Class Warfare Blog

October 30, 2019

WTF? (World Series Version)

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 8:42 pm
Tags: , ,

I have been listening to, watching, or following in the news the World Series of Major League Baseball (MLB) for about 65 years. Setting aside the misnomer of calling an American national tournament the “World” Series, there are basic views of these contests currently being shredded.

Most obviously, the concept of “home field advantage” is being ridiculed. The so-called home field advantage is that the team playing in their home stadium has an advantage. The advantage is substantial. The “home team” bats last and the team with the most runs after nine innings (five minimally but rain sometimes truncates games) wins. So, no matter what the visiting team does, the home team has “last licks” and a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. If the home team is ahead after eight and a half innings, they don’t even have to play the bottom of the ninth inning; they just win.

In addition, the home team is more intimately aware of the quirks of their ball field (all MLB fields are unique and all have quirks for which there are lists of official “ground rules” that only apply at those stadia), players and coaches get to sleep and eat at home. The home team’s locker room is often quite lavish and the visiting team’s room is often a dump. And the home team isn’t jet-lagged from travel or getting kinked up from sleeping on poor beds or eating poor food or. . . .

The home field advantage is so substantial that teams struggle mightily to acquire it through the quality of their record. MLB, to great uproar, thought that giving the league that won the All-Star Game the home team status in that year’s World Series. Purists were outraged, that such a valuable thing, such as home field advantage, would be awarded based upon the outcome of an exhibition game, and not upon the records of the teams playing in the Series. The practice of alternating years between leagues to receive the advantage was considered more fair in assigning home field advantage, than that travesty.

So, explain to me why in this year’s World Series, between the Washington, D.C. Nationals and the Houston Astros, the home team has lost every game of the six played so far. WTF?

I can remember chatter between series announcers discussing what happened to the home field advantage as the series advanced. If the home team lost a game, the advantage switched to the other team as a majority of the remaining games were played on the other team’s field or at least those games were played first. The usual pattern was 2-3-2, although others were tried, with the team with the advantage getting the first two games and the last two games at their field. If the team with the advantage lost either of the first two games, then the other team could win the series (it takes four wins) at their home stadium by winning all of those “home” games. So, the minimal goal for the visiting team was to win one of the first two games and “steal” the home field advantage. If this were to happen the team which had lost the advantage then had a goal of winning at least one of the next games and “stealing” the advantage back. This was a tried and true discussion topic for every World Series I can remember . . . until lately.

So, when the Nationals beat the Astros on their field . . . twice to start the Series, some commenters said “This Series is over.” implying that their advantage was now too great to overcome. Then the Nationals lost all three of their home games. Amazing.

Currently there seems to be no discussion of home field advantage at all. I wonder what has changed. Have modern athletes with modern training and modern diets overcome this basic advantage? I don’t think so, statistics still show the better teams win more games “at home” than they do “on the road.” That is the basic manifestation of the home field advantage. If I had the energy I could do a study to see if home and away records of teams have changed much over the years.

This is one of the joys of baseball, that there are statistics available going back centuries. This is one of the pains of baseball, that there are statistics available going back centuries.

Thus ends my annual baseball post.

~30~

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