I'm 54 years old. I grew up on the north(west) side of Chicago, about 8 1/2 miles from Wrigley Field, and have been a Cubs fan as long as I can remember. I have memories of the 1969 season, when I was 7, and my father took me to my first game at Wrigley the following year. Since then, I've seen 52 other games in Wrigley Field (I moved away from Chicago for school and work in 1979) and have seen the Cubs play road games in 9 other stadiums.
So, the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series was a big deal to me. When I found out that the Cubs had won, by checking my phone at 2:00 AM after waking up after I had gone to bed after the top of the ninth in Game 7, my mind began racing. After I recovered from my initial shock, I started thinking about baseball in general. Many of my thoughts aren't Cubs-fan-specific, and I thought I'd share these with you. To paraphrase Rex Stout, a mystery writer whose most-famous creation was Nero Wolfe, this article may irritate or bore you, but I hope that it either gives you pleasure or gives you something to think about.
Baseball, and sports in general, do matter. Many curmudgeons - or maybe just people who don't appreciate spectator sports - complain that athletes are paid too much, too much tax money is spent on stadiums, traffic control for sporting events, etc. etc. But, on an individual basis, spectator sports can serve as a necessary break, a diversion from our everyday stresses such as paying bills, meeting job deadlines, dealing with recalcitrant children, etc. We need such diversions to refresh our spirits, or perhaps even to give us something to look forward to during our workdays.
But the 2016 Cubs went beyond that. For this past month, all Cubs fans were one united community, sharing joys and woes with each other. Two Sundays ago, the day after the Cubs won the National League pennant, I wore a Cubs t-shirt to a church luncheon; parishioners I did not know started conversations with me about the Cubs. The Cubs provided my brother and I with hours of emails and conversations. Long-lost friends reached out and expressed their good wishes. Thanks to all of you.
So, Orioles fans, enjoy the games. Go to Camden Yards with some friends. Join in the cheering. Talk about the Orioles to fans you know who live far away. It's all good.
Baseball, and sports in general, should be kept in perspective. Twice I went to bed for the night with the Cubs game tied. Those nights were among the worst night's sleeps I've had when I haven't been physically ill - I dreamt four separate times that I checked my phone to see the score. And the results were different each time. When I finally woke up for real, the first thing I did, before saying "Good Morning" to my wife, was to check my phone for the score. After a while, I realized that the Cubs had become too important to me, that it was taking over my life. I am working to put baseball and the Cubs back in their proper places. I'm trying to spend more time with my wife. I'm trying to limit my checking of baseball web sites to two or three times a day.
So, readers, let it go. Do something else with your free time on occasion. Don't let your fandom run your life. It shouldn't be the most important thing in your life.
We don't know as much about baseball as we'd like to think. By and large, Camden Depot is an analytical site. We gather data, draw conclusions, and think we understand how baseball games should be won or lost. It may seem sometimes that we're disappointed if our negative predictions about the Orioles don't come true, that we'd rather be right than have the Orioles win.
As I was watching the postseason, it struck me that baseball is far, far more complicated than we make it out to be. Take one example - the oft-repeated statement that batter's strikeouts don't matter, that there is at best a negligible cost to a strikeout. But in the top of the first inning of game 6 of the World Series, Addison Russell hit a fly ball to right-center field that should have been a routine third out. But, as we know, neither Tyler Naquin nor Lonnie Chisenhall caught the ball and two runs scored. If Russell had struck out, those runs wouldn't have scored.
I've seen the studies that show that a strikeout is negligibly worse than other outs. But those studies don't account for balls put in play that might be outs but aren't. They don't account for the presumed loss of extra-base hits if pitches are hit less than perfectly square. They don't account for walks. So while the literal statement "Strikeouts have virtually the same impact as ground outs or fly outs" is probably true, the generalization "Batter's strikeouts don't matter" doesn't directly follow.
So, writers - not just Camden Depot writers, but all writers on baseball, be humble. Acknowledge that we don't know as much as we want to, and that much of what we want to know is unknowable. Don't overgeneralize.
Baseball is meant to be enjoyable. And it's more enjoyable when the team you root for is doing well. I hope that all of you have really enjoyed and appreciate the last five years, in which the Orioles have done well. And I hope that the Orioles continue to do well, even when I think they're not doing things the right way.