What Was The Worst Moment of St. Louis Sports In 2012?
Editor’s Note: For the purpose of these yearly “awards,” the St. Louis Area sports scene extends as far west as Columbia, Missouri and as far east as Champaign, Illinois. Also, because it would strike me as rather odd to rank someone’s passing below a missed 3-pointer or a double play, deaths are not included. And, a moment is just that: a specific second that either gave you your best sports feeling of the year…or gave you your worst sports feeling of the year. This is subjective. This is not important. You may disagree. Feel free to do so, preferably politely, in the comments section.
We’ve been giving out these year-end awards since 2010 here on insideSTL.com. So, you’re talking about a deep, rich history.
But, just in the two years we’ve done this column of giving out (first) The Worst Moment, (second) The Best Moment, and (third) The Sportsperson of The Year, we’ve seen some incredibly great and obvious winners (2011), and some illustrations of a rather blah year in St. Louis Sports (2010).
When it came to the Worst Moment in 2010, it was up in the air. Joe Thornton’s hit on David Perron wound up winning, and the competition was relatively weak…which illustrated that there weren’t many high leverage situations. The better the teams are…the more opportunities for heartbreak. There weren’t many in 2010. That’s why the trade of Ryan Ludwick and Mark Clayton’s season-ending injury placed in the top five as well.
Last year, however, you had all kinds of choices. In the opening days of 2011, the Rams performed terribly to lose the NFC West at Seattle. February saw Adam Wainwright lost for the year. April saw Missouri hire a guy no one had heard of. September saw the Cardinals blow a monster lead to the Mets in a 9th inning loss that was supposed to end the season. And, when it didn’t, and the team wound up coming back from a sure defeat in the bottom of the 9th in Game 6 of the World Series, Josh Hamilton gave St. Louisans their worst moment of the year in the top of the 10th.
Of course, about an hour later, David Freese sent everyone wearing red home happy.
And, that gives an illustration of where I’m coming from with these “moments.”
It’s the feeling you have/I have/we have in the moment.
With Hamilton’s home run, it had to be the absolute worst feeling of 2011…considering what had just happened in the bottom of the 9th and what was at stake. But, if you provide yourself with context of judging it on December 31st, it wasn’t that big of a deal…because the Cardinals wound up winning.
So, when looking back on the Worst Moments of 2012, put yourself back in the moment…and try and think what made you feel the worst. It’s really a pleasant exercise. Fortunately, we’ll go to the Best Moments of 2012 tomorrow.
In the meantime, let’s explore our Winter of Discontent.
Before announcing the “official Top 5,” here’s what members of TheITDRoll.com Morning After voted on for Worst Moment In St. Louis Sports of 2012:
The Cat: Hunter Pence’s Spinning Hit - He had been hitting .125 in the series, and the feeling after his "double hit" was "you've got to be kidding". Cards were down 5-zip and it was clear the Giants couldn't be stopped.
Doug: Pressey’s Missed Shot Against Norfolk State.
Producer Joe: (Tie) Jeff Fisher Calling A Timeout Too Soon In San Francisco/Matt Holliday Sliding Into Marco Scutaro.
Iggy: The minute the Giants announced Barry Zito as the Game 5 Starter. He shutout the Cards and sent the series back to San Fran where games 6 and 7 weren't even close. He was 7-0 and his team was unbeaten in his last 11 starts leading up to Game 5.
Zaaaaacccccckkkkk: Pressey missing the 3 as time expired against Norfolk State. Reasoning: Mizzou had a lot of success throughout the season, and it looked like they would go far in the tournament. But, to get knocked out in the first round was a huge disappointment.
Gabe De Armond: Norfolk State. Guess it has to be when Pressey’s three missed. Cannot imagine anything topping it especially when you combine it with a St Louis kid in Beal and the Jayhawks advancing from that venue.
JBoyd: Lance Lynn grounding in to a double play in Game 5 of the NLCS is a clear front runner for me. To go from such lofty expectations to come crashing down in a heap, it was all down hill in the series after that.
