Friday, October 27, 2006

Why the Cards Will Make Great Champs

Friday A.M. Quickie found here.

You all know I'm always out on the look-out for impressive sports superlatives. I found one in a Slate column about the Cards:

"The most improbable World Champions of all time." That's what Larry Borowsky of the Viva El Birdos blog wrote. And he's not wrong.

Am I premature to declare one of my "It's Over!" moments about the 2006 World Series? I don't think so.

The Cards are up 3-1 with a game left to play in St. Louis (and they couldn't look hotter) and the Tigers need to win 3 straight (and they couldn't look more disjointed).

David Eckstein earned the inside track to World Series MVP status with his wild, 4-hit performance last night, including the game-winning RBI. (But I refuse to reduce myself to lazy symbolism that the – ugh – "scrappy" Eckstein is a symbol of this Cards team. Isn't he a lock to win that "Whitest White Player in White Baseball" Award from yesterday?)

Back to "most improbable": Heading into the 2006 playoffs, there wasn't a less impressive team in baseball. Cripes, one month ago, the Cards were on the verge of the worst collapse in baseball history -- MISSING the playoffs, let alone winning them.

As Borowsky points out (as did Will Leitch in his New York Times op-ed piece during the NLCS), these playoffs – more than any other – illustrate the role of chance, momentum and the fleetingly hot hand in baseball – things that a 162-game season is supposed to flatten out.

That's why I've come around on these Cards, as they sit poised to win the World Series. I have disliked them throughout the regular season and playoffs. I was rooting for the Tigers (and even predicted a Detroit sweep). I was even beginning to sympathize with those cranks who were calling this World Series a crappy one. (The TV ratings have been worst-ever.)

But I was wrong. And those critics are wrong, ignorantly superficial at best and unjustifiably provincial at worst. (I should know because I was one of them.)

The Cards ARE delightfully, fascinatingly "improbable."

And this series has become an affirmation that baseball's postseason has been great throughout this decade – no more so than right now – precisely because of the way it continually produces improbability.

If part of baseball's charm is that 162 games creates "statistical significance" to draw huge data-rich conclusions about what we think is reality, the playoffs – and this Cards World Series run in particular – shows the value of "statistical insignificance."

-- D.S.

38 comments:

nyc-steelers fan said...

I'm sure Cards fans are ecstatic that you, Dan Shanoff, are declaring the World Series "over".

But jinxing us into a 7th game is not a bad thing for the rest of us. I'd rather watch a game 7, even with the inane Fox crew, than a Kornheiser/Theisman fight over who can slurp Tom Brady more.

Big D said...

"Whitest White Player in White Baseball"

Now THAT's a great line...

Brian in Oxford said...

I can only imagine spring training next year in Lakeland....fielding practice for pitchers.

Geez, Leyland's going to make them report TWO weeks before position players, if this turns out to be a lost Series.

Brian in Oxford said...

Ooh, another topic.....Gary Sheffield....making himself practically untradeable by telling teams that he's not going to be happy without a deal in place, IF the Yankees find a place to move him.

This is the kind of situation where owners should be able to address the union. Would the union simply stand up for him if he started being all prickish on *either* the Yankees or another team?

Doc Spender said...

Statistics can't measure and outfielder slipping on wet grass... or an outfielder misplaying a ball... I have to agree that everything began falling into place for the Cards last night and it seems a sure thing that the fans in St. Louis will be celebrating tonight.
IF there's no rainout!

Dan Mega said...

Ratings are the "worst ever"? I'd like to hear what the Cubs fans have to say now. Last year the ratings were the "worst ever" and the Cubs sheep said it was because the White Sox were in it. Whats their excuse now?

Count me as one of the folks who though that Detroit would take it in 4 or 5 games. Series ain't over yet though.

wonkisports said...

Dan, you're journalist right? Can you please explain why Larussa wears sunglasses, why Duncan can't chew tobacco without looking like he's got a live lizard in there and when did Encarnacion start swinging an invisible bat? All that to say, I love my Cardinals and had them winning the WS in 6 with Rolen as MVP.

rukrusher said...

On the World Series, as a Met fan I just can't get back into baseball, it was too difficult a loss. But if this was last year I would be watching this series and pulling for a game 7 in Detroit.

TBender said...

As a Cards fan, I remember 85, 87, and 96.

It's not time for anyone to be celebrating yet...but I am smiling.

As for what the experts and the ad execs (since ratings are really all about advertising $$$) think about the 2006 World Series, whatever.

