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.

Jake Arrieta almost quit baseball

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 29: Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs scratches his beard as he walks back to the dugout at the end of sixth inning after giving up a three run home run to Gregory Polanco #25 of the Pittsburgh Pirates (not pictured) at Wrigley Field on August 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Jon Durr/Getty Images
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Cubs starter Jake Arrieta, the defending National League Cy Young Award winner and author of two no-hitters, considered quitting baseball a few years ago when he was bounced up and down between the major leagues and the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia.

At the time, Arrieta was having trouble living up to his potential as one of the Orioles’ top pitching prospects. He started on Opening Day in 2012, but finished the season with a 6.20 ERA and was very quickly moved back to Norfolk after four mediocre starts to begin the 2013 season.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Arrieta was considering quitting baseball so that his family could have a regular life.

We were at a point where I had other things that I could segue into and establish a career elsewhere. Not that I wanted that to happen, but I didn’t want to continue to go through the things we were going through and moving from place to place in the minor leagues at 25, 26 years old.

Baseball is something that I’ve loved to do since I was a little kid, but it’s not everything. I had to reevaluate some things. I knew I could always pitch this way, but there were times where it seemed like maybe I wasn’t going to get to that point.

It’s just part of life that we had to deal with.

Mooney also points out that Arrieta had a business background having gone to Texas Christian University and would have done something in that field if he had hung up the spikes.

This has been brought up because Arrieta’s teammate Tommy La Stella considered quitting baseball as well recently, as the Cubs demoted him to Triple-A. Though La Stella received a lot of criticism, Arrieta can relate to La Stella. The right-hander said, “I know that there were things that he was going through and dealing with (that) we may not agree with and understand.”

The National Anthem: an unwavering sports tradition . . . since the 1940s

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There’s an interesting article over that the New York Times in the wake of the Colin Kaepernick stuff. This one is about the history of the National Anthem at sporting events.

The anthem is a fixture for as long as those of us reading this blog have been attending games and it’d be weird if it wasn’t there. But it hasn’t always been there, the Times notes. Indeed, it was not a regular fixture until 1942 when it was added for the obvious reason that we were at war. The other major sports leagues all adopted the anthem soon after. The NBA at the inception of the league in 1946 and the NHL in the same year. The NFL’s spokesman doesn’t mention a year, but notes that it’s a non-negotiable part of the game experience. The non-negotiability of it is underscored by the comment from the MLS spokesman who notes that they felt that they had no choice but to play the anthem when that league began play in the 1990s.

I like the anthem at ballgames. It just seems like part of the experience. I like it for its own sake, at least if the performance isn’t too over the top, and I like it because it serves as a nice demarcation between all of the pregame b.s. and the actual game starting.

But this article reminds us that there is no immutable structural reason for the anthem at games. Other countries don’t play their own anthems at their sporting events. We don’t play it before movies or plays or other non-sports performances. It’s a thing that we do which, however much of a tradition it has become, is somewhat odd when you think about it for a moment. And which has to seem pretty rote to the actual ballplayers who hear it maybe 180 times a year.