Baseball season began last week. The Philadelphia Phillies will be seeking their sixth consecutive division title, pretty good for a team with the most losses in baseball history.
As I listen to the local sports-talk station it seems to me people are worried. There is a feeling that the Phillies run of success is about to end. Each year over the past five they have ended their season sooner: World Series victory (2008), World Series loss (2009), NLCS loss (2010), NLDS loss (2011). The downward slide may continue as some of the long-time Philly stalwars (Ryan Howard, Chase Utley) are beginning the season injured and look on the downside of their careers.
The Phils enter the season with a lot of average looking players filling the lineup. Rather than players good enough to play everyday, they may use lots of platoons. This past weekend as the season began they looked rather inept, scoring six total runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Perhaps people have cause to be worried.
But here’s the thing: the best and most talented team rarely wins, at least recently, in pro sports (college sports is a whole different matter, see NCAA basketabll champions Kentucky).
The New York Giants barely made the playoffs in football. Yet they got hot at the right time and rolled to a victory. The best teams during the season (Packers, Saints) lost early in the playoffs.
Last year in baseball the Phillies had the best record. They lost to a team, the St. Louis Cardinals, who slipped into the playoffs on the last day of the season.
Baseball season is LONG! 162 games. Being the best team over 162 games is not that important. Being the best team in October is really all that matters.
Of course, you have to be in the position to play in October. The Cardinals and Giants had to be in a position to go on those win streaks. You cannot stink the whole year. My point is, being the best of the best the whole year is over-rated.
Just look at the Phillies. I imagine most fans would say that last year’s team was the most talented team over the recent run of success. Yet 2008 was the year they won, with perhaps their least talented team. Cole Hamels was their best starter that year (he was 3rd or 4th best the last two seasons). Their pitching after him was a bunch of forgetful guys.
So perhaps in October it will be a no name who gets the big hit for the Phils just as it was Cody Ross for the Giants in 2010 and Allen Craig for the Cardinals last year. Or, for that matter, Matt Stairs for the Phillies in 2008.
I rarely write about sports, this blog’s purpose is more spiritual matters. But I feel like it would be a stretch to draw something out of this just for the sake of sounding spiritual. At any rate, what comes to mind is Ecclesiastes 9:11:
11 I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.
There you go, something spiritual.