Toss a coin 32 times over. Win a playoff game for every "heads," lose one on "tails." Every time we run this little experiment, we'll call it the Angels' postseason record since 2002.
The chance you'll land 10 heads or fewer is almost exactly 1 in 40 (2.505%, to be precise). In other words, you'll do better on coin tosses than the post-championship Angels have done in the playoffs more than 97% of the time you run the experiment.
Of course baseball is more complicated than flipping coins, but the outcome here is unlikely enough to suggest something more than misfortune at work. On the other hand, why exclude 2002? That did actually happen, after all.
When you toss 48 coins you'll see 21 or fewer heads about a quarter of the time: the same "bad luck" as landing two tails in a row, which shouldn't surprise anyone. In fact, if eight teams make the playoffs each year (and I still refuse to accept the MLB agitprop about there being "ten" playoff teams these days) and only one wins the World Series, then recent Angels teams, with one championship in seven tries, might beat the expectation, if only by a fraction.
I don't like Mike Scioscia, but I also don't know what to think about his postseason record either. Honestly, I'm astonished this team performed as well as it did down the stretch, with a rotation held together with caulk and weather-stripping, a bullpen from Central Casting, and a lineup of creaky vets and slumping kids. Although they started slowly, then suffered injuries and underperformance, they hadn't lost four consecutive games since early June, while winning as many as ten in a row.
And so it always seemed to me that the wheels must come off at some point. My hope was that the old rattletrap could hold it together just…long…enough. Besides, we've seen more ridiculous things in October. I'm looking at you, Cardinals, Giants, or basically every World Series the National League has won in, like, forever.
Of course, the season ended with a six-game slide (including the playoffs), their worst stretch of the whole year. Disappointing? Sure. But after dropping the first two at home, both in the 11th inning, and leaving their weakest pitching to save the season in Kansas City, my dream died on Friday night. I've already had some time to grieve.
Is it upsetting? I suppose we all respond differently. Perhaps somewhere, tires are getting slashed and dumpsters set on fire. However, I doubt that place is anywhere in Orange County, which I'm allowed to say, because I actually lived there, and not in Laguna Beach either.
Surprisingly, I don't feel at all like I did in 2008, when the Angels, nearing the end of an era, also seemed like the team to beat, then came so close to achieving something while completely embarrassing themselves at the same time. This was what that felt like: a sharp, delirious. inexpressible burst of the infuriating and the absurd, served up on a lacquered plate.
I'm not sensing that at all this time. I mean, on a roster including Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, C.J. Wilson, and Jered Weaver—among other big-money players—the second-highest salary actually went to this guy. Considering the circumstances, I'd say they rolled the bones remarkably well, and just went cold at the wrong time. On days like today, the world belongs to Kurt Vonnegut.
Now we're back to wringing our hands over the past-prime ex-MVPs on long-term contracts, the flimsy rotation, the fluky bullpen, the barren farm, the manager who would doom infinitely many baserunners to the contact play if it could prove some moral point about "the purity of hustle," and of course, hoping that Mike Trout evolves into some 25-WAR Übermensch that can ultimately save us from all those other anxieties. Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed this vacation as much as anyone. I would have wasted the trip, though, if I didn't prepare to get back to business as usual.
Your 2014 Angels: the new normal, or just a happy accident?
Toss a coin.