Winning a World Series is difficult, and that makes it fun - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Winning a World Series is difficult, and that makes it fun

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

At the beginning of the postseason, I predicted a Los Angeles Dodgers-Houston Astros World Series. The Dodgers seemed like the class of the National League, and I thought the Astros would hold off the New York Yankees in a competitive American League Championship Series.

After the Washington Nationals made it through an exciting wild-card game against the Milwaukee Brewers and outlasted the Dodgers in a thrilling five-game Division Series, it made sense that they’d beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

But the World Series doesn’t make any sense.

The Nationals are two games away from becoming the first team since 1954 to win a World Series after winning 14 fewer games than its opponent. During the regular season, the Nats won 93 games, the Astros 107.

Washington finished four games behind Atlanta in the NL East and needs to win 12 games for a World Series title.

When the Orioles last won the World Series 36 years ago, they needed to win seven games. There was no wild card, nor division series, and the ALCS was best-of-five. The Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox in four games, and the Philadelphia Phillies in five to win the Series.

Now, it’s much harder. The regular season still matters so much. This year, the Cleveland Indians won 93 games and just missed qualifying as a wild card.

It should be difficult to make the postseason, and it is. One of the most appealing things about baseball’s postseason is that just one-third of teams play in October. The regular season is vital, though this year only the wild cards remained undecided in September’s final days.

The NFL is great, and their postseason has 12 of 32 teams. I love the NBA, but there’s no way that 16 of 30 teams should qualify for the playoffs.

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In baseball, even if you win 90 games, there’s no guarantee you’ll play on. In 2014, the San Francisco Giants, winners of 88 games became the first World Series winner to play in the wild-card game. The Giants had to win the wild-card game on the road, too.

Washington’s wins over 20-game winners Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in the first two Series games were impressive. The Astros were 60-21 at home and lost consecutive games at Minute Maid Park only four times this season.

Houston, which beat the Dodgers in 2017 to win the World Series, has won 100 games in three straight seasons. Los Angeles won 100 in 2017 as well as this year, and is on a streak of seven straight NL West titles, but no World Series wins.

In 2016, when the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years — with Orioles manager Brandon Hyde coaching first and Nationals manager Dave Martinez serving as bench coach — conventional wisdom was that the Cubs would be the class of baseball for several years.

Instead, the Cubs haven’t made it back to the World Series, losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS in 2017 and in the wild-card last year. This year, they had 84 wins and fired manager Joe Maddon.

Another would-be dynasty, the Boston Red Sox, won 108 games in 2018 and took the World Series in five games against the Dodgers. This year, they won 84 games and fired their top baseball executive, Dave Dombrowski.

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Red Sox ($236.17 million) and Cubs ($203) had the first- and third-largest Opening Day payrolls and didn’t win. The Nationals ($197.2) had the fourth largest.

The Orioles, who just two years ago had a $164 million payroll, have one that’s less than half that now.

With the high payrolls come higher expectations, and the Nationals, who have been in the postseason five of the last eight years, are in a great spot to win the Series.

Obviously, spending money doesn’t guarantee success. The Los Angeles Angels have had payrolls in baseball’s top 10 in each year since 2004 and have been in the playoffs just once since 2009. That was a loss in the wild-card game to the Kansas City Royals in 2014.

Orioles general manager Mike Elias, who worked in St. Louis when they won the World Series in 2011 and Houston in 2017, knows how difficult it will be to get there with the Orioles.

It always seemed unfair when the Atlanta Braves, who won 14 straight NL East titles, were criticized for winning “only” one World Series or that the Buffalo Bills were sneered at because they lost four straight Super Bowls.

Winning the World Series is incredibly hard to do, and there hasn’t been a repeat winner since the Yankees (1998-2000). The difficulty of winning a World Series is a major part of its attraction.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Hallbe62

    October 25, 2019 at 7:31 am

    4th largest payroll in MLB. No wonder they’re in the courts fighting for more revenue.

  2. Camden Brooks

    October 25, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Once you made it to the postseason in 1983 you had a shorter route to win the World Series. But the O’s had to win their 7-team division outright to move on, which is a significantly harder task than the current system. I much prefer the current setup btw.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 25, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Just a thought … but I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if a substantial decrease in the Nationals payroll would occur over the next couple of years if the team actually does win this championship.

    • Orial

      October 25, 2019 at 10:30 am

      Boog I tend to agree. What the Nats should do is sign Soto,Turner,Robles to extensions and build around them and Kierboom. Rendon is great but long term deals have a way of coming back to haunt ya.

  4. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    October 25, 2019 at 9:07 am

    I saw a graphic during one of the Astros- Yankees playoff games. It showed I believe 8 teams coming into this season that had 3 straight 100 win seasons. Of those 8 teams only one won the World Series once. That team was the 1970 Orioles.

  5. Fareastern89

    October 25, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Earl Weaver said that you can get into trouble in the playoffs “because everybody wants to be a hero.” Maybe that’s the trouble with the Astros. The Nationals, on the other hand, seem to have been pretty loose ever since the playoffs began; they look like they’re just having a good time out there.

  6. Tony Paparella

    October 25, 2019 at 10:10 am

    Yes it is difficult to get to a world series let alone win one.Most of the time however if you name two possible candidates usually one makes it to the series.I really don’t know the reason it is so hard to repeat though most of the winners continue to be successful the next year or two as long as their teams stay intact.As far as the present series is concerned I would not rule out the Astro yet but they do have a task ahead of them.It does seem that some teams are destined sometimes.There is pressure to repeat performances of the past so there is more pressure on the team (Astros) that is trying to repeat or given the tag as the probable winner (because of past performance or even present year performance).

  7. Orial

    October 25, 2019 at 10:35 am

    Hey Rich how about a good old fashioned way of approaching the team W/L records and fairness. Make two15 team leagues(same teams stay in their respective leagues) and have top 5 make the playoffs. Balanced schedule,all teams play opponents the same amount. Don’t get rid of interleague(though I wish they would) but cut it down. 5 best teams in each league are in. Best record gets a bye.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 25, 2019 at 10:40 am

      Lots of late-season games involving teams not in contention. Try selling a 14/15 matchup. With five teams in a division more teams in the race. I’m fine with current format, Orial.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 25, 2019 at 1:39 pm

      I think the increased travel load would be logistically problematic trying to cram it into a 162 games schedule.

  8. Raymo

    October 25, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I noticed that after their first 50 games (19-31), the Nationals played at a .630 pace, which would have been 107 wins over a full season… same as the Astros best in baseball record.

  9. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 25, 2019 at 1:40 pm

    This is all well and good, but according to Costner, “in baseball, they count everything”. Even the 1st 50 games.

    • Raymo

      October 26, 2019 at 12:31 pm

      Yup. Over the full season the Astros were clearly the better team. But one could argue that over the last 4 months Washington was as good or better than anyone else which is why both these teams deserve to be playing in the WS.

  10. mcgooding

    October 25, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Rich, I always enjoy your take on things, and once again I find myself off topic hoping for your insight. I just read an article that Orioles Fanfest is sleeping with the fishes. Although I’ve never attended one, I think this is a huge mistake by the Orioles. First you have a struggling team, and also baseball’s popularity isn’t what it used to be. I’d like to hear your take on this. Possibly an article. I think that Baltimore Orioles fans, especially the very young fans need this to stay connected with a team that’s in a rebuild. The sports market is competitive, and with dwindling attendance this could affect the Orioles in years to come. I understand winning solves a lot of problems, but it seems to me that this could alienate a fan base starving for competitive baseball. Especially future generations.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 25, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      Mcgooding, I haven’t commented on FanFest, and I should. The World Series has gotten in the way of a couple of things I should have written.

  11. mcgooding

    October 25, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    I understand Rich. I’m looking forward to your commentary.

  12. WorldlyView

    October 25, 2019 at 11:55 pm

    Dynasties and repeat champions in all four of our major team sports have become very rare. Seems to me that the critical common denominator has been the advent of free agency and salary caps. Follow the money. Switching sports, the biggest exception to the dynasty drought dynamic are the Patriots– who have had the unique benefit of their long-term employment of what are, or very close to being, the greatest head coach and quarterback in NFL history. Then there is the un-dynasty, the Redskins, a team that is cursed by the long-term presence of disastrous ownership and management.

    • CalsPals

      October 26, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      No salary cap in baseball, that’s part of their problem, you have the “haves” & “have nots”…don’t see the union ever agreeing to one…go O’s…

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