There are eight teams left in the 2017 MLB Postseason. There are 22 teams that aren’t in the 2017 MLB Postseason. On the whole, it is much nicer to be one of the eight teams left. Fans of those teams have butterflies, but the butterflies are partying a whole bunch, and it’s not out of control yet, so it’s cool. For now.
But seven of those eight teams will crush the hopes and dreams of their fans. It’s a bug, not a feature. With more postseason games comes more potential for daydreaming fans to feel silly about their daydreams.
Two years ago, I wrote this about the Cardinals:
… there’s an end to every perfect organization, every impeccably run franchise. It was just a couple years ago that the Braves were always around in October, no matter what they did or didn’t do. They went to the postseason with Russ Ortiz as their Game 1 starter, and they went back two seasons after the laughably lopsided Mark Teixeira trade. They won 14 straight division titles and had Freemasons force a work stoppage in the season they weren’t going to win. They were always going to contend. Always, always, always.
And then they didn’t.
The Cardinals haven’t made the postseason since that published. They’re still going to annoy the world with an improbably deep postseason run in the next three years — you knew it was a scorpion when you carried it across the river — but there has to be a little doubt right now.
So it goes for even the most successful teams. It felt bad for the Cardinals in 2015 because there was the tiniest sense of, “Maybe we won’t get this chance every year. Other teams don’t.”
Here’s why it will suck when your favorite team loses in the 2017 postseason.
It will suck if the Dodgers lose because that would give me another opportunity to scour YouTube and find another commercial from 1988, which is the last year the Dodgers won the World Series.
Oh, baby, this is the best one yet.
Look, over there! It’s when the Dodgers were 47-1 in their last 45 games and were the prohibitive favorites to win 11 straight games in the postseason. Alas, that seems less certain.
The worst part is that there won’t be another season that feels this good heading into the postseason. Even with the September weirdness. This is it. This is as confident as the Dodgers can possibly get. They won 104 freaking games. They have one of the greatest pitchers to play baseball. They have one of the best relievers of all time. They have a roster without holes. They aren’t without their injuries, but they could certainly be worse off.
There will be a lot of quiet reflection if they lose, in other words. An awful lot of quiet, solemn reflection.
No, the Nationals haven’t won a postseason series since they were the Expos, and even then it was a weird, stilted regular-season format that snuck them in. This is not a team with a rich postseason history. They haven’t won an NLDS because the baseball gods are punishing them for winning a weird proto-NLDS in 1981. If you can come up with a better theory, guess what, it’s actually worse.
But while all teams have to deal with a closing window, the Nationals have the Bryce Harper window. While they seem to have an oddly non-confrontational relationship with Scott Boras, there are no guarantees they’ll be willing to pay $300 million for Harper. And what if he has another season like this — great, but with a fluke injury in the middle? How can you properly value that?
I would go so far as to suggest that the Nationals might even explore the rare win-now-team-trading-for-the-future gambit. Hey, it worked for the Phillies when they traded Cliff Lee away, except for the parts where it didn’t work at all. If the Nationals lose, I’m not saying they will do that. But it’s definitely one of the options on the decision tree.
I don’t want to get too gloomy for this one. There isn’t a region that can use the temporary amnesia of a winning sports team more, but I’m not going to pretend like the people of Houston are going to dwell on a sportsball loss right now. Of the eight teams up here, this is the fan base that has plenty of perspective.
So I’ll just remind the world as quickly as possible that the Houston Astros are one of four current MLB teams without a single World Series win. The four, with the year they came in the league:
Even the Padres have won a World Series game. The Padres! The Astros are a secretly cursed team. You just don’t hear about it because the fans don’t whine about it as much as I would.
These are some tricky teams for this exercise. The Yankees never even really rebuilt, which seems unfair. There was a notable period of austerity when they weren’t quite the Yankees, but they’ve always been above-average, even in the down years.
The Red Sox never really rebuilt, either, but they lost enough games for them to consider it, and then they won the World Series the next year.
Neither of these teams should be too overwhelmed if they don’t win.
Neither of these teams should consider themselves at the mercy of a closing window.
Here’s why it will suck when either of them lose, though. You’ll have to hear it. You’ll have to deal with the jittery, reactionary tweets. You’ll have to deal with every offseason move being looked at through the prism of them not winning the World Series. You don’t want that.
At the same time, I get it. I really, really get it. Each season is long. Reallllly long. The Yankees will have gone another eight years without a championship, like common peasants. The Red Sox haven’t waited quite that long, but every season has its own stories and narratives, triumphs and failures, and the ultimate disappointments affect fans of even the spoiled teams.
But mostly, I don’t want to hear about it.
Before this season, the Diamondbacks were supposed to be a lost franchise. They didn’t have the best farm system, and they pushed all their chips into the middle of the table for an over-30 pitcher coming off a lousy year. Their young pitchers were almost uniformly disappointing. They had a couple of huge bats, sure, but there were so many more things wrong with the Diamondbacks at this time last year.
And then … rebirth. It seems weird to consider the Diamondbacks as a team in a tricky spot. They have so much!
But Zack Greinke is getting older, and the Diamondbacks don’t need to create some wild hypothetical about how he would struggle. They saw it last year. And Paul Goldschmidt is under contract for two more years, but that’s not as comforting as it could be. The farm system still isn’t in the top tier, and …
Look, you add it up, and it’s probably a good idea for every team to win the World Series this year, all right? This was a stupid concept, and it turns out that every one of these postseason teams would like to win the World Series if possible, and nothing is guaranteed if they don’t win it this year.
Seriously, though, Greinke is no spring chicken, and that’s kind of a big deal.
Imagine it. The final out. It’s October 14, 1908. There’s a snap in the air, enough to sneak through your waistcoat and give you a touch of the quavers, but you can’t possibly care. You’re a young, vibrant egg, and the Cubs have won the World’s Series … again. When Orval Overall is pitching, everything is duck soup, I tell you, boy is it ever.
It’s a dandy feeling. You put on your cap with the anatomically impossible bear and head off into the world. Your sports team has won it all, and there ain’t a feeling in the world like it.
The next season comes, and your Cubbies win 104 games, but the Pirates win 110. That’s OK, because there’s always next year, and the Cubs win 104 games again, but they lose in the World Series. That’s OK, because there’s always next year, except they finish in second place that time. That’s OK, because there’s always next year, except now they’re down to third place for the next couple of years, and then they’re in fourth place the two years after that, and then down to fifth place, and …
You were a young egg with the world in your hip pocket, alright, but then time took over and everything decayed and oxidized and faded and your stupid baseball team kept breaking your heart, over and over, it never stopped. Your life wasn’t short, but it sure kept going without stopping, and the Cubs never let you feel like that again. Also, your kids stopped talking to you years ago.
That could be you, Cubs fans. The river of time circles back around, it does. There was no reason to think that the 1908 team was going to be the last one for more than 100 years. There’s no reason for the 2016 team to be the last one for more than 100 years.
Except we’ve seen it before. It looked just like that, and it was hideous. I’m so sorry.
I mean … don’t be rude. We know why it will suck. I wrote about it last year, and I’m reusing it so I don’t feel sad again, not because I’m lazy.
The analogy (of Sisyphus) is officially dead. I’ve abused it as much as any baseball writer, but it belongs to the Indians now. No team has let the boulder slip as often. No team has sighed louder as it rolls to the bottom.
And on the hill just across the way, there’s a boulder resting on a flat plateau, with no one really sure how they got there. It’s a big ol’ party. Even the boulder is drunk. You should get a look at this, everyone. The Cubs’ boulder is drunk. What a wild night, let me tell you …
But also because I’m lazy. There is no team in baseball that knows this kind of disappointment, and if the Indians actually win it all, there won’t be a team that knows it for another decade, at least. The Indians are the king of postseason sadness, long shall they reign.
Unless they win the danged thing.
One of these teams has to.
Just, you know, not all eight of them.
If you’re a fan of one of these eight teams, my only advice is to remember that 22 different teams are jealous of your team right now. That will buy you some time. You deserve it. But then the games start, and, well, I can’t help you there. Good luck.