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Monday, August 20, 2018

10 Degrees: The unbelievably close National League and how 2018 may provide an all-time-great pennant race

By the time Sunday’s games ended, the Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers all stood within 1½ games of each other. Three of them were tied for two wild-card spots, and the two teams that led their divisions did so by ½ game. Six weeks remain in the baseball season, and the National League is a beautiful, sloppy free for all.

When the best team in the league has played at a 93-win pace, parity is almost a guaranteed consequence, and yet this is excessive for Major League Baseball, reminiscent of the 2007 season, in which the Diamondbacks led the league with 90 wins. There is no great NL team. There are plenty of good ones.

And while injuries may waylay one of them and regression another, the five teams that make the playoffs may come down to something entirely out of teams and players’ control: the schedule. When so many teams are so tightly packed, strength of opponent and home games and off-days matter.

QLE Posted: August 20, 2018 at 10:31 AM | 66 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pennant race, schedule

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   1. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 20, 2018 at 11:40 AM (#5730147)
If the Red Sox were in the NL, they would currently be 16 games ahead of the second best team in the NL.They're magic number to clinch the best record in the NL would be...23.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 20, 2018 at 11:40 AM (#5730148)
This should be a fantastic 6 weeks of baseball.
   3. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: August 20, 2018 at 11:57 AM (#5730166)
If the Red Sox were in the NL, they would currently be 16 games ahead of the second best team in the NL.They're magic number to clinch the best record in the NL would be...23.


I suspect that fewer games against the Orioles and Royals and more against teams over .500 (hell, over .400) might change that math....
   4. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 20, 2018 at 12:12 PM (#5730188)
I would submit that the breathless chase for who will finish 5th in the NL is -- by definition -- not an all-time great pennant race.
   5. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 20, 2018 at 12:20 PM (#5730199)
I suspect that fewer games against the Orioles and Royals and more against teams over .500 (hell, over .400) might change that math....

At the moment, the Orioles are actually slightly below .300. Also, the team's top 3 in bWAR are two players who have been traded and one who's on the 60-day DL.

(To be fair, their record is actually better since Machado was traded during the break - but it's "better" to the tune of 9-18.)
   6. John DiFool2 Posted: August 20, 2018 at 12:22 PM (#5730201)
I suspect that fewer games against the Orioles and Royals and more against teams over .500 (hell, over .400) might change that math....


Except that the Sox totally cleaned house with the AL weaklings. Yeah, 6 games w/ Indians and Yanks still left, 3 w/ Astros, but they beat the teams they should have beat.
   7. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 20, 2018 at 12:39 PM (#5730221)
Except that the Sox totally cleaned house with the AL weaklings. Yeah, 6 games w/ Indians and Yanks still left, 3 w/ Astros, but they beat the teams they should have beat.

I think that was his point? Boston is 19-3 against Baltimore and KC. If those games were against, say, the Marlins and Padres, they might have gone 15-7 or something. Which would still leave them well ahead of the rest of the league, of course.
   8. TomH Posted: August 20, 2018 at 12:51 PM (#5730231)
7, yes, especially because the Sox also played NYY (12x), Hou, Cle, & Oak; most notably absent from NL schedules. It probably comes out about even.


   9. SoSH U at work Posted: August 20, 2018 at 12:57 PM (#5730236)
7, yes, especially because the Sox also played NYY (12x), Hou, Cle, & Oak; most notably absent from NL schedules. It probably comes out about even.


Pretty close. The much bigger issue, thus far, is that Boston's AL schedule has been light through this point in the season. The Red Sox have six remaining with New York, all seven of its games with Cleveland and three more with Houston (plus three each against Tampa and Atlanta).
   10. Obo Posted: August 20, 2018 at 01:04 PM (#5730242)
I would submit that the breathless chase for who will finish 5th in the NL is -- by definition -- not an all-time great pennant race.

