A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Thumbs up for meritocracy in the 2011 World Series and MLB playoffs

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Albert Pujols

Image via Wikipedia

I’m generally not a MLB guy, but this has been a good year for the sport. Not only did they get an all-time regular season final day, but the playoffs have been enjoyably close with lots of “moments” like the Chris Carpenter-Roy Halladay Game 5 duel, Nelson Cruz’s big home runs and the Albert Pujols 3 HR game – with the World Series being all around outstanding. But the real reason I like the way thing have turned out, regardless of the winner, is it all feels deserved.

Last year, despite how much I like the San Francisco Giants franchise, the result of their World Series win was wholly unsatisfying. As with most people I felt like the 2010 Philadelphia Phillies’ roster was clearly better – matching the Giants pitching but adding star hitting. But the Giants got hot at the right time and beat them and then dispatched the Rangers much faster than they should have.

This year on the other hand, everything has made sense with the rosters each team put on the field.

First, I do believe Texas has the most talented team in the major leagues. Despite trailing the Yankees and Phillies in regular season wins, the concern about the former team’s pitching after C.C. Sabathia and the latter team’s hitting was a clear hole. Texas has no such hole. They have one of the best hitting lineups we’ve seen in years, a complete starting pitching staff and a deadly relieving squad. They dealt with injuries to players like Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz during the year and took their bullpen to a different level by the end of the season by trading for Mike Adams and moving Alexei Ogando there – this helps justify the team not having the best record in the league, but perhaps having the outright best roster. Everyone who believes in meritocracy in sports should be happy if the Rangers finish off the World Series because this team is loaded.

St. Louis’ case as the best or 2nd best team in the league is more controversial as they only went 90-72 and needed a spirited Wild Card rally to even get in the playoffs. But I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say this is an elite roster who’s regular season doldrums was the fluke. They scored the most runs in the National League despite their two stars Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday dealing with injuries – the addition of Lance Berkman having a bounce back superstar season this year makes this arguably the best hitting lineup of the Pujols Cardinals era. Like the Rangers, the Cardinals took their run prevention ability to a different level in the second half of the season by trading young player Colby Rasmus for a good 2nd starter in Edwin Jackson behind ace Chris Carpenter, and two relievers in Mark Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel – the Cardinals bullpen has been spectacular since. If you consider their pitching much better than their runs allowed stats in the regular season otherwise suggests and their hitting even better despite leading the National League in runs scored, I actually have no problem with someone callign them the best and most complete roster in the National League. When the Cardinals got on base enough in Game 5 to strand 22 runners, it felt like they were a majors best powerhouse knocking on the door of Texas and not an inferior team getting hot, which I believe their 2006 World Series win kind of was. They are legitimate.

And what I like is that so far in the World Series, because I believe in both of these teams meritocracy – it has felt like whoever the better team is will win. St. Louis losing last night was a matter of missing oppurtunities, a little worse relieving and a couple costly mistakes which they couldn’t afford against a Texas team who played outstanding in the second half. That’s what I like to see in a playoff series determined on merit and not roulette.  Thumbs up to the MLB and World Series in 2011 for bringing meritocracy back. It seems to me like they’re going to get it right 75% of the time. In the last 15 years, the Yankees 5 and the Red Sox 2 wins to go along with the 95 Braves, 01 Diamondbacks, 05 White Sox and 02 Angels all felt perfectly legitimate. So if you get a 2010 Giants or 2006 Cardinals or a few “The Florida Marlins, really?” type wins every decade and a half, for the most part baseball still sits in the realm of most sports where the best teams are the ones dueling in the end.

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Written by jr.

October 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm

One Response

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