27 October 2004

Curses! Foiled Again!

What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-goin' on around here!?

Some curse. The only curses I can detect emanate from the lips of Cardinals fans each time the Red Sox inch themselves another out closer to Boston's first World Series title in 85 years. Yankee fans too, for that matter.

Frustrated Cards fan Posted by Hello

Personally, I don't really have anything against the Red Sox, specifically. It's just that I'm used to being able to pick on them, or at least I'm used to the Yankees being able to pick on them, and now they'll finally have something on us. A win. And not just any win, but a World Series Win.

The pundits who have told you that the Curse of the Bambino was over last week, after the Boston beat the Yankees in the Worst Choke in Postseason History were wrong. For one thing, calling the Yankees' performance a "choke" is an insult to the Red Sox, who deserve credit not just for beating the Yankees, but for not giving up when it seemed all was lost. A case can be made that the Yankees weren't themselves: than Kevin Brown was never quite right after breaking his hand, that they needed a healthy Jason Giambi or a rested Tom Gordon or whatever, but the reality is that Boston just played the hell out of New York for those last four games, and that they earned that win.

Secondly, the Red Sox have gotten to the World Series four times since 1918, twice against the Cardinals (1946 and 1967), and have lost all four of them. So if there ever was a "Curse" other than, "Damn you, Bucknah!", then it still exists.

At least until tonight.

Since divisional play started in 1969, there have only been five World Series sweeps, two perpetrated by the Yankees (1998 & 1999), one against them (1976), and also 1989 and 1990, for and against Tony LaRussa's Oakland Athletics. For whatever that's worth.

I don't think we're about to see a sixth addition to that list. Jason Marquis is, frankly, a better pitcher than Derek Lowe at this point in his career. He hasn't exactly impressed in the postseason thus far, but he pitched well in the regular season (3.71 ERA was 17th in the NL, 24th in MLB), and perhaps is bound to toss a good start this evening. I hope. Derek Lowe, on the other hand, has been pitching way over his head, after posting a 5.42 ERA in the regular season that ranked 78th(!) among the 86 MLB pitchers who pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title. Of the eight pitchers below him on that list, two spent half thier time in Denver (Shawn Estes and Jason Jennings) and two were the poster-children for overpaid disappointment, Estebomb Loaiza and Jose Contreras. (Those two, traded for each other in mid-season, somehow managed a 23-16 record despite a combinde ERA over 5.60. Have some Run Support with your Run Support. But I digress.)

Besides the pitching matchup, it would seem likely that the Cardinals' bats are due to escape the prison in which Boston pitching has kept them for the last three games. In total, St. Louis has hit only .208/.290/.344, for a sub-Neifi .633 OPS, scoring only 4 runs per game on average, well below the 5.28 runs per game they averaged in the regular season. Scott Rolen and Reggie Sanders don't have a hit between them. Jim Edmonds is 1-for-11, with zero RBI. With nobody on base in front of him, Albert Pujols has no RBI either, despite his .429 batting average. Cardinals second basemen are 2-for-13 and leadoff hitter Edgar Renteria has scored only two runs in three games.

Pedro looking to Daddy Posted by Hello

All in all, an impressive job by the Boston pitchers of shutting down the best offense in the National League, but I expect that the Cardinals will get at least one win in before the Curse truly ends.

I suppose we should have expected this. Not because the Red Sox had "momentum" or some silly notion such as "fate", but because the odds are simply against the team with the best record in MLB winning the World Series. Since the Wild Card format started a decade ago, only one team with the best record in MLB, the 114-win 1998 Yankees, has won the Whole Ball of Wax. One in ten. Well, one in nine, until tonight. Or tomorrow night.

For those of you who still believe in The Curse, consider this: Every time the Red Sox have lost in the World Series before, the series has at least been competitive. All four of those series went to seven games, and only one started out even 2-0 Red Sox, much less 3-0. Before last week's debacle, no baseball team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a 7-game series to even force a Game 7, much less win it. It is all but unfathomable that it should happen again in this lifetime, much less in a week.

Sox Hi-5's Posted by Hello

Speaking of this lifetime, if this pattern holds up, the Red Sox will be due to win another World Series 86 years from now. We'll both have reason to celebrate: the Red Sox their sixth World Championship, and me, my impending 116th birthday!

See you in 2090.

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