“Interestingly, the Giants and Royals are basically exactly proof of how crazy 5 and 7 games series are (and proof of how wonderful baseball is, assuming you don’t like the best team winning the championship every year like they do in European soccer). You are crazy if you think the Royals or Giants are the best or most talented teams this year. But man, it can be fun watching a team win one game on a walkoff bunt-error then a 3 run jimmy jack (at least when you no longer have a rooting interest).”
That’s a Facebook comment from a thread I was a part of after the Giants won the pennant last night, which was started by a good friend of mine who’s an A’s fan. He kicked things off by lamenting the “crapshoot” nature of MLB’s postseason, and punctuated his comment with the first sentence from this classic Billy Beane woe-is-me quote: “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is fucking luck.”
Oh, if only baseball seasons were decided by computers after 162 games. Highest run differential gets the crown. Baseball would be so much fairer without these stupid playoff games getting in the way!!!
Why are the Giants and Royals proof of how crazy these series are? Because they didn’t make flashy enough moves at the deadline? Because they were forced to win wild card elimination contests on the road just to get a spot in their respective Division Series? Because they weren’t predicted to win?
Funny, you don’t hear this about the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, who finished 10-6 and won Super Bowl XLVII against a team that finished 13-3. The New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI after finishing the year 9-7. The Green Bay Packers, a 10-6 wild card team, won Super Bowl XLV. The Giants beat the previously undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII after finishing the regular season 10-6 — three games behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.
Those teams weren’t lucky, though. They were hardened WARRIORS who fought through incredibly difficult (self-created) situations to win championships. They EARNED their turnovers and the penalties that went against their opponents.
Meanwhile, the Royals are succeeding because they’re “hungry” and “due,” and the Giants are just lucky that their postseason opponents lose the ability to make routine defensive plays in their presence. Both teams are fun to watch, but they aren’t really the best.
Sorry Billy, but this is total B.S.
Major League Baseball teams play extraordinarily long seasons, sure, but 162 isn’t more important than *five* or *seven* in October. Otherwise, change the rules. No playoffs. No World Series. Just hand out trophies to the teams with the highest run differential and overall WAR.
The teams know how seasons, contracts and legacies are judged — general managers have plenty of time every year to “build a playoff-ready team.” Most of those teams fail. That’s not the fault of the season/postseason system, it’s a weakness in the owner-GM-manager-coaches-trainers-players chain. Maybe “weakness” is too strong, since there’s only one winner per year. And the losers don’t necessarily need to be fired or mocked, but ignoring the mental/emotional part of baseball would be like judging pitchers solely on velocity.
For every fortunate/unfortunate bounce, there were countless opportunities to counteract. The A’s could’ve held onto their 7-3 lead over the Royals. The Nationals could’ve let Jordan Zimmerman face Buster Posey in the ninth. The Cardinals could’ve thrown better pitches to Michael Morse, or pitched around him since his home run trot and sprinting stride aren’t all that different. The examples go on and on and on — the main point: if we aren’t judging baseball players on what they do in October, and how they handle extreme pressure, what’s the point of this? Remember, the players don’t mind this method of judging winners and losers. But for whatever reason (I’m blaming the ridiculous dominance and fame of the 1990s Yankees), we’re supposed to *know* baseball greatness when we see it. Because predetermined ideas are always better than getting swayed by things right in front of our faces, right?
“Since I’ve seen two of them I can answer this,” said Hunter Pence, in response to a question about Tim Lincecum’s demeanor after his second no-hitter.
“Honestly, he’s extremely relaxed. It’s like he’s immune to the big moment. Even in the playoffs. A lot of the guys on this team, Buster, Pablo and Tim and a lot of guys are extremely immune to the big moment. They’re free.”
They take their cue from the best manager in baseball. The Royals are a team full of talented players who believe in each other, and for good reason. They’ve got a bunch of young sluggers, sprinters and 99-mph hurlers. Whoever wins the World Series will rightfully hold the title of best baseball team in 2014. Judging the best players based on WAR makes sense. Judging the best team is much more complicated, and the best place to do it is on the field at a time that’s agreed to by everyone before the season starts. Until MLB decides to go with nine-game series or longer (doubtful), or limit the number of playoff teams to the squads with the best records in the AL and NL only, like it used to be (definitely not an option), the current postseason setup is still the best way to determine which team plays together better than any other in any given year.