Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 ALCS/NLCS notes and oddities

By Rick Morris

^ How’s this for continuity over the last decade: here’s the number of appearances for each team in the LCS.  St. Louis has six (interestingly, three straight years of being there from 2004-06, followed by four straight years of not making it from 2007-10, followed by three more years of getting back there from 2011-13), Detroit has four (2006, 2011-13), Boston has four (2004, 2007, 2008, 2013 – and they also made it in 2003) and Los Angeles has three (2008-09 and 2013).  What’s the only other year in baseball history in which all four teams had at least three LCS appearances in the last decade?  It was 1978, with the Yankees (1976-78), Royals (1976-78), Dodgers (1974, 1977-78) and Phillies (1976-78).

^ Heading into Game 5 of the Pittsburgh-St. Louis NLDS, we were assured of either the first ever rematch of the 1974 NLCS (Los Angeles over Pittsburgh) or the first ever rematch of 1985 (St. Louis over LA in that memorable Ozzie Smith home run showdown).  But while these franchises haven’t crossed paths much in October, they rank second (LA with 21) and third (St. Louis with 18) in terms of National League pennants.  The only franchise ranking ahead of them is San Francisco, who notched their 22nd pennant last year and broke that tie with the Dodgers (consider also that the Giants actually trailed them for many years until 2010 when they also won the World Series).  The Dodgers surely are relishing the opportunity to have their most hated rival no longer looming over them in terms of National League titles.

^ While the Dodgers and Cardinals have only met once previously in the playoffs, the cities do have some other notable sports history.  In the last two seasons, the Kings eliminated the Blues in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  And in 1996, the Rams were spirited from the LA area (actually Anaheim, but they were still known as the Los Angeles Rams) to St. Louis (and are rumored to perhaps move back in the next few years).

^ St. Louis marks their sixth appearance in an LCS this century, the most of any MLB franchise.  It’s the third-best run of appearances in the LDS/LCS era, ranking behind the Yankees making it every year between 1996 and 2004 except for 1997 and 2002 and the Braves making it every year between 1991 and 1999 (sans the strike year of 1993 and keeping in mind that the LDS format debuted in 1995).

^ With Detroit and St. Louis both marking three consecutive LCS appearances, it’s the first time since 1991-93 that teams did this at the same time.  At that time, Atlanta and Toronto were marking the trifecta of appearances.  The only other time that two teams made at least three simultaneous appearances at the same time?  The Yankees, Royals and Phillies each did it from 1976-78 (New York won all three pennants and KC and Philly – World Series combatants in 1980 – made no appearances on the grand stage in these years).

Also, with St. Louis marking three times in a row right after Philly managed it from 2008-10, it’s the first time since 1993 that a six-year run like this manifested itself.   At that time, Toronto’s 1991-93 run came directly after Oakland’s 1988-90 stretch.

^ Had Oakland won Game 5 of the LDS over Detroit, they’d have faced Boston in their only LCS rematch since the hugely important 1975 clash.  At that time, the Red Sox ended the A’s three-year run as world champions and set up the epic World Series with Cincinnati.

^ As everyone knows, the Yankees lead the American League with pennants, the exact number being 40.  But it’s interesting that the last three teams standing in the AL are the next three in historical order: Oakland (15), Boston (12) and Detroit (11).  If Detroit emerges, a full 25% of their franchise’s World Series appearances will have come in less than the last entire decade (since 2006).  To take that a step further, the team’s first three pennants came from 1907-09.  So 50% of the appearances came in the 11 years from 1907-09 and 2006-13, with the other six appearances (1934, 1935, 1940, 1945, 1968 and 1984) spread across the other 102 years of their existence.  And when you take the 1934-45 run of four pennants into account, the team has one of the biggest feast-or-famine tendencies in the history of major professional sports.

^ The A’s beat the Tigers in the 1972 ALCS and it took a long time for Detroit to get revenge, but they really, really have in the last decade.  They came out on top in the 2006 ALCS, the 2011 ALDS and now the 2013 ALDS.

^ Owing largely to being in the same division from 1969-93, Detroit and Boston have never met in the AL playoffs.  The cities had quite a rivalry in the NBA of the late 1980s when they were battling for Eastern Conference championships.  And they have two of the Original Six NHL franchises, leading to Stanley Cup Final matchups in 1941 (won by Boston) and 1943 (won by Detroit).  Interestingly, the NHL season that just began last week features the debut of a new four-division format that restored many historical rivalries and, yes, placed the Red Wings and Bruins in the same division.

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