theknightswhosay

Posts Tagged ‘New York Mets’

The Patriots’ Run in Perspective

In MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL on September 13, 2019 at 6:18 PM

I’ve been planning to write this since shortly after the Super Bowl, but I was busy immediately afterward and got a cold, and then it wasn’t really football season anymore. 

I wanted to start by saying I’m not a Patriots fan and apart from their first Super Bowl win (over the St. Louis Rams).  I wasn’t really in favor of them winning any others.  I didn’t mind when they beat the Falcons, and I wouldn’t have minded had they beaten the Giants though.

Adam Vinatieri, then only 29 years old, kicks the winning points as the Patriots upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in the Superdome in 2002.

If you wanted to know why I wanted the Rams to lose, first of all they were divisional rivals with the Saints at the time.   I usually will cheer for franchises who hadn’t won before (which is why I was more neutral toward the Falcons than most Saints fans), and I usually cheer against teams who are favored by 14.  That was the biggest line since the previous time the Patriots had made the Super Bowl, and one has not been that large since.  The only time it came close was the 12-point line in favor of the Patriots over the Giants in 2008.

The point of writing this is just to remark on the significance of a franchise rising so quickly in stature in a league.  If you’re old enough to read this, you probably won’t see something similar take place in your life.  Before the 2001 season, the Patriots had won zero Super Bowls.  Although they had been to 2, in my mind (and I think in the mind of the vast majority of fans) that put them behind such franchises as the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens (who at that time were both 1-0 in Super Bowls).

Now, if you use conference championships as a tiebreaker, the Patriots are at the very top of franchises with Super Bowl Championships. 

It took until the 20th Super Bowl for the Patriots to make their first appearance, and at that time they were tied for 14th at 0-1.  But arguably they belonged 17th on that list because before that season the franchise had never won a playoff game.  They would not win another playoff game for 11 years, in the season in which they would lose another Super Bowl, this time to Brett Favre and the Packers.  In the interim, two other teams (the Giants and the Bills) had passed up the Patriots and one other team (the Chargers) had tied them at 0-1.  So when the Patriots lost to the Packers, that only put them in a tie for 16th, which fell to 17th after the aforementioned Ravens won.

Bill Parcells, left, was at one time the only coach to have taken the Giants to the Super Bowl and one of only two coaches to have taken the Patriots to one. The guy on the right is Bill Belichick, who became the third to do the latter.

So in the last 17 years they went from 17th to 1st on the list. 

To put that in the context of a couple of other sports, the MLB Giants would have to win 20 World Series without the Yankees winning any just to move from #2 to #1 on the World Series list.  The Mets, who are 17th, would have to win 26. 

In hockey (I say hockey because the Stanley Cup precedes the NHL), the Red Wings would have to win 13 Stanley Cups without the Canadiens winning any just to move from #2 to #1.  It would take 24 Stanley Cups to move from #17 to #1 (several franchises are tied at 1-1).  So even by winning every year, it would take longer than 17 years in both MLB and hockey to move up so far. 

In the NBA, the Lakers (the current #2) would pass up the Celtics with just one win, but they’ve been in second place since 1963, the year the Celtics passed up the Lakers to become #1.  So the total time to move up just that one spot would still be over 50 years.  Like in hockey, #17 is only 1-1, so one of those teams (the Bucks or the Mavericks) would have to win titles every year for 17 years to move up to #1 as quickly.

Bob Cousy prepares to pass in the Los Angeles Sports Arena in the NBA Finals in 1963. The Celtics would win the series and have been at the top of the list of NBA Finalists since.

To be fair, Super Bowls have only existed since the 1966 season, but the NBA had less than a 20-year head start.  No one else is realistically going to be competing with the Celtics and the Lakers in 17 years or probably even 40 years.  The team that has moved up the most since the mid-90s has been the Spurs, but it took them 16 years to win 5.  They would need 13 more wins to pass up the Celtics.    

The Patriots have managed to have an extended dynasty in an era where that is supposed to be impossible.  No other league does as much to punish success as the NFL.  It’s not only draft picks, it’s the schedule and salary caps.  Most leagues don’t factor in past season’s success in scheduling.  Six of the 16 NFL games in a season are determined by success in the previous season.