Agree completely. Came here to post something similar.
   11. TomH Posted: August 20, 2018 at 01:08 PM (#5730244)
The Sawx do have 6 more HOME then ROAD games, though.

I can't see the Sox collapsing to lose the division, but I *can* see (because of BOS's tougher schedule, plus regression to mean, plus injuries) NYY getting close enough that they don't clinch until like home series vs the Orioles in the last week of the season. With the Yankees looming on the last weekend, they sure don't want their lead to be <=3 with 3 to play.

re: NL races; yes, there is some mediocrity, but good races are good races, even if they are between 91-win teams. I like the possibility of some ugly 3-way tie or division tie + WC tiebraker.
   12. The Duke Posted: August 20, 2018 at 01:17 PM (#5730249)
I will stand corrected on my concerns about tanking. There are a lot of good teams in the NL this year and even the Marlins have been capable of beating Good teams this year. The padres look like they are ready to take next step. Seems like the really putrid teams are in the AL.

I look forward to pennant races. I think most of the playoffs spots are up for grabs.
   13. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 20, 2018 at 01:49 PM (#5730259)
I would submit that the breathless chase for who will finish 5th in the NL is -- by definition -- not an all-time great pennant race.


The breathless chase referenced is to see who will win the NL East and NL West, not to mention the NL Central race is hardly over.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 20, 2018 at 02:17 PM (#5730273)
The breathless chase referenced is to see who will win the NL East and NL West, not to mention the NL Central race is hardly over.

Right. You've got two teams neck and neck in the East, 3 teams neck and neck in the West, and 3 teams within 4 games in the central. So, that's three good division races, plus a 5 team scrum for the 2 WCs.

That's a good playoff race.
   15. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 20, 2018 at 02:17 PM (#5730274)
The breathless chase referenced is to see who will win the NL East and NL West, not to mention the NL Central race is hardly over.

OK fine, but the article is talking about all-time great races, and that can't happen without great teams, and the current setup makes it well nigh impossible for a great team to make the playoffs while an almost-as-great team misses out thereby creating a "great" race.

The 1951 NL race is remembered because it was two 100-win teams (scaled up to 162-game schedules) where one advanced and the other went home. The 1972 AL East race is forgotten because it was two 89-win teams where one advanced and the other went home, and we've got it right there in the lede:

There is no great NL team. There are plenty of good ones.

5 years from now, no one is going to be talking about 2018 NL as a great playoff race, much less 50.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 20, 2018 at 02:31 PM (#5730286)
OK fine, but the article is talking about all-time great races, and that can't happen without great teams, and the current setup makes it well nigh impossible for a great team to make the playoffs while an almost-as-great team misses out thereby creating a "great" race.

I don't think that's true. Why can't it be a great race among merely good teams?

To me the quality of the race is based on closeness, back and forth lead changes, memorable games, etc. Not just on the quality of team that goes home.
   17. SoSH U at work Posted: August 20, 2018 at 02:43 PM (#5730293)
Just as long as none of you claim the second wild card improves all of these division races, I don't care how good you think they are.

   18. Blastin Posted: August 20, 2018 at 02:57 PM (#5730300)
Why can't it be a great race among merely good teams?
Some of my favorite parts of my amateur racing career has been getting into all-out finish sprints that people are fully cheering on.

I usually finish in the top 5% but am hardly going to win anything. Good races are about closeness indeed.
   19. RoyalFlush Posted: August 20, 2018 at 04:41 PM (#5730378)
To me, it feels like the "most remembered" or "talked about" penant/division races involve someone blowing a significant lead.

