I have to give ESPN some credit. Everytime I think that they can’t throw the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry down the throats of this nation any more, they manage to do it. My rant now is the whole “Will the Red Sox collapse?” thing since the Yankees are apparently 1.5 games back.
When I hear ESPN trying their hardest to make me care about that race, I ask only one thing – does it really matter? In my opinion, absolutely not. If the Yankees pass the Red Sox, a coinflip scenario at this point, all that happens is that the wild card team will not have homefield advantage in the two rounds of the American League playoffs. Barring an epic collapse where one of those teams manages to lose their final 9-10 games, both teams are making the playoffs. And homefield advantage in baseball is inconsquential, almost as much as home ice in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Besides all that, recent evidence shows that a late-season surge, or late-season fold, means nothing once the playoffs start. Take last year’s World Series participants as example one. The Detroit Tigers blew a double-digit August lead to the Minnesota Twins, losing their last five games to allow the Twins to pass them up for the AL Central title in the final weekend of the regular season. Of course, the Twins followed up their huge surge to the division crown by getting swept by the A’s, while the “struggling” Tigers proceeded to trash the Yankees and sweep the A’s en route to the World Series.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals almost blew an 8.5-game lead in the final two weeks of the regular season, allowing the Astros to pull within 1.5 games before putting them away with a lackluster 83-win campaign. Well, lackluster until the Cards beat the Padres, Mets and heavily favored Tigers to grab their first World Series since 1982. But yeah, St. Louis was still worried about their late-season fade.
Still don’t believe me? The 2005 White Sox saw a 15-game AL Central lead to the Indians fall to 1.5 games with a week left in the season. Chicago held on, but they were obviously shaken by their September swoon enough to be easy playoff fodder right? Well, if only losing one game en route to winning their first World Series in 88 years is being shaken, then correct. But it’s not.
Even the Yankees have a recent example to refute all this hoopla about this collapse/comeback. In 2000, the Yankees ended September with two wheels blown, falling in their final seven games to “limp” into the playoffs. New York hobbled so badly that not only did they upset Oakland in the divisional series, they managed to edge by Seattle and beat the Mets for their third straight World Series title and fourth in five years. It also was the last World Series title for the Yankees.
Anyway, as I’m ranting, I will admit that I find the Yankees deplorable and if it wasn’t for the fact that my mom was from Massachusetts, would likely find the Red Sox to be just as bad. But the reasons for my hatred aren’t exactly what you’d think. I don’t really care that these two teams spend the gross national products of Belgium and the Phillippines to fund their teams. I don’t care that they are good. I just don’t like that every story about either one of these teams, no matter how menial, is blown out of proportion.
The national media thinks the type of placemats that A-Rod uses on his dinner table are newsworthy but couldn’t tell you who the third baseman for the Brewers is (Ryan Braun). They also think Derek Jeter’s breakfast cereal, Jorge Posada’s nasal spray and David Ortiz’s deodorant are relevant, but have no idea who is winning the AL Central (the Indians). Basically, the Yankees and Red Sox do enough on the field to where the media doesn’t have to glorify menial accomplishments and have to peddle them off as newsworthy.
OK, rant over. I’ll have some picks later tonight.