There are some measures taken in other leagues to keep salaries under control, but the haves and have-nots are still pretty easy to determine based on salary most of the time.  In the NFL, even if you look at room under the salary cap, it doesn’t tell you very much.  So it’s not all about who’s spending money and who isn’t.  When I checked after last season, the Colts had the most room under the salary cap, and they made the divisional round of the playoffs, for instance.  The Jaguars were one of only two teams over the cap, and they finished 5-11.  You have to consistently bargain for and make good draft picks, and you have to consistently make your salary dollars count to have these results.  I don’t want to get into the scandals, which are overblown in my opinion; but there is no question that making great decisions has been the key to success.

I’m sure there are people who know a lot more about the NFL than I do who can speculate if the Patriots will win again and if so how many before Brady and Belichick retire, but even if they’re done, the last 17 years have still been an amazing achievement.

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Game 5 was must-win for Astros, not Dodgers

In College Baseball, History, MLB on October 30, 2017 at 5:26 PM

I’m going to say upfront I am cheering for the Astros, given their proximity to Louisiana (and shared understanding of floods), the fact that they’ve never won before, the fact that they have an exciting young player who recently played for LSU, among other reasons. However, I don’t want anyone to act like the rest of this series in just a formality.

Former LSU star Alex Bregman’s RBI in the 10th gave the Astros a 3-2 lead in the World Series.

The Astros had a great win, which will be memorable regardless of the outcome; but they had the pressure on them much more than the Dodgers did. I really thought the Dodgers’ bullpen would outlast the Astros once the game was tied, and the Dodgers may still have a stronger bullpen going forward.

Justin Verlander having a chance to put the Dodgers away is much different from merely having the chance to pull even. If it does go to Game 7, I think the Dodgers would have had the edge regardless. If going to Game 7 in Los Angeles were the Astros’ best-case scenario, it would be all but over.

Regardless of the specifics of this series, the response of most fans when they see a 3-2 series lead is that the team with the lead has the series in the bag. This may be in part because it’s more of a challenge in other sports where Game 6 and Game 7 are usually in different places. But in baseball, when the team who is behind has two games at home, half the time that team wins instead.

Just ask the Yankees, who went to Houston with a 3-2 lead this postseason. Many in my area were anticipating/bracing for the Yankees/Dodgers World Series. No doubt this was worse closer to Los Angeles and in New York. Ask Astros fans who remember 2004. The Astros went to St. Louis that year with a 3-2 lead.

David Freese hits the game-winning home run against the Texas Rangers in Game 6 in 2011. Including that one, the Cardinals have been involved in at least four postseason series since 1987 in which a team won Games 6 and 7 at home after trailing 3 games to 2.

Speaking of the Cardinals, another team in Texas took a 3-2 lead against them in 2011. Also, if you go back to 1987, the Cardinals won such a series for the NL title (over the Giants) before losing Games 6 and 7 in the World Series (to the Twins). The Twins also beat the Braves four years later under the same circumstances.

The World Series was also won this way in 1986 (Mets over Red Sox), 2001 (Diamondbacks over Yankees), and 2002 (Angels over Giants).

Scott Spiezio hitting a 3-run home run against the San Francisco Giants in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series.

This is not the full list, just the ones people might be likely to remember. I don’t remember the 1986 and 1987 series; but I remember almost all of the players, and I remember hearing and reading about those series from first-hand sources.

Which NFL Team(s) Make Sense for the L.A. Fan Base?

In NFL on January 5, 2016 at 8:29 PM

My (not especially numerous) regular readers know that I’m not a huge NFL fan, but I do at least follow major news items of all the major sports: football, baseball, basketball, hockey to some extent.
Although obviously most of my posts are about college football, I’ve also written previously about conference and divisional realignment in the NFL.

If you didn’t know, three teams have submitted applications to the NFL to relocate to the Los Angeles area.

All three teams were previously in the Los Angeles area. The Rams and Raiders moved to St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, after the 1994 season. (The Rams were originally in Cleveland, and the Raiders were originally in Oakland before moving to Los Angeles.) The Chargers had moved to San Diego after playing their inaugural season in 1960 in Los Angeles.

I’m from Louisiana (that’s why I came up with the name Bayou Blogger), but I’ve lived in Southern California since 2004, so I feel qualified to comment about the potential relocation of a team or multiple teams to the Los Angeles area. I’m going to split this into two parts. In the first, I’ll talk about NFL TV rules and why I (and probably other fans of outside teams) would prefer the status quo.

Why I’m Against Any Relocation (and non-fans of the three teams should be as well)

Since I’m not a big fan of any of them (more on that below) I would rather none of the teams moved here because of the NFL television policy that punishes you for having a local team.

For instance, I recently traveled back to the New Orleans area and was not able to watch the Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals game because it came on at the same time as the Jacksonville Jaguars played the Saints. If it were Week 1, I might have been happy with the Saints game, but I’d rather watch a game with major playoff implications than a game between two teams who are certain to miss the playoffs. The former turned out not to be a good game anyway, but that’s beside the point.

If I were in a secondary market like Baton Rouge or Los Angeles (Los Angeles is a secondary market for the Chargers), I would generally get the closest NFL team (it would be guaranteed if they’re on the road), but it wouldn’t rule out games on other networks at the same time.

It’s even worse when the same market has two teams, as the Bay Area does (at least for the time being). I’ll give an example from a few weeks ago. In Week 12 of the NFL season, the Raiders played in the morning (10 a.m. PST), and the 49ers played in the afternoon. It didn’t matter who was on any other channel or how bad the Raiders and 49ers were, the Bay Area got the Raiders in the morning on one network and the 49ers in the afternoon on the other network. Neither network was allowed to have a doubleheader that day.

What does that mean? When you’re not in a primary market, one of the two networks (CBS and FOX) gets a doubleheader, meaning a morning and afternoon game (or on the East Coast an early afternoon and late afternoon game), every week. The other network can only show one game but is allowed to choose between morning and afternoon. The two networks alternate in Weeks 1 to 16, and are both allowed doubleheaders in Week 17.

So had I been in the Bay Area on that day, I simply wouldn’t have watched an NFL game in either time slot. Therefore, I ESPECIALLY don’t want Los Angeles to have two teams.

One more note about doubleheaders: In the Saints-Jaguars example I gave, that was contractually a CBS game since the AFC team was on the road (I have no idea why the contract follows the road team). Had CBS had a doubleheader that week, both FOX and CBS could have shown an early game (although I still wouldn’t have gotten to see the Cardinals-Packers game). Since CBS did not have a doubleheader, fans could only see a total of two games during the day.

In sum, having one team limits the ability for me to see games involving other teams, and having two teams would limit that even more.

My Feelings and General Local Feelings about the Teams

So other than the fact that I don’t want us to have any teams, I’ll also mention that the only one of the three I’ve never actively disliked is the Chargers. I liked Marty Schottenheimer, I liked LaDanian Tomlinson, and I liked Drew Brees. I haven’t liked them as much since all of those people moved on, but unless I wanted them to lose to help out the Chiefs or the Dolphins (my two favorite AFC teams), I was never really against them. So I would go to a game if it were affordable (not likely), and I probably would want them to win most of the time.

I never liked the Raiders much at all. The whole bad-boy image never appealed to me. I didn’t mind them when Gruden was the coach, but they became the same dysfunctional franchise shortly after he left. The Rams were rivals of the Saints in the NFC West before realignment, so I never liked them either, although I did prefer them to the 49ers. Both teams have been pretty much irrelevant for several years, so lately I’ve been more indifferent. I still don’t imagine becoming a supporter of either.

Since moving here, I’ve lived in the area to the East of Los Angeles. I was surprised by how much loyalty people still had to the Raiders in particular. Whether people are from Los Angeles or not, that’s the team a clear plurality cheer for. It may have even been a majority of local NFL fans.

Favorite teams based on Facebook profiles by county in 2014.

Favorite teams based on Facebook profiles by county in 2014.

Since the Rams had played in Anaheim for many years, the only people I encountered who were Rams fans had lived in or very near to Orange County (which sits along the coast between San Diego and Los Angeles Counties) when the Rams still played there. The only exception is I have a neighbor now who flies a Rams flag. I do live closer to Anaheim than to Los Angeles, but it’s unusual to see anything Rams-related unless I’m going toward Orange County. I was still a bit surprised with the level of support I saw.

The Raiders seemingly had much more support in 2013.  I'm not sure if there is a difference in methodology.

The Raiders seemingly had much more support in 2013. I’m not sure if there is a difference in methodology.

I heard or saw very little about the Chargers until the last few years. I think Los Angeles was given secondary market status almost immediately when the other teams moved, but I guess it took a while for people to warm up to them. A few years ago, they got a contract with one of the local FM stations to broadcast their games. Right about that time, I noticed increased coverage of them in the news, but they’ve still been second fiddle to the Raiders. I don’t hear or see any reference to the Rams in the local media.

Occasionally the 49ers are mentioned, I guess because they’re in California and a fair number of people have moved between the Bay Area and the Los Angeles area. According to Twitter, every county in California contains more 49ers fans than Raiders fans, although the other maps disagree.

Twitter provided the only map I could find that gives more details than the respective top team in each county, and the Rams were not even in the top 3. That being said, there are still a decent number of Rams in the area.

Twitter just looked at how many people followed the teams on Twitter, but there aren't huge differences.

Twitter just looked at how many people followed the teams on Twitter, but there aren’t huge differences.

Counties with most Rams fans based on population and Twitter percentages (rounded to nearest 1000):
1. St. Louis County, MO 350,000
2. Los Angeles County, CA 200,000
3. St. Charles County, MO 142,000
4. St. Louis City, MO 128,000 (based on the percentage of St. Louis County)
5. Madison County, IL 95,000
6. Jefferson County, MO 95,000
7. St. Clair County, IL 89,000
8. Orange County, CA 62,000
9. Riverside County, CA 38,000
10. San Bernardino County, CA 37,000

The New York Times did a baseball map by ZIP code, which I think would be more informative, but I could not find anyone who did that for the NFL.

Anyway, the above indicates to me that once their Missouri fan base vanishes, the Rams would be a team without a clear geographic fan base, similar to the Mets, Jets, and Clippers.

Some people say that the Chargers will have to start their local fan base from scratch. That’s not really true, especially not if you compare the Rams’ numbers above. I don’t think they would have much more trouble attracting local interest than the Rams would, although I do think the remaining Rams fans are more loyal fans than the local Chargers fans are. Still, it would be hard to see the Rams being the more popular team even if the Raiders stayed in Oakland.

Counties with most Chargers supporters, using the same calculation as above:
1. San Diego 1,512,000
2. Los Angeles 684,000
3. Orange 227,000
4. Riverside 224,000
5. San Bernardino 146,000

The Raiders fan base is too widespread for me to figure out where the largest support is statewide without a lot of work, but I’ll just compare the Raiders’ numbers to the Chargers’ top 5 (these are also the most Raiders-supporting counties of Southern California):
1. Los Angeles 910,000
2. Orange 193,000
3. Riverside 157,000
4. San Bernardino 154,000
5. San Diego 122,000

Unless the other team turns out to be great, I see the shared stadium with the Raiders working out about how the Clippers and Lakers originally worked in the Staples Center. Even with much cheaper tickets in the same venue, people just didn’t care about the Clippers.

If it’s the Rams and Chargers sharing the stadium, I don’t think things would be as lopsided. Also, I think it’s better for the two teams to be in different conferences. I don’t think that interferes as much with crossover fans.

This is a map of second-favorite teams by county according to Twitter, which makes 49ers fans seem more common than Facebook does.

This is a map of second-favorite teams by county according to Twitter, which makes 49ers fans seem more common than Facebook does.

We have a lot of fairweather fans in this area. I don’t really like it, but I think it does speak to the ability of fans to potentially support two teams. There has been a recent migration of fans from the Angels to the Dodgers, for instance. There isn’t that much local support for the NHL to know for sure, but I suspect the same thing about Ducks fans becoming Kings fans when the latter started winning Stanley Cups. I think the Clippers draw more from unaffiliated or relocated fans than from Lakers fans (someone who moved from Boston or New York would much more likely support the Clippers), but some Lakers fans probably do support the Clippers for the time being. Since they have almost never been good at the same time, there isn’t such a rivalry as to prohibit that.

For whatever reason, there is quite a rivalry between Chargers fans and Raiders fans, so that’s one situation where I don’t think fans would be as likely to cross over regardless of how good the teams are. However, it appears those two have much less work to do than the Rams would in getting their support to high enough levels in the area.

Top 10 MLB pre-playoff chokes

In MLB on September 30, 2011 at 11:39 PM

“7-20 in September. We go 9-18, we’re where we want to be. 9-18 is what, winning a third of your games? The worst teams in baseball win a third of their games.”
–Theo Epstein

First of all, I recommend checking out the timelines of what went on Wednesday. Having three games like that happen at once doesn’t happen in the playoffs, that might be more memorable than anything I have to say about how historic the “collapses” (euphemism for choke) were.

Here are three good timelines:
HuffPo
MLB
ESPN

Obviously the Rays have returned to the playoffs with a vengeance, but the main topic I still want to talk about is how they and the Cardinals got there, and I also wanted to give some historical perspective on those collapses. That’s why I don’t blog about baseball much. By the time you sit down to think about it and research and so forth, something else important is going on. The Yankees/Tigers game was postponed as I was writing this, so that helped me finish without too much distraction.

I mentioned in a couple of places after the Red Sox had the 3-13 stretch (or some approximation thereof) that I couldn’t find another team that had ever done that in September, not even the 1964 Phillies, who had a 10-game losing streak in September. Those Phillies went 4-13 for one stretch, but that was followed by two wins (in the last two games of the season) and preceded by a 3-game winning streak. The Phillies were 2 ½ behind in the second-to-last game but technically were not eliminated until the next day. So that was also less dramatic.

Looking at the full month though, it’s not even closer. The Phillies won 13 games in September ’64, the same number the Angels (a team I follow a good bit) won this September. The Angels gained 6 ½ games against the Red Sox in the month. After the 3-13 stretch by the Red Sox and before the Angels finished with four consecutive losses, the Angels had gained 8 games on the Red Sox for the month.

So if you compare the Septembers of the 2011 Red Sox and 1964 Cardinals, the Red Sox would have lost 13 games against the Cardinals. So that’s about twice as many games as the Phillies lost (the Phillies actually lost 7 games in the standings from the beginning of the month to the end, but that regular season actually ended on October 4; the Phillies lost 6 ½ in the last 28 days of their season, so by that calculation, it is twice as many games).

I did notice the coincidence of the Phillies playing the Braves on Wednesday and helping to send the Cardinals to the post-season yet gain. It’s also a coincidence in that by causing the Braves to lose, that’s arguably another team that passes up their 1964 team in choking.

The Braves’ 9-18 September record ties the Phillies’ (the rest of this discussion will be about the 1964 Phillies of course) worst 27-game stretch. The Braves preceded that with a 2-3 stretch and the Phillies preceded that with a 3-2 stretch, so that’s inconclusive. But the Phillies’ largest September lead was 6 ½ games as compared to the Braves’ largest September wild card lead of 8 ½.

What clinches it for me about Braves’ choke as being worse is the competition. The Braves played only 9 games in the month of September against teams that won 85 games or more on the season. The Phillies played 17 or 18 such games, depending on how you count the last month of the season. If you limit it to just September and eliminate the two October games, it’s still 16. The Phillies’ entire 10-game losing streak was against teams that won 88 games or more on the season. From September 1 on, the Phillies only lost one series against a team than won fewer than that, the Dodgers, who finished 80-82. The Braves’ opponent in their third-toughest series (based on record) was…the Dodgers, who this year finished 82-79, pretty similar (the Braves lost that series as well). The only team the Phillies played in the last month who finished with fewer than 80 wins was Houston, whom they beat 2-1 in a series on the road. The Braves played 11 such games, 6 at home, and went 6-5 in them. Also, the Phillies had two teams chasing them: Cincinnati as well as St. Louis got really hot late. In the last month, the Phillies played the Reds 5 times and the Cardinals 5 times. That alone is more than the 9 games the Braves played against 85+ win teams (actually against any team that won over 82) in the last month.

Highlights of the seven other biggest pre-playoff chokes
(I didn’t bother to rank them, but if you’re so inclined, this is a good starting point: http://baseball.about.com/od/majorleaguehistory/tp/pennantcollapses.htm. These are my next 7 though.)

The 2007 Mets
Those Mets are similar to the ’64 Phillies in that they also had a late lead, 7 games on September 12, but it was down to 1 ½ only 6 days later. But what sealed it for the Mets was ending the season by losing 6 of 7. So they went a total of 4-11 from September 14 through September 28. (Their last off day had been September 13.) It also helped that the ’07 Phillies won 12 games from September 13 to September 28.

The 1995 Angels

This was more of a long-haul choke, as the lead was 11 ½ in August. On the morning of September 1, the lead was already down to 7 ½ and it was never 7 ½ again after that. The Angels had a 9-game losing streak from late August through early September and only won 3 games from August 16 through September 3. It was the second 9-game losing streak (9/13 through 9/23) that was the problem though. That one cost the Angels 8 games, as they went from 6 games ahead to two games behind. The 6-24 stretch is worse than any 30-game stretch of any by the higher-rated teams on this list, but half of that was in August, and the Angels actually rallied at the end of the season, winning 6 out of 7 before losing the one-game playoff to the Mariners. That’s the only reason 4 teams are ahead of them.

The 1978 Red Sox

This was actually the only 3-14 stretch I noticed. So not even this year’s Red Sox did that. The problem was this one started August 30. These Red Sox were at one time up 9 games, but after their last August game (on the 30th), they were 6 ½ ahead. But they had already lost the lead for good on September 13. They had an even better finish than the ’95 Angels, winning 12 of 14 to force a one-game playoff against the Yankees (which they lost). The end-of-season tie was the first since losing the lead.

The 2009 Tigers
I mostly remembered the microscopic choke at the end. They lost 3 games in a 4-game period. Their magic number was 2 after they beat the second-place Twins on September 30 and they played those same Twins the next day, but the only decrease to the magic number would come on October 4, the last day of the regular season. This also required a one-game playoff, which the Tigers lost. There was a prior 3-10 stretch from September 8 to 19 that cost Detroit 5 games. The Tigers’ lead had peaked at 7 games after the games of September 6.

The 1951 Dodgers
This one gets a lot of fanfare because there were two New York teams battling for the pennant, and New York does tend to create attention for itself. 13 ½ games on August 11 is substantial of course. But rightly, the Giants get more credit than the Dodgers get blame. Brooklyn went 26-22 to end the season. That would normally be more than enough (see the Epstein quote), but the Giants won a ridiculous 37 of 44 to end the season, not counting the 3-game playoff. The Dodgers did have a 4-8 stretch from 9/17 to 9/28 that dropped them into a tie from being up by 4 games. The Dodgers were also up 4 ½ as late as September 21 pre-game (the last originally scheduled game was 9/30).

The 1969 Cubs
Back to the New York/East Coast bias topic, you don’t ever hear about the team that lost the race to the Mets in 1969. The Cubs also didn’t have enough of a lead to start out with for a really high-quality choke. Although they once led by 9 games, their largest September lead was 5. After they lost 11 of the next 12, they were already 4 ½ games behind and, despite playing 10 of the final 13 at home, never challenged again, finishing 8 games behind. Also, the 5-game September peak only came after a 5-game winning streak. Before that winning streak, the Cubs were only up 2 ½. If the Cubs’ 8-18 stretch (which included the 5-game winning streak) had been to finish the year, they would have an argument for the top 5. For the record, they were up 8 games before that stretch began with a loss on August 20 and 4 ½ behind when it concluded on September 15.

The 1993 Giants
I’m going to share my own story about this. This is the first one I remember and although I grew up in Louisiana and the first team I really supported was across the bay in Oakland, I never disliked the Giants. Also, I never liked the Braves. I would either watch one of the Chicago teams or whatever big game the networks saw fit to show instead. I don’t know what it was about that team, but I just did not like to watch them. I was also annoyed that they were on so much. The Cubs were at least competitive in the late ’80s, and the White Sox were pretty good around this time, so that didn’t bother me as much. I eventually started to dislike the Cubs too, because I didn’t like that so many people just went along with the herd and followed the Braves or the Cubs because they were on TV so much. Anyway, my anti-Braves sentiment was furthered by fervently cheering against them when they played the Pirates (twice…I liked skinny Barry Bonds), the Twins, and the Blue Jays. Three of those series went to 7 games. Even if you start out only marginally liking one team more, usually a 7-game series will make it more intense. I probably would have cheered for the Iraqi national team to beat the Braves in the 1992 World Series and in the 1993 regular season. By the way, skinny Barry Bonds had moved on to the Giants.

This was in part another matter of timing for why they aren’t a more prominent example. The Giants slipped 11 games in the standings from the start of play on August 23 to the end of play on September 15, but the reason this one is even farther down the list is they won 6 games during this period. The end of that stretch was an 8-game losing streak (which was followed by a day off for the Giants, when the Braves increased their lead to 4 games), but that was followed by 14 wins in 16 games. Both teams were tied before their respective last games of the season. Neither game was very interesting, but the Giants lost 12-1 to the Dodgers to miss the playoffs despite 103 wins. The wild card began the next season (although the wild card would not be awarded until 1995 because of the strike). Of course, I was happy that the Braves didn’t make the World Series that year, so I wasn’t that upset in the long term, but I wasn’t happy that the Braves won something that came down to the last game again (although they had lost to the Twins in that situation).

Honorable mention?
I also considered the 1987 Blue Jays and the 1962 Dodgers for this list, but they were both examples where a team had a really good stretch and then a not-so-good stretch, but over the last 20 games in each case, the team was .500 or better. The Dodgers finished 40 games above .500 before the playoff games, and the Blue Jays finished 30 games above .500. The Dodgers maxed out at 5 ½ ahead for the season in early August (4 in September), and the Blue Jays were only a high of 3 ½ ahead, albeit with 7 games to play (but with 10 games to play, the Blue Jays were only ½ ahead).

The other teams listed by about.com didn’t seem to really choke at all, the other team in contention just seemed to do really well. There weren’t any meaningful September losing streaks or bad stretches to elaborate on. One of them had a 1-9 stretch in August, one of them lost 6 of the last 7 after barely being in playoff position, but those aren’t chokes to me. To me a choke is when you have it right in your grasp and you blow it, not when you have a somewhat decent chance and you don’t do much with it.

NOTE: It’s still nothing like my TSN numbers, but last month more than doubled my previous best month on this site (I got just under 500 views), so thanks to whoever is out there reading this.

Some closing thoughts on the Angels

In Me, MLB on September 27, 2011 at 12:02 AM

NOTE: My college football rankings will be released on Wednesday. People will have less time to complain that way.

If you’ve been following my writing, you know that I don’t get around to blogging about baseball much. Much of my baseball time is spent either watching games (there are a lot of them) or looking at box scores and other stats (there are a lot of those too). The reason I find football so blog-worthy is all the time between games to reflect. It’s not, “Well, that was nice, but now we have to make sure we win the series, not just the game. Who’s our starting pitcher tomorrow?” My favorite teams are the Mets (for whom I gave up hope some time ago, not that I ever had too much) and the Angels. Since moving to Southern California seven years ago (where does the time go?), I’ve become more and more of an Angels fan, since they’re on TV almost every day, and it’s not all that hard for me to go to Anaheim to take in a game either.

At least as far as the Angels, there is now plenty of time to reflect. I didn’t expect the Angels to be completely eliminated this soon after being so alive yesterday. I’ll recap why. But on the other hand, when they had elimination magic numbers of 4 and 5 six days ago, I didn’t give them much of a chance.

Anyway, the Angels should have been only one game behind Tampa Bay and two behind Boston headed into tonight.

But with the Boston/New York night game still to go yesterday, All-Star rookie closer Jordan Walden absolutely choked. After the Angels gave up two runs in the top of the 8th–their first two runs given up of the game–Walden did get that final out with no drama. Then the Angels padded their lead from one run to three in the bottom of the 8th. They seemed to be on their way to victory, and a Boston loss would have meant that they would have trailed both Boston and Tampa Bay by only a game each. The Rays began a three-game series at home against the Yankees today, and the Red Sox began a three-game series in Baltimore against the suddenly good Orioles. Starting today, the Angels face the Rangers, who have sewn up the division, at home for a three-game series.

One game behind going into these series would have given the Angels a fighting chance. So in this context, Jordan Walden returned to the mound to hopefully complete a 1 1/3- inning save of Joel Pineiro’s start in which he allowed no runs over 6 1/3 innings. Walked allowed three hits and one run out (HR) in his first four batters faced. But then he fielded a ground ball with a chance for a double play. Not only did his throw prohibit a game-ending double play, it resulted in no outs as it sailed into the outfield and allowed the A’s to score yet another run to get within 1 and leaving runners on the corners. This was followed by a double, which put runners on second and third and tied the score. Mike Scioscia had seen enough and had Walden intentionally walk the next batter and then removed him from the game. Walden left to some fairly heavy boos (in light of the shock of some and relatively laid-back attitude of others [Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers fans… people just enjoying the day] in attendance). The A’s took the lead on a sacrifice fly, and the Angels got a baserunner in the bottom of the 9th but never seriously threatened.

Anyway, for the format, I decided I wanted to write open letters to both Walden and the fans who booed.

Dear Jordan,

First of all, congratulations on your first full season in the big leagues. We’re lucky that we happened to have a closer as capable as yourself on the team without having to pick one up through a trade or free agency.

Pleasantries out of the way, you screwed up. I’m sure you’re well-aware of this. Next time if you’re nervous or not confident in a throw, it’s all right. We’ll take one out in that situation. Maybe you’ll get taken out of the game. So what? It happens to the best of pitchers. Maybe you’ll get a loss, but not likely. Runners on the corners with two outs and a one-run lead is not a terrible situation. Even if you allow another hit, then it’s just a tie game unless the hit clears the bases. That’s not a loss.

I know closers are generally more emotional than starting pitchers, but watch Ervin Santana when you get a chance. He can give up a multi-run home run, and all he wants to do is concentrate on getting the next out. Keep perspective and don’t feel like you have to win the game on your own because you allowed a few hits. You can’t control what’s already happened.

That’s even true of Sunday. A win could have helped complete a miraculous wild card comeback, but it was one game. There were 161 others scheduled this season, and there are 162 scheduled next season. We know you’re not going to get a save in every opportunity, but if you can get a hold and someone else gets a save, that’s all right. If you blow a save and someone else on our team gets the win, that’s all right too. It didn’t work out that way this time, but there will be times where the hitters will come up with one more run than they were planning on needing.

I’ll get into this more with my next open letter, but we don’t expect you to be Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, or Mariano Rivera in their prime when to be honest I had never heard of you going into this season. I know you pitched a few times, but the race was over and if I watched, it wasn’t intently enough to notice you. Every save you got was more than I expected and probably more than some of those baseball fans who watch every pitch of the whole season expected. If you become one of those guys (and I see no reason why you can’t), great, but do what you can do first.

Please don’t let one inning negatively affect what you do this offseason or what you do from here forward. Also, don’t let the fans’ reaction get to you. Even many of those who have been complaining about blown saves since long before Sunday still want you to do well and want to support you. Some of the anger is because of other close losses this year, some of it is because of frustration with what used to be a consistent playoff team losing the division two years in a row and not even making it interesting at the end. Or if you’re so inclined, forget the fans. I’m sure there are people in your life who are proud of you. I can’t imagine someone I even know in passing being in your position. Enjoy it. Be proud of yourself.

Also, maybe part of the thing with the fans is the ones who can play baseball know they could have gotten at least one out there. Of course, you could have as well, but that’s what I mean by doing what you can do. If it’s not a perfect double-play throw, you’re not the shortstop, it’s not the end of the world. But you can do better than that every time.

Dear Booing Fans,

Booing this guy, really? We didn’t spend $10 million on him. $400,000 is a lot of money to us (and I know what you’re thinking, pay me 1/10 of that and I’ll throw to second instead…yeah, we’ll let you know when there are designated mound-fielders [MF’s for short]), but find me someone in major league baseball with paid fewer dollars per save.

He was just sort of around the organization and pitched a few decent innings in the last month of last season. If you’re not happy we had him this season, you’re crazy. Go cheer for the Yankees if you can’t appreciate that kind of season-long effort from a previously anonymous player, especially a 23-year-old rookie.

Yeah, I know, it was a pressure situation, and he choked. But this is the team that lost 3-1 on Friday and lost in extras on Monday and Thursday. They also lost by 1 to the Yankees a couple of weeks ago due to a fielding error, and about a week before that, they lost to the Mariners 2-1 without allowing an earned run. Sure, this game, the bullpen had what should have been ample room for error (in the strict statistical sense and otherwise), but we all know there wasn’t quite enough run support for a number of pitchers throughout the year, so there were more tense situations like this one than there should have been. Boston won anyway last night, Tampa Bay won today, and we just lost to a guy named Hamburger (loss by 1 again). Just like I said above, this was one game or 162.

Other pitchers generally had someone else’s error to blame or someone else’s failure to get a hit with runners in scoring position (for example), but a fielding mistake by a relief pitcher? Say it isn’t so. Come on, and a rookie on top of it?

Boo someone who doesn’t run out a ground ball. Boo someone who lazily lets the ball drop right in front of them. Don’t boo someone for trying too hard to fix their own mistakes, which if he had done, it would have made you all happy, at least temporarily. We can all appreciate trying hard on some level, but how many of you were ever in a similar situation? You can’t say the pressure wouldn’t have gotten to you in that moment or that wouldn’t have been the one time you screwed up. If you don’t want him to be the closer, first, you’re crazy if you thought we had better options on the team this year, and second, I don’t care if you boo the manager’s decision to put him in. I don’t mind booing in that situation. To me it says, “Skip, I’m paying attention, I care, but I disagree with what you’re doing right now.” Nothing wrong with that (not that Scioscia causes people who know what they’re talking about to want to do that very often). Just don’t boo when the manager takes him out.