Monday, August 30, 2010

Metsies 'String' Together a Win

Well, the Mets pulled of a tidy win against the 'stros yesterday, R. A. Dickey offering his usual quality start and a rib-eye steak or two at the dish. (Mets pitchers know full well they have to do double duty at both the mound and the plate if they want to earn a W.)

Sadly, the win just delays the inevitable for a day. Most any Mets fan would concede that, with a measly 9% confidence rating in the team, the Mets are merely playing out the string.

Playing out the string (POTS) is the phrase used to describe a team that's simply finishing off the rest of its games with no hopes of playing in the post-season--even if the team should somehow run the table and win all of its games. Empty stadiums, scrubs in the lineup, at-bats given away. You'd rather watch football.

Of course, the Mets are not the only team playing out the string. The Pirates, for one, have been dancing along that slice of yarn since early summer. The Cubbies have been a colossal disappointment too as they tiptoe along the twine.

Writes way back on August 2:

The Beginning Of Playing Out The String: Cubs vs. Brewers Preview, Monday 8/2
A few days later, said the local Indians were not letting playing out the string drag them down.

Tribe not just playing out the string, as Red Sox learn

POTS is not limited to baseball. No lesser light than Tiger Woods was said to be playing out the string last month. Wrote

His day was effectively over by the fourth hole, where Tiger Woods needed two tries to get out of a pot bunker. What followed was something rarer still: Woods simply playing out the string in a major.

[Editor's Note: What the heck is a pot bunker? Did I eat one of those in college by mistake?]

Oddly, I saw Yankees skipper Joe Girardi refer to the Bombers playing out the string just about a month ago, with the Yanks, of course, on top in the AL East. He was simply referring to the Yanks' remaining games--not the more common usage of meaningless games with no post-season implications. A rare misspeak for smart and savvy Joe G.

One might think the string, in this usage, is the schedule--the remaining opponents for the team to play.

In fact, according to a post on, the "string" is actually the losing squad itself. The phrase comes from football, reports the WordReference poster, and refers to the team playing players from the second and third string during the garbage time that the rest of the season represents.

Writes MonsterWonster:

The expression comes from American Football. When a team has lost all chances of winning a league, they will do what is referred to as "playing out the string". Strings in American Football are lineups of players in relation to ability, with first string being the best players on the team, second string being the next best players and so on.

So when a team plays out the string, it allows all its players to play, from the first string downward. Normally the third and fourth strings wouldn't get a chance to play, but because the team has no hope of winning the league, it allows players of the third and fourth strings to play

So when the rosters expand later this week, the Mets--and the other MLB also-rans--will have lots of second and third stringers to help them play out the string.

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