Thursday, October 9, 2014

2014 ALCS/NLCS notes/oddities

By Rick Morris

^ Here’s one of the strangest angles that we’ve come across in any sport.  In the LDS preview column, it was noted that the Royals and Angels combined made it to the ALCS every year from 1976-86 except for 1981 and 1983 – but they could never play each other there because both were in the AL West and under the setup that existed from 1969-93, only one team from each division made it to the postseason.  Well, the Royals and Orioles were in opposite divisions during those years, so nothing prevented them from playing each other in the ALCS – except for some very strange fate.  From 1969-85, they combined to make the ALCS 13 times in 17 seasons – but not once against each other!

^ With St. Louis and San Francisco having met in the NLCS three times previously (1987, 2002 and 2012 – but never in the NLDS), this fourth meeting marks only the third time that teams have clashed this many times for a berth in the World Series.  The other combo is the New York Yankees/Kansas City (1976-78, 1980).  But there are two matchups that have occurred five times, Cincinnati/Pittsburgh (1970, 1972, 1975, 1975, 1990) and the Los Angeles Dodgers/Philadelphia (1977-78, 1983, 2008-09).  But out of all of those combinations, St. Louis/San Francisco is the most inexplicable one, as the teams have had their meetings interrupted by more than a decade two different times, meaning that they were trending upward in parallel fashion on multiple occasions.  This essentially makes Cardinals/Giants the anti-Orioles/Royals.  The following matchups have occurred three times: the New York Yankees/Boston (1998, 2003-04), Oakland/Boston (1975, 1988, 1990), Oakland/Baltimore (1971, 1973-74).

^ St. Louis and San Francisco have now gone 27 years from their first meeting in the NLCS in 1987.  Is that the longest stretch from first meeting to most recent?  Not quite.  Last year, St. Louis and the Los Angeles Dodgers made it 28 years, from 1985 to 2013.  After the first edition of the NLCS in 1969, it took exactly 30 years for the New York Mets and Atlanta to meet up again in ’99.  But Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Dodgers went even longer, bridging their rivalry at this level from 1977 to 2009, 32 years.  The very longest, however, is 34 years, from 1972 to 2006 with Detroit and Oakland.  Good news for St. Louis: they are the only team on this list to win in both years, 1985 and 2013 against the Dodgers; every other much-later-rematch was a reversed outcome from the previous time, a positive omen for repeating 1987 against the Giants.

^ Given that in the LDS era teams from the same division can play one another in the LCS, Baltimore and Kansas City actually have a common opponent from LCS years past: the Yankees.  The Royals lost to them from 1976-78, only to break through in 1980.  The Orioles lost in the controversial Jeffrey Maier Series in 1996.

^ Baltimore and Kansas City both have long LCS droughts: the Royals go back to 1985, while Baltimore made it in 1996-97, after having had a dry stretch going back to 1983.  No team has had as much time between LCS appearances as either the Orioles OR Royals: the closest is the Angels’ appearance in 2002 after 16 years, which of course culminated in their only world championship.

^ Even with Baltimore’s drought, they are the fourth franchise to make it to the ALCS in five out of the six decades of existence, missing only the 2000s.  The Yankees and Red Sox are two of the other ones, each missing only the 1960s (which, in fairness, only consisted of 1969 as that was when the LCS was invented).  The other?  Minnesota, who will have made the ALCS in every decade if they manage it during the 2010s.  Somehow, that doesn’t seem possible.  Kansas City has now made it in three different decades, the 1970s, 1980s and 2010s, tying them with Detroit, the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago White Sox and ranking them behind Oakland with four.

^ St. Louis and San Francisco are squaring off for the National League Championship with a one-year break between their last matchup.  This has happened a few times previously.  Oakland beat Boston in the ALCS in 1988 and 1990, while Cincinnati topped Pittsburgh in the NLCS in 1970 and 1972.  The New York Yankees beat Kansas City in the 1978 ALCS, but the Royals reversed the outcome in 1980.  The 1978 matchup was itself a rematch from two years previous – but it’s also the only time that the same teams have squared off three consecutive years.  The Yankees swept the 1976-78 meetings.

^ There is little to nothing in the way of significant sports history between Baltimore and Kansas City.  For St. Louis and San Francisco, it’s mainly just these LCS meetings, although they have shared a rivalry in the NFC West for 19 years – and will, in fact, renew it on Monday Night Football next week.  Looking ahead to the World Series, Baltimore and San Francisco have fairly little sports history between them.  Kansas City and San Francisco, notwithstanding having contested an NFL game last Sunday, have little sports history between them as well – although their NFL teams shared the career of Joe Montana.  Baltimore and St. Louis have a decent amount, as the Orioles are the relocated St. Louis Browns, who won the American League pennant in 1944 and lost the World Series – to the St. Louis Cardinals.  Kansas City and San Francisco, notwithstanding having contested an NFL game last Sunday, have little sports history between them as well – although their NFL teams shared the career of Joe Montana.  But the most significant sports history that would come into play with a World Series matchup involves the 1985 “I-70 World Series” participants: Kansas City and St. Louis.  Perhaps Don Denkinger could throw out the first pitch of Game 1.  Too soon?

^ With a victory in the ALCS, Baltimore will tie Oakland for the second-most amount of pennants in the LCS era with 6.  Unsurprisingly, the Yankees lead with 11.  A Royals win would give them their third pennant of the LCS era, tying them with Detroit for fifth with 3.

^ San Francisco’s run of three pennants since 2002 has installed them as the National League all-time leader with 22.  Their hated rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, are next with 21; they had taken the lead with their run of five pennants from 1974-88, but have not won any since then.  As a matter of fact, St. Louis is nipping at their heels with 19.  Paced by their great run in the 1990s, Atlanta is next with 17 and the Chicago Cubs are actually next with 16 – none of them recent, of course.

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