Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Braves’ [stuff] doesn’t work in the playoffs, either

14 Comments

The Athletics have been something of a punching bag over the years because executive vice president and president of baseball operations Billy Beane was famously quoted in Moneyball saying, “My [stuff] doesn’t work in the playoffs. My job is to get us to the playoffs. What happens after that is […] luck.”

Since 2000, the A’s have reached the playoffs 10 times. They have advanced into the ALCS just once, in 2006, when they were swept out by the Tigers. They’re 1-6 in the Division Series and 0-3 in the AL Wild Card game, accounting for their last three playoff losses (2014, ’18-19). To call their performance in the playoffs disappointing would be an understatement.

The A’s, however, are not the only team whose [stuff] doesn’t work in the playoffs. The Twins, who were just swept out of the ALDS by the Yankees, haven’t reached the ALCS since 2002. They have failed in their last six appearances in the ALDS — mostly against the Yankees — and lost the AL Wild Card game in 2017 as well (to the Yankees).

The Nationals, playing in another NLDS Game 5 tonight, have lost the Division Series four times since 2012, three of which went to a decisive Game 5. Even the Expos hadn’t reached the NLCS since 1981.

The Braves, who fell behind 10-0 after the first inning in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cardinals tonight, haven’t reached the NLCS since 2001. They will have lost in the NLDS eight consecutive times and memorably lost the 2012 NL Wild Card game.

The failures of these teams, in some cases, span decades. They span different front office regimes, coaches, managers, and players. The Twins aren’t 2-16 against the Yankees in the playoffs since 2002 because the Yankees discovered some magic anti-Twins serum and now the Twins quake in their boots every time they face the Yankees in October. The playoffs, to paraphrase Beane, are based a lot on luck. Sometimes an umpire’s call doesn’t go your way, like when Phil Cuzzi called what would have been a Joe Mauer double a foul ball in the 2009 ALDS. Sometimes a bounce doesn’t go your way, like when Juan Soto‘s single took an unexpected hop for Brewers right fielder Trent Grisham, allowing an additional two runs to score, deciding the 2019 NL Wild Card game.

The regular season schedule calls for 162 games because increasing your sample size helps push aside the fog created by randomness. The Division Series only affords us five games max, and the Championship Series and World Series only seven games max. Having such a small sample size means variance will often reign supreme. This is, somewhat, by design. Winning in the playoffs at all is hard. Doing it consistently is even more difficult. While early exits by the Braves and Twins this year will add to their ignominy, it should also increase our respect for teams like the Cardinals, Giants, Yankees, and Red Sox that have had sustained October success over the years.

Major League Baseball threatens to walk away from Minor League Baseball entirely

Getty Images
3 Comments

The war between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball escalated significantly last night, with Minor League Baseball releasing a memo accusing Major League Baseball of “repeatedly and inaccurately” describing the former’s stance in negotiations and Major League Baseball responding by threatening to cut ties with Minor League Baseball entirely.

As you’re no doubt aware, negotiations of the next, 10-year Professional Baseball Agreement, which governs the relationship between the big leagues and the minors — and which is set to expire following the 2020 season — have turned acrimonious. Whereas past negotiations have been quick and uncontroversial, this time Major League Baseball presented Minor League Baseball with a plan to essentially contract 42 minor league baseball teams by eliminating their major league affiliation while demanding that Minor League Baseball undertake far more of the financial burden of player development which is normally the responsibility of the majors.

That plan became public in October when Baseball America reported on it, after which elected officials such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren began weighing in on the side of Minor League Baseball. Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball were not happy with all of that and, on Wednesday, Manfred bashed Minor League Baseball for taking the negotiations public and accused Minor League Baseball of intransigence, saying the minors had assumed a “take it or leave it” negotiating stance.

Last night Minor League Baseball bashed back in the form of a four-page public memo countering Manfred’s claims, with point-point-by-point rebuttals of Major League Baseball’s talking points on various matters ranging from stadium facilities, team travel, and player health and welfare. You can read the memo in this Twitter thread from Josh Norris of Baseball America.

Major League Baseball responded with its own public statement last night. But rather than publicly rebut Minor League Baseball’s claims, it threatened to simply drop any agreement with Minor League Baseball and, presumably start its own minor league system bypassing MiLB entirely:

“If the National Association [of Minor League Clubs] has an interest in an agreement with Major League Baseball, it must address the very significant issues with the current system at the bargaining table. Otherwise, MLB clubs will be free to affiliate with any minor league team or potential team in the United States, including independent league teams and cities which are not permitted to compete for an affiliate under the current agreement.”

So, in the space of about 48 hours, Manfred has gone from being angry at the existence of public negotiations to negotiating in public, angrily.

As for Minor League Baseball going public itself, one Minor League Baseball owner’s comments to the Los Angeles Times seems to sum up the thinking pretty well:

“Rob is attempting to decimate the industry, destroy baseball in communities and eliminate thousands of jobs, and he’s upset that the owners of the teams have gone public with that information in an effort to save their teams. That’s rich.”

Things, it seems, are going to get far worse before they get better. If, in fact, they do get better.