Not sure if that means they're great or not.
   20. vortex of dissipation Posted: August 20, 2018 at 04:52 PM (#5730385)
The 1973 NL East race is remembered as a great, down-to-the-wire race with four teams in it until the last weekend. The fact that the Mets won it with only 82 wins doesn't change that.
   21. perros Posted: August 20, 2018 at 04:57 PM (#5730388)
Giants-Braves was a great race to end all races.
   22. DonPedro Posted: August 20, 2018 at 08:01 PM (#5730460)
So what's the verdict on the merit of the 1967 AL race, celebrated at the time (and probably, still- in Boston, at least) as The Great Race?
   23. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 20, 2018 at 08:15 PM (#5730464)
So what's the verdict on the merit of the 1967 AL race, celebrated at the time (and probably, still- in Boston, at least) as The Great Race?

prolly still the best because it involved 3 teams and went down to the last day AND it involved the RedSox
   24. Nasty Nate Posted: August 20, 2018 at 08:18 PM (#5730465)
4 teams!
   25. AndrewJ Posted: August 20, 2018 at 08:36 PM (#5730475)
As Steve Steinberg pointed out in his SABR 48 presentation, the 1908 NL pennant race had three teams playing .700+ ball in September/October (Cubs 28-8, Giants 29-11, Pirates 26-8)...
   26. maccoach57 Posted: August 20, 2018 at 09:17 PM (#5730493)
1948 AL was a great race with three high-quality teams. The book Epic Season by David Kaiser is a pretty good recounting of it.
   27. maccoach57 Posted: August 20, 2018 at 09:18 PM (#5730494)
I get what people are saying about the NL/5th, but I am liking it. The fact that none of the teams is awesome will not affect my interest level.
   28. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 20, 2018 at 09:52 PM (#5730504)
As Steve Steinberg pointed out in his SABR 48 presentation, the 1908 NL pennant race had three teams playing .700+ ball in September/October (Cubs 28-8, Giants 29-11, Pirates 26-8)...

The 1908 AL race also had three teams finishing within 1.5 games of each other.

Another oft-overlooked but extraordinary old-timey pennant race is the AL in 1920, which not only had three teams that won 95-98 games, but also had side considerations for all three during the year (respectively: Babe Ruth, Ray Chapman, and the Black Sox scandal).
   29. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: August 20, 2018 at 11:56 PM (#5730534)
The Crazy '08 book was wonderful by the way.
   30. base ball chick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 12:36 AM (#5730541)
if you have one or 2 "great" teams, then the rest of them are teh sukc and that is B O R I N G

i'd rather be into a race between 5 or 6 teams who are all going to end up around 90 wins
   31. Walt Davis Posted: August 21, 2018 at 03:04 AM (#5730550)
The 93 NLW with the 103-win Giants losing out to the 104-win Braves is about as good as it gets.

Put me down as "a great race requires at least two great teams, down to the wire, where one of them will lose out." The 2018 NL is a bunch of solid but unspectacular teams stumbling in slightly better than 500 fashion to the finish line. I'll also add that divisional races at least could be tense when Sept was nothing but divisional games, now it's let's beat Tampa while we hope San Fran beats the Brewers for us. I'm still up in the air whether being forced into the play-in game is sufficiently close to "losing out" for a race to be great.

On the Indians -- they aren't a good team, they're just in a terrible division. (OK, they have not played like a good team...) They are 500 against the rest of baseball (NLC is their interleague) but 20 games over against the ALC. And 37-17 against the rest of the ALC ain't that good -- those teams are playing a combined 346 (99-187) vs the rest of the AL and the NLC, putting the Indians only 2 games ahead of an average team. The other 4 ALC teams are playing under 300 against the ALW ... and Cleveland is just 14-18. They have a 125 run differential in their division, just +13 outside of it ... with +14 against Baltimore, +17 against Tex and +25 against Cincy (in just 6 games!)

Meanwhile, -16 vs Hou (7 games), -15 vs Sea (7), -7 vs NYY (7), +2 vs Oak (6) and haven't played Bos. Naturally they are +6 vs the Cubs and +6 vs the Brewers so they still might be better than all of the NL. :-)
   32. Leroy Kincaid Posted: August 21, 2018 at 06:11 AM (#5730552)
Wait until they expand to 8 divisions and add more wildcards. Then we'd have "great" "pennant" races every year!
   33. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 08:01 AM (#5730565)
The 1973 NL East race is remembered as a great, down-to-the-wire race with four teams in it until the last weekend. The fact that the Mets won it with only 82 wins doesn't change that.

