HOUSTON — A general manager’s job is to build World Series teams. Yet as he sat on that stage Monday night in the Atlanta Braves’ bunker as their players prepared for the Houston Astros, Alex Anthopoulos made a confession: His path here was a mystery.
“I wish I knew,” said Anthopoulos, Atlanta’s general manager. “I’ve been in baseball since 2000, 10 years as GM, and I don’t know how you got to a World Series, I really don’t. You have to get in. Get in and I hope the kids stand up.”
In baseball, the longest regular season sport, the reward for six months of excellence is a lottery ticket. Even the worst team almost always wins 50 or more games each year, and when the most effective player – theoretically the starting pitcher – changes every night, randomness can change a short streak.
For all the problems team owners and players face while negotiating the current collective bargaining agreement that expires on December 1, Major League Baseball has won more different champions than the NFL, NBA, and NHL in recent years.
The turn-of-the-century Yankees (1998-2000) are the last team to win a consecutive World Series. Since then, 14 different franchises have been crowned and Atlanta is trying to place 15th. He has won 12 different champions in the NFL and NHL, and 10 different champions in the NBA.
Scheduled to kick off Game 1 here on Tuesday, Atlanta’s Charlie Morton has reached three of the last five World Series with the 2017 Astros, 2020 Tampa Bay Rays and this year Atlanta. Witnessed many ways to earn pennants.
“With the Astros, a lot has been done from the draft picks, they’ve had three 100-loss seasons lost—and a lot of draft picks, scouts, analytics departments,” Morton said, adding that the roster is still on. bears the mark of former general manager Jeff Luhnow.
“When I was there, the Rays were a $60 million payroll team, dealing with analytics and scouting, developing from the inside and all getting paid much less. Then the Braves have a little bit of everything.
“Actually the main issue is the clubhouse, I think, besides the obvious talent and ability to play the game. I think the clubhouse was the deciding factor in getting this far. Because the tighter the band is, the deeper you go at the end of the season.”
At 88-73, this Atlanta team’s winning percentage (.547) was lower than any of the team’s last 10 postseason teams, and they all fell short in the NL playoffs. Maybe this group has better club chemistry, or maybe things just got better with a playoff tie: a punchless first-round Milwaukee Brewers roster and a tired, decadent Los Angeles Dodgers roster in the NL Championship Series, where Atlanta had the home advantage.
Anthopoulos He did his part in July To strengthen his depleted outfield by trading in four former players, Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Jorge Soler, and hoping some combination will work. He had no idea that all four of them would be part of the starting line-up for Game 1 of the World Series.
“In a million years, no one will say to you, ‘We’ll take these four, they’ll all do this and that, we’ll win the division, we’ll beat the playoffs,'” Anthopoulos said. “They did, but this is just a reminder: Get in and anything can happen.
“Because this is my fourth year here; We won 97 games in 2019, we had a great club, Josh Donaldson was the MVP nominee, Freddie Freeman was the MVP nominee, Max Fried was great, we had some really good players. We lost to the Cardinals and they deserved to win, but we had the lead in Game 4.
“Giants are great, Dodgers are great. You just gotta get in.”
11 teams have won more games than Atlanta this season, including the Toronto Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners, who missed the American League playoffs. The Giants won 107 games in the regular season, but lost to the Dodgers with 106 wins in episode streaks.
The Giants, however, pushed the boundaries in this best-of-five series from the Dodgers. Faced with elimination in Game 4, the Dodgers started Walker Buehler with a short rest. A point lead in Game 5, the Dodgers used their top starter, Max Scherzer, for the rescue. The weary duo teamed up for just 12 innings in the NLCS, allowing for 10 runs.
In that way, the Dodgers were similar to the 2001 Mariners, who set a major league record with 116 wins and then clawed a tough five-game division streak with Cleveland. Unable to tailor their pitch, the Marines lost to the Yankees in a five-game ALCS.
“We couldn’t believe it,” said Bret Boone, the Marines’ second baseman in 2001. “We sat on that bus after we lost and said to each other, ‘This didn’t really happen, did it? he?'”
Boone can follow the development of the playoff format through his family. His grandfather, Ray, played during the World Series when the regular season champions of each league met. During his father Bob’s career, there were four episodes, with winners playing in two league championship streaks.
Most of Bret’s career—and his brother Aaron, the Yankees manager—was in six divisions with four playoff teams in each league. There are now five in each league and more teams are likely to be added as part of the next CBA
“The pair has been a really positive thing for the health of the game,” said Bret Boone. “I used to love when there were only four playoff teams, but now that I look at it, I think: What’s good for the game? The good thing about the game is that more fans and more cities are excited about baseball. I think it’s good to have wild cards and all these rounds.”
The absence of dynasties, even recurring champions, has led to more teams winning championships. As players and team owners chart a new course, they should remember that the competitive environment is close to ideal just as it is.