Baseball postsWednesday October 15, 2014
Quote of the Day
“I don't like that word: 'Unbelievable.' Don't use that word. Nothing is unbelievable.”
-- Buck O'Neil (1911-2006), former Kansas City Monarch and all-around baseball saint, to Joe Posnanski, which Pos posted on his Facebook page this afternoon after his and Buck's team, the lowly Kansas City Royals, 29 years removed from the postseason, swept the Baltimore Orioles to win the AL pennant. The Royals have now played eight postseason games in 2014 and won them all. They make me believe that anything can happen. (Well, except that, Mr. B.)
“Please don't interrupt, because you haven't heard this one in a while. Kansas City Royals, champions of the American League. Honest.” (With apologies to Shirley Povich.)
The National League is Boring the Pants Off Me
At the start of the post-season, before any one-game Wild Card playoffs, I wrote a post about my rooting interests. I even provided visual representation. Here was the American League, from favorite (left) to least (right):
I'm mostly rooting for the underdogs, the starving fans. The Royals hadn't been in the post-season since 1985, the Orioles hadn't been to the World Series since 1983, so 1 and 2. Sure, the Tigers have had a good run in recent years but they hadn't won it all, and it's Detroit. If I'd been consistent, I probably would've gone A's before Tigers, but ... hobgoblins. No surprise that my bottom-rungers are AL West teams: the rivals of my Mariners.
In the NL, similar rationale:
Pirates hadn't been to the World Series since '79, Nationals had never been, and Dodgers, despite a good record this century, hadn't been since way back in '88 (the Kirk Gibson series). Giants? They went in 2010 and '12, winning both. Cards? They went in 2004, 2006, 2011 and last year. They won the middle ones. So no contest there. Of the 10 total teams, I was rooting for anyone but the Cards and the Giants.
What happens? Here's the AL results:
Not bad! Good for me, good for baseball. There, we're guaranteed a team that hasn't won the pennant since at least '85.
The National League was a different story:
You just want to say, “Really? These guys? Again? Can't you do any better?” There, we're guaranteed a team that hasn't won the pennant since ... 2012. Yay.
The Cards are the worst. They've been to the postseason 11 times this century, and have now made the NLCS nine times. That's two more times than the despised New York Yankees have this century. And their closest NL rivals in LCS trips? The Giants, of course, with four. But that's a huge gap. The Cards keep beating the teams I'm rooting for: Dodgers this year, Dodgers last year, Nats in 2012, Brewers in 2011. They're the team that just keeps showing up. They're the team that won't go away.
Now what? Root for the Giants? Crap.
If this continues I might have to add a “Cardinals Suck” category to the blog.
The Meticulous Fall of the 2008 Philadelphia Phillies
I'm sure this has been talked about elsewhere, particularly in Philly, but I had to comment on it. Because I've never seen a team that went from the pinnacle (World Series champions) to the depths (last in their division) so meticulously; that hit every rung on the ladder on its way down. It's almost impossible to be this precise in such a chaotic world.
It goes like this.
The Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series in six games over the Tampa Bay Rays.They were champions of the world. OK, champions of Major League Baseball, but that's like being champions of the world, no matter what some say.
Year by year, this is what they've done since:
- 2009: Lost the World Series, 4-2
- 2010: Lost the NLCS, 4-2
- 2011: Lost the NLDS, 3-2
- 2012: Finished 3rd in its five-team division, 81-81, 17 GB
- 2013: Finished 4th in its five-team division, 73-89, 23 GB
- 2014: Finished 5th in its five-team division, 73-89, 23 GB
The precision in their fall is amazing. It should actually be applauded. Fans should hold up signs: 9.6. It's the Greg Louganis of falls.
The good news for its fans? The team can't fall any lower. Well, worst team in baseball, I guess. They'd have to lose a dozen or so more games. If that manage it, I'm changing my score from 9.6 to 10. That's perfection.
Has any other team ever done this? Does anyone know?
Quotes of the Day: Posnanski on KC Royals Victory
So I've been waiting all morning for Joe Posnanski's account of the Kansas City Royals' amazing, frustrating, inconceivable comeback in its one-game playoff with the Oakland A's last night. The man didn't disappoint. Among the quotables:
- “The Royals really are the closest baseball thing to a Coen Brothers movie.”
- “I don’t understand the impulses that would make a man think it a good idea to give a rookie pitcher a rare relief appearance on one day’s rest in the team’s first playoff game since Microsoft released its first version of Windows.”
- “The radar gun is such a mesmerizing distraction. 'He threw that pitch 99 mph,' one of them said, and the others hummed their admiration. No one seemed too concerned that it was 99 mph and way above the strike zone, as was the second fastball. No one talked about how fast the third fastball was because Moss deposited it over the center-field wall for a three-run homer.”
- “In the 12th inning, the Royals came back one last time – an Eric Hosmer triple, a Christian Colon Baltimore chop, another stolen base, a ground-ball single yanked down the line by catcher Salvador Perez, who for most of the game had looked so helpless, you weren’t sure if he was even holding the bat right side up.”
I watched half the game at the Quarter Lounge here in Seattle, arriving to a 2-0 score. Not many people were at the bar but the few there were rooting on the Royals. As was I. And they went ahead 3-2. Then the pitching move Posnanski mentions. Me: “A starting pitcher? Don't they have like a legendary bullpen or something? Why not use one of those guys? This kid can't seem to find the plate. What ...?” By which point it was 5-3 Oakland, then 6-3, then 7-3. And so, feeling the beginnings of what turned out to be a nasty cold (it woke me up at 1:30 AM), I walked home, through the autumn chill, and didn't bother to turn on the game at home. But I paid attention via ESPN.com. (BTW, ESPN.com: Please don't go to post-season stats in the first game of the post-season. It's so effin' stupid.) And online I saw the Royals begin to make their comeback. So I turned the game back on in the bottom of the 8th and reveled in the rest.
Welcome back, Royals. We never knew how much we missed you.
The 2014 Postseason: My Rooting Interests
My Mariners aren't in it, My Twins (Au revoir, Gardy) aren't in it, Those Who Suck aren't in it, but that doesn't mean I don't have rooting interests. I'm a baseball fan: I always have rooting interests.
Yesterday, The New York Times, without a team in it, created its list of teams to root for. It's not a bad list but weighted way too heavily on how much the city suffers independent of baseball. Plus (per New York) they don't count World Series appearances, only championships. The Wall Street Journal actually outdid them, coming up with a list of teams to root against. Now we're talking! Its methodology is better, too, including not only pennants and payroll and $100 million-plus contracts, but “Excessive beards” (Sorry, SF) and “Are fans routinely labeled 'best in baseball'?” (Sorry, St.L.).
Here's mine: from the root-root-rootiest to the go-home-alreadys:
- Kansas City Royals: Twenty-nine years without a postseason? You kidding me? How can you not root for these guys? Plus only two World Series apperances, and just one title in its history. But it's mostly those 29 years. Amazing they have any fans left.
- Pittsburgh Pirates: No title since 1979, “When Sid Slid,” then dregs for decades. First postseason since '92 last season. Plus the more McCutchen, the better.
- Washington Nationals: Only one of two franchises that have never been to the World Series. If they make it, it might make the other one so embarrassed they'll do something about it.
- Baltimore Orioles: Haven't won, or been, since '83. ALCS in '96 and '97 but got beat by Cleveland in the latter and Jeffrey Maier in the former.
- Detroit Tigers: Can someone please get Michael (sic) Cabrera a ring, please? (sic)
- Los Angeles Dodgers: Yeah, I know, they ended the Yankees 15-year streak as the team with the highest payroll in baseball. But who doesn't want to see Kershaw, Puig, et al., in the big game? Or Vin Scully for that matter. Haven't been, or won, since '88.
- Oakland A's: Billy Beane. Scrappy. Low payroll. Haven't been since '90, when they lost in 4 to Lou's crew. Lou's other crew.
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, West Coast, USA, North America, World, Universe. If you wanna get Stephen Dedalus about it. Last won in 2002. The only time they ever went.
- San Francisco Giants: Last won in 2012. Time before that? 2010. Not exactly hurting.
- St. Louis Cardinals: Last went? 2013. Last won? 2011. Before that? 2006. Before that? 2004. It's probably the best-run organization in baseball. Boooooooooo!
So I guess my ideal Series would be KC-Pittsburgh. (Somewhere, network executives cringe.) But I wouldn't mind a Beltway Series, either. (Somewhere, network execs brighten.) Mostly, though, I want to see some Game 7s. (Somewhere, network execs smile.)
Who are you rooting for?
My AL rooting interests:
My NL rooting interests: