October 10, 2006 [LINK / comment]

Championship series begin

So, here we go with the next round of games leading up to the October Classic. Now that the Yankees have been prematurely ousted, I suppose I'm rooting for the Tigers. I've been to their new ballpark, and I'm sympathetic to teams that have bounced back from terrible years. (As a Nationals fan, I need to cling to hope for a better future, after all.) Barry Zito and Frank Thomas make for a very imposing adversary, however. "Moneyball"? Don't ask me. I'm more or less neutral on the Mets, but I figure they deserve to go to the World Series after doing so well in the regular season. "Deserve" does not mean an automatic pass, however, and they'd better not ease up.

Root, root, root for the home team

The Cardinals-Padres series was notable for being the first postseason series since 2002 (Giants-Cardinals, NLCS) in which the first three games were won by the visiting team. I have often commented on the desirability of giving higher-seeded teams more of an advantage in the postseason, such as by reformatting the first-round playoffs from a 2-2-1 to 3-2 home-road sequence. That raises the question of just how much of an advantage the home teams get. The facts for the last few years suggest that it's not that much:

  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Wins by home team 19 18 20 16 (7)
Total games 34 38 34 30 (14)
(% home) 56% 47% 59% 53% (50%)
Wins by home team in final game 5 2 2 2 (3)
Wins by visitors in final game 2 5 5 5 (1)

(NOTE: 2006 data are for the first round playoffs only.)

Interestingly, for the last three years, in only two of the seven postseason series have the home teams won in the final game.

Washington Post looks at Lerners

Monday's Washington Post had a lengthy article on the family of Theodore Lerner, who recently purchased the Washington Nationals. It stresses the "hardball" business practices by which he built a retail development empire in the D.C. suburbs. Another big developer, "Til" Hazel, shares the skeptical eye of the Lerners toward government planners. This is all in the context of the recent disputes between the Lerners and the D.C. government over the construction of the new stadium, especially the parking facilities. There is nothing wrong with a hard-nosed "all-business" approach, but if it is not complemented by a strong commitment to the sport of baseball and to the local community, it can poison the atmosphere of good will upon which any professional sport depends.

Steinbrenner reassures Torre

George Steinbrenner has told Joe Torre that his job as manager is not at risk. However, general manager Brian Cashman's comment that "I think Joe Torre is the right man for this team next year" leaves open the possibility that he may not be the right man for the year after that. See MLB.com.