What If We Didn't Have the A's and Royals to Kick Around This Year?
Got a fun thought experiment for you today — imagining baseball this year without the Royals and Athletics — but before we get there, I do have a very cool announcement about the WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL book tour!
I’ve shown you the wild first week already. Tickets are selling quickly (amazing!). You can get them at the same link as above.
But, because so many of you reached out (again, amazing!) we have added a short West Coast swing in the second week of the tour.
On Tuesday, Sept. 12, I’ll be at Chevalier’s in Los Angeles! Details to come on that, including some possible special guest stars, but I can tell you one amazing person who will definitely be there: my dear friend Molly Knight will co-host the event. I’m so excited about this; Molly and I have never actually spent any time together in person. This is going to be so, so great. And we are talking about putting together a Dodgers trip on that Monday the 10th, so keep an eye out on both of our newsletters!
On Wednesday, Sept. 13, I’ll be in the Bay area at the Santa Rosa Copperfield’s! Super exciting! More details on that, too … and also, this is still in the works, but the good people at Substack are offering to throw us a little book party in San Francisco the next day. Amazing! If you’re in the Bay Area on Sept. 14 (or can be), and would like to have a fun book get-together, leave your interest and ideas in the comments. We’re still figuring out what that event can be.
That Saturday, I’ll be at the Kansas Book Festival in Topeka — where I’ll be in conversation with Bill James. So that will be incredible.
That Sunday, details are still being worked out, but I think we’re going to have a WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL day at the ballpark back in Charlotte.
On Monday, I will collapse into a 27-week hibernation.
So, I saw a tweet from Yankees writer Max Goodman that showed this remarkable stat:
The Yankees are 8-1 against the Royals and A’s this year.
They’re 45-47 against everyone else.
Numerous things occur to me about this — but the main one is this: The Royals and A’s are not just typically bad baseball teams. The Rockies are a typically bad baseball team. The Nationals are a typically bad baseball team. The White Sox are a typically bad baseball team. Any of them could lose 100 games this year; they probably won’t, but they could.
A 100-loss team plays .382 baseball — meaning they win about 38% of the time. Think of a week in which a team plays seven games.
If they win three of the seven, that’s .429 baseball.
If they win two of the seven, that’s .286 baseball.
And I tend to think of teams that, over the season, win three of seven games — well, they’re typically bad baseball teams. That’s roughly where the aforementioned Rockies, Nationals and White Sox are — the Pirates are probably there, too, along with the Tigers, and, so far, the Cardinals.
The Athletics and Royals, though, are each winning FEWER than two of seven games. And that’s a whole different thing.
The Royals are playing .282 baseball — that’s a 46-116 season.
The A’s are playing .272 baseball — that’s a 44-118 season.
Only two teams in the last 62 years — when the schedule expanded to 162 games — have lost more than 115 games in a season. The “Can’t Anybody Here Play This Game?” 1962 Mets famously went 40-120. And the 2003 Tigers, less famously, went 43-119. The Mets were an understandable fiasco; they were an expansion team. The Tigers were less forgivable; that team just made an astonishing array of blunders and had a stupefying 12-year run of awfulness.
It’s kind of like that with the A’s and Royals. The A’s fiasco is, at least on the surface, understandable. They have an owner who has gone Rachel Phelps on us; his one and only concern is getting the team to Las Vegas, they play in a landfill, everything surrounding the team is sadness and despair.
The Royals — that’s less forgivable. They have a good and committed owner (though the new stadium push is questionable). They have loaded up their roster with supposedly talented kids, including some — Bobby Witt Jr. and MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto come to mind — who were supposed to be baseball’s next big thing. This year, I think, has been a nasty surprise in Kansas City; I don’t think anyone was expecting playoffs, but I do think people were expecting improvement from last year’s 97-loss season.
In any case, the Royals and A’s are pumping up records all across baseball. As the tweet suggests, they are essentially giving the Yankees the patina of respectability. With their 8-1 record against the two worst baseball teams in perhaps 20 years, the Yankees are over .500 and can offer the illusion to passionate fans of being a hot streak away from contention. Without that 8-1 record, they are a sub-.500 team looking to next year.
And I thought: What would baseball look like without the Royals and A’s to kick around?
Well, here’s what it would look like: