October is sweeps month
Getting job done in a hurry has become playoff trend
Baseball's dramatic muse has slacked off for another postseason. After another year of untold thrills and spills, we got another October of only spills.In the TV ratings biz, November is known as a sweeps month. Baseball's sweeps again came a month early. Five of this month's seven postseason series ended in sweeps, continuing a recent departure from prior historical trends. The last four postseasons (2004-07) have produced 13 series sweeps -- compared to a total of four the previous four years (2000-03). Even beyond the sweeps, postseason series have become shockingly one-sided. In the last three years, series losers have managed to win a grand total of only 16 games -- versus 72 defeats. Since the last postseason without a series sweep -- 2003 -- fans have been clearing out their broom closets to observe these zip jobs: 2007
World Series: Boston over Colorado
NLCS: Colorado over Arizona
NLDS: Colorado over Philadelphia; Arizona over Chicago
ALDS: Boston over Los Angeles 2006
ALCS: Detroit over Oakland
ALDS: Oakland over Minnesota
NLDS: New York over Los Angeles 2005
World Series: Chicago White Sox over Houston
ALDS: Chicago over Boston
NLDS: St. Louis over San Diego 2004
World Series: Boston over St. Louis
ALDS: Boston over Anaheim What gives? The easy answer is to ascribe it to momentum, that often-immovable force that can be impossible to reverse with a finish line in sight, especially in a short series. As Detroit manager Jim Leyland told The Associated Press on Sunday night, "I think a lot of it is timing, when you catch a team. I think the big leagues is pretty simple: It doesn't matter which league they're in, you play a team that's hot and you just get beat."
But that doesn't explain the Boston Red Sox, who sprung for both of their World Series sweeps from deep ALCS holes: down 3-0 to the Yankees in 2004, and 3-1 to the Indians this month.The trendy answer is to credit AL superiority. After all, AL teams have swept three World Series in a four-year span, the 2005 White Sox (over Houston) joining the two Boston editions. Never before had there been three World Series sweeps in any four-year span. Yet, in the midst of that, the St. Louis Cardinals administered nearly as bad a beating to the Tigers in taking the 2006 Series in five games. Besides, 10 of the sweeps since 2004 have come in intradivisional series, exempt from any disparity between the leagues. So the correct answer may be that the sweeps trend is simply a quirk, or at most the product of several unrelated factors. For instance, the Angels suffered two ALDS sweeps to Boston while at a clear competitive disadvantage -- by top run producer Jose Guillen's suspension in 2004, and by an injury siege to their entire starting outfield earlier this month. Then again, maybe the latest World Series just ended too soon for the Rockies. That appeared to be the conviction of one of their club owners, who wouldn't concede Boston superiority. "If you give us 10 games against them, we'll beat them six," Charlie Monfort said. So it's six out of the next six. Swell, that would be another sweep.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.