Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The more things change?

Ira Berkow of the New York Times has a story taking a look at all that the Cubs and Red Sox have endured since they last met in the World Series in 1918.

The Red Sox have a one-and-a-half-game lead in the American League wild-card race, but having chopped off more than half of the Yankees' 10½-game lead in the past two weeks, they cannot help but indulge in bigger thoughts, particularly since the teams will meet six times in September. Only once in their history have the Red Sox overtaken a first-place Yankees team after Aug. 15 and finished first themselves, and that was 100 years ago, when the Yankees were known as the Highlanders.
Ugh. Is that good? Berkow goes on to look at the 2004 season, and specifically considers all that's transpired with the whole Nomar controversy:

...What the Red Sox changed was their lineup, trading away a somewhat aloof and seemingly unhappy Garciaparra, who seemed to still resent Boston's attempts to replace him with Alex Rodriguez in the off-season, and acquiring a new shortstop, Orlando Cabrera, and a new first basemen, Doug Mientkiewicz. Boston's defense has tightened, its starting pitching has become more consistent and the hitting remains imposing, even without Garciaparra.

The Red Sox also added the imposing, and talkative, Curt Schilling to their starting pitching staff for this season, and Schilling, a 37-year-old right-hander, has done his part by going 16-6.
When Berkow describes Schilling as imposing and talkative, he should qualify that by saying, "in reverse order,..."

Anyway, the article follows the (seemingly) continuous struggles of both teams, but Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School, who also wrote the book, "Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End," describes the Pedro/Zimmer scrum last post-season thusly:

"We in Boston are too often sore losers,'' she said. "Why should we engage in a brawl with the Yankees, like we have? That's not going to help score runs. It's negative thinking, unfocused energy. And you especially can't do that against the Yankees. They're too good. And then they blame the manager, Grady Little, for not taking out Pedro Martínez in a critical moment in last season's Game 7. But it's not just one moment that wins games, it's a series of moments."
Let me get this right, Red Sox fans are accused of being sore losers? Since when? Who was mad at Grady, anyway? That's nearly blasphemous -- if it weren't so true (see here, here and here). Plus, you really can't take anything a blow-hard academic says seriously, right?

I'll take Joe Fan's perspective every time:

At the Red Sox-Tigers game the other night...Rob Reichert, a Red Sox fan from Swampscott, Mass., had a simple explanation for the frustrations of the past.

"We've just been unlucky through history," he said. "The ball always seems to bounce wrong at the wrong time."

But bad bounces for 85 years?

"Well, this year will be different," said Gary McNeill, a Bostonian who was wearing a Red Sox jersey with Garciaparra's name on the back. "I still miss Nomar. And I expect to see him again in Fenway Park in October, playing the Red Sox in the World Series."
Of course saying the Red Sox have "been unlucky" is like saying Derek Jeter is mildly annoying, but hey, we have 40 more games until the heartbreak commences.

Here's a graphic from the NY Times article about how the Sox and Cubs have done pre- and post-Nomar (it's hard to see here, but click on the it for an easier view -- it's pretty interesting):