erik lundegaard

Tuesday October 06, 2015

Lancelot Links Goes to 'Jaws 19'

Jaws 19

A “Back to the Future” sequel mocking Hollywood sequels. Now it all feels so nostalgic. 

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Posted at 06:52 AM on Oct 06, 2015 in category Lancelot Links
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Monday October 05, 2015

Alternate History: What If Baseball Had Never Gone to the Division Format?

So baseball's 2015 regular season is over and we have our 10 postseason teams, and in a short series anything goes. But I've often wondered what would've happened if baseball hadn't changed to a playoff format in 1969, and the team with the best record in each league continued to meet in the World Series.

This year we would get the Show Me Series: the St. Louis Cardinals (100-62) vs. the Kanas City Royals (95-67), 1985 Redux. AKA, the “Take Pity on Don Denkinger” Series.

We still might get it. But how likely is it? How often do the teams with the best records in each league meet in the World Series?

I'm glad you asked: 

Year AL Best Record NL Best Record AL Pennant NL Pennant
1969 Baltimore Orioles New York Mets    
1970 Baltimore Orioles Cincinnati Reds    
1971 Baltimore Orioles Pittsburgh Pirates    
1972 Oakland A's Pittsburgh Pirates   Cincinnati Reds
1973 Baltimore Orioles Cincinnati Reds Oakland A's New York Mets
1974 Baltimore Orioles Los Angeles Dodgers Oakland A's  
1975 Oakland A's Cincinnati Reds Boston Red Sox  
1976 New York Yankees Cincinnati Reds    
1977 Kansas City Royals Philadelphia Phillies New York Yankees Los Angeles Dodgers
1978 New York Yankees Los Angeles Dodgers    
1979 Baltimore Orioles Pittsburgh Pirates    
1980 New York Yankees Houston Astros Kansas City Royals Philadelphia Phillies
1981 Oakland A's Cincinnati Reds New York Yankees Los Angeles Dodgers
1982 Milwaukee Brewers St. Louis Cardinals    
1983 Chicago White Sox Los Angeles Dodgers Baltimore Orioles Philadelphia Phillies
1984 Detroit Tigers Chicago Cubs   San Diego Padres
1985 Toronto Blue Jays St. Louis Cardinals Kanas City Royals  
1986 Boston Red Sox New York Mets    
1987 Detroit Tigers St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Twins  
1988 Oakland A's New York Mets   Los Angeles Dodgers
1989 Oakland A's Chicago Cubs   San Francisco Giants
1990 Oakland A's Pittsburgh Pirates   Cincinnati Reds
1991 Minnesota Twins Pittsburgh Pirates   Atlanta Braves
1992 Toronto Blue Jays Atlanta Braves    
1993 Toronto Blue Jays Atlanta Braves   Philadelphia Phillies
1995 Cleveland Indians Atlanta Braves    
1996 Cleveland Indians Atlanta Braves New York Yankees  
1997 Baltimore Orioles Atlanta Braves Cleveland Indians Florida Marlins
1998 New York Yankees Atlanta Braves   San Diego Padres
1999 New York Yankees Atlanta Braves    
2000 Chicago White Sox San Francisco Giants New York Yankees New York Mets
2001 Seattle Mariners Houston Astros New York Yankees Arizona Diamondbacks
2002 New York Yankees Atlanta Braves Los Angeles Angels San Francisco Giants
2003 New York Yankees Atlanta Braves   Florida Marlins
2004 New York Yankees St. Louis Cardinals Boston Red Sox  
2005 Chicago White Sox St. Louis Cardinals   Houston Astros
2006 New York Yankees New York Mets Detroit Tigers St. Louis Cardinals
2007 Boston Red Sox Arizona Diamondbacks   Colorado Rockies
2008 Los Angeles Angels Chicago Cubs Tampa Bay Rays Philadelphia Phillies
2009 New York Yankees Los Angeles Dodgers   Philadelphia Phillies
2010 Tampa Bay Rays Philadelphia Phillies Texas Rangers San Francisco Giants
2011 New York Yankees Philadelphia Phillies Texas Rangers St. Louis Cardinals
2012 New York Yankees Cincinnati Reds Detroit Tigers San Francisco Giants
2013 Boston Red Sox St. Louis Cardinals    
2014 Los Angeles Angels Washington Nationals Kansas City Royals San Francisco Giants

For the first three years, it was a wash. Same same. Then divergence. If it seems the divergence got worse, it did, because the playoffs became more complex: from best-of-five LDS until 1984, to best-of-seven LDS until 1993, to a two-tiered playoffs with wild card that we have today.