Before unveiling the Top 5, here are some moments that received a healthy number of votes but didn’t crack the Top 5:
- Jayson Werth’s Walk-Off To Win Game 4 of The NLDS: This one got a good number of mentions, but even when it happened, I’m not sure it rocked too many Cardinal fans that badly…which is fairly surprising considering the circumstances. The Cardinals were in position to win the series with a victory in Game 4, but Werth crushed a ball off of Lance Lynn that sent it to the famous Game 5. This completed a frustrating game and a 13-pitch at-bat. My suspicion is that it didn’t stun and/or horrify Cardinal fans too badly at the time because of two reasons: 1. Wainwright was on the mound for Game 5. 2. Most fans saw it coming. If you’ll recall, this was the game in which umpire Jim Joyce was operating a handjob factory behind home plate. The strike zone was comical, and the Cardinals just couldn’t hit. The loss was inevitable. I know I personally was just happy the fucking game was over, because I couldn’t stand to watch more of whatever Joyce was doing back there.
- Michael Morse’s Game 5 Home Run: Morse’s shot made it 6-0 Nationals. I was already moving on to 2013 when that ball left the yard, but for many Cardinal fans, that was the moment they felt like it was over. Adam Wainwright was not himself, and that was it for him. That moment felt like the end of the season. Of course, as it turned out, it really was only three hours away from what may have been the best moment of the season.
- Syracuse Game-Winning Touchdown With 20 Seconds Left: Since I couldn’t give a damn about going to a bowl game with 69 other teams, this one also didn’t make my list. But, a few people put it on there. I think it was more symbolic of the 2012 Missouri football season for them than anything else. Fortunately, it seems more fans than not now ignore the bullshit that is the mantra of “good season” if a team makes a bowl. The bar is higher these days…even if it isn’t for some in mid-Missouri. But, with time ticking down in a game that Missouri was leading 27-24, Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib hit a wide-open Alec Lemon for the game-winning touchdown. Missouri went from bowl-eligible to likely ineligible with a game remaining at Texas A & M. That play was a perfect summary of the 2012 season: some of Missouri’s defensive players were in zone coverage. Some were in man. Bottom line: members of the football program were not on the same page.
- Michael Dixon Fails To Get A Shot Off As Time Expires In Lawrence: A strong case can be made for this one to be in the Top 5. If it happened more recently, my guess is that it would’ve gotten more votes. In their last game at Allen Fieldhouse, #3 Missouri had a 19-point second half lead on Kansas. That lead evaporated, and after no foul was called against Thomas Robinson on Phil Pressey’s last second drive in regulation (in fairness, in the previous meeting, KU got some shifty calls that went against them in Columbia), the game went to overtime. Kansas had a one-point lead with time winding down, and instead of firing up a shot or passing the ball, Dixon failed to get the ball out of his hands in time…and Missouri’s chance to end their series with Kansas by ending KU’s home-winning streak also ended…without even taking a shot.
The Top Five
5. The Rams Tie The 49ers in San Francisco…Because A Game-Winning Field Goal Is Nullified By A Delay of Game Penalty: The Rams beating the 49ers in San Francisco? Unimaginable…at the time. The Rams failing to get the snap off in order to beat the 49ers in San Francisco…indefensible at the time and still indefensible six weeks later. After stunning both the 49ers and the NFL by going toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the league, the Rams were in position to win it with a Greg Zuerlein field goal in overtime. Nerds like myself were watching the play clock tick down with great frustration…and then right as the play clock hit zeroes, punter Johnny Hekker calls for the snap. Zuerlein nails the 53-yard kick, which would’ve won the game…except Hekker called for the snap a second too late. The game-winning kick was waved off, and Zuerlein missed the 58-yarder following the penalty…and the Rams had to settle for a tie. Had the Rams won that game---so, when it gets down to it, had Hekker called for the snap one second earlier---the Rams would still have a shot at a playoff spot going into this weekend. Of course, at the time, no one was really thinking playoffs. But, despite that, still putting yourself in the moment, it was an inexplicable self-inflicted wound that was the cherry on top of an afternoon full of them…all while the team still had a shot to beat a Super Bowl contender on their home turf.
