Jackie Smith. Dirk Nowitzki. And now — reluctantly taking his place alongside the biggest goats in DFW sports history — Elvis Andrus.
The Cowboys’ tight end dropped a wide-open touchdown pass in a 4-point loss in Super Bowl 13. The Mavs’ future Hall-of-Famer front-rimmed a free throw that could’ve sealed Game 3 of the 2006 NBA Finals in Miami. And the Rangers’ shortstop — no matter what highs he achieves the rest of his career — will always be remembered for his infamous low in the 7th inning of the 2015 ALDS.
It was horrendous. It was historic. It was why the Rangers lost Game 5 to the Blue Jays and are today facing a long, bleak winter.
To be fair, Elvis isn’t the lone reason the Rangers lost the series. With slugger Adrian Beltre slowed by a bad back, Prince Fielder responded with only three singles, four strikeouts and one RBI. With a chance to close out the series at home in Game 4, starting pitcher Derek Holland gave up five runs and got only six outs. And manager Jeff Banister might have gotten too cute, as AL saves leader Shawn Tolleson didn’t throw one pitch with his team leading.
Also, in the big picture, the Rangers’ season must be viewed as a mini-collapse but only at the end of a giant surprise. Besieged by injuries early and predicted to be no better than a third-place, .500 team, they won the West and pushed the best team in the AL to a Game 5. If you were being objective, you — like me — probably predicted a Toronto series win.
But all of that is of little comfort after enduring the second-worst inning in franchise history, behind only the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series in which the Rangers were — twice — one strike from the championship in St. Louis. It was an epic, excruciating inning bathed in equal parts woe and weird.
Given a 3-2 lead on one of the most bizarre plays in playoff history, they needed nine outs with Cole Hamels looking fresh to win the ALDS.
It started with a pedestrian grounder to Andrus, who reminded us that he’s at times too casual about his craft. It’s as if he gets bored by the common play, only motivated by going in the hole for highlight-film, jumping throw from shallow left field. Elvis turns the spectacular into routine. Unfortunately, in Toronto he turned the routine into spectacular.
The shortstop who made an eye-popping 22 errors during the regular season booted a grounder that should’ve been out No. 1. Who knows what happens if Russell Martin merely grounds out to start the 7th? But with the Blue Jays getting more tight by the pitch and still grumbling and distracted at the Rangers' controversial run in the top of the inning — they played the game under protest — I'd like Texas' chances.
Because of Elvis, we'll never know.
He then failed to catch a short-hop throw from Mitch Moreland. Not an easy play — the error officially went to the 1st baseman — but one he’s made, and will make, hundreds of times. Then, to load the bases with no outs, Andrus made history — and made us recall the baseball slapstick comedy of the Bad News Bears — by simply dropping a perfect throw from Beltre.
Never before in baseball postseason history had a team made three errors in one inning. And now the Rangers made three on three consecutive batters — with Elvis having a glove in all of them.
In the 53-minute inning, the Blue Jays scored four runs en route to a 6-3 victory.
Moreland’s throw was low. Rougned Odor froze on a blooper. And reliever Sam Dyson’s sinker that didn’t sink was launched 430 feet by Joey Bautista. But the table of tragedy was set by Andrus.
Baseball has become saturated with numbers — OPS, WAR, lefty vs. righty and all sorts of metrics that have transformed a kids' game into an MIT exit exam. But in the end the game is still simple. You’ve got to hit, throw and — as Elvis painfully reminded us Wednesday night — yes, you’ve got to catch.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.