Jo Jo said...

Aren't you the same guy who declared the 2004 Red Sox/Yankees series to be "over" at 3-0 Yankees?

As Brian at tigerblog.net has pointed out, this Series is mirroring the '68 Series -- let's not forget THOSE Tigers won three straight to win the title.

Go Tigers!

Troy (Gainesville, FL) said...

I'd like to hear what the Cubs fans have to say now.

Wait... what did I miss?

Anonymous said...

Ummm....
It's not great that after 100,000 games or whatever, we still don't know who's going to do well in the playoffs.

Just last year, people were making fun of hockey because the 8th seeded team made it to the Finals! This is the same thing! But baseball was rarely _this_ fluky, so I wonder if all the cheating and gambling and things are actually involved somehow here.

Todd Ching said...

With these wacky playoffs, how could we not have known that the Cards would be looking to win? (Not saying they have won, but saying we should have known they could have).

These playoffs have completely defied everyone's expectations/predictions.

Example One: Detroit and St. Louis would lose in their first round matchups. The Yankees were supposed to be some unstoppable juggernaut and Detroit was supposed to be weak after a poor September. St. Louis had an even worse September, and was supposed to get beaten by a team with no offense (Padres).

Example Two: Kenny Rogers was supposed to be a terrible postseason pitcher, and was supposed to be dominated by the Yankees. Pine tar aside, he could potentially beat Christy Mathewson for most consecutive postseason scoreless innings pitched.

Example Three: Jeff Weaver can't pitch. Okay, so maybe it's his little bro actually pitching and we're all just too dumb/blind to realize it (La Russa to Leyland: "You can have Kenny Rogers use Pine Tar if I can have Jered Weaver pitch instead of Jeff." Leyland: "Fine, but if we get caught, it was dirt, and we need to get our story straight."

Example Four: Lastly, everyone declared that the Tigers were "on a mission" and that they could beat the Cardinals, in three... yeah, that guy must feel pretty dumb right now...

So let's all stand on our heads, walk backward, crap out our mouths, and just all admit that we all screwed up these predictions for this postseason.

Cam said...

Sure, it's not premature to declare one of your "It's Over" moments. It's not like that has ever come back to bite you in the ass before.

manninghamheisman said...

Dan,

We need to make your blog into paid content. This can't go on like this....I'm just looking out for you...Here you are working so hard. And you take no money in return from us ardently, hooked readers. I can represent you in re-architecturing your content to create a win-win business model. How about charge people to make comments? Get an RSS Feed to feed the posts? We need to brainstorm about ideas in private. Please let me know how I can reach you. I would love to help you monetize your traffic so we can get you some more c-notes. Don't worry everyone...we're not going to change anything overnight. Dan and I are just going to have a talk about equality. He works so hard. He needs money. As a good friend, I would like to work to assist him in channeling the money from your pockets to his

manninghamheisman said...

Dan...it's quotes like ""Whitest White Player in White Baseball". We could patent these, in this day. After DT patented "You're Fired" anything goes! We need to represent your intellectual property to the fullest degree. I can get you a business lawyer to knock things into place. Maybe you can do a few business classes...Let's chat, eh?

manninghamheisman said...

Anyone else have any ideas on how Dan can make money???? Please pitch in. We could have a contribution/donations link although historically this never is a high ROI tactic due to the bystander effect (everyone thinks everyone else is paying so nobody ends up paying). We need to set up a tip bin for Dan, eh? How about he gets his NFL picks right you give him some moolah for his brains

Thoughts anyone? DAN NEEDS MONEY

manninghamheisman said...

Anyone in favor of a monthly membership of like $20/month? I figure we have approx 600 uniques. 600 x 20 = $12,000/month. This coupled with the money he gets from seminars and a potential book deal down the road can take care of his financial woes

manninghamheisman said...

We live in a selfish world where everyone wants to chew on Dan's thoughts for free. This ain't fair. I can donate $2000 a year for the content as I enjoy it thoroughly. Every morning I read this when I eat my Corn Flakes and Porridge. It's hard-coded into my functional reality. Anyone else feel the same way? I would like to set this up into a membership site. $2000 a year is well-worth the price considering all the content. Anyone? AGREE? Wanna give Mr Shanoff a financial perk or two?

john (ann arbor, mi) said...

Go ahead and Instant Historify it, DS. It can't hurt.

I think there is an interesting thing on the front page of worldwideleader.com, but there is nowhere to discuss it on that site, so I'm bringing it over here.

