Baseball is different from every other sport in so many ways. Unlike basketball and football, players don’t go from being college stars to pitching in the majors and dominating. Developing a prospect takes time, and when a team goes from having a bunch of old veterans, it takes a few years for those draft picks to make an impact in the Major Leagues.
Baseball is also different because of its footprint on history. Major League Baseball was founded in 1869, compared with 1920 and 1946 for the NFL and NBA, respectively. While the NBA holds 82 regular season games and the NFL has only 16, MLB teams play 162 games every year. Since its inception, Major League Baseball has held over 200,000 games and around 20,000 players have taken the field.
162 games. One game is 0.62 % of the regular season. The average team loses 81 games a year, and even the 2001 Mariners, who racked up the most wins of any team in the history of the league, lost 46 games.Losses happen, but individual losses in a baseball season aren’t nearly as devastating as those in a football,hockey, soccer or even basketball season.
The most common reaction to individual losses is to make them seem larger than they really are. Even the best teams have rough patches and it would be unrealistic to expect a team to never have a losing streak.
If somebody with no familiarity with the Mariners organization went to the home series against the White Sox, they would have thought that the Mariners are a team full of bad players, a team that needs to upgrade at every position on the field.
If somebody looked at the past couple of games against the Tigers, on the other hand, they would see a team that put up 15 hits each night. The Mariners team that took the field in Detroit looked unstoppable and looked like the offensive juggernaut that we saw in Spring Training.
What can we conclude from all of this? Individual games (let alone individual performances in those games) are impossible to draw generalizations from. ‘Small sample size’ is real and even though the baseball season has so many ups and downs, it is normal to overreact, either positively or negatively, to results of at-bats, games and even winning and losing streaks in a season.
After the Mariners started the season 3-1, some fans (although not a majority by any means) were ready to ride the Mariners to the playoffs. After being swept by the White Sox, many fans had resigned themselves to another 100-loss season, full of games that Felix Hernandez would lose 2-1 and full of games in which the team would struggle to put even a couple runs on the board.
The baseball season is a long one. Sure, it hurts to lose games and it is great to win, but it’s important to remember that a 4-0 loss doesn’t mean that your team is likely to lose 4-0 every night.
Which brings me to a certain 4-0 loss the Mariners suffered against Philip Humber and the Chicago White Sox this past Saturday. Part of what makes baseball great is the history. There are certain records that are often chased but never broken – these feats set baseball apart from all other sports. There’s Joe DiMaggio’s Streak, Cal Ripken’s run of consecutive games played and Barry Bonds’ astonishing single-season and career homerun totals. One other highly sought after achievement is the Perfect Game. Until last Saturday, this feat had only been achieved by 20 pitchers in over 200,000 Major League games. Philip Humber joined this exclusive list at the expense of the Mariners on Saturday when he hurled a gem in front of 22,472 at Safeco Field. Some Mariners fans deemed this Exhibit A on the futility of the Mariners’ offense.
It wouldn’t be right to tell fans how to root for or against their teams (although many in Seattle have done so over the past week). All I can do myself is tell you how I feel. The season is too long to dwell on individual losses and baseball has too much history to dismiss feats such as perfect games, even when they happen against your team. During the ninth inning of the perfect game, I was on my feet, hoping that either the Mariners would come back and win or that Philip Humber would throw the 21st perfect game. The first didn’t happen, but I was more than content with watching baseball history happen before my eyes. People talk about those ‘where were you when’ moments; I think I had one on Saturday. Sometimes it’s fun to look at the big picture.