That race wasn't actually decided until a makeup game between the Mets and the Cubs on the day after the regular season was supposed to end. And if the Mets hadn't won the first game of that makeup doubleheader to clinch the division, they would've had to have played a second game to prevent a special playoff between the Mets and the Cardinals.

OTOH I seriously doubt that race would've been remembered as much as it has been if the Mets hadn't gone on to upset the Reds in the NCLS, and then taken the A's to game 7 of the World Series.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So what's the verdict on the merit of the 1967 AL race, celebrated at the time (and probably, still- in Boston, at least) as The Great Race?

prolly still the best because it involved 3 teams and went down to the last day AND it involved the RedSox

Even that understates it, because as late as September 6th there was a 4 way tie for 1st, and the 4th team (the White Sox) wasn't eliminated until the final Friday of the season.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The 1908 AL race also had three teams finishing within 1.5 games of each other.

That was the weirdest finish of them all, since going into the final day the Tigers were 1/2 game ahead of both the White Sox and the Indians, and clinched the pennant by beating the White Sox.

But here's the weirdness: If the White Sox had beaten the Tigers, that would've left the White Sox and the Indians tied in games at the end of the season, but the White Sox would've won the pennant with an 89-63 record to the Indians' 90-64. Back then they didn't replay rained out games,** and the White Sox would've won the pennant by .586 to .584.

** The Merkle game ended in a tie and was replayed at the end of the season, but it wasn't a rainout. If it had been a rainout, there still would've been a game to decide the pennant, but it would've been considered a special playoff game rather than a makeup of a suspended game.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The 93 NLW with the 103-win Giants losing out to the 104-win Braves is about as good as it gets.

But if the Yankees hadn't been crippled by so many key injuries, this year's AL East stood a very good chance of coming down to the final weekend of the season in Fenway between 2 teams in the range of 110 or more wins. Cudda shudda wudda.
   34. BDC Posted: August 21, 2018 at 08:55 AM (#5730572)
I think these various pennant-race situations can all be good, they're just different. People were pretty excited about the 2011 AL Wild Card race as it transpired – it seems more storied in Tampa Bay than the 2008 pennant – even though it was a 91-win team beating a 90-win team for what turned out to be a chance to lose a first-round playoff series in four games.
   35. PreservedFish Posted: August 21, 2018 at 09:03 AM (#5730577)
If you can't enjoy a race for the playoffs now you might as well just give up being a baseball fan.
   36. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 09:15 AM (#5730586)
I think these various pennant-race situations can all be good, they're just different. People were pretty excited about the 2011 AL Wild Card race as it transpired – it seems more storied in Tampa Bay than the 2008 pennant – even though it was a 91-win team beating a 90-win team for what turned out to be a chance to lose a first-round playoff series in four games.

I think the problem with so many of these recent races, great as some of them have been, is simply information overload. Everyone' attention is grabbed towards the end of the season, but three days later there's an entire month's worth of games involving nine different matchups that can often obliterate the memories of what had come earlier. This wasn't the case when only the World Series intervened between the end of the pennant races and the beginning of the offseason, not to mention that there was a finality to those old fashioned pennant races that can't exist in an era of multiple wild cards.

Or to put it another way: It's as if the current arrangement almost guarantees two outcomes: The likelihood of at least one or two great races at the end of the regular season; and the near certainty that the excitement of nine postseason series will serve to dull those memories a lot faster than would've been the case when only two teams competed in the postseason.
   37. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 09:18 AM (#5730587)
If you can't enjoy a race for the playoffs now you might as well just give up being a baseball fan.

