When a young Judy Garland tapped her ruby slippers together, closed her eyes and muttered over and over, ‘There’s no place like home,” little did she know she was establishing the mantra for Major League Baseball teams decades later.
As we head into the Fourth of July weekend, guess how many National League teams have winning records on the road? Drum roll ...
How about two? They are first place clubs Cincinnati (18-16) of the NL Central and San Diego (22-14) of the West.
The American League East is, no doubt, the powerhouse of baseball, and their outstanding clubs, New York (22-18), Boston (20-16) and Tampa Bay (26-13), all have winning records away from their ballparks. Baltimore is 8-29, the worst road record in baseball, but the rest of the division are road warriors.
Only two other American League clubs, the White Sox (20-18) and Angels (22-18) are above .500 on the road.
Why is it so tough to win on the road? This question has been asked in other sports, and they wonder as well. In football, most of the stadiums are alike, so where’s the advantage there? Rabid towel-waving fans obviously can make a difference.
In basketball and hockey, the fans are right on top of the action, so there has to be an intimidation factor there.
In our great game of baseball, maybe it’s the white uniforms, the comfortable and familiar clubhouse and sleeping in one’s own bed. But, in my opinion, it has to be that last at-bat.
Even good ballclubs with efficient closers have a hard time getting those final three outs. Just look back at the Nationals’ losing series at Houston and you know what I’m talking about. At least two of those games were in the Nats’ grasp, but the road thing reared its ugly head and turned wins into losses.
The old baseball axiom is win three out of every five at home, play .500 on the road and you go to the playoffs. Both of those are hard to do, especially the latter.
In 2010, 22 of the 30 teams have losing road records, and there’s no friendly witch to help them fly home.