Drayer: Mariners’ 2000 ALDS sweep started with Piniella’s Game 1 assist
With baseball season delayed for the foreseeable future, 710 ESPN Seattle will be broadcasting classic Mariners games throughout the spring. Tonight is the start of a rebroadcast of something that has happened just once in team history – a playoff series sweep. Here’s Shannon Drayer’s preview of the airing of Game 1 of the 2000 American League Division Series between the Mariners and White Sox.
ALDS Game 1: Oct. 3, 2000
The Mariners return to the postseason for the first time since they lost in the division series against Baltimore in 1997. After clinching the wild card on the final day of the season with a win over the Angels, finishing the regular season with a 91-71 record, the Mariners had won eight out of nine road games. They then would match up in Chicago with the White Sox, who were tied for the best record in baseball heading into the playoffs at 95-67.
The 2000 team was kind of the “tweener” Mariners team. Not quite the mid-90s team, still a Bret Boone and Ichiro away from being the 116-win team of 2001. Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson were gone and Alex Rodriguez was in the final days of being a Mariner. The team finished the year with the third-best offense in baseball by fWAR and a decent to good pitching staff.
Replacing Ken Griffey Jr. in center field was Mike Cameron. At 27 years old, he was one of the youngest position players on the very veteran team but acclimated himself quickly to his new team and environment, in large part due to the welcome he got from manager Lou Piniella.
“The one image I had of Lou Piniella was seeing him kick everything all over and killing everything,” he remembered from a game that he played earlier in his career against Seattle while with the White Sox. “That was my biggest fear of him cussing me out or getting on me all of the time, but he took me under his wing and said you are going to be fine. We are going to show you how to do this, you are going to be fine. I just felt comfortable and it allowed me to develop my game even more so.”
In addition to the support of his manager, Cameron had a little extra motivation heading into the series against the White Sox, the team he broke into the majors with. There were hard feelings for the way his trade to the Reds for Paul Konerko was handled. According to Cameron, the team never notified him of the move. He found out the hard way while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
“I saw my name on the off day, folding clothes up in my room. I saw my name scrolled across the bottom of the ticker, and still I hadn’t heard from anybody,” he remembered.
In Cameron’s eyes, that was not the proper way to handle trading one of your players.
“I tucked that into my little back pocket, any time I played against the White Sox, it was going to be some type of hell I was going to give them every single time,” he said. “I guess they didn’t think I was ready to play over there and I just said there is no one you are going to get here that is going to play like I am going to play. That was always a big inspiration to me. To get a chance to play against them in the playoffs? And knowing what was in my back pocket, that was a joy that no one can take away from me.”
Cameron’s 1.033 career OPS against the White Sox, while one of the smaller sample sizes at 178 plate appearances, is the highest OPS he posted against any opponent in his career. He would figure prominently into the ALDS against the White Sox, and two years later had an historic day at the plate against them.
Rickey Henderson, LF
Mike Cameron, CF
Alex Rodriguez, SS
Edgar Martinez, DH
John Olerud, 1B
Jay Buhner, RF
David Bell, 3B
Joe Oliver, C
Mark McLemore, 2B
Freddy Garcia, P
Ray Durham, 2B
Jose Valentin, SS
Frank Thomas, DH
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Carlos Lee, LF
Paul Konerko, 1B
Herbert Perry, 3B
Chris Singleton, CF
Charles Johnson, C
Jim Parque, P
Watch for this.
This game game went 10 innings and while his name can’t be found in the box score, Lou Piniella should be credited with at least a share of the winning run.
Cameron got on base to lead off the 10th with a single to left off White Sox closer Keith Foulke. Rodriguez then flew out to left which brought Edgar Martinez to the plate. Cameron danced off first and almost got picked off. This brought Piniella out of the dugout. He didn’t relay a signal to the first base coach, rather, he walked out to first to have a conversation with Cameron himself. When have you seen a manager walk out to first base to talk to a baserunner? I’m guessing outside of this game, never.
And neither had Foulke.
What was Lou up to? What did he tell Cameron?
“I told him the Nasdaq was down 113 points and Cisco was a heck of a buy,” said Piniella, who always had a business channel on in his office, to reporters after the game, refusing to divulge the actual conversation.
“He called time out to come to first base,” said Cameron shaking his head. “He told me just go ahead and run man, they are not going to pitch to Edgar right now. Sure enough he was watching the catcher in a light that I wasn’t watching the catcher. I was watching the pitcher. He told me a little info about that.”
The surprise move appeared to rattle Foulke. After Piniella left the field, the White Sox pitched out. Cameron was not going. Next pitch he stole second base. With the runner on second, Edgar said he changed his approach – shortened up and looked for something he could drive. He got his pitch and put it over the fence. John Olerud up next did the same and the Mariners came away with Game 1.