This afternoon the Detroit Tigers will take on the New York Yankees at Comerica Park in Downtown Detroit. I know that some of you are thinking, ‘Oh no, another baseball post…’ But hear me out. A Tigers win in today’s game [UPDATE: The Tigers won!], which was originally scheduled for last night but was postponed due to adverse weather conditions, would seal a few things:
- The Tigers have stopped the Yankees in each of Detroit’s last three postseason appearances (2006, 2011 and 2012).
- The Yankees have been swept (losing a series with no wins) in a seven-game postseason series for the first time since their 1976 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.
- The Motor City Kitties have won their eleventh American League pennant. (*For those of you who are not baseball fans, Major League Baseball is divided into two historic leagues: the American League [AL] and the National League [NL]. When a club wins the championship in either league they receive what is called ‘the pennant’.)
- The Tigs will compete in their eleventh World Series, hoping to earn their fifth World Series victory (1935, 1945, 1968, 1984 and 2012?).
Five out of eleven? Even if the Tigers make it to the World Series and even if they win they will still only have a 5/11 (.455) record when it comes to World Series appearances. The individual games (out of ten World Series) breaks down to 26 wins and 29 loses, or .473:
- 1907 – L 0-4 (Chicago Cubs)
- 1908 – L 1-4 (Chicago Cubs)
- 1909 – L 3-4 (Pittsburgh Pirates)
- 1934 – L 3-4 (St Louis Cardinals)
- 1935 – W 4-2 (Chicago Cubs)
- 1940 – L 3-4 (Cincinnati Reds)
- 1945 – W 4-3 (Chicago Cubs)
- 1968 – W 4-3 (St Louis Cardinals)
- 1984 – W 4-1 (San Diego Padres)
- 2006 – L 1-4 (St Louis Cardinals)
So the Tigers aren’t the strongest club as far as World Series victories are concerned. After a quick glance at their World Series opponents two stand out: the Chicago Cubs and the St Louis Cardinals. As can be seen above, the Tigers have faced the Cubs in four World Series, splitting their crowns 2-2 (although the Cubs have won more games in the four: 13 Cubs wins vs 9 Tigers wins). Unfortunately for Chicago, in their ten World Series appearances they have only won two: their 1907 and 1908 victories against the Tigers. In fact, the Cubs haven’t even been to a World Series since 1945. Poor lads.
So if we’re looking for an exciting, historical, cross-league rivalry for the Tigers (since AL clubs very seldom face NL clubs outwith the World Series), which is what I’ve decided that we’re doing now, then the Cards are a better candidate than the Cubbies. [Oddly enough, I referenced this rivalry in this tribute to Steve Jobs last October.] The Cardinals have only played the Tigers in three World Series, but we’re talking about a range from 1934 until 2006 – 72 years! And the Tigers are the underdogs, having only beaten the Cards once in three World Series. The Cards are the reigning World Series champions and rank number two (behind the Yankees) in most World Series appearances (18) and victories (11). AND there is a decent chance that 2012 will give us another Tigers-Cards World Series.
Of course, in baseball there’s no telling who will be going to the World Series until both leagues have awarded their pennants [UPDATE: The 2012 AL pennant belongs to the Tigers!]. The Tigers had a mediocre season, finishing with a .543 record, the lowest of any team in the postseason, even the wild card clubs! They’ve turned things around in the postseason, especially during this series against New York. But the Yankees have their southpaw ace CC Sabathia on the mound tonight. That being said, it should be a good match-up between CC and the Tigers’ ‘other ace’ (the ‘ace’ title being given to the venerable Justin Verlander), Max Scherzer. Scherzer has had a great season and a great postseason, so I have high hopes. [UPDATE: Scherzer and the Tigers defeated Sabathia and the Yankees 8-1.]
Whilst trying to avoid sounding like the Kitties have this one in the bag (OMG, TIGERS GONNAE GO TAE THE WORLD SERIES THIS YEAR!!! [UPDATE: Seriously.]), it will be a great challenge for the Yanks to pull out of this 0-3 deficit given the poor state of their would-be power hitters like Teixiera, Cano, Swisher, A-Rod and Granderson (the latter three will sit out today’s game) and without their injured captain Derek Jeter. (*On a side note, these four players have receive a combined $93.075 million salary this year, which accounts for nearly half of the entire Yankees payroll and is a higher figure than the entire payroll of 16 of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs.)