But back to the question: How likely is it for a team with the best record in its league to make the World Series?

  • Best-of-five LCS (1969-1984): 56%
  • Best-of-seven LCS (1985-1993): 61%
  • Wild card era: best-of-five LDS, then a best-of-seven LCS (1995-present): 32%

Some observations:

  • The Braves have suffered the most from the playoff format. They had the best record in the NL nine times but only went to the World Series five times, for a deficit of 4. 
  • Cubs and Pirates also suffered. Both have deficits of 3. That's right: in a non-playoff format, the Cubbies would've gone to the World Series three times in the last 30-odd years: in '84, '89 and '08.
  • The Giants have benefitted most from the playoff format: best record once (in 2000, when they lost to the Mets in the LDS), but five World Series appearances for a net gain of 4. 
  • The Yankees have a deficit of 1, so they'd have 41 pennants rather than 40. Also their period of domination would've been more recent. No pennants in '96, '00 or '01, but pennants in 2006, '11 and '12.
  • The two teams that have never been to the Series (the Mariners and Nats), each would've gone ('01 and last year), but now four teams would be no shows, since they're all post-'68 teams that have never had the best record in their league: Rockies, Marlins, Padres and Rangers. 

We would've gotten Royals/Phillies in '77 rather than '80. The Braves wouldn't have gone in '91 but would've gone in every subsequent year in the decade, plus '02 and '03. In 2000, the Yankees/Mets subway series would've been replaced by the White Sox/Giants series, but would've reemerged in '06.

Certain teams seem to do particularly well when they have the best record. The BoSox led the AL in wins three times, and each of those times ('86, '07, '13) they won the pennant. And good news for Cardinals fans: Six times they've had the best record in the NL and five of those times they made the Fall Classic (2005 was the misstep).

But overall the playoff format seems tailor-made for upstarts. It's October 5, 2015, and a whole new season. 

Cubs vs. Athletics: 1989 World Series

Who could forget the great Cubs-A's World Series of 1989?

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Posted at 06:18 AM on Oct 05, 2015 in category Baseball
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Sunday October 04, 2015

It's the Last Day of Baseball's Regular Season: How Did April's Predictions Go?

It's the last day of the regular baseball season so a good time to check out how all those predictions went back in April. We live in such a predictive culture but we always forget this part. The accountability part. 

Here, for example, is Sports Illustrated's four “Baseball Preview” covers from April:

Sports Illustrated: four covers from 2015 Baseball Preview issue


These aren't exactly predictions—they went with teams that traditionally win bupkis—but they went with the wrong teams. Doesn't help combat the myth of the SI cover jinx, does it? 

In a way it's even worse over at Grantland, where, on April 6, six writers predicted how the season would go. Put it this way: It went better than their predictions. 

There are 10 postseason positions, five for each league, meaning 60 predictions in all from these six writers. They divided them into division winners and wild card winners but I'll just take them all at face value. Choose the Blue Jays as a wild card and that's good enough for me.

So how many of the 60 slots did these experts get right? Twenty-one. 

That's 35%. Keep in mind, 10 of the 30 MLB teams, or 33%, make it, so 35% is almost bare minimum. The experts at Grantland did about as well as a horse stomping its foot might do. 

Or worse? None of the pennant winners the six writers chose are still in the running. Four of the writers picked the Nats in the NL, two went with the Miami Marlins. In the AL, we got four Sox rooters (two Red, two White), one dude chose the M's while the sixth went with the Angels. In a way, the Angels guy wins. They weren't eleminated until today, so he was closest. Kudos.

And in the AL? Good god. Of the 30 possible slots, they got three right. Three. Three Blue Jays. No one predicted Texas or Kansas City, last year's A.L. pennant winner. Everyone thought the Yanks would be a no-show again. No one thought Houston would go anywhere. 

