It was 11:43 p.m. in the Eastern time zone when the baseball earth shifted. Will Smith rocked and fired one last spinning four-seam fastball. AJ Pollock sizzled a ground ball toward short, where Dansby Swanson was waiting. For a pick. A spin. One final throw to first. And next thing we knew, Truist Park was the world’s foremost exhibit hall for hugs and fireworks.
This was how the National League Championship Series of 2021 ended Saturday night. With one last tremendous baseball game. With that score — Braves 4, Dodgers 2 — lit up on the giant scoreboard. With the Braves heading for the World Series in Houston. With the Dodgers officially dethroned as the champions of this sport. But also … with the usual assortment of Stuff We Didn’t See Coming, which was cooperative enough to make it all possible.
So here it comes — one final edition of NLCS Weirdness and Wildness, for your October reading pleasure.
1. It’s a Braves new world
If you’ve watched baseball for a while, you probably think you know what a World Series team looks like. By which I mean it sure didn’t look like the 2021 Atlanta Braves.
Not the Braves of April anyway. Or May. Or June. Or July. And please understand that I don’t say that out of lack of respect or admiration for what the Braves are all about. I say that only for one reason:
It’s a fact.
There has never been a World Series team like this one. Period. This was a team that didn’t spend one day — not one — above .500 until its 111th game of the season. World Series teams follow all sorts of paths. They don’t follow that path. Not until this team, at least.
No World Series team in the history of baseball had ever gone as many games into a season without ever having a winning record as this team went. And it’s not even close.
SPECIAL NOTE FOR YOU NITPICKERS IN QUEENS: We interrupt this discussion for one quick aside for Mets fans of a certain age. What about Cleon Jones’ 1973 Mets, those nitpicker Mets fans ask? Glad you brought them up. Yes, it’s true that after 110 games, that Mets team was still 50-60 and didn’t scale the peak of Mount .500 to stay until Game 155. But … that team actually started out 4-and-0. So it doesn’t fit here. Got it? Now …
BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING: Where was I? Oh, that’s right. It’s not even close. I can document that, you know. That’s how it works here at the Weird and Wild Department.