Buster Olney — or, rather, his research guy Kenton Wong — notes today that since the advent of divisional series play, the team with home field advantage in the divisional series has won
just 31 of the 60 series (25 of 48 since it changed to a 2-2-1 format in 1998). Since the advent of the LCS in 1969, teams with home-field advantage are 39-41. So yeah, maybe home field advantage isn’t that huge of an advantage.
Which goes against our predispositions — as well as some pretty major home-road splits by some teams this season — which hold that home cookin’ does a baseball game good. I’m not sure anyone can come up with a great explanation for this, but here’s my stab:
The thing that gives you home field advantage is the better overall record. The thing that gives you the better overall record over the course of a long, long season is depth, both in the rotation and otherwise. That depth, however, is seriously overrated in the postseason when you can do crazy things like lean on a couple of hot relievers and top starters, rather than go five deep, day-in-day-out. Meanwhile, the teams without home field probably had to fight tooth-and-nail to get their playoff spot, and thus were on more of a playoff footing longer, relying on a couple of top guys.
There might be a dozen things wrong with that, but I can’t do any better. Well, I could cite random chance, but people really, really hate when you do that when talking about baseball.
As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.
We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.
James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:
Spring training is less than a month away, folks!
Last week Bo Jackson said that, if he had it to do all over again, he would have never played professional football and that he would never let his kids play. The sport is too violent, he said. “I’d tell them, ‘Play baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, just anything but football.’”
Fair enough. Thom Loverro of the Washington Times, however, thinks that Bo could do more than simply give his opinion on the matter. He thinks Bo should become an official ambassador for Major League Baseball:
Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, pick up the phone right now and call Bo Jackson. Tell him you have a job for him — vice president of something, whatever you would call the man in charge of converting a generation of young athletes to baseball. And pay him what he wants.
You won’t find a better symbol of the differences between the two sports than Bo Jackson. After all, he was an All-Star in both. Bo knows football. Bo knows baseball.
Bo, tell the children — baseball over football.
The Children: “Who is Bo Jackson?”
Yeah, I’m being a bit flip here, but dude: Jackson is 54 years-old. He last played baseball 23 years ago. I’d personally run through a wall for Bo Jackson, but I’m 43. I was 12 when he won the Heisman trophy. While he may loom large to middle aged sports writers, a teenager contemplating what sport to play is not going to listen to someone a decade or more older than his parents.
This isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s indicative of how most columnists process the world through their own experiences and assume they apply universally. It’s probably the biggest trap most sports opinion folks fall into.