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Mitch Williams blew another World Series game, only this time he was Aroldis Chapman

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The final reflection of the Phillies in the 2016 World Series is probably the worst one.

Mitch Williams

It’s over.

Following the worst rain delay of all time; the Cleveland Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith taking his shirt off; a silent, mic’d up David Ross trotting around the bases while Joe Buck complimented the sound of his footsteps; a massively blown Aroldis Chapman save, and the greatest Game 7 in recent memory hinging on a Rajai Davis at-bat; the World Series came down to, as it always does, one final plate appearance.

Sometimes, it’s Eric Hinske, weakly whiffing and disappearing forever. Other times, it’s Mitch Williams pretending to be alive for one more inning. But in a moment that made total sense when you consider that baseball, especially post season baseball, makes zero sense, up strolled to the plate for the Indians a familiar face with the chance to immortalize himself as a Cleveland sports icon.

Yeah. Mini Mart and LeBron.

So, that could have been funny in a "bird dying in mid-air" sort of way, but for the first time all night, the predictable thing happened, and Martinez grounded out to become the answer to Chicago sports bar trivia questions for eons to come.

With two of the country's most downtrodden sports bases watching, their hearts about to explode or deflate, Philadelphia watched as well, finding countless aspects of the game on which to latch. There was Martinez, there was a Ben Zobrist moment that wasn’t snuffed out by Jayson Werth this time, and there was the aforementioned weather-related hold-up that was so easily connected to that magical 2008 sleet storm.

But then, there was the part in which someone failed, which of course brought on the Phillies references: The Cubs’ despicable closer Aroldis Chapman, who we are happy blew the lead and left the game in tears, couldn’t just fail; he had to fail while reminding people of another World Series failure that just had to involve the Phillies.

You thought it was over, didn’t you? You thought, after we were freed from the even-year Giants, that the Phillies could move forward?


Hieroglyphics of Joe Carter beating Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the ‘93 series have been etched somewhere into every building of this city since the early nineties. Too many of us were just children who watched Carter hit the walk-off home run that ended a magical, improbable World Series for the Phillies, sending many of the players spiraling into insanity. There is too permanent a place in forlorn Philadelphia sports history for a moment like that

But the parallels between then and last night do exist: In both Chapman and Williams' cases, a tired, 28-year-old, left-handed closer who probably shouldn’t have been out there had been called upon one more time to try and wrap things up with a vulnerable city’s hearts and minds on the line.

So who were the respective puppet masters controlling these closers? The 1993 Phillies had Jim Fregosi, whom Chris Wheeler said was the reason he hardly drank anymore, "...because I had so many beers with him in the hotel bars at night." Fregosi was handed a roster of blunt instruments; older players who would likely not be kept together for longer than one season and for whom any level of success would be outperforming projections. He kept things loose, he had a style the players connected to, and as we’ve heard plenty of times before, fostered a clubhouse rich with team chemistry [among other substances].

Joe Maddon, on the other hand, had a roster assembled by the curse-killer Theo Epstein and had an animated portrayal as a chess master provided by Baseball Tonight. His team was young, fun, and played every post season game under the general assumption that even if the 2016 Cubs didn’t win it all, they would have a decade of playoff appearances to right the wrong.

When Fregosi entered the ninth inning of Game 6, he hadn’t just had his closer blow a lead, unlike Maddon. Instead, he’d watched relievers Roger Mason, David West, and Larry Andersen stitch together a scoreless eighth (despite two walks and a hit batsman) to preserve the Phillies’ 6-5 lead. Toronto led the series 3-2, and a win would have brought everybody back to the Sky Dome for nine more innings of cruel Canadian baseball. Williams took the mound having pitched eight innings over the last seven games, from the NLCS against the Braves to Game 4 vs. Toronto. He’d thrown 156 pitches in that time, being asked to go longer than an inning in three out of seven appearances. He’d allowed only three runs that post season, all of them coming in his last appearance in the eighth inning of the 15-14 slugfest that was Game 4. He also had yet to allow a home run.

"Mitch Williams did the job for us all year," Fregosi said in Phillies ‘93: And Incredible Season. As author Rich Westcott pointed out, Fregosi may have felt as similarly cornered as Maddon did in regards to his options behind the bullpen gate: "Many questioned Fregosi’s bullpen moves, although few would acknowledge that the Phils’ pilot really had no other viable options."

Chapman had pitched 14.1 innings and thrown 238 pitches since October 7 before Maddon dropped him into last night’s chaos. Hitting "only" 97 m.p.h. on the gun, it was clear that Chapman was feeling a mite sluggish, but Maddon, clearly, could not have cared less. He had deployed his closer with two outs and a three-run lead, feeling good about asking him to nail down the four-out save they had practiced so many times before.

Ominous precursors seeped in in both cases, as Chapman allowed a Brandon Guyer double just after John Smoltz and Joe Buck had decried the chances of the Indians outfielder’s short swing connecting on a Chapman heater. Jose Ramirez, having singled off Jon Lester before Chapman’s entrance, scored to make it 6-4.

Williams entered at the start of the ninth inning and walked Rickey Henderson on four pitches. Unlike Chapman, he managed to log an out, but then Paul Molitor singled, putting runners on first and second with one out.

And then,

In Chapman’s case, the game wasn’t over - in fact, his appearance wasn’t even over as he came back out for the ninth. And as we know now, both he and his manager’s mistakes will be erased by a World Series win (except on the internet, where we will belabor their now meaningless miscues for eternity).

Chapman fired off happy tweets. Williams booked a direct flight from Toronto to his home in Texas. Chapman will go on to be the dramatic final act in ESPN 30 for 30: Cubbed to Death. Mitch Williams received death threats and was eventually fired from the MLB Network for rage problems.

It’s been a progressive postseason! Did we have to watch a domestic violence culprit pitch to a team with a racist logo? Yes we did. Those things need to be corrected.

The even-year Giants are gone, the Cubs’ centennial curse is gone, and even the Indians can hoist an AL pennant while LeBron James flexes and screams.

The past will always be there to dig up, but if these playoffs - and a Chicago-Cleveland World Series - taught us anything, it’s that it’s high time to break the shovel over our knees and await a hopeful future.

Ah, damn it.