The Cardinals’ fight to clinch the NL pennant looks a wee bit more difficult. The Cards finished their season with the same mediocre Tigers record, .543. Unfortunately for the Cards, the NL Central Division also featured the Cincinnati Reds, who boasted the second-highest record in all of baseball this season. But the Cards won the wild card playoff game against the Atlanta Braves and went on to defeat the winningest team in baseball, the Washington Nationals (.605), in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
They’ve done well in their uphill battle, but the National League Championship Series between the Cards and the San Francisco Giants is looking even more competitive. The Cards are up two games to one, but who knows what will happen…
As far as any true rivalries go, it’s fair to say that the Cards have a much stronger World Series history than the Tigers. The Yankees seem like the natural cross-league rivals for the Cardinals (or any club, for that matter). As mentioned before, the Cards are second both in World Series appearances and victories to the Yankees. In addition to this, the Cards have played the Yanks in five of their 18 World Series appearances (1926, 1928, 1942, 1943 and 1964). Like the Tigers, the Boston Red Sox have faced the Cards in three World Series (1946, 1967 and 2004). But both the Yank and Sox rivalries with the Cards lack the longevity of the rivalry I’m proposing.
If both the Tigers and the Cardinals make it to the World Series we’ll be looking at their fourth meeting and an opportunity for the Tigers to level the score (2-2) in what would then be a World Series rivalry spanning 78 years. That would be a match-up for the ages. A less gentle man might propose that the Tigers rip the throats out of the Cardinals and make their children weep for generations. But that wouldn’t be very nice of me to write. So let’s go Tigers and let’s go Cardinals! (But mostly, let’s go Tigers!) [UPDATE: The San Francisco Giants beat the St Louis Cardinals in seven games to clinch the National League title and reach the World Series. This will be the first ever Tigers-Giants World Series meeting.]
[Updated on 24 October 2012.]
It’s late at night here in Fife and I can’t sleep. So I do what many Western twenty-first-century twenty-somethings do – I end up on my computer, browsing the internet. Tonight I am especially glued to the computer with the Phillies-Cardinals game going on. If the Cards lose tonight they’re out of the playoffs, so I desperately want them to win in order to keep the prospect of a Cardinals-Tigers World Series alive. For those who are unaware, the World Series rivalry between the St Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers (my favourite team) spans nearly eighty years. The first time the two teams played each other in a World Series was in 1934, with the Cardinals taking the series in seven games. They met again in the 1968 World Series, which the Tigers won in seven. They last met in the 2006 World Series. After having defeated the Yankees and Athletics in the playoffs, the Tigers went on to lose the World Series to the Cards in five games. So in the [unlikely] event that both the Tigers and the Cardinals win their respective league titles and end up facing-off in the World Series, well, I will be an excited young man.
But the Major League Baseball 2011 postseason is not why I am compelled to share a few thoughts in a blog post. The answer to that ‘why’ is sitting right here in front of me…literally…on my lap. Yes, I am a ‘Mac user’, and tonight, as has been made clear from the incredible flood of identical status updates on Facebook (yes, I am a ‘Facebook user’), it was announced that Apple co-founder and former CEO, Steve Jobs has died at age 56.
Without a doubt Jobs’ death will be the talk of the town tomorrow. Whether you loved him, hated him or found yourself generally apathetic toward him, Jobs has had a significant role in the daily lives of a great many people over the last few decades. When I initially heard the news of his death I figured that enough people are writing about this, why make my own feeble attempt to eulogise, inadvertently adding to the cloud of ‘We’ve lost a visionary!’ chat? While I have admitted to being a ‘Mac user’ I have neither a literal nor figurative Apple tattoo. I am not especially wowed by Apple Keynote addresses. I certainly don’t trouble myself with the false ‘need’ to possess a wide array of Apple products. To be honest, it’s all very expensive and even if I had the money part of me doesn’t think that it would be especially responsible to indulge in consumer electronics. But I have owned several Apple products. As a child my family had an early Macintosh (we weren’t cutting edge or wealthy, but I’m pretty certain it wasn’t stolen either). All throughout my school years we used Macs in computer labs. I first learned computer programming on a Mac.
