James Costanzo, Sports Editor
It's a typical Floridian night in late July of 2006, and New York Mets ace set-up man Duaner Sánchez gets into a taxicab bound for a local restaurant – he has a craving for Dominican food.
As Sánchez heads southbound on Interstate 95 a drunk driver cuts across three lanes of traffic, broad-siding the cab and leaving its prized passenger lying on the pavement with a separated shoulder. It's been almost four years since Sánchez's ill-fated cab ride, but many Mets fans may still not truly realize its devastating consequences.
These are the events that ensued: In a desperate attempt to fill the void left by Sanchez's injury, former Mets general manager Omar Minaya trades outfielder Xavier Nady to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitchers Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez. In spite of Sánchez's injury, the Mets win the National League East by a considerable margin and cruise to a sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.
The Mets then face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, which lasts an intense and heartbreaking seven games.
In the eighth inning of the final game with the score tied 1-1, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina crushes a two-run homer off Mets reliever Aaron Heilman. It had been only two innings prior that Mets outfielder Endy Chavez had made an amazing catch to rob the Cardinals of a similar home run and keep the game tied. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and a World Series berth on the line, Mets outfielder Carlos Beltran strikes out with the bases loaded. The Cardinals go on to sweep the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
But what if Sánchez never gets into that cab.
The Mets never have to trade Nady and they never get Perez – who is only now in the last year of an awful three-year, $36 million contract. They still win the division and sweep the Dodgers, but it's Sánchez and not Heilman pitching in the eighth inning of Game Seven. Sánchez strikes out Molina and the Mets find a way to win the game feeding off the confidence supplied by Sánchez and Chavez. Instead of facing the Cardinals, the Mets go on to beat the Tigers and win their first World Series title in exactly 20 years.
The 2006 season looked like destiny; instead, it was just your typical Mets-sized disappointment. Makes you wonder, though. What could it have been if Sánchez had only been craving Chinese food that night?
Erik Talbot, Asst. Sports Editor
The Yankees of the late 1990s and early 2000s experienced unprecedented success in the form of four world championships, six American League pennants and a remarkable run of division titles. Buster Olney argues in The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty that this successful era ended with Game Seven of the 2001 World Series. I disagree.
The Yankees dynasty ended with the 2004 American League Championship Series, which is either the greatest comeback of all time or the greatest collapse of all time, depending on which side you favor.
After winning two close games against Boston aces Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez in Games One and Two, the Yankees pounded out a 19-8 victory in Game Three in Boston, taking full control of the series. As a Yankee fan, what happened next was horrifying.
What if one the most accurate pitchers in baseball history didn't walk Kevin Millar, allowing pinch runner Dave Roberts to steal second and score the game winning run on Bill Mueller's single?
What if an over-fatigued Tom Gordon didn't go back out for the eighth inning of game five and leave Mariano Rivera in an impossible situation to hold down the one-run lead?
What if the Yankees tried to lay down a drag bunt or two in game six to force Schilling to make a play on the torn tendon in his right ankle?
What if Joe Torre had gone to Esteban Loaiza right away in relief of Kevin Brown in Game Seven, or even started him? Both Brown and big game choke Javier Vazquez pitched poorly in game three, and Loaiza pitched moderately well in Game Five.
What if recent off-season addition and perennial MVP candidate Alex Rodriguez made any sort of offensive contribution during the last three games of the series? During those three games, A-Rod went 1-12 with zero RBI.
What if any of these things went in the Yankees' favor? They would have won the series and gone on to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, thus keeping the Yankees dynasty alive. Oct.17, 2004 was the actual last night of the Yankee dynasty.
Taylor Solano, Staff Writer
United States midfielder John Harkes sprints past one Colombian defender, then cuts past another. He sees his window of opportunity and rips across off his left foot into the penalty box. A crowd of 93,869 passionate Americans and Colombians eagerly await the outcome of this portentous feed.
The time? 33 minutes into the game. The place? Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, Ca. The game? USA versus Colombia in a group stage match-up of the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
As the ball arcs its way down toward the ground, Colombian defender Andres Escobar reads it well and makes a sliding interception. The valiant effort falls short as Escobar’s body is turned towards his own team’s goal. The ball slides past the Colombian keeper and into the back of the net. The U.S. goes on to win the game 2-1, and Colombia, the pre-game favorite, fails to advance from group play.
Scoring an own goal is arguably the worst feeling one can undergo in the game of soccer. Scoring an own goal as the entire world watches you is tremendously harrowing, though, especially if you are from a country like Colombia, where soccer is worshipped as a religion.
Less than two weeks after the Colombian team was sent home, Escobar was shot dead outside of a nightclub in his hometown of Medellin, Colombia. Though details of the murder are still foggy, witnesses claim that Escobar was told “thanks for the own goal” directly prior to being shot, evidence that the murderer was a frenzied fan seeking vengeance.
Though the own goal and subsequent murder happened 16 years ago and four World Cups have since occurred, it is still easy to ponder: what if Escobar successfully cleared the ball out of the box?
Perhaps the ball clearance would have sparked a counter-attack for the Colombians, catching the U.S. team off guard and allowing for a quick goal. Say this lone goal stood, granting the Colombians victory and a likely advancement out of their group. Escobar would have been the hero that started the game-winning play, and Colombia could have gone on to win it all.
Matt Smith, Asst. Sports Editor
His skate was in the crease. Those words alone make any Buffalo Sabres fan cringe. In the third overtime in Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals between the Sabres and the Dallas Stars, veteran Brett Hull “scored” the winning goal that awarded the Stars their first ever Stanley Cup. When Hull buried the winning goal, his left skate was in the crease, a violation of NHL rules at the time. Many hockey pundits were puzzled by the no call, and the majority believed it was one of the NHL’s greatest blunders. What if the correct conclusion had been reached and Hull’s goal was reviewed and disallowed?
Buffalo had outplayed Dallas all night, so it’s not much of a stretch to say they go on to win Game Six. Now, with momentum on their side, let’s assume they head back to Dallas and take Game Seven, returning to Buffalo with Lord Stanley’s Cup and the veneration of the entire region in hand.
Because of the trauma and heartbreak Buffalo fans endure on an annual basis, their life expectancy is certainly a few years shorter than average. This victory would at the very least make up for maybe one “Wide Right” or “Music City Miracle,” giving back a few of those lost years. Buffalo has experienced many great seasons – most recently in 2007 when it captured the President’s Trophy for the most points in the regular season – that have earned respect in the hockey world. The difference is that breaking through and winning the Stanley Cup would earn them national recognition: no longer would only ESPN analysts Barry Melrose and Matthew Barnaby know of the great hockey in Buffalo.
The recognition brought on by a championship breeds prestige. With heightened prestige, free agents and current players would have an increased desire to be a part of the now-accomplished Sabres. Buffalo, therefore, would have a great chance to make a repeat performance. What if this was reality? What if this breakthrough was the beginning of success in Buffalo? What if the Bills won a Super Bo—nope, too far.