By Richie Gebauer, Contributor
At the start of every baseball season, I cannot stand when friends, family, and/or colleagues tell me that the first several weeks of the MLB season are not important because there are 162 games to play. Every game is of drastic importance! Ask Joe Torre and the ’73 Cardinals. They went 5-20 in April and found themselves losing the division to the Mets by a mere 1.5 games. I bet they wish they could have April back. I wonder if Tim McCarver wakes up with night sweats thinking about ’73. But yeah. Keep telling yourself it’s okay that your team had a slow start or lost a few one-run games in the middle of the season because they have 161 other games to make it up. That’s the kind of thinking that has you cheering for your favorite football team in the first week of September rather than uncontrollably waving your rally towel in section 118 after Matt Stairs rips one into the night causing even Joe Buck to show the tiniest bit of emotion.
So, why am I stressing the importance over each of the 162 games all 30 MLB teams play? Let’s use the 2017 Phillies as the lens for this discussion. This year, the Phillies have been on the wrong side of the win column. Currently 24.5 games out of first having only won 34 of their first 96 games, many are considering the Phillies to be one of the worst teams in baseball history. If you take a quick look at the standings, how can you disagree? 29 wins at the all-star break can make any fan sick to their stomach. However, what is most intriguing is looking at the way that the Phillies lose. The Phillies are 11-26 in one run games and are 4-9 when going into extras. 56% of their losses have come in games that were within their reach. Let’s just imagine that these Fightin Phils – claimed as potentially one of the worst teams in baseball history – win two-thirds of these games. They are then 57-39, find themselves 2nd in the division only 1.5 games back from the Nats, and heading into a battle for the divisional crown. This would come at a time when they are playing some decent baseball following the break, most recently taking two of three from the Marlins and then the Brewers.
Would have, could have, should have right? I don’t disagree. Back at the conclusion of May, Dan Levy said that after 75 pitches the Phillies had a 7.45 ERA. You deserve to lose one-run games and to send your team to extras only to lose at the rate the Phillies are when pitching that poorly. But, are they really as bad as their record indicates? I would argue they aren’t. Instead, they are just a prime example of how important each inning of all 162 games is. The best baseball teams – those consisting of players with “guts” – win one-run ball games either by maintaining the lead or digging deep and scrapping for late-inning runs because that’s what leads to them playing in October.
So let’s toss the “April isn’t important” philosophy out the window and pray that each one-run game your team loses in April, May, June, or any month of the season isn’t what keeps them out of the playoffs and has you wearing your ridiculous Tom Brady Jersey right after Labor Day.