Posted: Friday October 29, 2010 12:32PM ; Updated: Friday October 29, 2010 10:44PM
Jon Heyman

Giants evoking memories '69 Mets

Story Highlights

The 1969 Mets, like these Giants, shocked the world thanks to excellent pitching

Ron Washington erred by not calling upon his best reliever, Neftali Feliz, in Game 2

New Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has his work cut out for him

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Matt Cain
Matt Cain has not allowed an earned run in the first three postseason starts of his career (a combined 21 1/3 innings).
Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO -- The misfits are showing their mojo, and the 1969 Mets come to mind.

The Rangers have been eyewitnesses to the Giants' special brand of magic for two days now, and most of them probably aren't sure what hit them. They've probably never seen such a thing before.

The Rangers are a logical bunch that believes talent and timing have taken them to the World Series, and they continue to believe in themselves. Their iconic team president, Nolan Ryan, does, too. But Ryan has seen this mojo before, in his '69 Mets, when he was a relief pitcher on a team that truly shocked us all with its impossible, amazin' dream.

Ryan said he still likes his Rangers' chances here. Several have compared this Giants team to the 1988 Dodgers for its apparent mojo, but Ryan knows that the better comparison may be the '69 Mets, who, like these Giants, had an excellent pitching staff. (The Dodgers had a nice staff, too, but were carried by a red-hot Orel Hershiser and didn't have the pitching depth of the '69 Mets or these Giants.)

Speaking of the Giants, who have gladly worn the tags of "misfits'' and "castoffs'' that mostly describe their position players, Ryan said in the aftermath of a startling 9-0 Giants victory that gave them a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series, "They've made some good defensive plays, got some unbelievable pitching and seem to get the big hit.''

Which is what folks who still recall the '69 Mets remember about them, too. "That was the case,'' Ryan said, "pitching, defense and big hits. And that's kind of what they've done so far.''

The Rangers are run by Ryan, who is smart as a whip, and a logical group of Ivy Leaguers, who understand that the game is more than just talent. "Talent, execution and timing,'' Rangers GM Jon Daniels, a Cornell man, said to summarize the formula for victory. "We'll see.''

And Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg, a smart enough guy to have put himself in position to run his team with only a $2 million investment, insisted, "We're going to be fine.'' He doesn't seem to be a believer in mojo, or magic. And as far as momentum, Greenberg insisted, "It's only as meaningful as the quality of the next pitch and the next swing ... We'll be fine.''

The Rangers all put as good a face as possible on their predicament, and Ryan himself said, "We're going home ... so we feel like we're starting a new series.''

They hope, anyway. And they have to hope that the Giants lose their mojo -- for those who believe in that sort of thing, anyway.

Washington's highs and Lowes

Rangers manger Ron Washington pumped up his troops the last time they felt real pressure -- heading into Game 5 of the ALDS vs. the Tampa Bay Rays -- with what he has described to intimates as a "Knute Rockne speech.''

It was actually a rather colorful speech, so colorful that it can't be repeated here. And when Ryan heard it, he had to tell Washington, "I don't think that's exactly what Rockne said.''

No matter. Washington's strengths are his positive outlook and his ability to rally his troops. He probably will need to find some more choice words now.

Washington has his weaknesses, too, and it was very surprising to see him rely on kid left-hander Derek Holland and middle reliever Mark Lowe in what was only a 2-0 deficit late in Game 2 rather than call upon his best reliever, Neftali Feliz, with a day off coming and a 2-0 deficit staring right at them. There's no sense in saving your best reliever at this point, and longtime baseball people agreed that Washington erred by not going to Feliz to keep the score at 2-0.

What's interesting is that Washington saw Yankees manager Joe Girardi make the very same mistake in the round before. Rather than calling upon Mariano Rivera to preserve a 2-0 deficit in Game 3 of the ALCS, Girardi let lesser relievers allow that game to get out of hand.

Girardi didn't have a great postseason, but was rewarded for his overall body of work, which included the 2009 world championship, with a three-year, $9 million contract that includes about $500,000 in incentives for winning the ALCS and World Series. And Washington, who admitted cocaine use last year, will be taken care of by the Rangers, regardless of how this World Series plays out. Washington, whose contract is up in November, will get an extension that will give him a raise, perhaps to about $1.5 million per year. (The exact amount could be affected by the outcome of the Series, but it's nice to see his bosses stand by him time and again.)
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