It's not that you can't enjoy them all in the moment, but down the road it's a lot easier to remember 2 or 3 great pennant races in an average decade than it is to remember multiple great races that occur nearly every year.
   38. SoSH U at work Posted: August 21, 2018 at 09:36 AM (#5730591)
But if the Yankees hadn't been crippled by so many key injuries, this year's AL East stood a very good chance of coming down to the final weekend of the season in Fenway between 2 teams in the range of 110 or more wins. Cudda shudda wudda.


Sure, but the pretty valuable consolation prize at the end for the loser of that race would have made it quite different than 1993.

If the 102-Yankees went into the final Sunday of the season trailing the 103-win Sox by a game with Severino on schedule to pitch, the Yanks probably would hold him back for the likely play-in game, rather than shoot for a tie. I don't know how that can be interpreted as equally compelling as the winner-take-all nature of the pre-WC races.

   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 21, 2018 at 09:44 AM (#5730595)
1948 AL was a great race with three high-quality teams. The book Epic Season by David Kaiser is a pretty good recounting of it.

The '49 AL was fantastic too. "Summer of '49" by Halberstam is a terrific book.

If you like narrative it's hard to beat DiMaggio coming out of the hospital to lead the Yankees to a 2-game sweep for the pennant.
   40. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 21, 2018 at 09:50 AM (#5730603)
I don't know how that can be interpreted as equally compelling as the winner-take-all nature of the pre-WC races.

Why does it have to be equally compelling? I'd rather have a good race every year, than a really compelling battle between 100 win teams once every 20 year.

In the pre-wild card format, the AL this year would be a travesty. You'd have a team on a 102 win pace, and a team on a 94 win pace effectively eliminated in early August.
   41. PreservedFish Posted: August 21, 2018 at 09:50 AM (#5730604)
It's not that you can't enjoy them all in the moment, but down the road it's a lot easier to remember 2 or 3 great pennant races in an average decade than it is to remember multiple great races that occur nearly every year.

Well sure. You can't decide what was a truly great pennant race until the season's practically over.

I 'm just thrown by the grumpiness here. I understand the opinion. But if you really believe today's structure precludes a pennant race from being great, then you believe that there will never again be a great pennant race.
   42. jmurph Posted: August 21, 2018 at 09:59 AM (#5730610)
But if you really believe today's structure precludes a pennant race from being great, then you believe that there will never again be a great pennant race.

I don't think this is a crazy opinion. I'm like 50-60% of the way there. The wild card is obviously much worse than the division, but it's still significantly better than nothing.
   43. SoSH U at work Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:01 AM (#5730612)
Why does it have to be equally compelling?


Because that's the context of the conversation being held. Andy suggested this year's AL race could have compared with the 1993 race. But it couldn't, because the stakes are simply different. That's why I brought it up.

If we're talking about all-time great pennant races, the current system simply won't allow for them. The current system will offset that by creating more races among lower-quality teams or with valuable consolation prizes for the losers. You can prefer either.

Expand to four divisions and two wild cards, and you'll create even more potential races in a given year.

I 'm just thrown by the grumpiness here. I understand the opinion. But if you really believe today's structure precludes a pennant race from being great, then you believe that there will never again be a great pennant race.


I'm not grumpy. I'm going to enjoy the final weeks of the NL season. I just prefer an honest understanding of what the new system gives us and what it removes.

   44. Nasty Nate Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:12 AM (#5730615)
If we're talking about all-time great pennant races, the current system simply won't allow for them. The current system will offset that by creating more races among lower-quality teams or with valuable consolation prizes for the losers.
The current system also offsets that by transferring important games to the Wild Card game and LDS series.
   45. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:21 AM (#5730620)
The current system also offsets that by transferring important games to the Wild Card game and LDS series.

Yup, you can't really compare single division, or 2 division races to the current regular season w/o including the first few playoff rounds.

