In this post a pacifist proposes a rivalry

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:

  1. The Tigers have stopped the Yankees in each of Detroit’s last three postseason appearances (2006, 2011 and 2012).
  2. 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.
  3. 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’.)
  4. 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:

  • 1907L 0-4 (Chicago Cubs)
  • 1908L 1-4 (Chicago Cubs)
  • 1909L 3-4 (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • 1934L 3-4 (St Louis Cardinals)
  • 1935W 4-2 (Chicago Cubs)
  • 1940L 3-4 (Cincinnati Reds)
  • 1945W 4-3 (Chicago Cubs)
  • 1968W 4-3 (St Louis Cardinals)
  • 1984W 4-1 (San Diego Padres)
  • 2006L 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.]

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[Updated on 24 October 2012.]

Do you know what I am?

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 Dodgers 100%.

Travesty of the Decade

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.

Meltdown