The SportsNation Polls are always revealing in obvious ways (whatever that means); Missouri was the only state giving the Cardinals a chance last week, for instance (on behalf of Detroit, I submit: we didn't start this. I blame "IH" buffs...)

Today's poll seems like it wouldn't be such a cut-and-dried issue: Should Kenny Rogers start G5 for the Tigers?

But, from the SportsNation Poll Map, you'd think the question was "Should Michigan be #1 in the BCS right now?" It strikes me as strange, because it's strictly a second-guessing of Jim Leyland, rather than a judgment concerning which team is better, or anything like that. Yet, of the 27 respondents from Wyoming (I see they've got the internets out there now), 85% think Jim is wrong.

I think Jim Leyland (shouldn't people be listening to this guy by now? Florida, surely you've got Jim's back, right? No?) made the important point - Detroit needs 3 wins. They need 1 win, to be sure, but not as much as they need 3 wins (If this doesn't make sense, open your mind.).
Plus, Leyland clearly expects The Gambler to be effective at home/less effective on the road. Verlander, he thinks, is less affected by this distinction. Why give away a really good chance for a great pitching performance, if all you're getting for it is a good chance of a shaky pitching performance? If Verlander can't win Game 5, why would he be able to win Game 6? Why bother forcing a game you can't win?

I guess what the poll shakes down as is an argument between two Tigers pitchers. Apparently 17 wins (including, I recall, one against the Cards, in the second unexpected game back for Pujols) weren't enough to convince anyone outside of Michigan that JV is good at what he does. I'd remind everybody that Justin pitched the game when things started turning in New York a few short weeks ago, but I don't have the wattage.

Anyone from Hawaii (80%-20%) or elsewhere who can explain why the whole world doesn't see what Jim and the Tigers faithful see?


Oh, also - apparently, while I was writing this, WorldWideLeader changed their front page poll - now it's something like the Michigan-OSU poll I mentioned earlier. Weird...

john (ann arbor, mi) said...

Go ahead and Instant Historify it, DS. It can't hurt.

I think there is an interesting thing on the front page of worldwideleader.com, but there is nowhere to discuss it on that site, so I'm bringing it over here.

The SportsNation Polls are always revealing in obvious ways (whatever that means); Missouri was the only state giving the Cardinals a chance last week, for instance (on behalf of Detroit, I submit: we didn't start this. I blame "IH" buffs...)

Today's poll seems like it wouldn't be such a cut-and-dried issue: Should Kenny Rogers start G5 for the Tigers?

But, from the SportsNation Poll Map, you'd think the question was "Should Michigan be #1 in the BCS right now?" It strikes me as strange, because it's strictly a second-guessing of Jim Leyland, rather than a judgment concerning which team is better, or anything like that. Yet, of the 27 respondents from Wyoming (I see they've got the internets out there now), 85% think Jim is wrong.

I think Jim Leyland (shouldn't people be listening to this guy by now? Florida, surely you've got Jim's back, right? No?) made the important point - Detroit needs 3 wins. They need 1 win, to be sure, but not as much as they need 3 wins (If this doesn't make sense, open your mind.).
Plus, Leyland clearly expects The Gambler to be effective at home/less effective on the road. Verlander, he thinks, is less affected by this distinction. Why give away a really good chance for a great pitching performance, if all you're getting for it is a good chance of a shaky pitching performance? If Verlander can't win Game 5, why would he be able to win Game 6? Why bother forcing a game you can't win?

I guess what the poll shakes down as is an argument between two Tigers pitchers. Apparently 17 wins (including, I recall, one against the Cards, in the second unexpected game back for Pujols) weren't enough to convince anyone outside of Michigan that JV is good at what he does. I'd remind everybody that Justin pitched the game when things started turning in New York a few short weeks ago, but I don't have the wattage.

Anyone from Hawaii (80%-20%) or elsewhere who can explain why the whole world doesn't see what Jim and the Tigers faithful see?


Oh, also - apparently, while I was writing this, WorldWideLeader changed their front page poll - now it's something like the Michigan-OSU poll I mentioned earlier. Weird...

manninghamheisman said...

Of-course we can have promotional prices too...Like if you sign up for 10 years you get a free "Whitest White Player" wife beater and 10% of the yearly. We can also get you a bumper sticker which says "Whitest White Player"

manninghamheisman said...

