I didn’t write a column for Monday, mostly because I couldn’t get one
started. That sounds weird, but it came down to two things:
- So much had happened over the weekend
- I was completely exasperated by the decisions made by three managers on
The latter point was the bigger one. Even now, thinking about the
Diamondbacks/Cardinals Game 5, I’m surprised that Bud Selig didn’t walk on
the field, call the game and send the Giants to Atlanta for the NLCS.
Rather than do 2,000 words on it, I’ll just ask the one question that keeps
bouncing around my head, then move on:
If the run is important enough to cause you to pinch-hit for Mark
McGwire, isn’t it also important enough to cause you to pinch-hit for
The League Championship Series matchups are set, after three of the five
Division Series went the full five games, and two of the three victors
triumphed after trailing 2-0 or 2-1 in the series.
Full credit should go to the Diamondbacks, Mariners, and Yankees.
Particularly the Yankees, who did what had never been done before in a
best-of-five series, losing the first two games at home and winning the
series, anyway. Their core strengths–front-line starting pitching and a
great three-man bullpen–came to the fore in the last three games against
the A’s, and they made a handful of great plays–I’m thinking of Derek
Jeter here–that made the difference in the series.
However, what bothers me is the notion that these three teams’ wins
represent something about their character, or say something about them as
people. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I’m sure, but
attributing character traits to individuals based on their performance in
baseball games is short-sighted nonsense.
I’ve already received a few e-mails castigating the A’s for a lack of heart,
and pointing to that as the reason they lost the series. That’s an insult to
every member of the organization, one that a week ago was being lauded for
their tremendous in-season comeback from an 8-18 start. They didn’t lose
these games because they failed as men, because they lacked whatever
ineffable quality the Yankees are assumed to have. They lost because they
didn’t hit home runs, they played lousy defense, and they did absolutely
nothing with Mike Stanton and Mariano Rivera.
It works the other way, too. The Mariners and Yankees advanced not because
they’re better people than their vanquished opponents–not because they’re
"winners"–but because in a week’s time, they played and managed
better baseball, and got the bounces that make the difference between
winning and losing close games.
The rush to lionize winners and deride losers of postseason series
disappoints me. There is no need to draw a connection between a person’s
actions on the ballfield and the content of his character, and yet just that
connection drives so much of the coverage of the postseason, and so much of
people’s reactions to the games.
The people we spent last week watching aren’t good or bad people based on
their performance as baseball players. They’re good or bad people based on
their performance as husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, partners…we know
so little of that for any of these men, and to project their play–their job
performance–as being what defines them as people is irrational.
P.S. Braves in seven.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by