When I went to university I used my extra scholarship money to buy my first computer – a 12-inch iBook G4. A few years later that laptop’s display went kaput and I eventually upgraded to a black MacBook, the very MacBook that’s sitting on my lap now, four years after that purchase. A couple years ago a certain Greg gifted me with some money, in celebration of my birthday/embarking on my PhD, meant specifically to assist my purchase of an iPod. I only tell you this incredibly boring history of my Apple product experiences to highlight how my life actually is affected by the influence of Steve Jobs on a daily basis.
In a way I feel sort of dirty for thinking so much about this. Nearly one billion people in the world don’t have clean drinking water, let alone a computer, let alone an expensive Apple computer (granted, I’ve never owned the ‘high-end’ Apple products). It’s very evident to me that I should change my lifestyle, but I’m not going to pretend that I don’t make extensive use of my Apple products. My Macs have brought me through university degrees, have been the means of countless designs (like the designs you see here at LITC), blog posts (like this one), letters, mix CDs, recording songs, etc. I don’t necessarily need to do all of these things on a Mac, but I have a Mac so I do. And the iPod – unless I’m spending uninterrupted time with people it is a very common feature of my day. I estimate that I probably use my iPod for, on average, two hours a day. I don’t necessarily need to listen to music on an iPod, but I have an iPod so I do.
My point is not to make some profound argument about how the world would stop without Apple – it wouldn’t. My point is not even to make some profound argument about how my life would be drastically different without Apple – it probably wouldn’t. But the vision of Steve Jobs, a man who was genuinely passionate about innovation (and genuinely good at selling it), is the fuel behind the success of Apple, success that cannot be reduced to mere monetary units. The Jobs-led Apple set the bar for other manufacturers (yes, this is a mild endorsement of one aspect of a capitalistic system). Even though Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, they dramatically changed the way that our society experiences recorded music. Aside from the technical innovations, Apple also brought a high aesthetic quality to the realm of electronics. Why can’t our electronics be both functional and pleasing to the eyes?
It’s quite depressing to think about reducing a human being to a brand. The media outlets will soon be publishing frightening news about how Apple’s success will decline because of Jobs’ death (which isn’t that frightening even if it was true). Part of me finds this sort of revolting – Steve Jobs was a man with his own unique personality that, in theory, extends beyond the confines of a business, even a business as large as Apple. But then another part of me realises that Apple was very much at the centre of Jobs’ life and he liked it that way. Apple was not merely a business venture, but an invaluable outlet for Jobs’ vision and self-expression.
Apple is not dead and will continue to produce excellent innovations, but I don’t think that trajectory could have been so successful without the creative leadership of Jobs.
Steve Jobs wasn’t my friend and I generally do not have a great deal of respect for large companies and their leaders, but all-in-all I think he might have been something like an artist, and a great artist at that. For someone I never knew and never followed with any sense of dedication, somehow I think I’ll miss Steve Jobs (or as I like to call him, ‘Esteban Trabajos’, with affection). Thanks for sharing so many good things with the world, Steve. We here at Lost in the Cloud salute you and will think of you as we experience the blessings of our MacBooks and iPods (and Greg as he uses his iPhone).
Cards won the game, by the way.
Is America a force for good in the world? Many people would respond positively, convinced of some strange belief called ‘American exceptionalism’, and would top it off with a resounding ‘God bless America!’ But on the other end of the spectrum we find many who would respond with disgust, as if such a question was not worthy of a response at all. Perhaps both of these responses are true. In an interview on the Dick Cavett Show in 1970, Orson Welles declared,
I think one thing that is generally true, the one generalisation that is true about America is that everything is true about it. It’s impossible to say anything that isn’t true, good or bad. Our enemies are right, our friends are right. It’s an awful big country [with] an awful lot of different kinds of people in it.
I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement. From my perspective, an expatriated American of Scottish extraction, I can’t bring myself to side with either one of the two extremist responses above. The disestablishmentarian in me would readily scoff at the first answer when looking at the actions of ‘America’ throughout its short history. ‘Manifest Destiny'; CIA plots to interfere with South American politics in order to stop the spread of COMMUNISM(!); capitalistic exploitation in America and in third world countries; the ill-informed invasion of Iraq in 2003; all those boy bands from the 90s – America isn’t a wholly good nation. But then again, such a thing doesn’t exist. That is not to say that America has done exclusively ‘bad’ things with this power. Throughout history America’s government—however manipulated by an insecure worldview—has acted in self-interest. Sometimes America’s self-interest is beneficial for the rest of the world and sometimes it isn’t.
