It has become an almost irritating staple of all conversations involving the San Francisco Giants, the “They know how to playoff baseball” meme that provided their largely psychotic fan base so much succor during The Troubles (a.k.a. the post-All-Star Break).
In fact, we’re wrong about that. It isn’t “almost” at all. It’s flat irritating, because it is used to cover their multitude of second-half sins, as well as proof of their value in the last week of the regular season, when their five-wins-in-six-games ended up better than St. Louis’ five-wins-in-six-games. Their experience is so mighty that all other teams are unworthy by comparison.
Hey, if that’s working for you, fine. We don’t want to disabuse you of any preconceptions.
But if you think the Giants have the best chance of winning their fourth World Series in seven years, a feat only two teams (the New York Yankees several times and the Boston Red Sox 100-some-odd years ago) have achieved, just because they’ve been there before, your attention span is being mocked by fruit flies everywhere.
Baseball’s history is easiest viewed as a macro-mural, in which you can walk into BaseballReference.com and make all things congeal according to the pattern you seek. The fact, though, is that at the more granular level, too many things are affected too many ways by too many tiny moments made large in hindsight.
In other words, Madison Bumgarner being the Giants’ only pitcher two postseasons ago will have no bearing on his Wednesday start against Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets. Neither will the Mets playing at home, or how the two teams did against each other, or how they did against everyone else. Even historical matchups have a diminished predictive value when you look closer at them.
In other words, the fact that the other nine teams in this postseason have gone a total of 395 combined years without a World Series parade probably means a lot less than you think (although, if the Nationals win all, it would be right and proper to have a parade in Washington and one in Montreal – or at the very least, an extended happy hour in Montreal).
Oh, there will be plenty of narratives (a word which, when I become Secretary Of Taste in the Stanhope administration, will be banned and its users jailed for a minimum of 15 years). They all make for good scenics and interviews with men in their early hundreds . . . the Cubs and their marriage to Chicago’s downtrodden self-image (which actually doesn’t exist, as a three-minute chat with any Chicago sports fans will assure you) . . . the Dodgers in their first non-Scully World Series since 1949 (he thought enough of the playoffs to watch all the games in his smoking jacket and commemorative Giants fez) . . . or the Nationals in their first-ever World Series (Canada included) . . . or the Rangers, who also have never won (but this year alone are riding the mythological power of winning nearly every one-run game they played) . . . or the Indians, who haven’t won since 1948 (Bill Veeck and Satchel Paige, case closed).
But the games work independently of all that, because the players don’t worry about the history. Most of them don’t know it at all, save those who actually played in a postseason before this. Baseball teaches its greatest practitioners not to worry about any of the things we obsess about . . . like October experience, or long-suffering fan bases, or revenge for former failures or legacy cementing for former successes.
At this time of year, there is only the game. And that starts Wednesday. So do yourselves a favor, leave your wearisome narratives at the door, and bask in the twitchy nerve-wracking hell that awaits you all.