It’s a beautiful thing. Writers from both sides of tonight’s Game 7 match-up have typed words today that baseball fans of all stripes (pin and otherwise) would do well to take to heart.
The beautiful and the terrible thing about baseball is that good teams will lose a third of the time, and bad teams will win a third of the time. The only thing the players can really control is the amount and intensity of effort they pour into the game. So long as the effort is genuine, we Cardinal fans (and I think most fans everywhere) are willing to accept the result for what it is. Someone has to win, someone has to lose all we as fans can reasonably ask for is that everyone competes as hard as he can. (Thanks to Viva El Birdos for the link)
The frustrating beauty of baseball is that you can never trust what you’re watching. Any hitter can have a 4-for-4 day if everything breaks right; you have to build a team that ignores the daily randomness and simply compiles the raw numbers that lead to bulk wins over the course of the season. General manager Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s, innovator of the famously subversive “moneyball” method of building a roster, lamented that his approach “doesn’t work in the playoffs.” He was right, but not in the way most people understood him. It’s not that his approach in particular didn’t work; it’s that nobody’s does. It’s almost entirely luck.
Much is written by statistical analysts about “sample size” in baseball, and the playoffs are the most extreme example. If the Royals, one of the worst teams in baseball, played the American League champion Detroit Tigers in a 10-game postseason series, they’d win at least 3–probably more. A bad team beating a good team is not particularly difficult, or unusual. Yankees fans can take some solace in this. The Yankees were an outstanding team this year. In the playoffs, though, they ran into three Tigers pitchers who pitched dominant games those particular days. The Yankees didn’t lose because A-Rod wasn’t “clutch” or because Joe Torre forgot how to manage a baseball team or because the Tigers had more “heart.” They lost because the Tigers happened to win three games in a row.
It happens all the time during the regular season. We just don’t notice. Sportswriters say the Tigers “got hot at the right time,” but they weren’t saying that one week earlier, when they lost three at home to the Royals to end the season. Did the Royals just have more heart?
And finally from Alex Nelson at Mets Geek:
I know better now. One game is impossible to predict. Trends are just trends, streaks can be broken, and the mighty humbled. It’s going to come down to a coin toss.
And because of that, in my own twisted mind, it’s going to come down to everything. The umpiring. The winds at Shea. What I eat for breakfast. It may come down to the number of comments we get during the game. It could come down to Eric Simon’s Endy shirt. Or my lucky Mets cap that I started wearing on September 28th in an effort to change the team’s mojo and have worn ever since, despite ripping it off my head after Game 2 and stomping all over it.
It could come down to karma. Last week, I was sure it would, and I don’t even believe in the stuff. Heck, I don’t even really know what it is or how it works. There’s nothing like an uncontrollable situation to turn a rational being into a superstitious mess.
And here we are at Game 7. Another coin flip. Or maybe one last series of coin flips. I’m hoping for lots of “heads.”