I’ve written about this before but given the fervor around game #5 of the recent American League Division Series between Toronto and Texas and the 7th inning of that game in particular, I think a reexamination of those pesky w’s & l’s is in order. If you are truly a recreational participant who doesn’t give a “flying fidoo” (to use a favourite term of the host of the very popular radio programme “Prime Time Sports”, Bob McCown) about win’s and losses, find something else to do, this doesn’t apply.
For the 99.9999 % of you who, regardless of your activity of choice, keep score, this IS for you. I’ll begin with a question, the key question. Just how much do you care about the final score of the sport you love to play, be it individual or team oriented? I completely understand and accept that even though score is kept, for some, it has very little relevance, while for others, it can mean the world. I get that!
But let’s put ourselves somewhere in the middle of this conundrum. The score of the game does have some import. When we win, there’s a measure of satisfaction and when we lose, it’s not the most pleasant feeling in the world. I’m sensing that most of you are in this category. I know I am. So let’s have a look at winning & losing and how to deal with these two impostors (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling).
To do this, I will reprise my “baseball analogy” for those who have not been exposed to it and it has great relevance on this Oct. 15 because yesterday, at The Rogers Centre, history was made on a variety of levels as one team moved on and the other is on its way home.
The Baseball Analogy
At the beginning of the baseball season, a season that’s truly a marathon of 162 games, 81 at home and 81 on the road, I can meet with the best team in major league baseball and make the claim that despite its best efforts, high degree of skill, experience and talent, it’s going to lose a minimum of 50 games. If I can say that to the very best team in MLB then I can say that to every team.
On the other hand, I can meet with the worst team in MLB prior the start of that 162 game season and announce to the team that despite its short comings, for sure it will win a minimum of 50 games. If I can say that to the worst team in baseball it would hold that I could say that to all the teams in both major leagues.
So, of the 162 games, 100 of them, for all intents and purposes, are pre-determined. Each team has no idea which of the 50 it’s about to experience as it begins a game, but when the game is over, each team will know if it was a 50, 50 or 62!
It might have been a game in which clearly and objectively it was the better team but for some twist of fate, their opponent snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Fortunately, those games are balanced off by an equal number in which the team walks of the field, court, ice etc., knowing full well it has just been handed a win, again due to some unfortunate circumstance befalling its opponent who clearly should have won the game. It happens to everyone. It’s the nature of sport.
Thankfully there will be games after which the team knows, that its opponent just played better and were deserving of the w and others where it knew it had played well, better than its opponent and knew the w on its side of the ledger was legitimately earned.
Point to be made is this. When the game ends, determine if the outcome was one of the 50’s or a 62. If it was one of the 50’s, don’t dwell too much on it. In other words, don’t read too much into it. If was one of the 62 and you won the game, know why you won. What did you do better than your opponent and how did that performance by the team compare to your standard of performance? If you lost the game, spend time identifying your short comings but most importantly, as I’ve stated on many occasions, don’t lose the lesson!
In the ALDS involving Toronto & Texas, there were five games played. Four of them were in the 62 category, not my opinion but that of the manager of the losing team in all four games. Manager John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays flat out stated that in the two home games that kicked off the five game series, Texas played better! Jeff Bannister of the Texas Rangers when with the series victory one win away at home, stated much the same after two Blue Jay road wins.
With the ALDS on the line, the series’ final game took place at The Rogers Centre. There was a measure of concern for Blue Jay fans when those Rangers of Arlington Texas, jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. It looked too much like the start of those home losses in games #1 & #2. But the Jays tied the score leading to what will go down in Blue Jay history as the most note worthy inning in the team’s history, at least to this point.
For those Canadians having their wisdom teeth pulled or where otherwise occupied, there’s what happened. In the top of the inning, the Rangers managed to get a runner to third base. Russell Martin, the BJ’s native Canadian catcher, in attempting to return the ball to the pitcher, inadvertently struck the bat of the Ranger hitter, who was in the batter’s box, extending his batting arm, preparing for the next pitch. He in no way attempted to interfere with catcher Martin’s return throw to his battery mate. But the ball deflected off the bat and before it could be retrieved the Ranger base runner sprinted home with the go ahead run and given the inning and the low score, potentially with the series winning run. Interestingly enough, the first reaction of the home plate umpire was to wave his arms indicating a dead ball. Although after a meeting with his five colleagues, he realized that the rule to be applied allowed the run to be scored, much to the chagrin of the almost 50 000 spectators, some of whom embarrassed themselves by throwing debris toward the field. That rule, correctly applied, is a bad rule. The umpire’s first instinct said it all, the ball should be “dead”, no runners to advance but that’s for another time.
As the bottom of the same inning commenced, a comedy of errors on the part of the Rangers allowed the tying run to cross the plate. With two on base, the team’s long time spiritual leader and home run hitter, Jose Bautista, launched a rocket not just toward the third deck in left field, it almost relocated the third deck. It made the score 6-3 and despite a mini uprising by the Rangers in the late stages of the game, the Blue Jays secured the ALDS title by that 6-3 score.
In my view the BJ’s were outplayed. Not by much, but by enough that the Rangers should be headed to Kansas City on Friday to begin the American League Championship Series and a possible berth in the World Series, not the Blue Jays. The chances of a team committing three back-to-back errors in the same inning in MLB is akin to every member of that team winning a power ball lottery.
It’s been said that “luck is where preparation meets opportunity”. There’s no question in my mind that the Blue Jays were lucky but Jose Bautista made the most of his opportunity and the BJ relief pitchers closed the door. The key point here is chronology. Without the incredible string of uncharacteristic “unforced” errors*, Bautista’s opportunity would likely have never materialized. But it did! Way to go Jose!!!!
So ends the 2015 ALCS between the Blue Jays of Toronto and the Rangers of Arlington, Texas. It was a great series, four 62’s and a 50!
* Of those 3 back-to-back Texas errors, one was influenced by Russell Martin as he made his way to 2nd base. He knew the throw was coming from 1st base and the replay showed he altered his path just enough to make the throw more difficult!