Thursday, February 5, 2009
Updated: February 10, 8:21 AM ET
Neyer upsets Phillips in first semifinal
By Tim Kurkjian
This isn't a fair fight. Steve Phillips, a former general manager of the New York Mets, a guy who built a real major league team for seven years, against Rob Neyer, a baseball writer, a stat guy.
Baseball writers don't know anything about baseball; neither do stat guys. Ask any manager. Phillips had the highest payroll in the tournament, Neyer the lowest.
This had sweep written all over it. And Phillips' team got off to a great start, winning Game 1, 6-3, behind a home run and four RBIs from first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, seven strong innings from Jon Lester and a save from Jonathan Papelbon. The only thing, it appeared, that could stop Phillips' team is if he traded Gonzalez in order to sign Mo Vaughn.
Then, lo and behold, Neyer's team roared back in Game 2 with a 5-0 win. Dustin Pedroia, Neyer's first pick and the draft's overall No. 1 selection, had three hits; Brian McCann hit a two-run homer; and James Shields threw eight shutout innings. Neyer's team won Game 3, 2-1, as Zack Greinke out-dueled Ervin Santana, and Chris Davis' homer broke a tie in the seventh.
Neyer's team won Game 4, 4-2, behind 6 2/3 innings from Francisco Liriano. Liriano had a hit and an RBI, giving him as many hits as and one more RBI than Phillips' Ryan Braun in the series.
Down 3-1 in the series against Neyer, Phillips should have considered firing himself as manager and hiring Bobby Valentine. Instead, he started Lester again in Game 5.
Lester lasted one inning, and after three innings it was 10-1 and the Neyer team was on its way to the series clincher with an 11-7 win. Pedroia had three more hits and three RBIs. Right fielder Nick Markakis hit his second home run of the series, finishing with a .444 average.
What an upset. A writer beat a former general manager. We might be on to something here.
Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book "Is This a Great Game, or What?" was published by St. Martin's Press and became available in paperback in May. Click here to order a copy.
About the simulation: The simulations were done by ImagineSports.com using the Diamond Mind Baseball software, which was developed by renowned baseball statistics expert Tom Tippett. Diamond Mind is widely regarded as the most sophisticated and realistic baseball simulation software.
Diamond Mind is owned by Imagine Sports, a Silicon Valley-based Internet company that develops multiplayer online sports games, including Diamond Mind Online, a licensed online baseball management game where you draft and build your own team of players from the present or the past and manage them through a 162-game season. ESPN users can try it by creating their own team with the Diamond Mind Online Free Trial.