Does the term ‘pennant race’ mean anything any more?

“Pennant race” conjures images of clutch hits, great catches, overpowering pitching and long shadows slanting across the diamond. But with baseball’s division structure, there isn’t a true pennant race left.

Right now, the team I follow — the San Francisco Giants — has a slim lead over San Diego and Colorado in the National League West. The Yankees and Rays are locked in a tight battle in the American League East.

To me, the pennant represents the league championship, rooted in the pre-playoff American and National leagues when eight or 10 teams vied for the title and the right to play in the World Series. So it was in 1909 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as illustrated above.

In a diluted way, today’s races for the division championship and even the wild card playoff spots are a part of the pennant chase.

So I’ll do my best to cast off my curmudgeonly traditionalist attitude and accept that even a team in the hunt for the wild card is in a “pennant race.”

I don’t want to burst anyone’s gonfalon balloon.

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2 responses to “Does the term ‘pennant race’ mean anything any more?

  1. Hi, I guess the reality is that no playoff system will ever please everyone. When the Giants won over a hundred games several years ago in the Western Division race with the Braves (then in the Western Division), lots of people said that the “current” playoff system needed to be overhauled. So now we have the current system that “dilutes” pennant races. Thing is, though, that usually, the best two teams still end up in the World Series, so maybe all this talk about playoff formats adds up to nothing.
    My bigger gripe is that almost none of playoff games these days are played during the day! Especially the World Series games.
    Oh, well, just another gripe, I guess.
    Good post, Bill (The On Deck Circle)

  2. Day games — oh, how I miss them. With everything at night, how on earth is a school kid in the Eastern time zone supposed to learn how to listen to the game surreptitiously during math class? I feel a post coming on…. 🙂

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