Tuesday, November 3, 2015

World Series Or Bust: What's Baseball About?

You play to win the game, a phrase many a coach has muttered. While it's not the feelings of some, you can count me among the group that thinks participation medals and pats on the back have no place in competitive sports. You win or you lose, there is no gray area. When you lose, you've come short of the ultimate goal. In professional sports though, where there is a clear cut number of teams, and only one ultimate winner, what defines success? Looking at the Twins and Royals, this has become an interesting topic.

Just a few days ago, the Kansas City Royals capped off their 2015 Major League Baseball season as World Series champions. The title was the first for the franchise since 1985, and separated 20 losing seasons between the two championships. Between being the best in the big leagues, the Royals lost over 100 games four times, and 90 or more another nine times. Having both good and bad put into context, local radio personality Phil Mackey posed a question:
So what's the answer then?

For me, the answer seemed pretty simple. Give me a franchise with the performance of the Twins every single day. While the World Series hasn't been won in the Twin Cities since 1991, victories in baseball are measured by much different standards.

The sport deems the best hitters in the world fail seven out of ten times. Some of the best pitchers give up around three runs per game. Over the course of 162 games, the winners are losers are often decided by less than three victories, and even the best teams lose well over one-third of the games they play. Watching, following, and being a fan of a franchise for that one trophy endeavor is a long and lonely road.

Since 2001 (not 1985), the Twins have lost 90 games just four times. Minnesota has won six AL Central Division titles, while producing nine winning seasons. They've had batting champions as well as two league MVP's. Since 2001, the Twins have enjoyed baseball being relevant, and one of the most important sports in the upper midwest.

Now, while the answer is simple for some, it's more than fair to consider why it isn't for others. There's no doubt winning a World Series (and all that comes with it), is the ultimate prize. The celebration parade, bringing the Commissioner's Trophy home, the champagne, it's all represents the highest goal. For Royals fans, or really any franchise, it's also fair to wonder if a recency effect comes into play.

Outside of San Francisco Giants fans, you'd be hard pressed to find many that care who won the 2014 World Series. Baseball fans as a whole can marvel at the performance that Madison Bumgarner turned in over a seven game series, but the eventual result is a thing of the past. So to will that become for the Royals. As the calendar quickly turns to the offseason, only in Kansas City will the Crown be celebrated.

Of course there's no wrong answer here, it's a matter of opinion. When looking at a sport where failure is more prevalent than success though, I see no reason to not revel in the production a team does achieve. Greatness is earned by only one a year, but franchises that have sustainability on their side are generally the ones most often celebrated. Give me meaningful outcomes over years of despair for the tradeoff that one game erases it all.

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