08/27/2004: I don't share her enthusiasm for the Olympics...
but the Games do give the Baseball Widow a chance to muse on the nature of baseball (her permalinks appear to be bloggered; scroll to the entry titled "Olympic Edition", and suggest why the short postseason playoff series aren't exactly showcasing the game correctly:
Baseball is a sport whose style and power are best examined over the course of a season, incorporating the ability to rotate roster spots, the strategy of team trades, and the excitement of pennant races. You just can't condense the sport into a two-week tournament.I'm not sure to what extent, if any, I agree with her that a 7 game series is somehow a more representative showcase of a team's prowess than a 5 game series; after all, we're talking only two more games here.
Quite simply, you can't judge a baseball team until you've seen long-term performance. If you haven't seen every starting pitcher play, then you really haven't seen what the team is.
The problem in trying to condense baseball into tourney-friendly bite-sized pieces isn't limited to the Olympics. The postseason suffers from time-crunch as well. Five game series are fundamentally different from seven game series, and they result in advancement for some teams who otherwise wouldn't have a prayer in a long series. Okay, Baseball Widow realizes that spectators demand a postseason. . . you just gotta have an identifiable champ, right? I'm not trying to say that we should score teams like we score fantasy baseball and declare a winner after the regular season, but I do feel that every postseason series should benefit from the same ground rules--and shorter series result in playing by different rules.
I was born in 1957, therefore my baseball fan life extends back to the mid-60's, meaning that I have no recollections of the "classic", pre-1962-expansion eight team baseball leagues; the first "season" that I remember clearly is 1964, and even then I'm not remembering much of the season, I'm remembering the '64 pennant race (this being the season of Philadelphia's Great Swoon, and the Cardinals clinching the NL pennant on the last day of the regular season, IIRC) and World Series (which the Cardinals won, defeating The Hated Yankees). There seems to me to be a big difference, though, between baseball pre-1969 (when divisional alignments forced the inauguration of league championship series) and afterwards. Indeed, with divisional realignment in 1995 and the introduction of the divisional series and wild card playoff appearances there is a significant difference between baseball today and the game played between 1969 and 1995 as well.
I still haven't decided whether those differences represent an improvement on the "League Championship Season followed by a World Series" system of pre-1969 baseball, or not, but my gut feeling is that they don't.
Len on 08.27.04 @ 07:56 AM CST