When I left America for Scotland I was told by a Northern Irish friend that I would probably find myself defending my the States more than I expected. But to be honest, I never had an entirely bleak outlook on America in the first place. At different points I toyed with expatriation as a self-righteous act of political protest, but if anyone wants to lump America together as a homogeneous society of nit-wits I will try my best to convince them that this cannot truly be said of any nation. America, with more than 300 million citizens who for the most part find their origins in faraway countries, is a freakishly diverse and dynamic nation. But as it stands, and while this is not unique to America, many Americans (me included) and American governments have been guilty of making this world a poorer place in many inventive ways.
But America is also a beautiful nation full of beautiful people. This as well is not unique to America. But growing up in and around Los Angeles has shaped who I am in many ways and I wouldn’t change that fact even if I could. And while I profess a love for Scotland, it inevitably shares many of America’s flaws. I simply can’t escape what is broken with the world because I can’t escape the world. All any of us can do is aim to repair what is broken and spread what is good. But at this point we must ask the question, what is good?
Regarding America, and in celebration of the Fourth of July, when Americans commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 (according to Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams), I will now point out two things that I think are exemplary of the good: American music and baseball.
Let me make clear that these two things are not free of their own flaws. For instance, in addition to the 90s boy bands I mentioned earlier, America is also responsible for Journey and a host of other terrible artists. Of course this is a matter of taste, and while some poor folk might think that Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan are passé, their music had and continues to have a profound impact on culture around the world. Of course we are reminded of the words of Donne, ‘No man is an island’, and the two owe a great deal to a rich and fertile musical heritage borne from countless sources like the Negro spiritual. But it can be argued that, among many others, the highly influential genres of ragtime, jazz, country, rock and roll, soul, hip-hop, and grunge were all founded in the US of A. And of course there’s the broad Americana genre. Perhaps these developments can be attributed to the rapid economic growth of America throughout its short history, mixed with the continual convergence of various world cultures, all taking place alongside the development of music recording and transmission throughout the 20th century.
Regardless of the cause, American music has always pushed new ground and inspired subsequent generations of artists. See legendary musicians of days long past like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Jelly Roll Morton, Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, Hank Williams, Billie Holiday, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger (who is still kicking!). Their torch was passed to popular artists like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Cash, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Thelonius Monk, and Frank Sinatra. Then this was followed by a wave of dramatic developments from American artists like The Beach Boys, Blondie, James Brown, T-Bone Burnett, Devo, Philip Glass, Iggy Pop, Michael Jackson, Love, Ramones, The Talking Heads, Television, The Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, and Frank Zappa.
In more recent years we’ve seen the rise of significant American musicians like Lou Barlow, Jeff Buckley, Botch, Converge, Fugazi, Grandaddy, Aimee Mann, Neutral Milk Hotel, Nirvana, Pixies, R.E.M., Tupac Shakur, Daniel Smith, Elliott Smith, Sonic Youth, Sunny Day Real Estate, The White Stripes, Yo La Tengo, and yet more recent artists like Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Explosions in the Sky, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Cass McCombs, and Frightened Rab…nevermind that last one. Of course there are many more artists that should be included in this list (I merely picked some of my favourites), but that only goes to show how important American music has been in the last century. In Sufjan Stevens alone we can see a massive and ambitious output of constant reinterpretation and innovation.
Now onto the second good thing I want to affirm about America, which probably came as no surprise to seasoned LITC readers. Baseball may not enjoy the global fame of association football, but I happen to think it is the greatest sport to ever grace the face of the earth (though football’s soccer’s not far behind – apologies to cricket, rugby, golf, etc.). I’ve professed my undying love for baseball through blog posts on several different occasions. And despite the inevitable corruption that plagues the sport (greed, performance-enhancing drugs, marital infidelity, bench-clearing brawls, etc.), there’s a magic and heart to baseball that is truly good.
