Onto the Elite Eight

OK, the Sweet Sixteen is complete. Four bids up for the taking at the Final Four in our mock A’s/Giants March Madness competition. Here are the results of the Sweet 16:

(1) Willie Mays d. (13) Will Clark
(2) Rickey Henderson d. (3) Barry Bonds

As you might expect in a match-up of such disparate seeds, the “Say Hey Kid” just had too much firepower. But “The Thrill” hung in for a while. Mays, after all, never single-handedly led the Giants to a postseason victory the way Clark did against the Cubs in 1989 (grand slam in Game 1, the pennant-winning single against MItch Williams in Game 5, and 11 other hits. But eventually, Mays had just too many weapons. The homers, the steals, The Catch. A handy win for Willie.
As far as I’m concerned, you can have Bonds and his 700-plus homers and his multiple 40-40’s. I’ll take Henderson and his runs, steals and walks (the best ever in all those categories), not to mention his ability to dominate a playoff series on multiple occasions. Last thing: Henderson, from what we know, didn’t cheat. Bye, Bye Barry.

(5) Dennis Eckersley d. (1) Catfish Hunter
(7) Dave Stewart d. (3) Lefty Grove

Yeah, I know, Catfish Hunter was as big a “big-game” pitcher as they come. And Dennis Eckersley had his periodic big-game meltdowns. But give me a one-run lead in the ninth inning, and I’d still take Eckersley in a heart beat. Admit this one could’ve gone either way, but let’s face it, a No. 1 seed always falls somewhere along the way.

Grove, meantime, deserves mention with any of the great left-handers of all-time. Which means he was just the type of pitcher who would’ve brought the best out in Stewart. I’m envisioning a game here in which Groves gives up one run, and Stewart gives up none.

(1) Connie Mack d. (13) Dick Williams
(3) Billy Beane d. (2) John McGraw

Mack was the architect of two dynasties, and yes, he did have the advantage of owning his own team. Williams coaxed two World Series titles in a row out of a team that was united for its hate of owner Charles O. Finley. That was probably more difficult, but the entirety of what Mack did during his career can’t be ignored.

Beane moves on against a legend, because he has changed how the game is viewed and how team-building is approached. McGraw was so stubborn, he held onto his little-ball views even when it was clear the game had changed. At this level, it’s all about making adjustments.

(1) AT&T Park d. (13) Kruk and Kuip
(2) 4 World Series Trophies d. (3) Willie Mays’ Catch

Another strong bid by a Cinderella. But let’s face it. Take away AT&T Park and the viewing experience is just not the same. Take away Kruk and Kuip, and well, you’d get used to somebody new.

Let’s remember that winning, ultimately, is what this sport is about. Mays’ catch goes into the archives forever, and you’ll always be able to see it on that graining black-and-white film. But a World Series trophy — much less four of them — shines colorfully forever.

So here’s your Elite Eight.

(1) Willie Mays vs. (2) Rickey Henderson
(5) Dennis Eckersley vs. (7) Dave Stewart
(1) Connie Mack vs. (3) Billy Beane
(1) AT&T Park vs. (2) 4 World Series Trophies

The results come in Monday morning.