November 2011

Rangers: Going back-to-back for more?

Approaching and experiencing the 2011 World Series, there was much talk about the Rangers being on the spot to avoid becoming the first AL team in nearly a half-century to lose consecutive Fall Classics.

Then, when they did … we seemed to change the channel. No follow-ups.

We’ll fill in that blank (and, hopefully, not add to the post-Thanksgiving indigestion of Arlington fans):

  • Texas is only the 10th team ever to lose back-to-back Fall Classics.
  • Of the previous nine clubs, seven didn’t even make the following postseason (but, full disclosure: six of those instances occurred prior to 1969 and divisions, when you had to win pennants and directly went to the Series).
  • Only one team stayed the course the ensuing season, returned to the World Series and won it: The 1923 Yankees, who exacted revenge over the Giants after losing the 1921-22 Classics to them.

Having to flash all the way back to the Roaring ’20s isn’t very encouraging for the Rangers and their fans, is it?

More recently, after losing the 1991-92 Series, the ’93 Braves did return with a 104-win season (and a six-game NLCS loss to the Phillies.

The two double-Classic losers prior to that, however, couldn’t even manage a winning record the following season: The 1979 Dodgers were 79-83, the 1965 Yankees 77-85.

If Ron Washington wanted to present his guys a worthwhile carrot — there it is.

It beats simply wanting to avoid becoming the first team to drop three straight Series in a century: The 1907-09 Tigers and 1911-1913 Giants were the only ones to manage that trifecta.

Of Wild – and farewell — Cards

Now that the CBA dust has settled — somewhat; the new Draft-spending dust-up is just beginning — I thought it might be intriguing to take a fresh look at another controversial aspect of the labor contract: The addition of one more Wild Card playoff team in each league, perhaps as soon as next October.

Did I say “fresh” look? I meant “historical” look. Doubling up on Wild Card teams will mean a one-game playoff between them to progress into the heart of the postseason — and the fact is, there have already been 10 play-in games in MLB history, the previous all needed to break ties at the conclusion of the regular season.

If the track record means anything, the new postseason guests will feel as welcomed as ants at a picnic. Their long-haul prospects are pretty dim. The thrill of gaining a postseason berth, of perhaps even winning that first rung, will fade into a quick boot from the playoffs.

In the Divisions Era — which obviously added extra obstacles to going all the way — only one of eight one-game playoff survivors has continued to a World Series title: The very first, the 1978 Bucky Dent Yankees, who after bouncing the Red Sox took the ALCS over Kansas City and the Series over the Dodgers.

Of the subsequent seven, only one even survived into the World Series: The 2007 Rockies, who remained unconscious (sweeps of the Phillies in the NLDS and of the D-backs in the NLCS) until being revived by Boston (swept in the Fall Classic).

Four others (2009 Twins, 2008 White Sox, 1998 Cubs and 1980 Astros) were summarily bounced in the first round (going a collective 4-12 in games), while the other two (1999 Mets and 1995 Mariners) at least stretched their lives into the League Championship Series.

Incidentally, the first two one-game playoff winners did cop World Series titles — but back in the day a pennant directly earned a get-in-the-Series card: The 1908 Cubs won a playoff over the Giants, then beat the Tigers for what still is their last Classic championship, and in 1948 the Indians won their tiebreaker over the Red Sox and beat the Braves for their last Series title.