A West Coast Post-Season

With roughly a month remaining in the baseball season, it is clear that, at least for 2014, there has been a geographical shift in the game's balance of power. If the season were to end today, four California teams would be assured of one of baseball's ten post-season spots, while another west coast team still has a chance for the second wild card in the AL. Equally significantly, no team from Boston, New York or Philadelphia would make the post-season. The last time none of those three northeastern cities all missed the post-season was 1992. That was also the last year that only four teams made the playoffs.

The World Cup and Baseball

The World Cup is an important global event in which the US usually plays a very peripheral role. That was certainly the case this year as the US made it out of their group but lost in the Round of 16. The World Cup inevitably draws contrasts between soccer's global even universal popularity and the American people's stubborn preference for baseball. This is, of course, a false contrast as baseball is popular in much East Asia, the Caribbean and increasingly in a few other countries besides the US. Soccer, while the world's most popular sport, has failed to catch on in many parts of South Asia and is one of several popular sports in Australia, parts of East Asia and North America.

Why Is the World Cup Coverage So Full of Stereotypes?

Every World Cup, even through my very casual observance, I am struck by how in this extraordinarily international tournament that seems, in real ways, to bring the world together, national stereotypes still characterize, and at times even dominate coverage of the games. German teams are often described using terms such as “efficient” or “ruthless,” Brazilians as playing with flare, excitement, “razzle dazzle,” and the like. It is possible, although I wouldn’t know, that these descriptions are accurate, but it seems significant that they are consistent with existing national stereotypes. One half expects the American team to be described as arrogant or one of the Asian teams as inscrutable. This reliance on essentially national stereotypes to describe how the game is played, at least to the non-expert ear, makes it seem as if a major global event is being presented with the political sensitivities of the bridge of the USS Enterprise.

Your Team Not Going to the World Series Anytime Soon? Choose a Second Team

This situation, however, has been part of baseball for a long time as for most of the sport’s history there were teams that remained out of contention for decades. For example, the St. Louis Browns won exactly one pennant between during the 20th Century before they moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles in 1954. The Athletics were relatively moribund for the middle of the 20th Century failing to win a pennant between 1931 and 1972. The Senators/Twins franchise, the Phillies and others experienced similar periods of a quarter of a century or more without winning anything.