Pissing Off the Baseball Gods Part V: What’s in a Name?

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January 2, 2014 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.

Prior to 2008, the American League was a two team juggernaut; it was consistently the best division in baseball, but it was on the strength of two teams, the Yankees and the Red Sox.  For the past six years, something strange has happened, a third team emerged from out of nowhere to challenge the Yankees and the Red Sox year in and year out.  Since 2008 there has been a very real possibility that the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays could all finish the season with 90 or more wins.  For the most part, the Yankees have been good since 1994, and the Red Sox have been good since 1995, the Rays however, somehow became perennial title contenders sometime after the 2007 season ended.

For the first decade of the team’s existence they had losing records, and only finished above last place twice.  But all of the sudden, after they drop the “Devil” from their names in 2008, they embark on six straight winning seasons, making it to the World Series in 2008.  There’s no way this can be a coincidence.  Owner Stuart Sternberg, one of the best in baseball, has owned the team since 2004 back when they were still losing.  Joe Maddon came aboard in 2006, there second to most recent losing season, but it wasn’t until the “Devils Rays” became the “Rays” that they ascended out of laughable ineptitude.  So, what’s in a name then?

The baseball gods, I’m presuming, aren’t as lenient as the hockey gods are apparently, and took great offense with a team being called “Devil”, even though it’s the name of a local animal.  As a franchise the Devil Rays offended the baseball gods with their satanic moniker, and as a result they were relegated to mediocrity.  It wasn’t until the organization came its sense and removed the word “Devil” from its name that the veil of incompetence was lifted from the franchise.

Accordingly, as if to reward the team for its orthodox name change, the gods smiled favorably on the Rays.  In 2008 they went to the World Series, and besides 2009, they have won at least 90 games in every year since.  They consistently have the best pitching, bullpen, and defense in the American League, and are evil geniuses at making trades.  If all it took was a name change to make the team good, what will it take for the team to actually garner a home crowd?

Next Week: The Cleveland Indians

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