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Busting the narratives: reverse pennant races

Sep 17, 2012, 11:04 AM EDT

backwards clock

As Kierkegaard once said: “The baseball season can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”  Which is why narratives are created as the season goes on, assigning epic collapses to teams who play poorly late and inspirational surges to teams who play poorly early. Even if said teams — over the long haul — are about exactly the same.

But what if we turned the season around backawards? What if we lived it “Time’s Arrow”-style, with the season beginning in early October and ending in early April?  What would we say about teams then?

Chris Jaffe takes a stab at that, looking at past seasons — 1982, 1973 to be exact — and figuring out the narratives which would have prevailed in that case.

It’s a fun mental exercise and a good read.

  1. heyblueyoustink - Sep 17, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Kierkegaard? Jeez Craig, it’s a freaking Monday morning, are you trying to overload our brains to a drooling state?

    You could have just stuck with some Sartre. You know, like some of the Waiter stuff. Find a way to plug that into Michael Young’s produced image as a great player when in reality, it is just a concieved illusion sort fo bit.

    • Brian Donohue - Sep 17, 2012 at 11:49 AM

      Actually it’s not a bad reference. I have found Kierkegaard to be the leading comic writer of all philosophy.

      • gloccamorra - Sep 17, 2012 at 12:58 PM

        At a bookstore, I heard a bookseller tell a philosophy student, “Stay away from Danish and Russian philosophers. “Their winters are long, cold and dark. “They have entirely too much time to think.”

  2. stex52 - Sep 17, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Or Camus would tell you that it was just their rock to roll up the hill. And any resemblance to a pattern is ridiculous when in reality it is all random chance in an absurd universe, which we can never control. I imagine the Rays and Phillies are buying into that one right now.

  3. Jeremy Fox - Sep 17, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    Shorter version: All the games count. Equally.

    • stex52 - Sep 17, 2012 at 11:49 AM

      Not a popular view. But correct.

    • deepstblu - Sep 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM

      Supposedly there was a sign in the Gas House Gang-era Cardinals’ clubhouse that read: “One Won Early Doesn’t Have to Be Won Later.” I think it was intended to promote scoring early in the game, but it works just as well re winning games early in the season.

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 17, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        Never heard that story–that’s awesome!

  4. natstowngreg - Sep 17, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Wow, that Kierkegaard guy was sure prescient. He nailed the rhythm of the baseball season, despite dying in 1855, 14 years before the creation of professional baseball.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B8ren_Kierkegaard

    • stex52 - Sep 17, 2012 at 1:02 PM

      The great philosophers just had a knack for that kind of stuff. Like, imagine how empty and absurd the world must have seemed before there was baseball. I’m betting there is all kinds of good stuff about OBP’s and WAR’s and BABIP’s in the lost work of Spinoza.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 17, 2012 at 1:19 PM

        Indeed. Though I prefer the wisdom of the more modern philosophers. Notably, the great Aemrican philosopher and cultural icon Lawrence Peter Berra, author of such profound thoughts on the human condition as “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” (Restated by the Cuban philosopher Eisler Liván Hernández Carrera as “you get twenty-seven outs.”)

      • paperlions - Sep 17, 2012 at 1:34 PM

        Yeah, but the problem with L.P. Berra is that he “only said half the things he said.”

      • natstowngreg - Sep 17, 2012 at 9:18 PM

        Hmmm, I sense the potential for a stat on philosphers, authors, poets, politicians, and others much quoted. The ratio of statements actually said to statements attributed. Get Bill James on it right away.

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