Tag Archives: 2011 MLB season

Playoff Baseball

I recently read Moneyball (I’m a little behind, I know) and in the book Billy Beane talks about how playoff baseball is essentially a crapshoot. He says his job is to get his team to the playoffs but “what happens after that is f***ing luck.”

A look at the last decade of postseason baseball does not disprove that. While we don’t know who will play in this year’s World Series, we do know it won’t be the New York Yankees or Philadelphia Phillies, the teams with the best records during the regular season. That is not uncommon.

Take a look at the teams with the best record in their league and the teams that ultimately advanced to the World Series:

American National
Year Record         Champion     Record Champion
2010 Rays Rangers Phillies Giants
2009 Yankees Yankees Dodgers Phillies
2008 Angels Rays Cubs Phillies
2007 Indians Red Sox Diamondbacks Rockies
2006 Yankees Tigers Mets Cardinals
2005 White Sox White Sox Cardinals Astros
2004 Yankees Red Sox Cardinals Cardinals
2003 Yankees Yankees Braves Marlins
2002 Yankees/A’s Angels Braves Giants
2001 Mariners Yankees Astros/Cards Diamondbacks
2000 White Sox Yankees Giants Mets
1999 Yankees Yankees Braves Braves

To make it easier to see, I bolded the teams that had the best regular reason record in their league and also won the pennant. As you can see, this has happened only four times since 2000. You have to go back to last millennium to find the last World Series match-up of the top teams record-wise.

Does this add to the excitement of playoff baseball? Does it affect your opinion on the possible addition of another wild card team? Sound off in the comments section.

Side note: As a Mets fan, the last few weeks have been about as sweet as possible considering the Mets have been out of contention for months and are facing the prospect of heading into next season without Jose Reyes. The Red Sox and Braves fell apart in September, meaning the Mets’ 2007 collapse is, undisputedly, no longer the worst. Then, as a bonus, the Yankees and Phillies were eliminated in the first round. When you’re a Mets fan, you need to take pleasure in the small things, even when they don’t directly involve your team.

New York Mets vs Washington Nationals in DC

The Washington Nationals just sort of exist. They are a team, not a franchise. As the eloquent Greg Prince of the Mets blog Faith and Fear in Flushing asked himself after watching a recent Nationals home game: “The Expos left Montreal for this?”

I saw “this” for myself last weekend, making the trip to D.C. with my friend Seth and my girlfriend Megan to visit another friend (Eric) and attend Saturday night’s Mets-Nats game. Years from now I’m confident I won’t be remembering the trip for my first ever visit to Nationals Park, though that is due to my great company and the Newseum’s awesomeness as much as anything else.*

We took the Metro to the ballpark, arriving at 5:30 (first pitch was scheduled for 7:05). We ran into Teddy Roosevelt and he was nice enough to pose for a picture. Like a true journalist, I asked him why he always lost the Presidents’ Race. He didn’t answer or gesture in any way, but given that it was 100 degrees I was impressed he was still standing.

We made our way to The Bullpen, a tent-covered area where fans can drink, play bean bag toss, and chill out in the mist zone. This atmosphere would prove to be far more lively than inside the ballpark.

The lack of energy could not be attributed to a lack of fans—attendance was announced as more than 35,000 and it sure looked more full than most Nats home games I’d seen on TV. The fact that it was a sunny summer Saturday certainly contributed to the strong turnout, but never underestimate the power of the bobblehead.** The first 15,000 fans that night received a Jayson Werth bobblehead. Unlike the real Jayson Werth, the bobblehead did not cost $126 million nor was it batting .219.

My plans for sadistic bobblehead voodoo vanished into thin air just like the mist in The Bullpen because, well, we spent too much time standing in the mist in The Bullpen and were not among the first 15,000 fans.

So of course I blamed myself when Werth was rounding the bases after his first-inning three-run home run, likely thinking to himself, I’d like to see a bobblehead do THAT. The blast, off an R.A. Dickey knuckleball that, replays showed, didn’t knuckle, started and ended the scoring for the evening.

