Every Friday, I’m compiling a list of five things that meet one criterion. “What is that criterion,” you ask? Well, it’s going to change every week and you’re just going to have to try and keep up.
Five Facts to Keep in Mind During the Baseball Playoffs
Want to know who’s going to win the World Series this year? Yeah? Well, so do I.
If you thought this was going to be a genius breakdown of all potential match-ups and statistical analysis that would lead to a scientifically proven “sure thing”… sorry to disappoint – I am criminally under-qualified to even pretend to do something like that.
So where does that leave us? I don’t know, I thought we could look at some weird “did you know?”-type facts about the postseason of America’s pastime. There are relatively insignificant hallmarks hidden inside the last twenty years of championship baseball and I think learning about them could lead to you impressing friends and/or winning some bets.
5. Neighbors Rarely Meet
The odds that two teams from the same city will meet in the World Series are extremely slim (granted, there’s only a handful of possible cross-town championship match-ups to begin with, anyway so… whatever).
Aside from a few really old “it was only white people playing, back then” examples (Cubs vs. White Sox in 1906, Cardinals vs. Browns in 1944) and all of those New York Yankees vs. New York Giants/Brooklyn Dodgers series that happened during the Eisenhower Era, a World Series that involved a pair of baseball next-door neighbors has only occurred a pair of times (and one of these only slightly counts):
- San Francisco Giants vs. Oakland A’s (1989)
- New York Yankees vs. New York Mets (2000)
So… yeah, don’t bet on that whole “Angels-Dodgers” Hollywood Series thing panning out. One of them is probably going down before Halloween.
4. Pay to Play (but not too much)
Of the last twenty World Series champions, only three did not have team payrolls that ranked in the top half of the league. Exceptions where not-keeping up with the Joneses paid off: the 2003 Florida Marlins had the 25th-largest payroll, the 1991 Minnesota Twins ranked 16th in dollars spent, and the 1990 Cincinnati Reds defeated the Oakland A’s with only the 20th-largest payroll.
Conversely, the team with the largest payroll in the league has only won the title four times over the same two-decade span (1993 Blue Jays, 1996 Yankees, 1999 Yankees, 2000 Yankees). So, in order for a team to have a legitimate shot at a ring, they need to spend a fair amount of money but not the MOST money.
Thus, the thrifty Cardinals (17th–highest payroll), Rockies (18th), and Twins (24th) really have the chips stacked against them, this year. Additionally, the Yankees – who are unsurprisingly the biggest spenders in the league yet again – may want to try and shed some payroll before this weekend, just to be sure.
3. It Won’t Happen Until It Happens
It’s tough to envision some teams finally winning a championship (in any sport) until it actually happens. The unfamiliar just creates a firewall on spectators’ imaginations and none of us can picture it. For example: I’m still not sure the Arizona Cardinals actually made the Super Bowl last year.
Anyway, the Astros, Brewers, Padres, Rockies, Rays, Rangers, Nationals, and Mariners have never won the World Series (the last three have never even made it there). Nobody will believe they can win it until they actually win it.
Of that group, only the Rockies are in this year’s playoffs so… you probably shouldn’t bet on them until the year after they finally hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy. Or, at the very least, until they get rid of the dreadful purple in their color scheme – blech.
2. The Little Good Luck Charm
With five exceptions (2005 White Sox, 2004 Red Sox, 1996 Yankees, 1993 Blue Jays, and 1988 Dodgers), every World Series champion since the release of Die Hard has had at least one player on the roster who both measures in at 5-foot-9 (or shorter) and plays in 100 or more games. If you hope to win a championship, you better hope your team has this integral short player who I am officially declaring “The Rabbit’s Foot”. Here's a list, just because it's fun to look at:
- 2008: Philadelphia Phillies – Jimmy Rollins (5'8″), Shane Victorino (5'9″)
- 2007: Boston Red Sox – Dustin Pedroia (5'9″)
- 2006: St. Louis Cardinals – David Eckstein (5'6″)
- 2003: Florida Marlins – Ivan Rodriguez (5'8″)
- 2002: Anaheim Angels – David Eckstein (5'6″)
- 2001: Arizona Diamondbacks – Tomy Womack (5'9″)
- 2000: New York Yankees – Chuck Knoblauch (5'9″)
- 1999: New York Yankees – Chuck Knoblauch (5'9″)
- 1998: New York Yankees – Chuck Knoblauch (5'9″)
- 1997: Florida Marlins – John Cangelosi (5'8″)
- 1995: Atlanta Braves – Mark Lemke (5'9″)
- 1992: Toronto Blue Jays – Manuel Lee (5'9″)
- 1991: Minnesota Twins – Chuck Knoblauch (5'9″), Kirby Puckett (5'8″)
- 1990: Cincinnati Reds – Billy Hatcher (5'9″)
- 1989: Oakland A's – Mike Gallego (5'8″)
Weird, isn't it? Who knew Pudge Rodriguez and Kirby Puckett were so short? Also: how did I forget that Chuck Knoblauch won four championships in the 1990s? Incredible. He and David Eckstein cornered the market on tiny guys winning multiple rings.
In this year’s playoff field, four teams meet this height prerequisite: the Twins have Nick Punto (5’9”), the Angels have Maicer Izturis (5’8”), the Red Sox still have Pedroia, and the defending champion Phillies have the same two they had last year, in Rollins and Victorino.
The Angels and Red Sox are facing each other in Round 1, though, so… the list will definitely shrink within the next week.
1. Beware of Success
You would think being the best would help you win the championship. Not so much.
The team with the best regular season record has only gone on to win the World Series three times in the last twenty years – the 2007 Red Sox, the 1998 Yankees, and the 1989 A’s (and that Red Sox team from two years ago was tied for the league’s best record, so it should have some sort of asterisk).
Clearly, being the best team for most of the year has precisely nothing to do with whether or not you’ll be the best team in October. Look out, Yankees.
On top of that, when it comes to the World Series itself, the team with the better regular season record between the two finalists only wins 49% of the time (and with the ridiculous “winner of the All-Star game gets homefield advantage” wrinkle currently in place, don’t be surprised if this flip-of-a-coin trend continues forever), meaning a team’s accomplishments between April 1 and October 1 cannot alter the fact that the result of the sport’s championship series is a complete crapshoot.
Obligatory World Series prediction: if you plug all the above trends into an elaborate equation, you’ll find that my ridiculous method eliminates the Yankees (best record, highest payroll, no short guy), Twins (too small of a payroll), Cardinals (no short guy, too small of a payroll), Dodgers (no short guy), and Rockies (no short guy, too small of a payroll, never won before) from possibly winning the championship.
This leaves us with only Anaheim, Boston, and Philadelphia (coincidentally, these three teams have combined to win four of the last six championships).
Since the Red Sox are facing the Angels in the first round, one of those two teams will definitely be out, meaning the title will belong to either the winner of the Boston/Anaheim series or the Phillies. Hmmmm. Well, the championship has alternated between the American League and National League every year (with one exception) for this entire decade and the Phillies won last year. Thus, it must to be either Boston or Anaheim.
I'll say Angels, then.
(But they won't be playing the Dodgers.)