Friday, October 1, 2010

FJM Friday: Helllloooo, Marchman...

So sorry about skipping Fire Joe Morgan Friday last week. Anyway, here we are, on a day the Giants could clinch the division, and Tim Marchman of SI is here to tell us we shouldn't be excited. Go for it, Tim!

This year's NL pennant races are the kind that could one day inspire songs: dour songs, about futility and lack of meaning, sung by moping teenagers.


In theory, this has not been an especially dull race. In practice, September has been a month of listing apathy.

I'd say that in PRACTICE, it has been a very exciting month, and that it is your THEORY that states otherwise. No?

Teams winning out on the basis of being less mediocre than others will never be any more compelling than a bicycle race run on flat tires.

Bicycle races with flat tires sounds GREAT. Much better than normal bicycle races. I think this statement bothers me more than anything else in the article, because it at least SEEMS to be suggesting that the great runs by the Phillies and the Giants in September are just those teams being "less mediocre" than their rivals. The Phillies finally got everyone healthy, and are clearly the best team in the league. And the Giants, well, the Giants pitching staff has had one of the most impressive runs of superb pitching in the history of baseball. That's not mediocrity. That's excellence.

...take BR's SRS stat, which adjusts run differential for strength of schedule and rates teams by how many runs per game better or worse they are than an average major league club. By this measure, the 95 win Phillies are as good as the 87 win Red Sox, the 88 win Reds are as good as the 77 win A's, and the 88 win Padres are as good as the 82 win Blue Jays.

I have a hard time thinking that the A's are as good as the Reds, or that the Red Sox are as good as the Phillies. But still, I get it: the AL is better than the NL. So? The amazing Yankee dynasty of the late 1990's won the division with 87 wins in 2000. Were they a mediocre team? There are countless other examples through the 100+ year history of AL/NL baseball which show teams much worse than the 2010 Reds going to the playoffs. And there have been just as many collapses that are far worse than the Padres this season. Your sepia-toned view of the teams of yesterday is inaccurate.

NL partisans will protest, but there's lot of reason (sic) to think that a team like the A's would do quite well if dropped into the Senior Circuit next year.

Please don't do that. The Padres are boring enough. The last thing I wanna watch is Wade LeBlanc pitching to Mark Ellis.

The 2nd point is that the irrelevance of the Dodgers, Cubs, and Mets, 3 teams with enormous natural advantages -- makes for a huge, sucking void in the standings.

Those teams might be irrelevant THIS year, but each of them has had very recent success. The Cubs were a 97 win team in 2008. The Dodgers played in the last 2 NLCS. And the Mets were one of the best teams in the NL from 2006-2008. Of course, the real point here is that there is no precedent for THESE teams making baseball exciting. The Dodgers, like the Giants, are one of the most storied franchises in baseball, but just like the Giants, they have had as many miserable seasons as great ones. And the Mets and Cubs? Posterboys of painful mediocrity for most of the 20th century. When they are not in the NL bracket, they are not missed. takes villains to make heroes: How much more meaningful would a Reds division win be if it came over a bullying Cubs team, vaunting over the money minted along Clark Street?

I understand there might be a rivalry between the Reds and the Cubs (though certainly not at the level of the Cardinals and Cubs), but still, I don't think the Reds fans care one bit about sticking it to Chicago. I mean, the Reds are the oldest franchise in baseball history, and have had periods of ENORMOUS success. They don't need to prove anything to anybody. Certainly not the Cubs.

Broad equality among teams, with none standing out as especially good or especially bad, and a diminishing of the power of big city clubs are essentially the goals of the apostles of competitive balance. In the ideal game of the parity preachers, all teams would be average, with some just being slightly less average than others. Each year, there would be hope and faith for all, and each year a cluster of slightly above average teams would trip into October questing for a large trophy.

I don't know who these "apostles of competitive balance" are. I do know that many people, quite rightly, protest the fact that Boston and New York won 13/14 AL East titles from 1994 to 2007. People want every team to have the chance to be great. That's all. Of course they can't all win at the same time.

As baseball's races this year show us, though, a game actually built on this line is on par with roach fighting, without the illicit kick -- one has interest in the spectacle, but unless money is involved, less in the outcome. A great race needs great teams; it needs the swagger of wealth; mostly, it needs the prospect of a team playing spectacularly well and still losing out on what it wants.

I don't see the races this year as being akin to a roach fight, although I've never seen a roach fight. In fact, it is insulting to hear you say that. Did you watch the series the Giants just played in Colorado? It was magnificent. It was great baseball. So sorry the fucking Mets weren't playing.

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