Why the Red Sox will win it all
In the wake of my last Red Sox post, Tom Maguire has been teasing me about my baseball loyalties. So with the final week of the regular season upon us, this post — a few thoughts and a bold prediction — is just for him: 1) Statistical indicators indicate that the Red Sox have a ...
In the wake of my last Red Sox post, Tom Maguire has been teasing me about my baseball loyalties. So with the final week of the regular season upon us, this post -- a few thoughts and a bold prediction -- is just for him: 1) Statistical indicators indicate that the Red Sox have a 97.4% chance of reaching the postseason. Woo-hoo!! 2) A few weeks ago one of my commenters recommended Bill Simmons from ESPN's Page 2 as a sportswriter worth reading. After reading this column, I'll second that emotion. The highlights:
In the wake of my last Red Sox post, Tom Maguire has been teasing me about my baseball loyalties. So with the final week of the regular season upon us, this post — a few thoughts and a bold prediction — is just for him: 1) Statistical indicators indicate that the Red Sox have a 97.4% chance of reaching the postseason. Woo-hoo!! 2) A few weeks ago one of my commenters recommended Bill Simmons from ESPN’s Page 2 as a sportswriter worth reading. After reading this column, I’ll second that emotion. The highlights:
Have there been some painful times for Red Sox fans? Absolutely. We lost seventh games in 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986. We also lost the most dramatic game of all time — the playoff game in ’78 against the Yanks, which deserves its own column some time. All things considered, Game Six of the ’86 World Series was one of the most painful, agonizing defeats in the history of sports, maybe even the worst. And as I mentioned before, we’re terrified that we may never see this team win a World Series, at least in our lifetime. But plenty of sports fans battle similar demons, don’t they? What about Cubs fans closing in on the 100-year mark? What about Bills fans losing those four straight Super Bowls, including the horror of the Norwood Game? What about Browns fans losing their team, for God’s sake? Who’s more tortured than Maple Leaf fans? You think Astros fans have had tons of fun over the past four decades? You think the Bengals and Cavs have been laughing it up? For the most part, Sox fans have been pretty fortunate. Including me. Over the past three decades, I watched an inordinate amount of winning teams (more than any other franchise in baseball), as well as stars like Lynn, Fisk, Tiant, Rice, Yaz, Eckersley, Evans, Mo, Nomar and Manny. I was blessed with the chance to see Clemens and Pedro in their primes — two of the best pitchers of the past 50 years. Dave Henderson’s homer against the Angels remains one of the great sports moments of my life. Same with Pedro coming out of the bullpen and blanking Cleveland in the ’99 playoffs (conspicuously missing from the documentary, of course). And for all its faults, Fenway (in the right seats) is still the best place in the country to watch baseball.
Indeed. This is the attitude of a true Red Sox fan. As opposed to this sort of behavior. 3) Just to jinx the team as they try to clinch a playoff spot this week, here’s my explanation for why this team will win the World Series this year: they’re better prepated prepared for overcoming temporary disasters than any other team in baseball. According to Tom Tippett, in all of Major League Baseball, the Red Sox have endured the greatest number of defeats this year in situations where they should have won (by generating more total bases than the other team). He concludes: “Boston hasn’t taken full advantage of its opportunities this year.” I’d be even harsher — factor Tippett’s criteria in with Sox’ second-worst bullpen in the American League, and one can only conclude that the Red Sox lead the league in “heartbreaking losses.” However, it’s worth quoting Tippett more extensively:
After they blew the August 20th game against Oakland, I thought the Red Sox were done. Time after time, they had been able to bounce back from tough losses, and they’ve earned a lot of praise for being a resilient team. But you can only dig a hole and climb out of it so often, and I thought they may have used up their quota. To their credit, they won the series finale against Oakland, swept the Mariners at home, and took two of three from New York in Yankee Stadium the next weekend. During the toughest part of the schedule, they played their best baseball of the season.
The key to the Red Sox success this year is that they have refused to allow heartbreaking losses to affect their overall equilibrium. It would obviously be better if they had no such losses. The key, however, is that such reversals don’t cause the team to go into a tailspin. This is why the Red Sox will win the whole shebang — playoff baseball is all about heartbreakingly close games. The team that wins the playoff series is the one that can live with temporary disappointment and then come back the next day and play better baseball. The obvious example is the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite two dramatically blown saves by Byung-Hyung Kim in Yankee Stadium, a manager that had no touch in terms of pitching changes, and a powerful symbolism that suggested the Yankees should win in the wake of 9/11, Arizona gutted out the series and won in it in seven games. Most teams that enter the postseason are used to success and unaccustomed to staggering reverses. The 2003 Red Sox, on the other hand, are veterans of this sort of emotional workout. Of course, they also have Kim as their closer. [If you’re wrong, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt–ed. Yeah, but if I’m right, this post will ring throughout the ages… or at least make up for my disastrous political predictions.]
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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