The Los Angeles Angels start their American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals tonight, and after seeing the Royals beat the Oakland Athletics in an amazing wild card playoff game Tuesday, I must admit I’m a little bit worried. The Royals are a scrappy team (stole six bases in that game) that no one expected to be in the postseason, who now believe they can do anything after coming back twice to tie that game and finally win it in the 12th inning.
When the Angels won the World Series in 2002, they were the wild card team that beat the highly favored New York Yankees in the first round of playoff games. The Yankees had the best record in baseball that year. The Yankees had everything to lose, and they did. This year the roles are reversed. The Angels are the team with star players and the best record in baseball going up against a no-name team from out of nowhere with a big boost of confidence.
It’s the believers against the assumers. I would normally pick the believers except that this time they’re going up against my team, and if my team starts assuming wins, they are in big trouble. If they start looking past the Royals to the World Series, they will get tripped up before they ever get rolling.
Look at Oakland. They were the team in first place with the best record all season until the last month when they hit the skids. They suddenly weren’t sure they believed. They may have thought they didn’t have to. Whatever they had all season would carry them into the postseason. Not the case. Even in that wild card game, they were up 7-4 in the 8th inning, and there were close-ups of some pretty confident faces in the Oakland dugout before the Royals started scoring in that inning. Their whole season actually fit into that one game. They took the lead early and held it most of the way, and just when they started to think they had it in the bag, they fell apart. It was theirs to lose, and they did.
The team with nothing to lose usually beats the team with everything to lose.
As a Christian, I identify more with “the little team that could” than the one that should. Belief, not supposition, needs to carry the day. The Gospel of Welcome is for the no-names who are not counting on themselves but are counting on Christ. The Gospel of Welcome is for sinners, not saints. It’s for the unexpected — those who were not invited to the party until the ones who were invited decided not to come, and the host threw the doors open for everybody.
Yes … I would usually pick the fighting, clawing, no-name believers against the highly favored ones. It’s just that this time, I hope I’m wrong!