May 30, 2009
You Just Have to Outsmart God
by: David Simons on May 30, 2009 11:17 AM | Filed under: Articles, News

This was originally published back before the 2007 season, and it’s one of my favorite pieces that we’ve ever run here. I thought it would be fitting to post it again today.

Dateline: Anywhere. October, any year. It’s the late innings of a crucial post-season game. The Anytown Blankity Blanks have their fireballing stud on the mound. The Othertown Nobodies send up a weak-hitting middle infielder to bat. Should be an easy pop-up for the stopper. But wait! What’s this? The puny nobody launches a shot deep into right field! It might be, it could be, it is! A game-turning home run from the unlikeliest of sources! Who would’ve thunk it?

Well, everybody would’ve thunk it, actually, or at least everybody who pays attention to October baseball. This kind of ‘unpredictable’ event happens so often as to be eminently predictable. What’s behind all these apparent October surprises?

It’s God. That’s who. It’s all His doing.

Either the MLB is due to be exposed for fixing more games than the WWF, or there’s a divine hand behind all these game-breaking blasts. You don’t believe me? Then you come up with an explanation for Yadier ‘barely fifteen career dingers’ Molina in 2006 against the Mets. Or Scott ‘none this year’ Podsednik the year before against Brad Lidge’s heat. Or Mark ‘lifetime batting average of .231’ Bellhorn the year before that, Alex ‘not quite Jimmie Foxx over here’ Gonzalez the year before that. Jeez, maybe these games are fixed—fixed by the Supreme Being, that is.

Okay, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m being fooled by randomness. I already know about the thousand monkeys typing out Shakespeare sonnets and all that, although I’m a little confused as to who’s funding that project, exactly. I realize that with 18,000 games played every year you’ll see some goofy stuff happen. Ask Andy Hawkins, he of the no-hitter lost by a score of 4-0. But to see this nonsense happen year after year? How long before you have to admit there’s a trend? And where a trend exists, a rationale must be made to justify it. You got a better idea? I’m listening.

The way I see it, it’s like this: God created the world in seven days, and by the looks of things, He’s been coasting ever since. Bored as a trust-fund baby, He messes around with the stock market just for kicks. Long weary of jerking the price of oil hither and thither on whim, he notices how much mischief He can make with online gambling. Bada-bing, bada-bam, bada-boom, Bob’s your uncle, and your aunt is Aaron Boone.

Once He got on this kick, He’s been setting things up so that there’s always a clear underdog, and that underdog almost always wins. Look at the 2006 postseason, for instance; the Cards came in reeling, their entire pitching staff a shambles and their record in a weak division just barely north of .500. Naturally, they went all the way. The Mets and Yankees dominated their leagues all year long; of course, they won only seven October games between them. The A’s came into Minnesota facing Johan ‘I haven’t lost in the Metrodome since Hurricane Katrina’ Santana. You know the rest.

You can go back year by year and see for yourself. How about ‘05? The White Sox had a strong team, no doubt, but would anyone bet against a three-man rotation of Pettite, Clemens, and Oswalt? Needless to say, all three punked out, while the Astros’ forgotten fourth starter, Brandon Backe, pitched seven innings of shutout ball in Game Four. That’s right, just like we all predicted.

The year prior? The Red Sox won it all. The Red Sox! Next question.

For the bulk of the first term of George ‘I traded away Sammy Sosa’ Bush, the only question God had to ask was ‘How can I make the Yankee dynasty lose this year?’ Obviously He had to take Satan’s Own Mariano Rivera out of the equation, so He decided to—I’m sorry, you in the back, you had a question? You say the Yankees won four pennants in five years, they were the favorite each time? All right, settle down, I knew we’d get to this eventually. Let the record reflect, your honor, that in three of those years, the Yankees actually had a worse regular-season record than their Fall Classic opponents. Recall that they twice had to stare down the formidable three-headed monster known as the Glavine-Maddux-Smoltz Atlanta Braves. It’s true the Skanks were the heavy favorite in 1998 when they raped the Padres in four straight. But that was at the height of the Clinton Boom, and every bear knows better than to get in the way of a mob. Ask anyone who got the bright idea to short Amazon, circa 1999.

