Friday, October 14, 2016

Cleveland v. Toronto

Cleveland, Ohio sits on the south shore of Lake Erie, while Toronto sits on the north shore of Lake Ontario.  And thereby hangs a tale.  Because when the Americans pressed into the upper Midwest, they needed a port on Lake Erie to handle all the goods going back and forth between the upper Midwest and the Northeast, and Cleveland became that port.  The population of Cleveland boomed from 93,000 in 1870 to over 900,000 by 1930.  Meanwhile, the British subjects in Canada needed a big port on Lake Ontario that they could use to ship their goods back and forth between the Atlantic and the Great Plains, and Toronto became that port -- its population soared from 56,000 in 1871 to 667,500 in 1941.  Cleveland was bigger, of course, because the United States was much bigger than Canada.  But that was all about to change.

After the Great Depression and World War II, Americans decided to change their economy.  The old Midwest coalition that had dominated Americans politics from the time of Lincoln until 1932 was broken, and replaced by a new coalition focused on New York and Boston.  No longer did American Presidents come from Ohio -- instead, we got presidents from New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and California.  The new version of America was more excited about banking than industry; more focused on services than on supply.  The new Americans no longer believed that the country could set itself apart from the rest of the world -- they thought that the United States had to help other countries in order to avoid future wars.  And so they changed the laws in ways that made it harder and harder for the old industrial towns of the Midwest -- and Cleveland started to shrink.  By 2010, only 396,815 people still lived inside the city limits of Cleveland -- which left it as the 51st largest city in America, between Arlington, Tex. and Bakersfield, Calif.  The entire Cleveland metropolitan area had a population of just over 2 million -- 31st in the country.

Meanwhile, Toronto's experience with the post-War world was somewhat different.  Canada benefited enormously from the Americans' interest in the Cold War -- no longer did Canadians have to fight on behalf of the British Empire, as they had from 1914 to 1918 and from 1939 to 1945, while the Americans dithered about whether to fight or stay home.  Instead, Canada was able to cut its defense spending and rely on the Americans instead.  Moreover, thanks to America's new trade policy -- and the clever deals negotiated by successive Canadian governments -- the Canadians had almost the same access to the vast U.S. market as people in Ohio.  Furthermore, the revolt against English-speaking rule in Quebec that took place in the 1960's undermined Montreal's traditional role as the first city in Canada.  More and more of the English-speaking elites ended up in Toronto instead.  By 2011, the population of the amalgamated City of Toronto exceeded 2.6 million, and Toronto could look down on its American neighbors in Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

And some people say politics don't matter.

All of this had an effect on baseball.  The first Canadian MLB team was Montreal, in 1969, but Toronto joined the American League in 1977, and became the only Canadian team in MLB after the Montreal franchise collapsed in 2004.  Toronto and Cleveland have now spent  40 years together in the American League, much of that time in the same division, but they were rarely good at the same time.  This ALCS will be their first meeting with so much at stake.  Of course, they did face off earlier this year in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, with the Cavs beating the Raptors.

Here are Cleveland's prior appearances in the ALCS (wins in bold):

1995, 1997, 1998, 2007

Here are Cleveland's top five players by Wins Above Replacement Player:

1.  Nap Lajoie:  79
2.  Tris Speaker:  74
3.  Bob Feller:  63
4.  Lou Boudreau:  61
5.  Stan Coveleski:  51

Here are Toronto's prior appearances in the ALCS (wins in bold):

1985, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 2015

Here are Toronto's top five players by WAR:

1.  Dave Steib:  57
2.  Roy Halladay:  48
3.  Jose Bautista:  37
4.  Tony Fernandez:  37
5.  Carlos Delgado:  36

1 comment: