ALDS Game 5: Who to Root For
Right now there's some mainstream-media confusion as to who is the underdog (and thus who you should root for) in tonight's winner-take-all American League Division Series matchup between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians.
Cleveland, you see, went to the World Series last year. They forced a Game 7. They were one measly run from winning it all. And this year they set a modern record by winning 22 straight games. They had the best record in the American League. They's a powerhouse.
The Yankees, meanwhile, haven't won it all since way back in 2009. (I can barely see back that far.) The team, for once, is not totally made up of high-priced free agents (although it's still got its share of those), but its heart is a couple of young, hungry, powerful players, like 6' 8“ monstrosity Aaron Judge, and 1930s Warner Bros. gangster Gary Sanchez. They've been dubbed the ”Baby Bombers," which is a cute name, and they do cute things. After a player hits a homerun, for example, the others, rather than congratulate him, conduct a mock press conference in the dugout. And they've turned a hapless Tampa Bay Ray fan's sign of disapproval, a thumbs down gesture after a Todd Frazier homerun, into a talisman. Now when they do good things, they use this gesture with each other. Shows that fan of that team that never won anything.
So, for some in the media, the Yankees are not completely the Goliath here. If you squint, like until your eyes are completley shut, they're a little bit of David.
In this frame of reference, both teams are due. The Yankees have won 27 World Series championships throughout their storied career, which is an average of one every 4.15 years. And it's been eight years now, nearly twice that. Their fans are bereft.
The Indians have won two World Series championships throughout their less-than-storied career, which is an average of one every 56 years. They last won it all in 1948, which is longer than 56 years. But is it twice that? No. So whose fans are truly bereft?
A few more stats to continue the discussion. I posted these on Facebook yesterday.
Before baseball's expansion era began, meaning from 1903 to 1960, the New York Yankees won 25 pennants. That's 44% of all possible pennants they could've won during this period. The second-best AL team (the Athletics) won 8 pennants—or 14%.
The Cleveland Indians won 3.
Once the expansion era began, and the number of league rivals grew from eight to 10 to 12 to 14, and now 15, the Yankees couldn't dominate the way they once did—but they still dominated. Since '61, they've won 15 pennants. That's 27% of all possible pennants they could've won during this period.
The second-best AL team during this era (Orioles, BoSox, A's) won 6 pennants—or 11%.
The Cleveland Indians won 3.
But here's the best measure of the success, or not, of the two teams. Warning: There's some math involved.
In both eras, i.e., from 1903 to today, the Yankees, with their 27 rings, have won 24% of all available World Series titles, while the Indians, with their two, have won 1.8%. So for the Yankees to reach the Indians' current percentage level of titles to opportunties, i.e., that 1.8%, they need to not win a World Series title for a while. How long?
The answer is approximately 1,350 years. Until the year 3366.
Essentially that's how much misery the Yankees and their fans have to make up in order to to reach the current misery-level index of the Cleveland Indians and their fans. Just a thousand years. And change.
That's also my answer as to when I might begin to root for them. If the Yankees haven't won another World Series title by the year 3366, I'll consider it. I might throw them a bone. Until then, nah. Until then, I have another hand gesture for the Baby Bombers and their fans. It's a little less polite than the one used in Tampa Bay.