Anarchists' Brunch: Meaning

Sorry for the two-day delay. Some moron had this bachelor party in Wisconsin that took up my whole weekend. The nerve of some people. 

I got into a Twitter exchange with Joe Sheehan (name-drop alert) a couple days ago. It was about meaning to the baseball season. Like Joe, though maybe not to the same extent, I mourn the loss of the regular season defining anything. These days, it's what happens in October and really nothing else.

Take the Dodgers now (hilariously) over chase for the 2001 Mariners, and that Mariners team. They won 116 games. We may never see that again. And yet do we celebrate them in any way? No, because they lost the ALCS to the Yankees and hence who cares?

It's strange. It feels like if you're anywhere near my age (17 years old, if you're wondering), we remember the 1993 Giants more than we do the '01 Mariners. Because they're now held up as something of a forgone anomaly. They won 103 games and didn't even make the playoffs. Strangely, the team that kept them out of said playoffs, the Braves, didn't make the World Series either. We forget that.

Would the Mariners team be more fondly remembered if they had the old division system in 2001? They would have run away with the AL West just as easily, but still would have seen the Yankees in the ALCS. Sheehan's point, that back then with the two divisions we remembered anyone who made the playoffs as "successes," is probably a valid one. Even though Will Clark's homer in '89 still hasn't landed and still wakes me up in the middle of the night, I look back on the '89 Cubs fondly. Do I with the '03, '07, or '08 versions? Not even close, though they accomplished the same thing and won their division. Strangely, I love the '15 Cubs more than any of them, and they were a third-place team (speaking of which, the '15 NL Central is probably as close as we'll get to that '93 NL East as far as bunching of the league's best teams. Bet you don't think about that, huh? I can tell you Pirates fans do for sure).

This is a common symptom of North American sports, where the regular season is really nothing more than a table-setter. We'll never go back to the two-league, one winner of each meeting in the Series, though you'd have to say that would probably be the most fair. Perhaps one day, long after I'm dead (so like the 2019 season), if a relegation-system ever took hold here, you could see a massive change as teams at the bottom of the standings would suddenly have stakes. But that is highly unlikely to ever happen, given the money at risk.

It goes the other way, I guess. Say the Cubs stumble over the line in the NL Central, but then get into the playoffs and get hot. Even if they were to lose to what is a superior Cleveland team right now (and they are), we'd probably all say that was a fairly representative title-defense. Except we've spent most of this season bitching about how the Cubs haven't lived up to what we thought they could be. A simple two to three weeks can erase all that. Does that really make sense?

Especially how baseball games warp in form in the playoffs. Relievers in the fourth inning, pinch hitters that early, the volume turned up. I've tried to justify the crapshoot that it is to myself in myriad ways. I always get back to soccer because that's just how I work. I guess the regular season is your league campaign, and if you play well enough you get to enter the Champions League of the playoffs with its extra times and away goals rule and whatever else changes. But it's a stretch. You earn the right to take part in a slightly altered version of baseball. It's a new tournament, everything starts fresh and anew.

But we don't really come to appreciate what got you there. You do after the fact, but if let's say Kipnis's drive in the 9th in Game 7 had straightened out and stayed fair instead of curled foul, would you remember the regular season of '16 as fondly as you do now? Of course you wouldn't, even if it was the most dominant and entertaining regular season the Cubs have ever, and may ever, produce. Does that add up?

All of it amounts to shouting at the rain. This is the way things are. We can perceive them however we want. Don't let no one tell you how to wear your pants. People just might call you crazy, is all.

 

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  • This is an interesting topic to chew on. Taking the contrarian viewpoint, I doubt anybody remembers hardly any teams that did not make the World Series, to begin with. It's always been that way, not a new of thinking due to the additional Wild Card entries. Adding the Wild Cards makes baseball more exciting, IMHO. Teams that can't perform in the playoffs don't deserve the recognition. At least baseball requires the best of 5/7 series, which gives the better team a more fair chance than the NFL or NCAAM tournaments.

  • "You earn the right to take part in a slightly altered version of baseball."

    Great take Sam. Sums it up nicely.

  • Great read.

    Some day there is going to be a trivia question of who got the save game 7 of the WS on something like Jeopardy. Unless you watched the series, who would know Mike Montgomery.

  • Great perspective

  • Yes, that 2016 regular season was special. Apart from a three-week stretch before the All-Star break, everything went right, all the right buttons were pushed, it was terrific.

    Who was the manager of that 2016 Cubs team again?

  • Really good stuff, Sam. I actually saw that 2001 Mariners team a few times. Twice in Chicago against the White Sox and twice in Boston against the Red Sox. They won all 4. It was kind of random that I saw them those four times but as the season progressed I was glad I did. From what I saw in those games and the games I saw on national broadcasts they were. by far and away, the best team I had ever witnessed. Still are to this day. The fact that they didn't win says more about the nature of the baseball playoffs than it does that about that team, at least to me.

  • When we went from the two divisions to three, I remember having really heated discussions with some of my friends regarding this. While I like that fact that more teams play meaningful games through the end of the season with the current format, I will forever mourn the loss of the regular season. Baseball has yet to become the NBA or NHL where nearly everyone makes the playoffs but every step in that direction drives me nuts. Yes, its sometimes a cool story to see a wildcard team take out a division winner but due to baseball's peculiarities it seems to happen more than I'd like to see (especially in that short 5 game wildcard series).

    Again, it's great seeing meaningful games down the stretch for teams on the bubble but I wish there was some way to make the wildcard team's route a bit tougher. I'd like to see a seven game wildcard series but less rest times between all playoff and World Series games. This would make managers use all of their starters or pitch their better starters on short rest. That way team can't hide their 4th and 5th starters like many do in the playoffs. That's often the difference between a wildcard team and a division winner - a better bottom of the rotation.

  • WTTYANY, I totally agree with your take on 7-game series and less rest time in the playoffs and WS, to make playoff rosters and player usage more like the regular season. We don't need a "travel day" to go from Washington to Chicago, or from Cleveland to Houston.

  • I agree also. Just like the month of September should be like the first 5 months of the regular season. Having 40 players active for a game is nuts.

  • I'd love if the WC was decided as a 3 game series played over 2 days. That way you're using (at the least) your best 2 pitchers, and then flying into a new city to start a series with your #3.

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    In reply to Kramerica20:

    Nice, wouldn't have wasted typing up my annual wild card complaint fest if I would have just scrolled down.

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    What I always wished they would do for the wild card game is make it a 2 day double header. (best of 3, this way its not a winner takes all but the team that advances is really worn out) Team w home field advantage plays on the road lets say on Tuesday then flies wherever (cross country, 2 bad 2 sad) and plays a double header Wednesday (if necessary) and then off day Thursday ( playoffs start 2nd division winner vs 3rd division winner's) and Friday Home field advantage teams host wild card survivor ( which would really be the case considering how many games they might have to play esp if their is a makeup or tie breaker game Monday)

  • Great read, Sam.

    History is littered with forgotten losers. Some justified, some not so much so. But it is a constant in human history, and I fear even more so as society continues it's march toward mass ADD.

    Many of you may not get some of my musical references, and half of that is my fault for missing. But I'm firm in my belief on this one, however salty it may be. Kind of sums up Sam's point of how we can experience things but only remember the ultimate glory, or in this case, basic human nature. It can be the same thing, right? My apologies:

    "A cigarette rests between her lips
    But I'm staring at her tits
    It's the wrong way."

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