In place of on-field baseball action postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Globe and Mail brings you a computer-simulated tournament involving four of the greatest Canadian teams, using the statistics-based software of the sports-game company Strat-O-Matic. The first-round best-of-seven-game series pits the 1985 Blue Jays against their World Series-winning counterparts from 1993, while on the other side of the bracket, the 1981 Expos take on the 1994 Montreal squad. Today’s matchup is Game No. 3 of the all-Jays series.
A third-base coach doesn’t want for much. Maybe a corner for his uniform, cap and fungo bat. Some liniment for his send-him-home shoulder would be appreciated, as would an opportunity to manage his own team someday. And, for James Francis (Jimy) Williams, third-base coach for the 1985 Blue Jays, a replacement for his missing "m" might be in order.
But at the press conference after the third game of the series between the ’85 Jays and their 1993 counterparts, Williams was getting attention, which is the last thing a third-base coach wants. If he’s getting questions, he’s likely getting blame, too.
With the ’85 Jays down 5-4 in the top of the eighth at SkyDome, their speed guy, Lloyd Moseby, had led off with a single. The next batter, Rance Mulliniks, lined a first-pitch slider from ’93 closer Duane Ward down the right-field line, barely fair and just missing the ball girl sitting at her post.
Right fielder Joe Carter had trouble corralling the bouncing ball; Moseby gained tempo heading into third. Most of the 50,354 people in attendance (including Rush singer-bassist Geddy Lee) expected third-base coach Williams to wave an accelerating Moseby home. But, playing it safe with none out, Williams put up the stop sign, which the runner obeyed.
Next batter Willie Upshaw lined a Ward fastball to third baseman Ed Sprague, who not only caught the ball but tagged out a momentarily frozen Moseby for a blink-and-you-missed-it double play. Al Oliver then struck out on three pitches, stranding Mulliniks at second base and leaving Williams to answer the media after the game.
“When I was a kid, I used to play marbles,” Williams cracked. “I know some of you think I’ve lost mine.”
Asked if he was second-guessing himself about his decision to hold up Moseby, Williams offered the kind of inarguable logic for which Yogi Berra is known. “In retrospect, you are always looking back.”
What went into his decision to hold Moseby, one sports reporter asked. “I let my eyes evaluate what I see,” Williams answered, leaving the questioner blank-faced. The pause allowed Williams to elaborate, if one can call it that.
“The runner dictates whether I send him. The fielder dictates it. The score dictates it. The situation dictates it. But I’m not a dictator, whatever that means.”
And on it went. There hasn’t been so much head scratching since the Great Lice Epidemic of 1957.
With the 1985 squad down three games to none, it will be up to Game No. 4 starter Jim Clancy to stave off elimination. Todd Stottlemyre takes the ball for the side from ’93.
The drama at the hot corner took attention away from 1985 starter Doyle Alexander, who failed to make it out of the first inning. For the Jays over the past two seasons, the 34-year-old Alabaman has logged more than 520 innings, few if any of them worse than his performance in Game No. 3.
Rickey Henderson led off the bottom of the first inning with a single. Devon White doubled. After Roberto Alomar grounded out, up to the plate came Carter, John Olerud and Paul Molitor. The result? Base hit, base hit, base hit. If this ’93 lineup isn’t Murderers’ Row, it is at least equal to first-degree manslaughter.
A sacrifice fly by Tony Fernandez was followed by a bases-clearing double by Sprague. Turning out the lights on Alexander, 1985 manager Bobby Cox brought in long reliever Dennis Lamp to record the third out of the first stanza. If nothing else, an ancient Greek king sleeps more soundly now, knowing he won’t need to share his Alexander the Great nickname any time soon.
His counterpart, 1993 Jays starter Pat Hentgen, wasn’t at his best either. He walked five and gave up six hits in his seven innings of work, striking out only two batters. Most of the damage came in the top of the fourth, when the ’85 Jays came alive for three runs to come within one.
That’s as close as they got.
As for what if Williams had sent Moseby around to home, the quotable third-base coach had an answer for that.
“If a frog had wings,” Williams reasoned, “he wouldn’t bump his booty.”
In the world of the folksy man missing an ‘m,’ it stands to reason.
On Wednesday, The Globe will run a game report and boxscore of Game No. 3 of the Montreal side of our computer-simulated tournament. Scheduled starting pitchers are Ray Burris for the 1981 Expos and Jeff Fassero for the Expos of ’94, currently up two games to none. The winner of the best-of-seven series will face the victors of the matchup between the Toronto teams from 1985 and ’93. The last team standing wins the Macdonald-Cartier Cup.