The pre-'69 "pennant races" were the last real pennant races, because ever since, nothing you do in the regular season can win you a pennant.
   46. SoSH U at work Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:23 AM (#5730621)
The current system also offsets that by transferring important games to the Wild Card game and LDS series.


True. Which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. If the 2011 season had played out under the following year's playoff system, the historic collapses of the Red Sox and Braves would have merely cost them HFA in the play-in game. Or, virtually nothing.* Those last two weeks wouldn't have amounted to anything, as all the significance would have shifted to the result of the play-in contest. Other times, you're going to get a good race and then a play-in game.


*It would have been over. Always over.

   47. dlf Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:29 AM (#5730626)
It is, of course, subjective, but I feel like the expansion of the playoffs has reduced the importance of any division race. With three and a half rounds of post season play, the 162 game regular season is diminished in importance almost by definition. The best box of mac 'n cheese in the world might be pretty good, but it still isn't going to compare the the freshly made pasta alfredo.

The 1972 AL East race is forgotten because it was two 89-win teams where one advanced and the other went home


To the degree it is remembered, it is for the travesty of having a team win by half a game. Because of the early season strike, the Tigers played one more game than did the BoSox.
   48. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:32 AM (#5730629)
But if the Yankees hadn't been crippled by so many key injuries, this year's AL East stood a very good chance of coming down to the final weekend of the season in Fenway between 2 teams in the range of 110 or more wins. Cudda shudda wudda.

Sure, but the pretty valuable consolation prize at the end for the loser of that race would have made it quite different than 1993.

If the 102-Yankees went into the final Sunday of the season trailing the 103-win Sox by a game with Severino on schedule to pitch, the Yanks probably would hold him back for the likely play-in game, rather than shoot for a tie. I don't know how that can be interpreted as equally compelling as the winner-take-all nature of the pre-WC races.


Good point.
   49. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:38 AM (#5730632)
It's not that you can't enjoy them all in the moment, but down the road it's a lot easier to remember 2 or 3 great pennant races in an average decade than it is to remember multiple great races that occur nearly every year.

Well sure. You can't decide what was a truly great pennant race until the season's practically over.

I 'm just thrown by the grumpiness here. I understand the opinion. But if you really believe today's structure precludes a pennant race from being great, then you believe that there will never again be a great pennant race.


I think you misunderstood my point. It's not that many of these recent races don't deserve to be remembered, it's simply that there are so many more subsequent series that take place immediately afterwards that what happened in September can often get lost in the shuffle, especially in your team wasn't one of the ones that was involved.

And just to be clear, I've been in favor of the current wild card system ever since it was first introduced. My only modification would be to make the play-in game best of 3, with the 1st wild card team having home field advantage in all 3 possible games.
   50. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:43 AM (#5730633)
The 1972 AL East race is forgotten because it was two 89-win teams where one advanced and the other went home

To the degree it is remembered, it is for the travesty of having a team win by half a game.

See #33 above. If the White Sox had beaten the Tigers on the final day of the 1908 AL season, they would've won the pennant by finishing 89-63 to the Indians' 90-64, a difference of .002. There would've been no requirement for the White Sox to make up their two missing games.
   51. dlf Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:51 AM (#5730638)
See #33 above. If the White Sox had beaten the Tigers on the final day of the 1908 AL season, they would've won the pennant by finishing 89-63 to the Indians' 90-64 ...


Yes, but unlike 1972, of those here, only you were around to watch the 1908 race.
   52. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:54 AM (#5730641)
1948 AL was a great race with three high-quality teams. The book Epic Season by David Kaiser is a pretty good recounting of it.


The '49 AL was fantastic too. "Summer of '49" by Halberstam is a terrific book.

In spite of some documented factual errors, I agree it's one of the best narrative baseball books around.

If you like narrative it's hard to beat DiMaggio coming out of the hospital to lead the Yankees to a 2-game sweep for the pennant.