John, Ann Arbor

Dude all you talk about is sports!!!!!

manningham86 said...

a WHITEST WHITE PLAYER wifebeater

hahahahah

Stooncer said...

How is it that you can dump on Eck when he's about to earn his second ring and a possible series MVP? I watched him with the Angels and that guy has more heart than most teams (read: NYY).

I don't care if he's laughed at for being nothing more than scrappy and considered the "the whitest white player." The guy is a gamer and deserves a little more respect than that.

manninghamheisman said...

welll...

he doesn't drink

he's tiny

he's square and dorky

he's so pale he looks like he just saw a ghost

and he's WT

Stooncer said...

And he's a potential two-time world champ. Not to mention millionaire.

john (ann arbor, mi) said...

No, no, no - you'll only encourage him! Pretend he's not there. Obviously there was no danger of any useful person agreeing with that "point of view."

manninghamheisman said...

stooncer,

forget sports, bro. let's talk about getting a business plan for dan. we need to get a buttoned up plan in place so we can hit the ground running as far as creating an fy 07 revenue stream

capiche?

manninghamheisman said...

john,

you are the whitest white player in this chatroom. that's for sure, bro. you're not worthy of the wolverine title. you're too closeminded and conservative. are you sure you didn't go to exeter?

Stooncer said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Doc Spender said...

Wow... manninghamheisman sure enough loves him some manninghamheisman. Perhaps it is that manninghamheisman could crank out his very own manninghamheisman blog and we could all subscribe (for a nominal fee) and then we, too, could love us some manninghamheisman!

Geoff-Detroit said...

I'll never understand why anyone outside of a network exec even mentions the ratings. Who cares? Seriously. As a Tigers fan I don't care if 4 people are watching as long as I get to watch. Oh no, Fox might have to set lower advertising rates next season. What will I do? I just don't get the fascination.

And can we please ban manninghamheisman.

Doc Spender said...

Agreed, Geoff.
I saw a survey recently stating that only 1/3 of the people in this country care about baseball. Hmmm, that means only 100 Million people give a damn! I'm pretty sure that baseball and the Fox network can survive with that kind of support.
Oh... and how many of you watching baseball have ever gotten one of those Nielsen diaries, anyway?

Mark said...

I think if anyone was a "Most Improbable" to be in the Series, it's Detroit. They weren't as impressive as Minnesota (or even CLEVELAND for that matter) down the stretch.

Why were the Cards so put-down and beat-up by critics? They aren't slouches, people! You have Albert Pujols heading up an incredibly competent lineup, and great pitching to boot (that might even include Mark Buehrle down the line...scary).

It hurts to see the Tigers suddenly stumble the way that they are, but at least it's to a tough team. It might hurt more if it was the Padres.

Big D said...

It's 10:10PM on Friday night, and I cannot believe that the St. Louis Cardinals are seven outs away from winning the World Series.

82-79 in the regular season. 10-4 in the postseason (so far). Talk about getting hot at the right time.

Dan Mega said...

Wow, St Louis Cardinals are the World Champs. I'm eating my crow since I picked Detroit.

Regardless, this White Sox fan gives a huge congrats to the Cards and their fans.

Trayton Otto said...

Whoo!! Go Cards! I was skeptical after the end of the regular season (relieved was probably more accurate). My faith was renewed after Game 1 of the NLDS. Here are 9 reasons why:

Eckstein-SS
Duncan-LF
Pujols-1B
Edmonds-CF
Rolen-3B
Encarnacion-RF
Belliard-2B
Molina-C
Carpenter-P

All 9 starters healthy and ready to play.

Then, in the NLCS, I had 9 more reasons:

Edmonds
Taguchi
Suppan
Eckstein
Edmonds
Molina
Pujols
Duncan
Molina

9 HRs from 7 different players. All contributing.

And in the World Series, 9 more reasons from tonight... (besides 9 Cardinals with base hits...) Weaver's 9 Ks. When the Cards picked up Weaver from the Angels, 3 of his first 4 starts were nationally televised games. They were not pretty. When he pitched Game 2 of the NLCS, I was just hoping he would keep it close and the Cards could pound out enough hits. Instead, DreamWeaver comes out of nowhere and has 29.2 IP with a 2.73 ERA. He allowed 2 and 3 runs in 3-1 and 2-0 losses, 3-2 for the postseason. We expected Carpenter to channel Cy Young. We expected Suppan to be consisent. Only Duncan, TLR, and Weaver knew what magic he had left in the tank for October. I'm glad he's a Cardinal after this month.