Maybe this is the beauty of baseball. It can still surprise us. 

Except for the St. Louis Cardinals, of course, who enter the postseason for the fifth year in a row. And of course my Seattle Mariners, who don't enter the postseason for the 14th year in a row. Now that the Blue Jays are in, that's the current record in postseason woes. 

Wait 'til ... Aw, screw it. 

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Posted at 02:47 PM on Oct 04, 2015 in category Baseball
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Kristof gun deaths

From Kristof's column, “A New Way to Tackle Guns.” 

Kristof's new way doesn't really feel new but it does feel reasonable: universal background checks, tighter regulation of gun dealers, a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses. The problem is he's trying to talk to unreasonable people.

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Posted at 08:22 AM on Oct 04, 2015 in category Politics
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Saturday October 03, 2015

Catch of the Day: Kevin Pillar

This was yesterday:

Kevin Pillar Superman catch

Superman comes to mind. You can see it here

Posted at 03:11 PM on Oct 03, 2015 in category Baseball
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A Few Thoughts After Watching '2001' Last Night

I was thinking about Kubrick in the mid-sixties making it, when the year 2001 was in the future, and me in my living room last night watching it, with the year 2001 now more than a decade in the past.

And I was turning over the four-part structure of the film:

  • The dawn of man, in which a group of ape creatures, driven from their water hole by a rival tribe, awaken to a thrumming black monolith, and thereafter make the giant leap forward: they use a bone as a weapon and take back their water hole.
  • The near future, 2001ish, and the discovery of the monolith buried on the dark side of the moon.
  • The mission to Jupiter, 18 months later, in which the HAL 9000 computer malfunctions, then kills four of the five crewmembers before being deactivated.
  • Whatever the fuck is going on at the end. Old age and new births. A new dawn of man? A dawn of AI?

And I thought about what the year 2001 meant to its creators and what it wound up meaning to us.

To Kubrick, it meant a bland, clean, artificial efficiency. To us, it’s the year a rival tribe grabbed a new weapon and beat its enemies. It’s a year you would associate with the first part of the film (millions of years ago) rather than the last three parts (the near future). 

I think Kubrick would've smiled at that.

Howard Johnson's Earthlight Room

A vision of the future from the past, with Pan-Am flights to the moon and Howard Johnson’s Earthlight Rooms. 

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Posted at 08:49 AM on Oct 03, 2015 in category Movies
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Friday October 02, 2015

Freedom vs. Community: The Lone Ranger Solution

I like this quote from “A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1980” by Robert B. Ray, from a chapter examining the movies, “It's a Wonderful Life” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”:

As a way out of the impasse between the attractiveness of the outlaw hero's life, lived solely in terms of the self, and the need for community responsibility, the Classic Hollywood movie had proposed the archetypal American solution: the individual hero whose willingness to help society was pictured as a temporary departure from the natural and proper pattern of his life, which remained free of abiding entanglements. Involvement, then, represented only a momentary concession to emergency and not a genuine acknowledgement of society's claims. As Leo Marx has pointed out, such a view discredited politics in America; to make a career out of involvement was somehow suspect.

Cf., Bob Dylan:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto are riding down the line
Fixing everybody's troubles, everybody's 'cept mine
Somebody must've told 'em I was doing fine

Cf., as well, Zorro, “Kung Fu,” “The Incredible Hulk.” Cf., Ethan in “The Searchers,” delivering Debbie but not crossing the threshold to the house. Cf.,...?

The Lone Ranger and Tonto in the 1950s

He even wore the outlaw's mask. 

Posted at 11:02 AM on Oct 02, 2015 in category Movies
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Thursday October 01, 2015

Saddest Headline Ever

I posted this a few weeks ago but we had server issues and it was never saved. So here it is again. It's from The New York Times:

 Saddest headline ever

It took me a moment to realize what that headline was saying: that even though our overuse of oil is warming the planet, it's not warming it fast enough for oil companies to immediately monetize the Arctic for more oil exploration.

It's an open admission that what we're doing is destroying the world as we know it. But the only concern is that Big Oil can't do more of that thing.

I can't imagine a culture more lost. 

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Posted at 08:43 AM on Oct 01, 2015 in category Media
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard