Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010 ALCS and NLCS notes and oddities

By Rick Morris

^ This year, depending on the combinations in the World Series between the Rangers, Yankees, Phillies and Giants, there are many different possibilities for history to be made. Here’s the first of many odd facts, right off the bat: if the Yankees and Phillies meet in a World Series rematch, it will be the first time since 1956-58 that a team that has won three straight pennants (the Phillies now, the Yankees then) would be meeting a team that has won two straight pennants (the Yankees now, the Milwaukee Braves then). The Yankees and Phillies would also meet in the tenth rematch in World Series history, following the Yankees and Dodgers in 1977-78, Yankees and Braves in 1957-58, Yankees and Dodgers in 1955-56, Yankees and Dodgers in 1952-53, Yankees and Cardinals in 1942-43, Yankees and Giants in 1936-37, As and Cardinals in 1930-31, Yankees and Giants in 1921-23 and Tigers and Cubs in 1907-08.

^ Credit to Wikipedia: along with the Cubs, the Phillies are one of only two old-line NL teams who the Yankees haven’t lost to in a World Series.

^ If the Giants and Rangers meet in the World Series, it will stir memories of what seemed at the time an entirely random matchup: June 12, 1997 marked the first regular-season interleague game ever with San Francisco at Texas.

^ If the Yankees and Giants meet in the World Series, it will be the matchup with the most combined pennants in history (62), surpassing the 1981 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers (54), the 1999 World Series between the Yankees and Braves (53) and the 1978 World Series between the Yankees and Dodgers (52). If the Rangers and Phillies form the championship combo, they will have nine pennants between them, good for a tie for seventh in the LCS era (post-1968), ahead of Orioles-Mets in 1969 (4), Royals-Phillies in 1980 (5), Indians-Marlins in 1997 (6), Blue Jays-Phillies in 1993 (7), White Sox-Astros in 2005 (7), Rays-Phillies in 2008 (8) and Orioles-Reds (9) in 1970.

^ In terms of potential renewals of rivalries between cities in the World Series, New York and Philadelphia top the list because of the many playoff meetings and divisional battles they have seen across all four major sports. Philly vs. Texas would be intriguing because it would match the markets engaged in one of the NFL’s great enduring rivalries. Philly and San Francisco don’t have a ton of history between them – they’ve never met in the NLCS before, having previously alternated eras when they have been strong – but they did share Wilt Chamberlain and the NBA Warriors franchise. And there hasn’t been a lot of interaction between New York and Frisco – although they did meet in the 1962 World Series, the only matchup of the historically recurring rivalry since the Giants moved west in 1958 – other than the epic Giants-49ers battles of the 1980s.

^ Some indicators look good for the Rangers’ chances. Ron Washington is the only manager in this year’s LCS without World Series experience. The last seven times this was the case, that manager moved on to the final round: 2009 (Joe Girardi), 2001 (Ohio University’s Bob Brenly), 2000 (Bobby Valentine), 1998 (Bruce Bochy), 1997 (Jim Leyland), 1996 (Joe Torre) and 1995 (Mike Hargrove). The last such manager to lose in the LCS? Dick Howser in 1984 – and his Royals won it all the next year. Also, the last four teams in the LCS for the first time (Tampa Bay in 2008, Colorado in 2007, Arizona in 2001 and Florida in 1997) advanced to the World Series.

^ But some indicators bode poorly for the Rangers’ chances as well. Teams from the AL West have lost in the ALCS six of the last seven times: lost in 2009 (Angels), 2006 (As), 2005 (Angels), won in 2002 (Angels), lost in 2001 (Mariners), lost in 2000 (Mariners) and lost in 1995 (Mariners).

^ The Rangers’ long-awaited ALCS debut marks the second time that an entire division has qualified for it since the start of the three-round playoffs in 1995. The NL West completed the feat with Colorado in 2007. The NL East may very well have attained this had the strike not prevented Montreal – arguably the best team in baseball in 1994 – from advancing at least that far. The Blue Jays are the only AL East team not to make it since 1995, but they were there the previous two times in 1992-93 when they won the World Series each year.

^ If the Giants make it back to the World Series, it will be exactly eight years in between appearances. When was the last time that happened? 1979, when BOTH Pittsburgh and Baltimore made it back after an eight-year absence.

^ This year stands out in one regard: not since the start of the LDS in 1995 has each league featured a matchup of teams who have never faced one another for the league championship but who could have because they were in opposite divisions in the old two-division setup from 1969-93. The last time each league featured a matchup of two teams who have never faced each other for the league championship? 1993, with Toronto vs. the Chicago White Sox and Atlanta vs. Philadelphia in the final LCS not to be preceded by the LDS.

^ We mentioned in our LDS notes that the World Series has never failed to feature an “old-line” franchise (those who were around prior to the post-1961 expansions in the game). But last year’s “all-old line” World Series between Philly and the Yankees is pretty rare in the recent history of the game. The last few were St. Louis vs. Detroit in 2006, St. Louis vs. Boston in 2004, the Yankees vs. Atlanta (keeping in mind that the Braves go way back, in Milwaukee and in Boston before that) in 1999 and 1996 and Cleveland vs. Atlanta in 1995. So in terms of the likelihood of seeing the Yankees vs. Philly again or the Yankees against the Giants, you have to go back to the first two years of the LDS format in 1995-96 to find a World Series comprised solely of these franchises in back-to-back years.

^ Speaking of old-line teams, this is the third consecutive NLCS featuring exclusively teams from this designation. There hasn’t been a run like that in the National League since the one from 1989-96. The AL hasn’t had one of these matchups since 2007 (Red Sox-Indians) and 2006 (Tigers-As).

^ There’s plenty of interesting Bruce Bochy notes. First and foremost, if the Giants make it to the World Series, he will be going back after a 12-year hiatus. He’d be in very good company as far as managers with a similar break between appearances: Bucky Harris (23 years), Connie Mack (15 years), Tony LaRussa (14 years), Joe Cronin (13 years), Alvin Dark (12 years, with the first one coming with the Giants in 1962), Bill McKechnie, Danny Murtaugh and Dick Williams (11 years) and Leo Durocher and Charlie Grimm (10 years). All but Cronin and Grimm have a world championship to their credit. Also, because he managed against the Yankees with the Padres in 1998, if he gets them again, he’ll duplicate the feat of Durocher (who managed the Dodgers and Giants against the Yankees) and McKechnie (who managed the Cardinals and Yankees against the Yankees) in facing the same team in the World Series at the helm of two different squads. Additionally, he would be the fifth manager to take two different teams from the same state to the World Series (Durocher: Dodgers/Giants, Dark: Giants/As, Williams: As/Padres and Yogi Berra: Yankees/Mets).

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