Bag O’ Wins Theory

This email was sent Wednesday, October 27, 2004 at 11:36pm.

Sure is a sad and pathetic way to end a season

But the getting there was a terrific ride. And I was thinking about our long and amazing tour of Major League baseball and road upon which we traveled, that led us to be one of the last two teams standing and  I had to wonder:

Karmically speaking, I wonder if each team is only allotted so many wins per season? Just follow me on this… Is it possible that the baseball gods— knowing far better and far more than mortal scouts and critics— look down from the great Field of Dreams and assess each team and its potential and then determine the highest possible number of wins each could muster in a single season, should all things go right and the stars align perfectly, so on and so forth?

Maybe at the onset of each season, the hitting gods and the pitching gods, the first base gods and the trainer gods, along with the third base gods and the fitness gods, get together, measure and weigh each player’s potential and worth, each man’s character and stamina and determine the pinnacle number of wins a team can possibly achieve if each player, manager and coach should perform up to his ability throughout a season. A number that is achievable yet aspiring, possible but not necessarily probable, unlikely but still vaguely realistic. It’s most likely, of course, that no team will ever reach that penultimate number because it is virtually impossible, or at least highly unlikely, that EVERY player, coach and manager will be able to uphold that highest standard the full duration of a 162 game season.

Anyway, after this magical number is set and the wheel of fortune is dialed in, the baseball gods set before each team its bag of allotted victories— much like a bag of practice balls— from which they may pull out wins as the season progresses. So, without really knowing it, each team sets out upon each new season striving to empty out that bag, to achieve that mythical number of possible wins and make the most of its assets. But, keep in mind, to go beyond what the baseball gods have allotted your team— to over-achieve your team’s potential, one might say— is impossible, because once you’ve reached the

bottom of your victory barrel, there are no more wins to be had. However, to actually win all the victories ordained from above is to achieve your team’s ultimate potential and, therefore, is an infinitely small possibility, for reasons stated earlier.

This system is a prime measuring stick, though. Think about it. Theoretically, at the end of each season, a team need only look into its heavenly satchel to see how well it lived up to its ultimate potential. One may look into the bag come October and see 40 victories still lying in wait, telling you that your team wasted its talent and potential. You would know you’ve got a solid team but changes in practice, attitude or philosophy may need to be made. On the flip side, it would also be possible to go through a miserable losing season only to find a handful of victories still left in the bag.  This would tell you that your team did all it could, but its best wasn’t good enough to compete with the other teams. Meaning, a reorganization of the team might be in order. And, likewise, to achieve your team’s ultimate number of victories does not necessarily ensure a World Championship victory, either. You see, here enlies what some might call: the rub. Or rather, it might present an as yet unforeseen, or at least undetected, angle/facet to the play of the game. It seems this system also brings to the game, the strategy of winning.

Remember what I quoted from ‘The Fast and The Furious’: “Whether it’s by an inch or by a mile. Winning’s winning.” Well, maybe what the baseball gods are telling us is: Why go a mile when an inch will do? Really, it’s nothing we haven’t heard a hundred times throughout our lives. “Don’t spend your money all in one place.” “Waste not, want not.” “Save some for a rainy day.” “If you eat it all now, you won’t have any for later.”

Because what if, and I mean just What If, going into this World Series the Cardinals had maxxed out their wins? Not that the baseball gods had made a mistake in determining our maximum number of possible wins, but that we had squandered the wins we needed to win (or at least compete in) the World Series during the regular season. Think about it. We blew away the Central Division by 13 games. What if we had captured the title by only eight games? Would we have won the division any less? No. But maybe we would have had

five more wins in our victory bag… five more wins to put up against the Red Sox.

Of course, this is all just rhetoric, but here’s an interesting note to my theory: I read that only once in baseball history has the winningest team in the major leagues also won the World Series. Maybe that’s because those other winningest teams, like this year’s Cardinals, used up all their allotted wins to earn that title and didn’t leave enough in the stash to also capture the Championship title. It’s something to think about and consider for next year…

Well, folks, I think this is it. You have a winter’s reprieve to recover from my rants, raves, thoughts, ideas, suggestions, accusations, spoutings, questions, judgments, critiques, jokes, quotes, misleading and often incorrect statistics, lamentations, ramblings, joys, sorrows, boasts, remarks, quibbles, gushings, evaluations, assessments, mistakes, opinions, analogies, predictions, complaints, biases, hypocrisies, fervor, verve, updates, recants, brain-farts, mutterings, musings, encouragements, salutations, views, etc., etc.

I guess it can be said that the Cardinals have died and along with them, so has another year of baseball. But never fear, as do the seasons renew themselves, so will this great sport of ours. Come next March, as nature brings the birth of a new living cycle, baseball will be born again in the greatest rite of passage: Spring Training.

Already I can’t wait. See you then.


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