4. Dwight King’s Hit On Alex Pietrangelo In Game 1 of The Western Conference Semi-Finals: Some may say this one and #3 are both hindsight plays. By that I mean “we” didn’t know how bad they were until after the series was over. But, I would disagree. Right when this play happened, I knew the Blues were in trouble. After KO’ing San Jose in five games, the Blues had home-ice advantage against the eighth-seeded Kings. The Scottrade Center was buzzing, and the second-seeded Blues would have the home-ice advantage all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals if they were able to knock off the Kings. After taking a 1-0 lead early in Game 1, the Blues trailed 2-1 in the 3rd Period. That’s when Dwight King slammed Alex Pietrangelo into the boards. And, that’s when the series ended. Pietrangelo skated off the ice with what many thought was a concussion at the time. It turned out to be a sprained knee. King only got a two-minute penalty. The Blues lost their edge. The Kings scored another goal to win it 3-1. And, Pietrangelo was a scratch in Game 2, which turned out to be a complete mess. Los Angeles scored four 1st Period goals en route to a 5-2 blowout win…and eventually a series sweep. Pietrangelo returned in Game 3, but he was never the same…and neither were the Blues. The Kings were a machine in April, May, and June, and the Blues were just one of four unfortunate teams to get run over on their way to their first Stanley Cup. Still…it’s hard not to wonder what would’ve been had the Blues’ most valuable player not gotten run in the 3rd Period of a one-goal game in Game 1.
3. Lance Lynn Grounds Into A Double Play To End The 2nd Inning of Game 5 of The NLCS: As I wrote above regarding King’s hit on Pietrangelo, you could say this is a hindsight play. I’d disagree. Even if you still were hopeful the Cardinals could and/or would win the series, you had to have a sinking feeling when they failed to score a run on Barry Zito in the 2nd…after having second and third and no one out. Yadier Molina and David Freese led off the inning with a single and a double on a total of two pitches. What many fans went to the ballpark expecting seemed to be on its way: a coronation of a second straight pennant-winning team. But, Daniel Descalso struck out, and then Bruce Bochy did what Davey Johnson failed to do in Game 5 of the NLDS: he walked Pete Kozma to bring the pitcher to the plate. Lance Lynn stood in with the bases loaded, and the score tied at 0-0. Facing Zito and an 0-1 count, Lynn ripped a ball…but right at Brandon Crawford at short. The result: an easy 6-4-3 inning-ending double play. The Cardinals never really had as good of a chance the rest of the game. And even when they did get something going, because Lynn had gunned a throw on a bunt into the outfield in the 4th inning, the Giants had a comfortable lead. Because Games 5, 6, and 7 were such blowouts, the collapse of the Cardinals---somewhat similar to when they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Braves in 1996---didn’t have a particular emotion-crushing moment late in the game. Hell, I’d argue the loss to the Dodgers in Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS with Matt Holliday dropping the game-ending fly ball was a more painful moment than anything in the 2012 NLCS collapse. But, if there’s a moment when Cardinal fans got an uneasy feeling of impending doom, it was Lynn’s GIDP. Blah. Still don’t like writing about that one…because unlike the 1996 collapse, the Cardinals could’ve damn well been the best team left. The Braves and Yankees were better in 1996. I don’t believe that was as much of a slam dunk with the Giants and Tigers in 2012. We’ll never know. It’ll just go down as a huge missed opportunity…just like the bottom of then 2nd of Game 5.
