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.]
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.
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,