Friday, October 20, 2006

instant gratification

I'm writing this in response to all the firings (and talk of firings) that have been happening around the Major Leagues since the season has ended.

Take, for example, the Oakland Athletics. They rolled over and died in the ALCS after doing quite a number on the Minnesota Twins in the division series. Now, they've been having some problems lately in the post-season. In the last 9 times they went to the postseason, they were unable to win a clinching game. 9 times! I remember when I was in elementary school (which was ~15 years ago), the A's WON the world series. So, in 15 years, the A's made it to the post-season 9 times! The rangers did it 3 times. And, of those three, they only one one (1) game.

I guess I can understand the frustration of the fans, never being able to advance past the first round. But hey, at least they GOT there. They've won world series in the past.

So, as a reward for managing a team which a) won the division, and b) won the first round of the playoffs, and c) had won 368 and lost 280 over 4 years, a 0.568 winning percentage, Ken Macha was summarily dismissed from his post not a week after being swept by the Tigers.

Now, I understand the owners wanting their teams to perform, especially since they put so much money into them, but in the postseason, I'm not so sure you can your expectations of a team by how much money you've thrown in their direction.

Case in point: The New York Yankees. Year after year, George Steinbrenner spends very pretty pennies ensuring that he has the best players in baseball. To their credit, they are awesome baseball players. They definitly deserve to be making the money they are. However, their talent seems to be concentrated on being consistently good in the regular season. For the past several years, the Yankees have always been atop the AL East division. They've made it to the post season with out fail for the past 12 seasons. They've gone to the World Series 6 times, and they've won it 4 times.

When they got knocked out in the first round against Detroit, there was a big media clammor over whether or not Joe Torre (the manager) would keep his job. Steinbrenner was livid, of course.

People like George Steinbrenner don't get baseball. To him, baseball is a simple formula. Money in = World Series Titles. He pays his players and expects them to perform like machines. He refuses to believe that players with inferior regular-season records could even compete with his players. Over the course of a season, he's probably right. However, this is not the case in the post-season.

George Steinbrenner doesn't realize that there's more to baseball than just statistics. Momentum is a very powerful thing in baseball. When a team's on a roll, it's hard to stop them, whichever way it's going. Chemistry and clubhouse leadership are rather intangible, but are very important in any team sport.

More important, is the clutch player. Some players (most Yankees) are phenomenal regular season players. They can put up numbers like nobody's business, but when the chips are down, they choke. Some notable clutch players: Kirk Gibson, Rusty Greer,, and even Derek Jeter.

Alex Rodriguez is a perfect example of what is NOT a clutch player. His post-season performance has been abysmal. Yet, the Yankees are spending $25.2 million a year on him.

One thing which has made itself painfully obvious in most of the recent post-season games. Good pitching will beat good hitting every time. Hitting is more macho, but pitching is the essence of baseball.

On a related note, my dad always said: "Never trust a pitcher. They will tell you a lie when the truth would do."

So, enough bitching about the Yankees. It looks like we've got quite a World Serious on our hands. Caroline and I have a friendly wager on the outcome. I'm pulling for the Tigers, and she's rooting for the Cards. We have yet to decide the stakes of the bet, but I'm pretty confident, whatever it is, I'm going to win.

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