Sunday, October 16, 2022

The World Series of what, exactly?


To pick up on something that DickAllen mentioned:

Last night, the San Diego Friars' Club eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers, meaning that the 5th and 6th best teams in the National League this year, the Padres and the Phillies, will be squaring off for the NL championship.

Hey, on a strictly emotional level, I could care less. The Dodgers are the team I hate the most, on purely moral grounds. I will not even root for them against the Boston Red Sox. 

That franchise spat on our fair city and left us for a few dollars more, despite decades and decades of support and affection. Respectfully, they can rot in hell.

For that matter, I would love to see the Cleveland Guardians of Traffic upset the Cheating Hearts of Texas, once they have dispensed with us tonight, and go on to win it all, preferably against the Phillies.  

But...what does all this mean, exactly? And just who is it for?

The Dodgers finished 22 games ahead of San Diego, in the same division, during the regular season.  TWENTY-TWO! The Phillies came in 14 games behind both the Braves AND the Mets in their division—both teams that have been eliminated. The guardian angels of Cleveland traffic at least won a division, but finished tied for third, for the best record in the American League.

So...does the World Series really mean anything, anymore?

Once upon a time, the best teams from each league met automatically in the World Series—and since there's was no inter-league play, this meant a sporting event of some interest. Sure, a short series is never the same as the Long Season, but there were some genuine bragging rights to be had.

That system went on for 65 seasons, 1903-1968, and in those years the World Series was indeed a very big deal.

Then came the first division system, and league playoffs. Well, hey, teams still had to finish first—against half the league—to be in it. Some divisions WERE much tougher than others, and the league championship series were generally hard-fought, even thrilling battles between regular-season champs.

In the 25 seasons that this system existed, 1969-1993, the team with the best record in the AL made it to the World Series 16 times, the one with the best record in the NL made it 13 times, and there were 9, "1 on 1" match-ups. 

Sure, there were distressing anomalies—such as when the 1973 Mets made the Series with only the 4th best record in the NL—but generally, you still had the best teams battling it out in the end.

Then came Wild Card Ball.

From 1995 through 2021, a total of 27 seasons, the team with the best record in the AL has made the Series only 12 times; the one with the best record in the NL, only 8—less than 30 percent of the time.

There have been only 3, "1 on 1" match-ups in that entire time, and the team with the best record in the National League has won it all only 3 times. When the Cubs won in 2016, it was the first time that the team with the best record in the NL had won the World Series in 21 years. (The AL has had 8 World Series champs with the best record.)

Again and again, teams with the third, or fourth, or fifth best record have made the Series. 

The all-time nadir came in 2012 when the Tigers, with just the 7th best record in the AL, made it, and lost to the Giants—tied for third in the NL.  Three different teams that were 5th in their leagues during the regular season have won it all:  the Braves last year, the Cardinals in 2006, and, ahem, your New York Yankees, in 2000.

Generally, though, it's hurt our boys. In 5 different seasons—2002, 2004, 2006, 2011, and 2012—the Yanks had the best record in the American League, but failed to make the World Series.

To me, this is another big thing that is wrong with baseball today. In its desperation to always imitate the NFL and the NBA, MLB has piled on the playoff levels—as noted, 40 percent of all teams now make October! But this simply cheapens and degrades the glory of baseball, which is the Long Season—as well as the World Series at its end

And that Long Season is, not incidentally, at least TWICE as long as any other season. A "problem" that all the extra playoff teams are supposed to address, boosting interest in that many more cities. But has it worked out like that?

Ratings for the World Series, baseball's showcase have fallen off drastically for decades now. The largest single-game audience was in 1986, the largest Series-long audience in 1978. The viewership is a fraction of those figures today.

And then there's attendance, which continues to plummet. Yeah, it's great seeing all those crazed stadium crowds come playoff time, isn't it?  

The reality, though, is that the Cleveland Guardians drew a little under 1.3 million fans this season, while taking the Central Division. That 1998 Cleveland team I mentioned the other day, which shook the Yankees in the ALCS? They drew nearly 3.5 million.

That's right. The hope of a playoff run was so great in Cleveland that...attendance was over 2.1 million LESS than it was 24 years ago. Similar drop-offs are the case for most teams. Baseball's big gimmick isn't bringing them out.



JM said...

Yes. This playoff system stinks.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

I'll take "How to lose your fan base for $200, Alex"

The Hammer of God said...

I thought it was a stupid way to set it up. Teams with a week off, just before the most important games of their season to date? Not good, as any baseball fan knows.

Doug K. said...

The Giants won again!

JM said...


Rufus T. Firefly said...

Odds of a baserunner is actually a ratio. i.e., division.

But that doesn't come until third grade, so understandable you would be ignorant of it.

And meme is a concept that is very easy to find on the interwebs. Surprised it is unfamiliar. Even for an ignorant twit whose father smelt of elderberries.

Hazel Motes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rufus T. Firefly said...

Lineups are out. Boone has outdone himself and unleashed the secret weapon -- A.A. Ron Hicks.

I assume he saving Marwin for that key pinch-hitting appearance.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Little Caesars called. They need you in early tonight. And wash your uniform, it will increase your tips.

Don't worry, we can watch the game for you.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Pizza boy, we're not laughing *with* you, we're laughing *at* you.

Enjoy your shift at the pizza pit.

The Hammer of God said...

We're talking about baseball. No reason to go cussin' and swearin'. Except at Yankee management.

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Your therapist must be a very rich person, but exhausted.

The Hammer of God said...

I wasn't expecting anything good last night, so spent most of it tuned to the Islander game. Then caught the last bit of horror show from the Yankee game. Then watched "The Born Losers". Very entertaining motorcycle gang flick, lots of hotties. Better than MLB, with the three true outcomes, glorified home run derby.

AboveAverage said...

Rufus - you may need to cull some EXTRA wine tonight . . .

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Nothing from the cellar tonight. Sipping a Dry Creek right now and having Honig with a baked chicken dinner. Too far into the mountaintop lair to get pizza delivery. If I could, I'd have the coppola claret. Tastier than their cab and pretty inexpensive.

You know I need to budget being part of the working poor. Actually the retired poor. Or as the country song goes: Pour Me. ...another one.

TheWinWarblist said...

All right. I'm logged in. There will be no shenanigans tonight!

Rufus T. Firefly said...

Malarkey maybe, or mayhem. Or another soul-crushing loss. Break out the pineapple!

But no shenanigans!

Pkgreenville said...

The bloated playoff system is simply a money grab by MLB, which has an unquenchable appetite for TV dollars. A better system would be: reward teams who compiled the two best season records in the respective leagues. The two best records in NL face off in NLCS. Same for the AL. The winners then play in the World Series to crown a true champ. End the regular season by Sept. 30 and the entire season would be over by mid-October.