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The playoffs: when insanity is perfectly acceptable

Oct 3, 2011, 10:29 AM EDT

Phillies' Lee reacts during Game 2 of their MLB National League Divisional Series baseball playoffs against the Cardinals in Philadelphia

Things I’ve learned while listening to readers and fans for the past couple of days:

  • Robinson Cano is the best there ever was;
  • The Rays are an unstoppable juggernaut;
  • Kirk Gibson is a fraud;
  • The Rays lack a knockout punch;
  • Alex Rodriguez is a terrible baseball player;
  • Robinson Cano isn’t clutch;
  • Tony La Russa is a moron;
  • Cliff Lee sucks;
  • Tony La Russa is a genius.

And I’m sure there are more.  The completely understandable, yet 100% insane, reactions of people to playoff baseball.  Baseball where the sample sizes are the smallest yet the significance of any one event is magnified to crazy extremes. A time when nothing has ever mattered as much as the thing that just happened, and nothing will be forgotten quicker when the next thing happens.

I’ve never gotten 100% comfortable with this. My feelings about baseball and the world it inhabits do a complete 180 when the playoffs start.  I love watching playoff baseball. The games are crazy-intense and the drama is out of this world.  Yet the commentary about it is, almost by definition, kind of meaningless once you get past the “wow, that was somethin'” observations.  Contrast this to the regular season where single games have almost no significance apart from being a brick in the wall of what will eventually form a somewhat cogent narrative that, at least in my view, has some value.

I tell myself every year that I’m going to ignore the overreactions that are inevitable once the playoffs come. And then I usually forget. I guess that’s just part of playoff baseball too.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Oct 3, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Craig, the thing that I have learned is that if you are going to be excited and cheer and cry and go nuts when your team wins, then you also have to feel crappy and down and want to punch something or somebody when your team loses. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just because someone says “eh, it’s only sports and my life will go on” doesn’t mean that someone who doesn’t say that puts sports ahead of their families. There’s a reason the term “fan” comes from “fanatic” and the term “die-hard fan” was spawned.

    I will say this though…saying “Cliff Lee sucks” is just plain stupid.

    • Jonny 5 - Oct 3, 2011 at 10:43 AM


      • Seimiya - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:16 AM

        Cliff Lee Sucks.

    • wlschneider09 - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:39 PM

      Ironically, the term “die-hard fan” was meant to indicate a fan that supported his team no matter what the circumstances.

  2. Jonny 5 - Oct 3, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    From ESPN,

    “Cliff Lee lost his third straight postseason decision (started out 7-0), allowing five runs. His four earned runs allowed matched the number he’d allowed in 32 1/3 LDS innings prior to Sunday.

    Lee is the first NL pitcher to allow at least five runs and 12 hits in a postseason game since Slim Sallee of the 1917 Giants. ”

    When do we start thinking that this means something? Does it already mean something? Is it a problem, or just a poorly timed anomaly?

    • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:00 AM

      Cliff Lee sucks 😀

    • jarathen - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:28 AM

      It’s cherry-picking at its best (worst?)

      Rather have 2011 Lee on the mound than 2002 Kevin Appier.

      • Old Gator - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:06 PM

        Well, the Borg are gonna have 2011 A. J. Burnett on the mound tomorrow. We need to keep this stuff in perspective.

      • foreverchipper10 - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:17 PM

        Will someone please learn me on what/who the Borg is/are? I have seen it mentioned a lot and frankly, I feel out of the loop. :*(

      • okobojicat - Oct 3, 2011 at 4:24 PM


        There you go.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Oct 3, 2011 at 7:01 PM

        I just have to say that whole “let me google that for you” thing is the douchiest thing ever created.

  3. cintiphil - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    But, the Phills “fans”, have always been this way. Don’t forget they used to Boo Del Ennis when he was the leading H-R man in their clubs history. Yes, I go back a long way.

    • xmatt0926x - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:49 PM

      Yes, because as we all know, no other teams fans react irrationally, EVER!!!! ITS ONLY PHILLY FANS!!!!!! JUST PHILLY FANS!!!!! all other teams fans simply go into deep thought and ponder the true meaning of sports and rational fan behavior. Cintiphil, please don’t leave out the throwing snowballs at santa episode from 50 years ago. I do wonder though how Boston was able to sneak 50,000 Philly fans into the stadium the other night when that team was beeing booed off the field or how Philly fans managed to get so many tickets to wrigley field when 600+ homerun hitter Sammy Sosa was being booed out of town. And then we are so talented at sneaking into opposing stadiums that we’ve managed to boo Arod at Yankee stadium!! Ohh, we’ve also filled the fan comments sections in boston is describing 2 time World Seies champion manager Terry Francona as an idiot who needs to be fired. Yep, it’s just them dastardly Philly fans. Gotta love ’em.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:04 PM

        Ummm…you realize you just compared Philly fans to Cubs fans, Red Sox fans and Yankee fans right? I am pretty sure there are Philly fans who want you to take that back right now. But I do see your point. You just might want to approach it differently next time. LOL!

  4. dailyrev - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Craig, my experience has been that people are irrational all the time, reg. season and beyond; fan-of-team-x or not. Let me assure you, sports is an easy gig. I edited and wrote for a political blog for 6 toxic years of the prior decade, and saw some hyperbole (not to mention insults and soft threats) in my comments bin that would make Lincecum’s hair go Polamalu. By comparison, I’d say the overall tone here is fairly civilized. Seriously.

    • cintiphil - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:07 AM

      Civilized? Are you really reading them? These people in Philly are nuts. The comments about their great pitching staff is way over the top. Next, I suppose they will want to string up any guy who doesn’t hit a long ball with men on base.

      • CJ - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:19 AM

        You think this is uncivilized? Clearly, you don’t go to many boards then. Hang around the pro-football sister blog of this site for a while (or as the prior poster mentioned, pretty much ANY politicial blog) and then come back and tell me this is uncivilized.

        And thank you for your suggestion, we Philly fans shall take it under advisement in our next group-therapy session and act accordingly hereafter.

      • paperlions - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:11 PM


        The “crazy” comments here extremely sane by comparison to any other non-sabermetric blog I have ever read (by their nature, the sabermetric blogs are to generate debate and learning…so trolls find nothing there to do/say). On most, you can’t have anything approaching a conversation or debate…it is just 100% hyperbolic drivel. I have no idea how this has happened here or how it has remained as such for so long…I’m just grateful for it.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:11 PM

        Would you care to elaborate on the statement, “The comments about their great pitching staff is way over the top.”? In what way are they over the top? Is expecting Cliff Lee to hold a 4 run lead a ridiculous notion? Is saying he did not pitch well a wrong statement?

      • wlschneider09 - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:43 PM

        I think expecting Cliff Lee to never have a bad day, ever, is a bit over the top. And we’re seeing him punished by the posters here for just that.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:13 PM

        Nobody is punishing him. Nobody is saying he is a bad person or is a terrible pitcher merely that he did not pitch well yesterday and was the primary reason for the loss. That is just telling it like it is, not hating or punishing….a simple statement of fact.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:15 PM

        For instance, when Uribe hit that opposite field HR against Madson in game 6 last season, it was a good pitch. Right where he wanted it, Uribe just hit it. That happens. Couldn’t really blame Madson. Last night, Lee was leaving everything up and his command in the strike zone (which is the crux of his game) was lacking. When that happens he gets hit hard no matter the opposition. For that he deserves blame. It doesn’t change my opinion of him…just that he did not perform up to anybody’s expectations last night including his own.

      • dailyrev - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:17 PM

        I just thought everyone would enjoy the image of Lincecum’s hair looking like Polamalu’s.

      • cleverbob - Oct 3, 2011 at 7:31 PM

        He should give it a try. I hear he’s got plenty of time on his hands right now…

    • badmamainphilliesjamas - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:35 PM

      rev–“make Lincecum’s hair go Polamalu”–brilliant.

    • wlschneider09 - Oct 3, 2011 at 4:36 PM

      Doc, some of you are simply stating facts (yourself included), some of you are over the top. I’m not gonna take the time to go back and pick out examples.

  5. uberfatty - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    Whoever snatched up HB’s old moniker after he left has been doing some pretty good trolling of Cliff Lee’s suckitude. Have there been other articles too though?

    My favorite is the Cano love/hate swing in two days.

    • kiwicricket - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      Ahhh…. not sure anyone would snatch up that handle. It’s cept’s alright.

      • uberfatty - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:22 PM

        really? did he come back this weekend or something? i guess i should have taken the under in the office pool. anyways, glad to have you back HB, if you are reading this.

  6. sdelmonte - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:21 AM

    It’s like that every single weekend in football. It’s all hyperbole! All of it!

    Next to that, even the most overheated “OMG, AJ, we are so screwed!” post is calm and cogent.

  7. yankeesfanlen - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    This is why I’m a little bit quiet this time of year. Nothing is true, nothing is adequate. Ah, but to have those four hours a night that no Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Sorcese can quite duplicate……

  8. Francisco (FC) - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Robinson Cano is the best there ever was;
    The Rays are an unstoppable juggernaut;
    Kirk Gibson is a fraud;
    The Rays lack a knockout punch;
    Alex Rodriguez is a terrible baseball player;
    Robinson Cano isn’t clutch;
    Tony La Russa is a moron;
    Cliff Lee sucks;
    Tony La Russa is a genius.

    You forgot “It’s over for the Yankees.” I got that from a reliable source.

    • tashkalucy - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      And it IS all over for the Yankees (and Red Sox).

      And American baseball fans couldn’t be happier!

      • daisycutter1 - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:08 PM

        The TV ratings for the past 10+ World Series ratings say otherwise, Lucy.

        And, the 2009 Yankees/Phillies series was easily the most popular in terms of audience ratings & share.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:21 PM


      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:22 PM

        Thumbs up Tash…thumbs up.

    • Francisco (FC) - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      In fairness to the “Cliff Lee sucks” line, even Cliff Lee agrees he sucked 😀

  9. APBA Guy - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    My favorite teams to watch this year were the Rangers and the Rays. To have them playing each other now is exquisitely cruel, yet exquisitely compelling.

  10. tashkalucy - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    I got flamed the other day for saying it, but I’ll say it again……

    The tipping point has been reached for both the Red Sox and Yankees.

    The Red Sox September swoon and the Yankees trying to get to the WS with one starting pitcher and one (great) reliever along with a team of old guys and a bunch of average guys just won’t do it anymore.

    Both the Red Sox and Yankees have a group of overpaid players that match their fans in having an entitlement attitude. Heaven forbid that America doesn’t patronize the Red Sox and Yankee fans as ESPN does. And heaven forbid that umpiring crews don’t give Red Sox and Yankee players every call, every time. DON”T THEY KNOW WHO THESE GUYS ARE?!?!?!??!

    The Red Sox haven’t been the same since Manny left, and the Yankees can’t ride the greatness of Jeter and Mariano much longer. Cano is a real nice player. But great? Oh, no.

    MLB is turning and now all teams have a chance. Great players are few and far between. And speaking of great players, I sure hope Albert doesn’t pull a LeBron and stays in St. Louis. Unquestionably the best baseball city in America (and I’m not from StL). They deserve Albert, and he deserves them.

    • dnc6 - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:43 PM

      I have no dog in this fight but you couldn’t be further from the truth. The Yankees had an excellent bullpen and lineup and solid enough rotation this year. The Red Sox won 90 games in a down year. We are at the opposite end of the tipping point. The fifth playoff spot almost guarantees that those two teams will make the playoffs from here until legitimate revenue sharing is put into place. Yes, there will still be teams like the current Rays who put together a legitimate window of competition on a much smaller payroll. But the current structure is set up so that big market teams get free passes to the playoffs unless they really screw up (see: V. Wells, Napoli). But go ahead and keep trying to convince us. And Mr. Selig, you don’t have to hide behind an anonymous name.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:46 PM

      I got flamed the other day for saying it, but I’ll say it again……

      You didn’t get flamed. People refuted your assertions. And instead of coming back defending yourself or showing why those people are/were wrong, you just repeated the same idiotic comments again.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:20 PM

      Tash: A buddy of mine (Redlegs fan) and I were just discussing the Yankees the other day and pretty much agreed with your asessment. A bunch of over paid has-beens…(1) Starting Pitcher in CC and (1) Closer in Mariano. I saw the 22 thumbs downs and had to let you know we had your back (at least with your Yankees asessement). Just for the record…Your comment about AP and the Lou’ is much appreciated.

  11. cur68 - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Lets tip the ole Jay’s cap to Leyland here, kay? Under that nicotine stained cap is a pretty good brain. He knew what he was doing praising Cano like he did. I should have seen it at the time but I missed it till watching Cano come up with the game on the line. Then it was obvious.

    It’s a little trick I learned while playing golf for money; praise your opponent when the money is on the line. Tell him how great he is, never misses and is just a stud. Tell him he makes this putt/hits this green and Jennifer Aniston (or Brad Pitt, his proclivities depending) will appear and throw her panties on the ground before him. Then watch him miss the shot.

    Just like Robbie Cano did. Did it play a big enough factor to mess with Cano? Dunno. Bt it does work and if you can make that guy self conscious enough; he stops being who is, and tries to be who you just said he was, just a little.

    Mr. Leyland: *golf clap*….

    • Old Gator - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:09 PM

      The spawrts press extols a ballplayer to the empyrean based on one day’s hot spell. The next day, they damn the same ballplayer to the banks of the Acheron based on one day’s cold spell. And the fans react both times as though to a warp in the natural order of things. Can you say Ba-a-a-a-a-a?

      • cur68 - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:33 PM

        “spawrts press” isn’t Jim Leyland. Jim Leyland says something like that about you, it’s a mindf*ck. Like if you, OG, got on here and wrote “that cur68, some erudite, smooth writing, eloquent beaver wrestler, isn’t he?” I’d better not touch this here keyboard for a week at least…

  12. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    I wish Smoltz was excited enough to pay attention:

    Darling: The last time someone was throwing a no hitter against the Yankees in the playoffs it was Detroit, and it was broken up up Robinson Cano.

    Smoltz: So what. What’s the significance of that? Did he break up a no hitter?

  13. badmamainphilliesjamas - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    From WSJ,
    What Kind of Basebal Fan Are You?

  14. paperlions - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    In his post game comments last night, LaRussa said, “We just keep things real simple”. Apparently, the irony was lost on everyone.

  15. spudchukar - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    Before the series changes from 1-1, I would like to again echo a complaint to MLB. There is no way a 162 game season should be decided by a 5 game, first to 3 format. I have no idea who is going to win this series, but if the Phils happen to lose it will still be a shame that a team that managed 102 wins should be sent packing by events decided in only 5 games or less.

    Originally baseball believed the championship should be decided by a 9-game series. To cut that almost in half is an outrage. Please do away with a 5 game first round. I do not care how it is done, but it is will continue to be my biggest beef. It is just wrong.

    • Jonny 5 - Oct 3, 2011 at 4:07 PM

      Damn Potato bird. THIS we can agree on. More baseball = more better!!!


      7 game series across the board imo would be good. Very good…

      • cur68 - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:09 PM

        I liked the 9 gamer. Shorten the regular season by 10 games. Commence Playoffs sooner, in the better weather. Bet we’d all be happier in the sun.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:09 PM

        Agree 100%. 7 games all the way.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:15 PM

        Waite….unless the Cardinals win in (5). If the Cardinals win in (5) then I am good with a (5) game series.

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