In the classic 1989 film Field of Dreams, the character Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones) is trying to convince the main character, Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), to embrace his dream, a vision he had of a baseball field on his farm in Iowa. Because Ray has cleared land for this baseball field and has invested money into its development (outfitted with stadium lights and all), he is losing money rapidly and in this particular scene his brother-in-law is trying to convince him to sell the farm and leave his dream behind. Mann responds,
Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack…
And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces…
People will come Ray…
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh, people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
There’s much more going on at the core of the film, but I won’t spoil it – you should watch the film. What I want to point out is this sentiment expressed so sweetly through James Earl Jones’ transcendent voice. Throughout many wars and economic depressions baseball has remained because it is a special vessel of goodness. I suppose that’s part of why I love the Tigers so much – they represent this beacon of goodness (among many other great beacons of goodness in Detroit) in the midst of a suffering place.
So this is to you, America! And while I’m not too keen on the cult of the American flag, here’s Ol’ Glory, which stands as a mere symbol for the hopes and dreams—noble and ignoble—of millions of people throughout the last 235 years and in the present. May God bless America, but more importantly, may God continue to bless this struggling world.
I’ve hinted at this in an earlier post, but I’ve never made the explicit jump into economics. Whether a particular American likes it or not, America is primarily possesses a maket-based economy. The consumer plays a vital role in the market-based economy. For example, in such a way as to keep a business “ethical,” the consumer has the option of not purchasing via boycott. This will either put the “unethical” party out of business or pressure them to change their practice. I mention these extremely basic principles to eventually point to one of my favorite topics: Major League Baseball.
Now, where I would criticize capitalism is that it is very common that once the public is aware of “unethical” behavior, say, on a corporate level, the damage has been done. If Walmart moves into town and is doing something unethical, it is very likely that the public will not be informed of this until the small businesses have already been obliterated – if the public finds out at all. And even if the public found out before the “damage was done,” so to speak, they may not desire to fork over the extra cash to pay for something domestic and/or from a small business when cheap imported goods are so readily available. The same will go for the agricultural industry. Thanks to shoving innumerable cows into inhumane stalls that are far too small for their bodies and injecting cows with hormones while feeding them God-knows-what, the impoverished family is much closer to affording beef. There are more humane/ethical options with regard to purchasing/eating beef (though some might thing there are no grounds for consuming meat at all), but those aren’t exactly options when the steroid beef is but a small fraction of the price. I believe there is a solution to this problem, but I’m not going to get into that now. Instead, I will let my mention of “steroid” two sentences ago segue into my main point regarding baseball.
After the 2000 season, Alex Rodriguez, a free agent, signed to the Texas Rangers for a record $252 million 10 year contract. Eventually he was traded to the New York Yankees and was eventually signed to the Yanks for $275 million (2008-2018). I did the math just now, and accounting for leap years (2008, 2012, 2016) A-Rod makes $.79 a second. Every second, awake or asleep, playing baseball or cheating on his wife (now ex-wife), etc., the man makes $.79. “That’s despicable!” some might cry out. But this is where my love affair with capitalism actually takes place.
You see, the consumer may find out the salaries of these athletes before they even set foot on the field. Whatever is unethical about the salaries of athletes is already quite visible to the consumer. The consumer can choose to boycott baseball. I may consider it the best sport in the world, but I’m not talking about food, shelter, or clothing. I’m talking about recreation. Though I would consider recreation essential to living, baseball itself is not. Who’s to say they shouldn’t be making so much? WE pay their paychecks! As I’ve said before, we can choose to turn off the television. We can choose not to buy their products. It’s not as if taxes are being distributed from the federal government to these players. We, in our greed, are in fact jealous at A-Rod makes more in a day than the average American will make in a year (in under three hours he makes more than the average person will make in a year, globally). In this way capitalism shows, at least in baseball, that the sickness is not in the system itself, but the people in the system – even and maybe even especially the consumer – are responsible for this sickness.
Suddenly everyone is a Los Angeles fan. I’m talking baseball, of course.
The Los Angeles Angels took the American League West division and faced-off against the wild card Boston Red Sox.
The wild card, for those who don’t know, is an opportunity for the number two teams in both the American and National Leagues to enter the playoffs. This is supposedly justified by the fact that there are teams in competitive divisions (like the AL East featuring the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles, the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Toronto Blue Jays – though the Yankees and the Red Sox are the only two “competitive” teams in the AL East as if evident from the six wild card slots that the Red Sox have garnered since its introduction into MLB in 1994) that will not get 1st place, but will end the regular season with better records than other division clinchers in the same league (see my previous baseball post).