2. Hunter Pence’s Spinning Bases-Clearing Hit In Game 7 of The NLCS: Personally, I wouldn’t put this one up that high. But, I respect the voters, and so it ascends to #2 for Worst Moment of 2012. Here’s my reasoning for not considering it to be worthy of the second-worst moment: This thing was already over. This thing was all but over the night before when Ryan Vogelsong owned the Cardinals and Chris Carpenter. And, it was as close to over as a game involving the it’s-never-over-against-us Cardinals can be in the third inning. Already down 2-0…and with the bases loaded…and with Kyle Lohse just having gotten yanked…Joe Kelly was into the game. And, on the first pitch, Pence---who hadn’t driven in a teammate since September 30th---hit the ball once, twice, or maybe three times. It spun one way…and then another…and past Pete Kozma. Then as the thing Niekro’d in the outfield, Jon Jay ran past it. Three runs scored, and Pence and the Giants went batshit. In a series in which their offense flourished with non-stop bloops and seeing-eye singles, they got the mother of all handjob hits. Tip your cap to the pitching, if cap-tipping is something you enjoy. But, as far as this piece of offensive brilliance and The Mythology of Marco Scutaro’s Response To The Slide, you can keep this one in Bristol with The Hyperbole Machine. Speaking of Prisoners of The Moment, here’s how Jayson Stark described it:
“Fifty years ago, the last time a Game 7 arrived on the foggy side of San Francisco Bay, the story was a line drive that found the wrong glove at the wrong time. The great Willie McCovey could tell you all about it.
But not this time. Not on this night. Not with this edition of the San Francisco Giants.
On this night, the story was a line drive that basically refused to be caught.
This time, the story was a line drive that faked left, went right and made you think some things and some teams were meant to be.
Like this team.”
Since I’m writing this in 2012, I think I may now change my Worst Moment of 2012 vote to the moment I read this column from Stark.
The Giants just flat-out beat the Cardinals in Games 5, 6, and 7…because of pitching and defense.
But, it makes me ill reading prose on Pence’s freak show…and I’m talking about his hit.
1. Phil Pressey’s Prayer Is Unanswered Against Norfolk State: If you’re not a Missouri fan, you may not acknowledge this as being the worst moment. As a matter of fact, if you’re a St. Louisan living in Missouri or Illinois, you may have loved the moment Missouri lost in the first round as a #2 seed to random #15 seed Norfolk State. But, playing by the rules of the game, Missouri is in the St. Louis Sports Area here on insideSTL, and therefore, as far as a kick-in-the-balls moment in 2012, this is the winner. Had there been a defining late-inning mess in the NLCS, it would’ve likely been #1. But, since the Giants blew the Cardinals out 20-1 over the last three games, this one is, in my opinion, the obvious Worst Moment of 2012.
I’m not sure a Missouri basketball team went into an NCAA Tournament with higher expectations since 1994…and personally, I felt like this one was even more dangerous than that Melvin Booker-led team. The Tigers were fresh off winning the Big 12 Tournament, and many national analysts were picking them to win their regional, where Michigan State was the #1 seed.
Contrary to what has become an understandable analysis of the game, Missouri didn’t play horribly. That seems almost impossible when you’re talking about losing to a #15 seed as a #2 seed, but they didn’t. Norfolk State just had the game of their lives. And, the fluke was proven to be so in the next round when they were massacred by Florida 84-50 (and were trailing 47-19 at the half). Now, in Dipshittery Land, as opposed to acknowledging things like this happen in the NCAA Tournament, some drive-by analysts need to immediately condemn Missouri and compliment Norfolk State by saying it wasn’t a fluke. Trust me…as someone who has upset Missouri fans with criticism in the past…if I felt like the Tigers blew it or were poorly coached in this one, I’d say it. The truth is…well, at least in my opinion…March 16th, 2012 was just Norfolk State’s night. They shot 53% from 3-point range for fuck’s sake. And it’s not like it was the Quin Snyder-Mike Anderson defense that Missouri was running. Some of these shots were miracles with hands in the Spartans’ faces. But, they just kept going. Stunning…but to their credit. Hell, the star of the game, Kyle O’Quinn, was an 18% 3-point shooter. He swished one in the first half. And, when Norfolk State fired up an air ball with less than a minute left and the game tied at 81, the ball fell into O’Quinn’s hands. He put it back up and in…and got fouled in the process.
The Tigers were down 86-84 with time running down…and that’s when Pressey got a good look for what would’ve been a game-winning three. But, it bounced off the back iron, and that was that. Pressey fell to the court in disbelief. Many Tiger fans joined him…whether it be in Omaha or in bars and homes around Missouri. No area team had higher expectations when it lost…and no area team lost to as big of an underdog. And no moment was worse in 2012 than the moment the Tigers added another chapter to their NCAA disappointment history by falling two points short of Norfolk State.
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