Any other nominees welcome in the comments. I was thinking about going on an early-'90s Czech-CD-buying rampage, now that shopping is a bit easier than stomping around in the black snow & hoping for the Supraphon store to start carrying "underground" music....
World Series Prediction -- Tigers in Three: No seriously, how awful is the National League?
That said, I would like to strangle in its crib a line of pernicious thinking that we're going to hear a ton of in the next week or so, which is that, in the word of Deadspin's Will Leitch, writing in the New York Times,
General manager Billy Beane of the Oakland A's, innovator of the famously subversive "moneyball" method of building a roster, lamented that his approach "doesn't work in the playoffs." He was right, but not in the way most people understood him. It's not that his approach in particular didn't work; it's that nobody's does. It's almost entirely luck.
Crap on a hot dog bun. Yes, the Cardinals are an unbelievably mediocre team for a World Series participant, but A) they're old, and had a bunch of injuries during the year, B) most of the key injuries healed (at least enough for the dudes to play) by the playoffs, C) the vastly superior Mets didn't have many injury problems during the year, but D) they lost two of their best three starting pitchers just before the playoffs. Take away the injury factor, and the Cardinals' "luck" would have run out. Baseball's not some kind of totally random crapshoot -- teams that are healthy, and can pitch, hit and field excellently tend to do well.
Take data point #2 in this season's "the playoffs don't mean nuthin" apologia, the New York Yankees. People, even smart people, expressed disbelief that this $200 million team didn't beat the upstart Tigers. But here's the thing -- the Yankees tried to pretend Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield can play defense. Their best starter this year was a guy who struck out 76 batters. The next best two were a 37-year-old six-inning specialist and a 42-year-old with a wrecked back. Here's a hint -- when your starting rotation is about as old, on average, as Matt Welch, you're in trouble. Here's another -- backing the fogies and losers with a defense of seven 30-year-olds and Robinson Cano is not a recipe for preventing runs.
The Tigers, on the other hand, are filled with young power arms and tremendous twenty-something athletes with soft hands who can run forever and make plays. The Yankees were about as one-dimensional a team as I remember seeing lately; if you can throw strikes and prevent homers, you can beat that team pretty easily.
Looking at the past World Series winners, even the Wild Cards, where are the "crapshoot" teams? The ones who had no business winning, because they were imbalanced, or untalented? One of the reasons that the 2003 Marlins only won 91 games is that postseason stud Josh Beckett only pitched 142 innings in the regular seasons, due to injury. That team could throw and catch and run and hit in a way that reminded you more of the elegant late-1990s Yankees than the monstrous, defense-averse 21st century version. The 2002 Angels, unusually for World Series team, lacked dominant starting pitching, but the team was otherwise marvelously balanced, and had the best runs scored/against ratio in the big leagues.
If the Cardinals win the World Series, I might begin to entertain thoughts of a "crapshoot," since the Tigers are so obviously better (and the American League is so obviously better than the National at this point). But until someone can show me a team that just flat-out shouldn't have been beat, color me skeptical that postseason results are "almost entirely luck." Sounds more like that some sore losers are almost entirely trying to wrap their disappointment in faux-scientific sophistication. Well balderdash to that. Beane's famous "shit" worked a hell of a lot better in the playoffs this year, and (I believe) for a reason -- the A's play wonderful defense, and have more than one way to beat you. It's just that the Tigers are better, and the Mets had some untimely injuries. Plus a little luck....
The Best Stones Song of the '90s: Wasn't a Stones song; it was a Jagger original. I'm tellin' ya, mix Wandering Spirit with Talk Is Cheap and you'd finally be onto something.... But anyway, here's "Evening Gown," the performance of which suggests to me that those canyon-sized dimples on old scarecrow's face are the direct result of him trying to fit American country "Rs" through that terrible British jaw:
RIP Freddy Fender: By all accounts I've read, he was a real "live life well, then die" kinda guy. Looks like it worked out fine for him. For instance, this.
Anyway, here's a funny little Texas Tornados video that almost succeeds in the impossible; i.e., making '80s bar-trash look sexy. That lower-harmony dude sure sounds like John Prine/Hiatt (whichever one has the voice that sounds like that).