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.

Today is the anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s Iron Man streak ending

ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, MARCH 31 AND THEREAFTER - FILE - In this Oct. 5, 1938 file photo, New York Yankees' Lou Gehrig scores the first run of the 1938 World Series against the Chicago Cubs as he crosses home plate in the second inning of Game 1 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. A dozen years before Babe Ruth’s famed ‘Called Shot,’ teammate Lou Gehrig hit an equally dramatic homer. Gehrig was 17 when his high school team traveled to Chicago to take on a Chicago team. In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and his team down 8-6, Gehrig hit a ball over wall and onto Sheffield Avenue to win the game. The historic ballpark will celebrate it's 100th anniversary on April 23, 2014. (AP Photo/File)
Associated Press
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Today is a significant baseball anniversary. On this day in 1939 Lou Gehrig asked out of the lineup as the Yankees played the Tigers in Detroit. It both ended his Iron Man Streak at 2,130, but also marked the beginning of Gehrig’s very public acknowledgement of ALS, the disease which would come to bear his name. Gehrig would never play again.

While it was clear that Gehrig’s body was betraying him and his baseball skills were abandoning him in the first few games of the 1939 season, some say the ultimate impetus for Gehrig asking out of the lineup happened earlier that day. The story goes that Gehrig collapsed on the grand staircase of the Book-Cadillac hotel where the Yankees were staying and that later, as he sat in the hotel bar, he told manager Joe McCarthy that he couldn’t play anymore.

The Book-Cadillac is still there. It deteriorated over the years and then was renovated. It’s a Westin now — the Westin Book-Cadillac. It’s a wonderful hotel and the bar area still has much of its old charm, but the grand staircase is gone, replaced with a couple of escalators. I stay there whenever I’m in Detroit. I’m friends with one of the Book-Cadillac’s bartenders and I try to see him whenever I’m there. When I sit in that bar I often wonder if Gehrig sat near where I was, telling McCarthy that he just couldn’t do it anymore. There are a lot of ghosts in Detroit. Gehrig’s is mostly in New York, but there’s a little bit of him in Detroit too.

Cal Ripken would later break Gehrig’s record. I doubt anyone breaks Cal’s. But in some cases the record holders are less interesting than those who were surpassed.

More talk of a juiced ball

VIERA, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Washington Nationals practice balls  during spring training workouts on February 18, 2014 in Viera, Fl.  (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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At the end of March we linked a story from Rob Arthur and Ben Lindbergh at FiveThirtyEight which sought to figure out why home run rates have spiked. Their theory was that it was either randomness or a juiced ball. They tested baseballs and found no evidence of a different ball, so that seems to have ended that.

Except it didn’t end it because, as so often is the case in the early part of a season, we are seeing some statistical, well, let’s just call it “interestingness” and people don’t like to let such interestingness go. To that end Yahoo’s Jeff Passan — acknowledging the Lindbergh/Arthur study — asks once again if the balls are funky.

It’s all based on exit velocity of baseballs, which Passan notes has spiked. He doesn’t come to any conclusions — just not enough data — but the very act of asking the question in a column and Passan’s acknowledgment that he sounds like a conspiracy theorist tell you that that’s his hunch. And it could be the case. I still think the ball got juiced in 1987 and again, on a more permanent basis, in 1993, but there’s no evidence to really support that. Just one of those “can’t think of anything better” sort of situations.

For now, though, it’s May 2. And I suspect that for as long as there have been May 2nds in a baseball season, people have looked at the stats and suspected something weird was afoot. Maybe something weird is afoot. We just can’t really know.

A-Rod knows how to keep his bat dry

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez watches his RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
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Alex Rodriguez had a big night in a losing effort last night. He homered and drove in four. In the past week or so he’s raised his average over 50 points and may be finally shaking off the offseason rust. When you’re over 40 it takes you longer to do everything.

But even if it takes his reflexes some time to get up to speed, you can never take away the knowledge and experience of a savvy veteran with a high baseball I.Q. For example, whether he’s hitting or not, the man knows that it’s important to keep your bat dry on a rainy night:

Sean Burnett opts out of his Dodgers deal, to sign with the Braves

Washington Nationals relief pitcher Sean Burnett walks off the mound after being pulled during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's National League division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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In early April the Dodgers agreed to a minor league contract with pitcher Sean Burnett after he didn’t make the Washington Nationals’ roster out of spring training. He was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City. As is usually the case, veterans like him have an opt-out if they don’t make the big club after a certain amount of time, and Burnett has opt-ed out, realizing that he’s likely not in the Dodgers’ plans.

But he could be in the Braves’ plans. They stink on ice. Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that he’s signing with them and will report to Triple-A Gwinnett tomorrow.

Burnett, 33, hasn’t appeared in the majors since he pitched three games for the Angels in 2014 and hasn’t pitched regularly in the bigs since 2012. Tommy John surgery will do that to a guy. He did toss eight and two-thirds scoreless innings for the Nationals during spring training and has allowed only two earned runs in seven and two-thirds innings of relief work for Oklahoma City. There may still be something there. Innings will need to be eaten in Atlanta this year. Burnett may be able to eat them.