Thursday, September 20, 2007

Taking Stock: Sit Back, Relax, Have Some Dip

Last night, I hit my nadir for the season. My sister, who's a hardcore enough fan to have gotten the B logo and "2004" tattooed on her back, was over at my apartment last night while Paps was giving up his spirit-crushing grand slam to super utility all star Russ Adams. She could see my disappointment, and - being a good sister - she provoked me into a diatribe about how the AL East is lost, no one on this can pitch and a third of our starting lineup is in injury land with only a handful of games left to play.

When I was done, she pointed out that I was being a defeatist, a 162-seasons-a-year Chicken Little, the type of overly-involved fan I can't stand because they take no long view what so ever. The ball left Adams bat and flew into the upper deck and she called me out.

And you know what? She's right. We all need to chill out about our playoff situation, stop demanding heads and get back to the business of enjoying this season while it lasts. Do I want to win the AL East? Sure, it's been 12 years and - to be honest - it would complete whatever revenge we started against the Yankees in 2004 with the ALCS comeback. But winning the pennant is much more important, and that exponentially more important second World Series ring in three years would be more than enough sweetness to make up for a missed AL East victory. If getting that ring means licking the collective wounds and struggling along while the Tigers drop us through the back door into the Wild Card, I'm more than happy to make the exchange, and all of you should be, too.

Just to drive the point home: need further proof of the irrelevance of winning the AL East? Let's look at the numbers:
  • Since the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995, 8 of the 22 teams playing in the World Series were Wild Card winners. Half of those 8 teams went on to win everything. In other words, being an also-ran gives you an almost 50% chance of getting to the pinnacle series of the year.
  • In those 11 years, only three Championship Series match ups did not feature a Wild Card winner in at least one league. The last time at least one Wild Card winner did not it to the second round of the playoffs was in 2001.
  • As Tony Massarotti pointed out in yesterday's Herald, the home field advantage winning a division can give a team doesn't necessarily mean that much of the course of the playoffs: "In the AL playoffs last season, the home team won six games, the road team five. In the National League, the count was 7-6."
In other words, just making it to the post-season is enough for anything, anything to happen. Let's stop acting like we've come to the end of the world, enjoy what our team can win, get past what they can't and prepare to move on to October. The Magic Number is now 3...and counting.