spent the past three years with the organization, Hurts has a higher floor and a higher ceiling. Sudfeld is on a one-year, $2 million deal, while the entirety of Hurts’ four-year rookie contract should cost somewhere around $6 million. He’s a low-cost option to fill the backup role behind Wentz. With coach Doug Pederson in the same league as Reid when it comes to quarterback development, Hurts should have some meaningful trade value by the time 2023 rolls around.

    The former Chiefs coordinator’s work with Foles and Wentz suggests Pederson should be able to do just fine with Hurts in the long term. In the short term, Hurts also can make a difference …

    Hurts can handle a Taysom Hill-sized workload for the Eagles, even if he doesn’t play like Hill.

    Let’s be clear here. Hurts’ game is nothing like Hill’s, regardless of how much the Saints just committed to their quasi-quarterback. Hill has played 423 offensive snaps over the past two seasons and thrown a total of 13 passes. He has caught 22 passes over that same time frame. Hurts is not that kind of threat, though I suspect the Eagles will try to integrate at least one package in which they use Hurts and Wentz on the field at the same time to try to confuse opposing defenses.

    Hurts is not a receiver. He’s not a running back. He’s a true quarterback who also can serve as an effective runner. The Eagles can make use of those skills, even while Wentz is healthy. To start, the Eagles (or Wentz himself) have been aggressive about sneaking their starter. Wentz carried the ball 14 times on third or fourth down with 2 yards or less to go last season, which was as frequently as Ravens QB Lamar Jackson carried the ball in the same situations. Only the Bills’ Josh Allen ran the ball more frequently in short-yardage last season.

    It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which the Eagles sub in Hurts in those situations. He carried the ball 12 times in short-yardage situations over the past two seasons, converting 11 for first downs or touchdowns. (He lost 11 yards on the other try.) Bringing Hurts into the game into those spots allows the Eagles to run high-efficiency sneaks without exposing their starting quarterback to extra hits. I’d also fully expect the Eagles to “borrow” some of the run-pass options Hurts ran at Alabama and Oklahoma to make the quarterback’s life easier as he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. Of course, Hurts also has the passing ability to threaten teams as a pocket passer and could be absolutely devastating off play-action.

    Hurts doesn’t have a realistic chance of usurping Wentz as the full-time starter, but he doesn’t need to do so to return value for the Eagles. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which he contributes on a handful of offensive plays per game, starts a game or two per year when Wentz gets injured, and either nets a compensatory pick or gets traded for a draft pick at the end of his deal. In a league in which effective backups cost somewhere in the range of $6 million to $7 million per season, Hurts could turn out to be a worthwhile use of a second-round pick for Philadelphia.

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