Pissing Off the Baseball Gods Vol. IV: Because What Bad Thing Has Ever Happened to the Red Sox

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December 17, 2013 by NowhereButPop

by Andrew Doscas

Baseball is an incredibly superstitious sport; from players such as Wade Boggs and Justin Verlander, and instances like a black cat walking across Ron Santo in the one deck circle, it’s a sport that is steeped in superstition as much as it is rooted in tradition.  The reason for such is that much the same way that the course of the NBA is dictated by David Stern, the MLB is governed by the baseball gods.  They are the committee that controls the flow of the game and the outcome of events.  Like the gods of ancient mythology however, they are not infallible and from time to time have been stymied by the actions of a certain player or team.  As such, there comes a price for crossing the gods and their plans for baseball.

Pissing Off the Baseball Gods: is a 30 part anthology wherein I will go through each of the 30 franchises in the MLB and give an example of how they crossed the baseball gods, and give the ensuing penalty that arose from their transgression.  Essentially, a gigantic dose of karma, each team has had to pay for a victory they shouldn’t have had, or having unfavorable players on their team.  Most of the examples provided may seem disassociated and incongruent, but given the superstitious nature of baseball, chances are it’s just the price to pay for pissing off the baseball gods.

The biggest misconception in the MLB, and arguably in American society, is that the Boston Red Sox have a long history of suffering and the most tormented fans in professional sports.  They don’t.  In fact Red Sox fans don’t know how good they’ve had it.  No horrible or God awful event has ever struck the franchise, despite what their fans (and ESPN) would lead you to believe.  In my lifetime the worst thing that’s ever happened to the franchise is that they lost an ALCS.  It’s not like they ever blew a 3-0 lead in a playoff series or anything.

To really get a firm grasp on the idea that I’m selling, we have to go all the way back to 1919 when the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees.  No one made the team sell the greatest player of all time, nor did they have to sell him as the Oilers had to with Gretzky.  It’s just that Harry Frazee thought that producing a Broadway play was more important than winning more World Series.  It was a stupid move, one of many that they would make during the next 70 years or so.  Throughout the century they either gave up on players too soon (Red Ruffing and Sparky Lyle) or considered others to be washed up and past their primes (Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens).  All of these players eventually had dominating tenures with the Yankees that produced championships.  The Red Sox just made stupid decisions independent of anyone else.  That’s why with the sole exception of 1949, they were horrible from 1919 up until 1967.  No one stopped them from putting together a championship caliber team, they just couldn’t do it.

Since 1967, the Red Sox have, on a consistent basis, been threats to win the World Series.  But if you look at 1967 and 1975 and 1986 they either shouldn’t have been in the World Series at all or just lost to a better team.  In 1967 and 1986 the Red Sox shouldn’t have even been to the World Series, but in 1967 the Twins faded away down the stretch and in 1986, the Angels blew a 3-1 lead in the ALCS.  In 1967, they were down 3-1 against the Cardinals and still forced a game 7; if anything they were overachieving and going beyond expectation.  The Buckner incident in 1986 is blown out of proportion because even if Buckner makes the play, all it does is send the game into more extra innings, it doesn’t win them the game or the series.  In fact the very same thing happened to the Cubs back in the 1984 NLCS, and you don’t hear people harp on it today.  Instead of embracing the fact that the Red Sox have been constant overachievers, people still like to bring up the fact that they hadn’t won in all in 86 years, when in fact they should be glad their team made it to multiple World Series’ in the first place, in spite of consistent mediocrity.  The last time the Cubs were in the World Series pre-dates the Berlin Airlift.

In 1967, 1975, and 1986 the Red Sox lost to better teams, not only that, but they were the underdogs who weren’t expected to win.  All three of those series went to seven games, and in all of those seven games they were outplayed by the opposition.  No curse, no weird happenings, nothing that could be used to explain why they lost, they were beat plain and simple.  They just weren’t good enough to win it all, and yet despite this they have the sympathy of the entire developed world.

In my lifetime, the Red Sox have enjoyed unparalleled success, and absolutely zero tragedy.  They’ve won three championships, watched the Yankees lose multiple World Series to inferior teams, didn’t get sold to James Dolan, ended their World Series drought, didn’t get Alex Rodriguez, and somehow won the 2004 ALCS.  Since 2003 the Red Sox have had nothing but good fortunes.  Despite their loss in the 2003 ALCS, they still enjoyed watching the Yankees lose to the Marlins, while the very next year they come back after being down 3-0 in the ALCS to beat the Yankees.  They did the impossible!  What no one else has ever down, and what no one else will ever do, they did; and they did it against their bitterest rival.  And then they swept the World Series.  There is absolutely no amount of bad things on God’s green earth that could ever offset that achievement.  Every horrible event that ever befell the Red Sox franchise has now been rendered moot because of the fact that they inflicted a far more fatal blow than they had ever had done unto them.

When you look at the so called “plight” of the Red Sox, you’ll find that there isn’t anything spectacular or singularly unique and exclusive to them.  So they went 86 years without winning a World Series, but it’s not like they went 20 consecutive years with losing records, nor had they been absent from the World Series for 70 years.  Even the Buckner mishap wasn’t this one in a million stroke of misfortune that people would have you believe, as that very same thing had happened to the Cubs two years before.  The Red Sox like to think that they’ve been oppressed and abused by everyone, namely the Yankees, but the truth remains that they’ve given far better than they’ve received.  Constantly coming back from 3-1 deficits in the playoffs to force a game seven (1967 World Series, 1986 ALCS, 2007 ALCS, 2008 ALCS), slithering their way into post season contention, and ultimately climbing back from being down 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS would all make it seem like the Red Sox are the bullies on the block.

They’ve had more than their fair share of chances which they couldn’t capitalize on; they’re roaches who never roll over and die, and since 1999 they’ve enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success.  They’ve won three World Series in ten years, watched their mortal enemies fail year in and year out, and somehow despite their own high spending machinations still erroneously endear themselves to American society.  Face it, if you’re a Red Sox fan, there’s just nothing to complain about anymore, if there was anything to complain about in the first place.

Next Week: Tampa Bay Ray

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