Dimaggio went 3 for 8 in those final two games, but even more memorable was that he voluntarily took himself off the field in the top of the 9th on the final day, after a fly ball that he felt should've been caught went over his head for a two run triple. Dimaggio had the credibility to have performed that selfless act without exposing himself to charges of making retroactive excuses for missing that fly ball, and the fans recognized his gesture: He received a standing ovation as he headed towards the dugout, in spite of the fact that his misplay had put the pennant in jeopardy.
   53. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:56 AM (#5730643)
See #33 above. If the White Sox had beaten the Tigers on the final day of the 1908 AL season, they would've won the pennant by finishing 89-63 to the Indians' 90-64 ...

Yes, but unlike 1972, of those here, only you were around to watch the 1908 race.


I should've been born in China, where the wisdom of its 120 year olds is respected rather than mocked.
   54. Bote Man Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:58 AM (#5730644)
Why, in my day we finished the regular season, shook hands, and went home to stare out the window and wait for Spring. /old Hoss Radbourne
   55. PreservedFish Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:04 AM (#5730650)
Old Hoss probably had to go back to his real job on a farm or something.
   56. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:26 AM (#5730674)
I'll take the "pro" 'it's a great race!' side --

With the caveat that we've still got a couple of weeks left in August, so it can turn boring pretty quickly.

However, if the current schema were to hold into the middle of September - the Cubs with a modest, but far from safe, lead in the NLC, with the Cards/Brewers not going away and still in a good position for the WC... essentially a three-way tie in the NLW and a two-way tie in the NLE...

I submit that would be a great - and memorable - finish. The problem is that it seems likely this does not hold - and more than likely, we end up with two teams doing scoreboard watching for the last WC spot with the rest fairly settled.

I think that any race where there are three teams who are within a game or two of continuing into October or ending their season with the end of the regular season is by any definition a good race. Call it a good playoff race rather than a pennant race if you like.

Obviously, having a rooting interest - I would prefer my guys lock up what they need to lock up and I'll just sit back and enjoy the other seven teams jockeying for the last four spots.





   57. Morty Causa Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:30 AM (#5730677)
I don't know if it's been noted, but the 1978 AL season finish was something. Made me play sick and skip work. It didn't finish like I wanted it to, but que sera sera.
   58. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:41 AM (#5730687)
Quick reality check: Without looking it up, how many great division/wildcard races can you remember since the beginning of wildcard play in 1995? Or if you wish, start with 2012, when the second wildcard team was introduced.

And without looking it up, how many memorable Division Series/League Championship Series/World Series can you remember from that same period?

I'd bet for most of us it'd be a lot more of the latter than the former. The advent of the wildcard system has on the one hand kept our interest up in September, but at the same time the expansion of the postseason has overwhelmed our cranial capacities, at least among those of us who primarily follow only one division or one league, and don't make it a habit of watching too many regular season games after midnight.
   59. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:49 AM (#5730692)
I don't know if it's been noted, but the 1978 AL season finish was something.

Well, sure, and the playoff game that ended with the tying and winning runs left on base after one future HoFer induced another future HoF to hit a feeble popup, after nearly blowing a 5 to 2 lead, will always certify the 1978 AL East as the Gold Standard of division races.

Of course the fans of a certain team may disagree, but there's never been a win-or-go-home division race that ever ended so dramatically, only the 1951 NL pennant race and a handful of postseason series.
   60. McCoy Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:51 AM (#5730695)
59 posts and no mention of the NL in 2001? The Diamondbacks move into first in May, lose it to the Dodgers at the end of July and into August and then they get back and outplay the Giants by 2 games to win the division by two.

In the East the Phillies were leading the division for most of the first half but they collapse. The Braves don't do much better but they win three more games in the second half than the Phillies including two against the Phillies in the last week of the season to win the division by two.