Well, in a very non-Boston Red Sox playoff appearance, the Red Sox were swept by the Angels. Historically, Boston has consistently dominated the Angels in the playoffs. Last season the Angels went to the playoffs as the winningest team in baseball and were defeated in the first round (in four games) by the AL East champion Red Sox (the Red Sox went on to lose the ALCS against the Rays). But this season the Angels accomplished a clean sweep and will face the New York Yankees, the best team in baseball history and the winningest team of the 2009 season (103 wins) for the American League Championship Series – the most coveted pennant. From the looks of it the Angels will not pull through, but I’ll be rooting for them over the Yanks.
Now onto the National League…
Out of the four division championship series three have been divided by a sweep (four division championship series = eight teams: AL East, Central, West, wild card; NL East Central West, wild card). The Yankees swept the Twins (as I predicted: “the Twins…move on to an immediate elimination during the first round of the playoffs…have no chance…going up against the Yanks in the first round…“), the Angels swept the Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the St Louis Cardinals. Currently the Philadelphia Phillies are leading 2-1 in the NLDS against the Colorado Rockies. The winner of that game will go on to play the Dodgers for the NLCS. [UPDATE: Phillies win NLDS and move on to face the Dodgers for the NLCS.]
The Dodgers spent a significant portion of this season with more wins than any other team. But in standard Dodger fashion they lost momentum after the All-Star break. By the end of the season their record was 3rd in the MLB (1st: NYY, 2nd LAA). Still, they took their division and will most likely take the NLCS.
If the Angels can win the ALCS (unlikely, but you never know when it’s Angels vs Yankees…) and the Dodgers can win the ALCS, the World Series will pit the Los Angeles Angels against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a first for Los Angeles. How exciting it is to have that as a possibility this late in the season! Deep down inside every Angeleno wants to see the two teams play one another in the World Series. Sure, they play interleague “Freeway Series” during the season, but that feud pales in comparison to the rivalry that would develop during a World Series. And with this possibility I find that many of my once-indifferent friends (there are many people that are indifferent toward baseball…) are suddenly the biggest Dodgers/Angels fans. I don’t necessarily blame them, but do you know what I am? I’m a Detroit Tigers fan.
PS. If by some odd chance there was an Angels/Dodgers World Series, my allegiance would be with the Angels 100%.
The Detroit Tigers (arguably the best team of any sport in world history – I couldn’t argue this in good conscience, but I wish I could) were in the lead in the AL Central (arguably the best division of any sport in world history – I couldn’t argue this in good conscience, but I wish I could) for the vast majority of the season until the unthinkable happened. The Minnesota Twins began to win, and they didn’t win many games, just enough to catch up. Let me emphasize how pathetic the AL Central really is:
MLB 2009 Season Leaders by Division
- AL East: New York Yankees – .636
- AL Central: Minnesota Twins – .534
- AL West: Los Angeles Angels – .599
- NL East: Philadelphia Phillies – .574
- NL Central: St Louis Cardinals – .562
- NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers – .586
To take a division with .534 is pitiful, what is even more pitiful is a look at all of the teams with better records than the Twins that didn’t clinch their division:
- AL East: Boston Red Sox – .586 *wild card (more discussion on this practice in another post…)
- AL West: Texas Rangers – .537
- NL East: Florida Marlins – .537
- NL Central: Chicago Cubs – .516 (let’s face it, the MLB Central divisions are awful)
- NL West: Colorado Rockies – .568; San Francisco Giants – .543
So last night I had to go to sleep in Scotland (which is five hours ahead of EDT) with the tie-breaking 163rd game of the season to determine which team – the Tigers or the Twins – would move on to an immediate elimination during the first round of the playoffs looming over me (let’s face it, both teams had/have no chance, especially since they are going up against the Yanks in the first round…). What a thrill! Two teams that barely won over half of their games this season fighting for the coveted AL Central title. But alas I had no television and decided it would have been better to check in the morning after the damage had been done.
The game itself was rather epic though. The Metrodome (Minneapolis) was packed and the teams fought for nearly 12 full innings! If I had watched it I might have had an asthma attack or died instantly of a broken heart.
So the Tigers, being the historical team that they are, have become the first team in history with a three-game lead and only four games to go in the regular season to totally drop the ball. Better luck next decade.
