Pissing Off the Baseball Gods Vol. X: The Accidental Champs

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February 5, 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.

Even though they only won one World Series in the 1980s, the Cardinals were the best team of the decade, a distinction that unfortunately goes to the Dodgers.  Both Dodgers victories in the 1981 and 1988 World Series are flukes, while the Cardinals two World Series loses in 1985 and 1987 can be chalked up as flukes.  Had the Cardinals won a second World Series, specifically in 1985, they would have been the team of the 1980s.

But they didn’t; it was the Kansas City Royals, a team with the 6th best record in the MLB in 1985 who won the World Series.  More than that however, they won it because of a horrendously blown call by first base umpire Don Denkinger in the bottom of the 9th inning in game six.  The Cardinals led the series at that point three games to two and were leading the decisive game six by a score of 1-0 going into the bottom of the ninth.  The first batter for the Royals, Jorge Orta, hit a groundball to third baseman Jack Clark who threw the ball in time to get Orta out…so we all thought.  Denkinger however, called Orta safe; instead of one out and no one on, the Royals had one on and no outs with all the momentum shifted to their side, as the Cardinals were left reeling in a fit of unbridled rage and disbelief.

Sure enough, the Royals score two runs in the bottom of the 9th and win the game to even up the series.  The very next night they blow out the deflated Cardinals 11-0.  What this tells us, is that the baseball gods had not intended for the Royals to win the 1985 World Series, as it took a negative externality in the form of Don Denkinger to lay waste to their schemes.  By 1985 the Royals were on their last legs from their heyday from 1976-1980.  They and Denkinger prevented the rise of what could have been a new dynasty in baseball, at a time when there was none.  Instead the Cardinals were literally robbed of a title, a title that was handed to a lesser deserving team.

But, the gods would have their vindication on the Royals, even though it was not they who had enacted the initial transgression.  However, as the beneficiary of the thwarted plans of the gods, the Royals had to be punished.  As we’ll see with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the gods despise it when a lesser deserving team steal a victory from a better, more deserving team.  That’s exactly how and why the Royals won their only World Series.  They couldn’t even legitimize it with a subsequent World Series victory, and as a result, their lone championship comes with the asterisked knowledge that it was due in gargantuan part to an obviously blown call.

The real punishment, however is still ongoing.  Since 1985, the Kansas City Royals have failed to qualify for the playoffs.  That is the longest active streak in baseball, as every other team has made the playoffs during that time span.  In fact every team except for the Washington Nationals have made the playoffs at least twice in that thirty year span.  To go thirty years without making the playoffs is arguably worse than twenty consecutive losing seasons, because at least with mediocrity, there’s an understanding that they will not aspire to more.  The Royals have had winning seasons interspersed throughout these thirty years but they don’t matter because they haven’t been consistently bad enough to warrant attention like the Pirates were, nor were they good enough to make the playoffs.  So really, there’s been absolutely no purpose to Kansas City baseball since 1985.

The gods are rough; they don’t like when their plans go awry, and the 1985 World Series is probably the best example of such turbulence.  Objectively speaking, it’s nice that George Brett got his ring, but whether or not it was worth the future success of the franchise is a whole other story.  But for such thievery to get the ring for Brett, the gods had to make the punishment fit the crime.

Next Week: Houston Astros

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