A football team drones into the wild card spot, like last year's Pittsburgh Steelers, ends up having to win three straight on the road against playoff competition, then takes the Super Bowl, and people say it's a great story but not incredible.
Anything goes in hockey, and the borderline NBA teams never last long enough to raise the question.
But the St. Louis Cardinals win 83 games during the regular season, nose into the playoffs, then knock back three clubs who were all supposed to beat them, and this is some infraction against the natural order. In a year when Moneyball finally won a playoff series for the Oakland Athletics, the ancient style of baseball won the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. It didn't make a lot of sense.
But it always becomes baseball during the postseason, and that's not a knock against Moneyball, used here as shorthand for the body of new statistical proofs discouraging managers from putting on plays in the offensive game. Evidence shows the costs outweigh the benefits when it comes to trying a steal, dropping a bunt or putting on the hit-and-run. (See "Oakland's Reliance on 'Little Things' Tested in Baseball Playoffs," issue of Oct. 11