If any of you have had the misfortune of reading me for any extended period of time, this paragraph could come off of an assembly line:
As the Braves futilely chased the Nats over the course of the summer, I got grand visions of revenge in my head. For all of those years in which the Braves lost to inferior teams (often teams that did not win their divisions), they would get their revenge this year by turning the tables. Then it occurred to me that these dreams made me a hypocrite. If it was wrong to view the Braves as a failure for winning 106 games and then losing in the NLCS, then it would be no better to proclaim them kings for beating a team that finished ahead of them, fair and square. Winning in the playoffs would be a nice coda to the season, but it should not be the end-all, be-all. Playoff success is mostly about luck and just because our coin kept coming up tails when we called heads, that means neither that our odds are suddenly better on the next flip, nor does it mean that we should be too emotionally invested in a game of chance.And the funny thing is that I was either going to write this column or I was going to Fisk Dan Wetzel's column claiming that the four-team playoff is going to make non-conference scheduling better, at least in part by arguing that he is a stuck record on the same old line: everything bad is the result of the BCS. Physician, heal thyself.
Part of why I have these "it just doesn't matter" thoughts in my brain is just a Pavlovian reaction to the Braves being in the playoffs. We have seen this dance before and we know how it ends. I got my hopes up in 2010 that an absence from the playoffs would change the Braves' luck, but they lost the NLDS to the Giants in the Braves' typical, excruciating fashion. It would be just like the Braves to come into the game today on a record-setting winning streak in Kris Medlen starts and then to blow the game, most likely on a bloop by one of the assembly line Ecksteins that St. Louis rolls out.
Another reason why I am thinking these thoughts is the identity of the opponent. It still offends my sense of propriety that the Cardinals got to call themselves "World Champions" last year after they entered the playoffs with the fewest wins of any team that made the postseason. Now, here they are again. In prior years, they wouldn't even be in the playoffs, but as the lucky horseshoes in their butts continue to pay dividends, they get a one-game shot against a team that finished six games ahead of them in the standings. I don't want to give the Cardinals the satisfaction of thinking that they have accomplished something big or great if they win today and go on another run that does nothing more that illustrate that the American pro sports method of crowing a champion bastardizes the very word "champion."
One last thought: I was unaware until I was writing this last night that Baseball Prospectus backed off of their position that defense and a great closer are the keys to postseason success. Apparently, the past few years have not been kind to the secret sauce theory. Thus, I can't even get excited about the fact that the Braves are strong in both categories.