In the Central the Cardinals and Astros actually tied for the division but by the end of the season they were both assured of a playoff spot so no one really cared. But in terms of narrative you had the Chicago Cubs leading the division into August before falling apart. The Cardinals were 7 games behind after August 7th games and they end up winning almost 71% of the rest of their games to finish 5 games ahead of the Cubs. Astros were 1.5 games behind on that day and played well enough to tie with the surging Cards. The Astros and Cards actually wrapped up the season with a three game series that virtually no one cared about because of the Wild Card.
   61. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:51 AM (#5730696)
One great race that gets lost in the drama surrounding the death of Ray Chapman is the 1920 American League -- the Indians, White Sox, and Yankees handed first place back and forth all summer and ended up separated by just three games. And one team's ace literally killed another team's shortstop.
   62. SoSH U at work Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:52 AM (#5730697)
Quick reality check: Without looking it up, how many great division/wildcard races can you remember since the beginning of wildcard play in 1995? Or if you wish, start with 2012, when the second wildcard team was introduced.


Since 1995:
1995 - Mariners winning AL West against Angels.
2005 - White Sox holding off Indians, while Red Sox/Yankees finish tied in the AL East.
2007 - Rockies turning in the greatest September/October in history, until the World Series, to chase down the WC.
Same year - Mets collapsing.
2008 - Mets collapsing.
2011 - Dueling collapses by the Red Sox/Braves.

There was also two AL Central races that resulted in one-game playoffs - the White Sox-Twins one year (08 I think) and a Tigers-Twins playoff (when Miggy went on a bender). Thome homered to win the Sox-Twins game, and Brandon Inge got hit in the jersey and Chip Caray made a horrible call on a single to left in the Twins win.

Since then:
Pirates-Reds-Cards 3-way in 2014 or 15.
That's the only one that jumps out at me.
   63. McCoy Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:54 AM (#5730700)
1998 Cubs/Mets/Giants.
   64. Zonk qualifies as an invasive species Posted: August 21, 2018 at 12:02 PM (#5730706)
Quick reality check: Without looking it up, how many great division/wildcard races can you remember since the beginning of wildcard play in 1995? Or if you wish, start with 2012, when the second wildcard team was introduced.

And without looking it up, how many memorable Division Series/League Championship Series/World Series can you remember from that same period?

I'd bet for most of us it'd be a lot more of the latter than the former. The advent of the wildcard system has on the one hand kept our interest up in September, but at the same time the expansion of the postseason has overwhelmed our cranial capacities, at least among those of us who primarily follow only one division or one league, and don't make it a habit of watching too many regular season games after midnight.


Well, it's generally not a fair comparison ("races" vs "playoff series") - I mean, my top three memorables would be the 2016 NLDS, NLCS, and WS.

But -

I very clearly remember the 1998 playoff race... it took game 163 for the Cubs to nab the WC, just barely hanging on to the lead in the tiebreaker as a dead tired Beck managed to stop 9th inning bleeding. I barely remember the following Braves sweep at all.

2003 was an extraordinary race - one the most exciting final weeks I can remember. Getting the postseason series monkey off our backs against the Braves was memorable... as was the Fish series (for all the wrong reasons).

2004 was a "memorable" race - but in a bad way as it almost felt like a relief when that hated, unlikable team didn't drag it out into the postseason.

2007 was pretty good - the Cubs didn't put away the Brewers until the final week... I barely remember the DBacks sweep.

2015 was also excellent - three NLC powerhouses slugging it out into the final week and in that case - all they were doing was jockeying for tournament slots as the Cards/Cubs/Pirates all clinched playoff spots fairly early in September. Beating the Cardinals in the NLDS was better, though.

   65. RMc Has Bizarre Ideas to Fix Baseball Posted: August 21, 2018 at 10:16 PM (#5731316)
Your modern, namby-pamby, painty-waisted pennant races have nothing on this, sirrah!
   66. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 21, 2018 at 11:06 PM (#5731353)
Your modern, namby-pamby, painty-waisted pennant races have nothing on this, sirrah!

Egad, sir, that was a Whale of a pennant race!

(Sorry, 1915 style humor)

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