Breaking Balls: The worst World Series ever
I think most sports fan like to think of the championship series (or game) of any sport as a matchup of the two best teams battling it out to prove who is actually the greatest team that year.
But the truth is that’s hardly ever actually the case. Last year’s Super Bowl featured a wild card team in the New York Giants who probably shouldn’t have been in the playoffs and a New England Patriots team that should have lost to the Ravens in the AFC Championship game.
This World Series was a matchup of the fifth-best team from the American League (the Detroit Tigers) and the fourth-best team from the National League (the San Francisco Giants). So, the championship of all of 2012 baseball was going to be decided not by the “best” teams, but by the two teams who got the hottest after they made it into the playoffs.
You probably know by now the Giants won the World Series, and they certainly deserve all the congratulations they get. And the Tigers certainly don’t deserve the criticisms they are getting. They made it all the way to the World Series. Congratulations to them!
When the series started, I thought the Tigers would win. I felt it was a good matchup, but it seemed like the Tigers were just a bit better. And I still think that. Though, yes, I am aware that on those four days they played each other, the Giants played better. That doesn’t make them the “better” team.
Detroit only squeaked into the playoffs because its division was weak and the White Sox crapped the bed at the end of the season. So, both teams got lucky along the way. Who cares? That’s sports. What bugs me about this World Series is that it was so boring. Okay, Giants fans, calm down. I know winning isn’t boring, but believe it or not, most people aren’t Giants fans. That’s just simple math. There are 28 other teams in the league (29 if you count the Astros).
For me, beyond my own Red Sox preferences, it doesn’t matter who gets to the championship, I just want exciting games. Even the Red Sox recent two World Series victories felt a little weird because they were both sweeps. I’ll take the championships, but a sweep? Ugh. Boring.
This year’s sweep by the Giants only had one game that was close – the 10-inning game four – and even that just seemed more like it was just prolonging the inevitable Giants win than a nail-biting, edge-of-your-set thrill ride. The Tigers were shut out two games in a row. Do you know when the last time that happened? Almost a hundred years ago when it happened to the White Sox in 1919 – yep, during the Black Sox scandal. And those guys weren’t really giving it their all.
Maybe the six days off for the Tigers before the series was just too long. Inertia says that an object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest. And it’s safe to say that Detroit has some pretty big objects on their team.
The Tigers just didn’t look right from the beginning of the first game all the way through until the end. They were swinging wildly at pitches hoping to win games with every at bat, instead of mounting an offensive attack. The Giants have some excellent pitchers. They also have some not-excellent pitchers and the Tigers made them all look great.
I guess Detroit’s been like that all season and, as they say, you dance with who brung you. Their style got them into the playoffs, and then they got past the Athletics and whooped the lifeless Yankees. And then game one happened. Justin Verlander looked like garbage and Pablo Sandoval crushed three home runs – and like most of Detroit’s neighborhoods, the Tigers just never recovered.
Sandoval wound up with six home runs in the playoffs. Not bad for a guy who hit 12 total for the entire season. Someone might want to check his hotel room and see if Lance Armstrong set up shop in there.
Looking back, the Giants probably shouldn’t have made it to the World Series. They were down 2-0 in the series with the Reds and Cincinatti lost their best pitcher. Then they were down 3-1 to the miracle Cardinals, who had the best offense in the league, but completely stopped hitting. Skill and luck combined perfectly to get the Giants past better teams and into the World Series against the Tigers. Their pitching was very good and their offense was just enough. Their batters were patient and fouled off dozens of balls each game wearing out the Detroit pitchers.
San Francisco played baseball almost perfectly in every aspect of the game. They got production from all over their lineup. They played solid defense and, of course, they pitched the crap out of the ball.
Throughout the tedious, uneventful series I had a lot of time to think about various aspects of the game. And inevitably would come back to one thing that was very interesting. You: “How interesting was it?” Me: “It was so interesting that my wife thought it was completely uninteresting and pleaded with me to please shut up about it.” So, you know it was interesting.
It was the Irony of Miguel Cabrera.
Many of you know that Miguel Cabrera was an offense machine this year and that he won the Triple Crown. Old school baseball folks think he should absolutely win the league Most Valuable Player Award. The problem is that there are now a lot of other statistics that smart people look at that tell how a player performs and Mike Trout is the clear leader in those stats.
So, the old school guys filibuster about Cabrera carrying his team on his back and getting the Tigers into the playoffs. And Trout didn’t do that (even though Trout’s Angels had more wins than the Tigers). Some of these “new” stats also factor in things like fielding and baserunning. Trout is almost perfect in those and Miggy is, well, what’s the opposite of a Triple Crown? A red velvet fedora? Miggy gets the red velvet fedora in defense and baserunning.
And so, old schoolers fire up their filibuster machines again and claim that defense and baserunning aren’t really that important and being the most valuable player is more about offense and intangibles. And Miggy has a ton of these intangibles – though coincidentally, with his girth, he also has a ton of tangibles.
That’s pretty much where the Trout vs. Carbrera argument ended: old school vs. new school. And then the World Series happened. And in game after game, defense and baserunning were factors where Detroit fell very, very short and offense had little to do with the outcome.
The Giants played very good defense – catching fly balls that would have been base hits against the Tigers slow defense. Detroit allowed base hits to the Giants that should have just been outs. And those base hits almost always scored. It was almost as if to prove the point to the world that there is more to a baseball player than just offense. And that defense and baserunning can win or lose you games just as well as a home run or an RBI or a truckload of intangibles.
If we started the World Series over right now, we would definitely end up with a different result. Not just because the Giants aren’t really this good, but because baseball never repeats itself – not over a whole series.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that this Tigers team actually wasn’t very good. And maybe this Giants team is – or maybe they won’t even make the playoffs next year. But they both deserved to get exactly as far as they got, because they did it – regardless of whether their opposing teams may have helped along the way.
This series stunk. These two teams were boring and they played a boring series. Last year’s series was almost too perfect with its come-from-behind wins and its heartbreaking twists and turns. It was the kind of championship that makes baseball fans out of everyone. Whereas this series was really just more fuel for those who say that baseball is too slow and uneventful.
There are so many random factors in every single game and then multiply that out from there for a series that I guess it’s really not fair to compare the different World Series of different years. But what the hell else am I supposed to do when the series is super-boring and now it’s already over?