The bobblehead may have lured more Nats fans than usual to the park, but there were plenty of Mets fans as well. I would’ve been able to make a more accurate estimate but we had nothing to cheer about. The Mets offense went 1-2-3 in the first and second innings and didn’t get a hit until David Wright’s two-out single in the fourth. Keep in mind Yuniesky Maya, not Stephen Strasburg or even the scheduled Jason Marquis (who was traded earlier that day), was the Washington starter.***

Yet it was not until the ninth that the Mets got a runner past second base, but Willie Harris ended the game looking at a breaking ball with the bases loaded. The final score was 3-0 and the final hit tally for New York was eight, all singles.

As for the stadium itself: meh. It is very new and there are nice views and it’s clean and…you probably shouldn’t listen to me because I prefer Shea Stadium over Citi Field. In fact, Nats Park is very similar to Citi Field, right down to the food selections: Shake Shack, Blue Smoke, and El Taqueria. The lines are just as long and the ordering process just as maddening. Somehow, in an attempt to avoid a 45-minute wait, I ended up with an $8 grilled cheese. Don’t ask.

While I don’t think the Washington Nationals are, to put it bluntly, necessary—the Orioles snatched up any local baseball fans long ago—there are probably a handful of other franchises that are, currently, just as uninspiring. But at least people like my pal Eric, a New York transplant, have more opportunities to see the Mets in person. And that—Saturday night’s lackluster performance aside—is a good thing.

*During my last trip to D.C. I didn’t make it to the Newseum and I was determined not to leave town this time without seeing it. It was certainly worth it, as aside from the regular exhibits—which included a 25-minute documentary on the history of sports journalism—we saw legendary CBS newsman Bob Schieffer.

**The last bobblehead I got was at a Mets game last year. It was Jason Bay’s, and Bay didn’t even play that afternoon, which was upsetting at the time but in hindsight was probably a good thing. Earlier this season the Mets had an Ike Davis bobblehead night but of course he was injured and didn’t play either.

***Strasburg is scheduled to make a rehab start this weekend and could return to the Nats in September. I don’t understand the point of this. I realize he had his surgery last September and a return later this season would be a typical amount of rehab time, but what is the upside of bringing him back to a last-place team so he can make a few starts?

Carlos Beltran Traded to Giants for Zack Wheeler

I’m embarrassed to say this, but I dreamed about Carlos Beltran last night. That, by itself, is not something to be ashamed of, especially for a die-hard baseball fan. The embarrassing part is that I woke myself up shouting, “We’ll miss you, Carlos!” It was one of those moments where I was semi-aware I was sleep-talking, but fell back asleep before I could really process anything.

Carlos Beltran was traded yesterday to the San Francisco Giants for pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, the deal becoming official today.* It was 7.5 years ago that Beltran signed with the New York Mets. Can you believe it’s been that long?

*Given that I’ve never seen Wheeler pitch I’ll just say, all things considered, it seems like a fair trade. It could be great for both teams: the Giants are hoping Beltran helps them defend their World Series title and the Mets hope Wheeler turns into a front-of-the-rotation starter down the line. But 21-year-old pitching prospects are unpredictable and nothing is guaranteed when it comes to playoff baseball, so who really knows?

I wrote about Beltran in the middle of May, noting he was underappreciated by many Mets fans. Since then, the internet campaign to make these people realize Beltran’s value has intensified tenfold. I wrote then that I thought Beltran’s eventual departure would lead to a case of “don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” but as these last couple of months have shown, it’s been more like “don’t know what you’ve got until you realize he’ll inevitably be traded to a contender.”

I find it admirable, but sort of fruitless, that Beltran’s fans have come to his defense. Fans are free to choose their favorite players and it’s not too surprising Beltran wasn’t a popular choice. Fans prefer homegrown talent and the Mets have Jose Reyes and David Wright. After that, they gravitate towards the Joe McEwings, Benny Agbayanis, and Turk Wendells—players who don’t quite look right in a baseball uniform and possess maybe two of the five tools, but find a way to contribute. A great achievement by someone like Beltran would often be followed by, “Yeah, well he’s supposed to do that, he’s paid a billion dollars.”

So if you want to remember Beltran with his bat on his shoulder in Game Six, cool. I’m going to remember him running up that ridiculous hill in Houston. I’m going to remember him making Gary Cohen say, “We’re going home!” I’m going to remember “El Esta Aqui.”

Of course, el no esta aqui, not anymore. I guess my dream was fitting, because from the time I started following baseball to 2004 I could only dream of the Mets having a center fielder like Carlos Beltran. Now I can only dream of one day having another like him.