As I mentioned in a post back in February regarding the breaking news that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, I detest the Yankees. It’s just what you have to do when you like another team (the Tigers are still over .500 and in first place in the AL Central), but even some BoSox fans have a certain respect for the dynasty that is Yankee baseball (they’ve won 26 of their 39 appearances in the World Series, 16 WS victories ahead of the second place Cards). Berra, Boggs, Combs, DiMaggio, Dickey, Ford, Gehrig, Gomez, Henderson, Jackson, Mantle, McCarthy, Pennock, Rizzuto, Ruffing, Ruth, and Stengle – any of these 17 (of the 36) Yankees in the Hall of Fame ring a bell? What about Clemens, Jeter, or the countless other outstanding Yanks over the years? And the Yankees pull these names together to win rather consistently.
Why the hoopla over the Yankees? Trust me, I wouldn’t write out such a post if it weren’t absolutely necessary…
I’ve just read a marvelous article by Joe Posnanski for Sports Illustrated about Mariano Rivera and his famous cut fastball. I knew he was a deadly closer with a wicked cutter, but I never quite realized how impressive his [ongoing] career has been. I encourage you to give it a read, even if you hate the Yankees and even if you hate baseball.
Ever since baseball swam across the Atlantic Ocean and grew legs to walk upon the Hoboken shore it has been a fiery All-American Pastime. If you don’t like love baseball you are either a Communist or you’re not a true [red, white, and] blue American. Or you weren’t an athletic child.
Little League baseball has been the scourge and triumph of young boys for seventy years. I remember my first years as they were divided into four major categories: tee-ball, farm, minors, majors. Those years were not good to me. I would have rather read a book or have built something out of LEGO. I was afraid of the ball and of human interaction, both of which are key elements of baseball. Only to add to the torment, at some point I gained weight and achieved the status of ‘husky’. But, fortunately for me, upon my entrance into high school I grew six inches almost instantly and—for the first time in my life—demonstrated athletic prowess. Sure soccer (otherwise known as football) is extremely fun, but baseball was and is my true athletic passion, which is attributed to the unique challenges it presents to a player, for instance: you need a sprint and a mind, a glove and a bat, an arm and an eye.
Even throughout my awkward years I still loved the concept of baseball. I certainly had my aversions: ‘cups’, practising, fastballs near my face while I was at bat, striking out, sitting the bench, etc.—but I also had my passions: cleats, sunflower seeds, getting on base, making a great catch, the Detroit Tigers, going to watch a professional game, guessing what was going to happen next, etc. But with my well-rounded appreciation and disdain for the sport nothing could have never prepared me for what the Major League sport seems to have become.
In the golden years an alcoholic could be a magnificent baseball player and even though everyone knew his vice was the bottle, his glory was the bat. Maybe the fall of this idealism of Major League Baseball came with the Information Age. Soon everyone knew that the Straw used the straw for other things, beat his wife and the list goes on. How could a fan love to watch someone with such moral failings play the All-American Pastime? But the slugfest of 1998 would soon bring back the spirit of the game, at least until performance-enhancing drugs became a hot topic.
That’s where baseball is today, tarnished by unethical behaviour of which performance-enhancing drugs are the crowning glory. There are massive amounts of illegal drugs administered to willing athletes and recently professional baseball has been front-page news. Who would’ve thought the highest paid baseball player in history would get caught up in this mess? He did, as well as the player with the most career home runs in history. And even the virtuous alliance of brotherhood can get a man mixed up in this heartbreaking moral defeat.
Some people have passionate hatred for baseball. They might suggest that we adopt basketball, American football, ice hockey, anything over this boring and morally corrupt money pit called Major League Baseball. But the sport cannot be to blame for the poor decisions of some players. And this bad judgement is all that we can fault players for. If baseball fans have a problem with the size of players’ salaries then we can turn off the televised game and not buy the baseball cap or the season tickets. Fans can make baseball players demigods and when we learn that they are not so perfect it is devastating.
In the end there is something profoundly redemptive about baseball, something honourable and magical that I cannot fully explain (watch Field of Dreams). And if our remembrances of Joltin’ Joe and Derek Jeter remain free from steroid use the sport will always remain alive—even if you detest the Yankees as I do.
UPDATE: Thanks to The Onion,