Can the Angels make history?

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The media has been quick to hand the
Yankees their 40th pennant. Mets fans are already picking which side of
hell they will be rooting for in the World Series. But a dramatic
comeback win on Thursday night was enough to remind you that these
Angels still have some fight left in them. As Game 6 looms, let’s take
a quick look and see if history is on their side.




Since the introduction of seven-game LCS play
in 1985, 30 teams have taken a 3-1 lead. This includes the 2009
Phillies, who defeated the Dodgers in five games to advance to the
World Series, and the 2009 Yankees, who will attempt to close out the
ALCS as Andy Pettitte opposes Joe Saunders in Game 6.




Excluding the Yankees, 23 of the other 29 teams have advanced to the World Series. So, who beat the odds?



1985 Royals: 
The first year of the best-of-seven format, the Royals caught fire
after a shutout by Danny Jackson in Game 5 to surge past the Blue Jays.
Though it wasn’t without controversy, the Royals went on to defeat the
Cardinals in seven games for their only World Series championship.




1986 Red Sox:
The season was rightly marred by the end result, but their comeback
against the Angels was remarkable in its own right. The late Donnie
Moore famously blew a save in Game 5 and the Angels never recovered.
Neither did Moore.




1996 Braves:
Behind lights-out pitching from John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg
Maddux, the Braves outscored the Cardinals 32-1 over the final three
games of the series on their way to becoming the first National League
team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in LCS play.




2003 Marlins:
This series is best — and unfairly — remembered for the Steve Bartman
incident in Game 6, but the Cubs actually had three chances to advance
to the World Series. Kerry Wood came up small in Game 7, allowing seven
runs over 3 2/3 innings as the upstart Marlins dashed Chicago’s hopes
at their first World Series since 1908. The Marlins went on to upset
the heavily-favored Yankees in the World Series.




2004 Red Sox:
The comeback by which all comebacks have become measured. Capped by
Curt Schilling’s “bloody sock” in Game 6 and Johnny Damon’s two homers
in Game 7, the Red Sox became the first ever team to win a series after
being down three games to none. The Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the
World Series for their first championship since 1918.




2007 Red Sox:
Boston walloped the Indians over the final three games of the series by
a score of 30-5, taking the final two games at Fenway Park. They were a
buzzsaw in the World Series, cruising right past a well-rested Rockies
team for their second World Series title in four seasons.




Of the six teams highlighted above,
only the 1985 Royals, 2003 Marlins and 2004 Red Sox were able to
complete the comeback on the road. With Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia
in their way, the Angels have a heckuva hill to climb, but history
doesn’t preclude it from happening.

Bryce Harper is really just a tiny bit better Adam Lind when you think about it

Associated Press
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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post writes about an important matter facing the Washington Nationals over the next year: what to do about Bryce Harper, who is entering his walk year and will be a free agent a little over 12 months from now.

That’s a fine and important question. The Nats do need to decide whether to offer Harper a long term deal, when to offer it and, above all else, how big that deal should be. Should it be $300 million? $400 million? Should it be conventional or unconventional, with opt-outs and such? It’s not every day that a generational talent comes along and it’s even more rare that the generational talent hits free agency at the age of 26, so the decisions facing the Nationals are not easy ones.

Boswell acknowledges that bit of trickiness, but he also, strangely, spends a whole lot of time trying to portray Harper as an ordinary talent. He starts with health, comparing him poorly with Stephen Strasburg, who is ranked 30th in games started over the past five years. In contrast . . .

In those same five years, Harper ranks 90th in games played, just 126 a season, and now he says he should have skipped quite a few more games in 2016 when he had a balky shoulder. That’s almost six weeks out per season.

Nowhere in the column is it mentioned that the several weeks he missed in 2017 was the result of a freak injury in wet conditions and that, despite that, Harper worked his tail off to come back and be ready for the postseason. Not that Boswell doesn’t mention the postseason of course . . .

Harper, for the fourth time, failed to lead his team out of the first round and has career playoff batting average and OPS marks of .215 and .801. By the high standards of right fielders, he’s Mr. Average in October.

I suppose it’s not Boswell’s job to refrain from insulting a player on the team he covers, but he certainly seems hellbent on insulting not only Harper, but our own intelligence via comparisons like this:

In the past five years, in those 126 games, Harper averaged 26 homers, 72 RBI and a .288 average. Over the last nine years, Adam Lind averaged 128 games, 20 homers, 70 RBI and hit .273. That’s selective stat mining. Harper is much better, in part because he walks so much. But Harper and Lind in the same sentence?

“A person can eat delicious chocolate cake or lead paint chips. The chocolate cake is much better, but chocolate cake and lead paint in the same sentence?” I guess Boswell gets points for acknowledging that it was a misleading comparison, but if he thinks it is, why make it in the first place? If you want to eliminate this one as an outlier, cool, because he makes a lot of other comparisons like that in the piece.

This is not necessarily new for Boswell. Here’s something he wrote about Harper in 2014:

Harper has not driven in 60 runs in either of his two seasons. He has only five RBI this year. He’s never had more than 157 runs-plus-RBI. Ryan Zimmerman has had between 163 and 216 six times. Adam LaRoche, no big star, has had 175 or more three times. Fourth outfielder Nate McLouth once had 207. Can we get a grip? Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player. If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twice. Harper is in a self-conscious, fierce scowl-off with baseball. Rendon dances with it and grins. Baseball loves relaxed.

That was written 16 games into his age-22 season.

I’m not sure what Boswell’s beef with Harper is. I’m not sure why he’s contorting himself to portray him as an ordinary player when he is fairly extraordinary and, most certainly, a special case when it comes to his impending free agency. In his career he already has 26.1 career bWAR, 150 homers, an MVP Award under his belt and, if it wasn’t for that freak injury in August, would have a strong case for a second one. Guy has a career line of .285/.386/.515 and he turned 26 four days ago. He’s younger than Aaron Judge.

My view of things is that players should ignore the media for the most part, but they don’t always do that. Sometimes the hostility or criticism of the local press — especially from the most respected portions of the local press who have the ability to shape fan sentiment — gets to them.

Which is to say that, if this kind of noise keeps up, I wouldn’t be shocked if Harper puts up a line of .340/.480/.650 in 2018 and then walked the hell out of D.C. for New York or Chicago or L.A. or something. Would anyone blame him?