All right, all right. We’re getting close to ‘ad nauseum’ territory here, I know. You’re asking yourself, “How much time does this guy have on his hands, anyway?” Alternately, you’re wondering — is this simply an exercise in amassing evidence for the grand jury, or can we put this notion of a Gambler God to good use?

You bet your craps we can, baby. You just have to outsmart God.

Sounds formidable at first, but it’s easier done than said. You may have even pulled it off without trying. For instance, say you’re waiting for the bus — you’re late. You fidget, sweat, curse, crane your neck to look farther and farther down the street, convinced that anything larger than a Geo is actually the 38-Geary. Who’s driving this thing, Steve Trachsel? Meanwhile, you-know-Who is up there giggling at your plight. The more anxious you become, the more liable He is to start a three-car pileup two blocks from your stop. Like the song says, He’s funny that way.

But there’s a simple solution here: you light a cigarette. Now the old G-Man thinks you want nothing more than to finish your puffs in peace. Presto change-o, hail to the bus-driver, bus-driver man, you make it to your appointment in time. Congratulations, you just put one over on the Prime Mover.

So if we know that God gets his jollies making the impossible a routine October occurrence, why fight it? While past performance is no guarantee of future results, we have enough evidence to see what kind of cat-and-mouse games might play to our advantage. I’ve got three ideas to help the Mets take it all in 2007:

1) Play the nobodies. You know that every time a part-time scrub comes up in a key situation, God is logging onto His Tradesports account to double down. The anonymous guys always have big games in October when they get the chance: Oliver Perez, Endy Chavez. Hell, Chris Woodward now owns a career postseason slugging percentage of 2.000! Prescription for 2007: Spot starts for Anderson Hernandez, David Newhan, and Jason Vargas.

2) Confound expectations. There’s a reason Tony LaRussa has more postseason losses than any other manager this side of Connie Mack. All these mid-inning pitching changes and double-switches annoy the upper-deck fans and the fan upstairs as well. You know what He’s thinking: “Fine, Mr. Dark Glasses, you wanna pinch hit for your pinch hitter? Pop-up to the first baseman, coming right up. Bringing in the second LOOGY of the night? I got your platoon advantage right here, buddy.” Just look at Chris Duncan in the NLCS. He pinch hits against a left-hander and crushes a bomb, the Cards’ longest dinger of the series. The next night, Randolph brings in a right-handed reliever to face him, prompting a harmless double play. Lesson learned. Prescription for 2007: Don’t bend over backwards looking for the advantages of The Book.

3) Bench the stat hogs. This is one area where G-Money and the SABR crowd are in agreement. If you can identify an overrated player who gets ink for piling up empty counting stats (RBI, wins, saves, etc.), you can and should bet your bottom dollar that come October, he’ll come up snake eyes. It’s all too obvious: God sidles up to his bookie, conspiratorially whispering: “Come on, this guy Trachsel has 15 wins this year, he’s a lock! The Cards have to be underdogs in this game! Gimme better odds or you’re getting the lightning bolt treatment!” Prescription for 2007: Sometime in late September, Lastings Milledge ‘accidentally’ breaks Wagner’s arm.

If the Mets follow these rules, they’ll be the underdogs of the 2007 postseason, and therefore unstoppable. The heavily favored Royals won’t stand a chance.

2 Responses to “You Just Have to Outsmart God”

  1. Comment posted by sheadenizen on May 30, 2009 at 11:43 am (#995376)

    Okay…so it’s not October yet, but doesn’t the logic still apply?
    Jerry is playing the nobodies and benching the stat dogs today in David’s memory! Nice job Manuel! Even he bows to Simons!

    Truly terrific and hystrical article! We miss you already David!

  2. Comment posted by Bob Loblaw on May 30, 2009 at 11:59 am (#995385)

    Prescience galore, esp. re Wagner.