SEPTEMBER 8, 2004
Red Sox Have Already Won
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com
Ten days ago, the scrawling on this scorecard said to give the A.L. East race two more weeks before determining if it was indeed a race. At this date, after watching the Red Sox steamroll through the Angels, Rangers, and A's over their last 8 games (where Boston went 7-1), it is now more than safe to say that the Red Sox are in an excellent position to win the A.L. East crown. Note that, as of this morning, the top of the American League East standings appear as follows:
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
The fact that less than 3 games separate the Yankees and Red Sox is very significant. Why? During the past 100 years (yes, the last century!), in only five seasons have Boston and New York finished first and second in the final standings where the difference between the two teams was less than 3 games: 1904, 1949, 1977, 1978, and 2000. (For the record, the Yankees finished first in all of these years sans 1904.)
This is an amazing statistic - considering the attention given to the competition between these two franchises (which is claimed by many to be the greatest rivalry in all of sports). In only 5% of the last 100 seasons have the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees truly battled it out for first place. Now, with just 4 weeks left to the 2004 season, we have a chance to witness what may be only the 6th "bona fide" Red Sox and Yankees race for first place.
The next natural question is "How will this year's race end?" Bottom line, there are four possible outcomes:
The Yankees win in a close race.
The Red Sox win in a close race.
The Yankees pull away from the Red Sox and win with a lead greater than 3 games.
The Red Sox blow past the Yankees and win with a lead greater than 3 games.
Predicting which of these four results will occur in reality is impossible. The beauty of baseball is that anything can happen. Rather than attempt at speculating the unpredictable, the scrawling on this particular scorecard will attempt to imagine what would happen after each possible outcome (if they were to come true).
If the Red Sox win - albeit in a close race or in more of a runaway - the aftermath would be the same. The "Evil Empire" would have been defeated, the "Curse of the Bambino" would be somewhat lifted1, and the 2004 season would be one that the "Red Sox Nation" would point to with great pride for decades to follow. Yankee fans will lament about how they had a 10 1/2 game lead and blew it over the last 7 weeks of the season. Fans of both teams, and the media, will likely point to the fight filled game of July 24, 2004 between New York and Boston as the turning point of the season for both teams. (To date, since July 24th, including their dramatic win that day in comeback fashion, Boston has gone 31-10 - a blistering winning percentage of .756 - whereas New York has gone 25-18 - a winning percentage of .581.)
If the Yankees win in a close race, the perception of many (Yankees and Red Sox fans) would be that New York was lucky to hold on to the lead - having nearly blown it with just 4 weeks to go. There will not be much lamentation in the Red Sox camp - as they would have fought a great fight, and; as a result of staying so close, Boston would most likely still make the post-season as the 2004 A.L. Wildcard. Finishing second to the Yankees this year, within 3 games, will not lead to huge unhappiness in Beantown - at least not at the levels of sorrow that would be felt in the Big Apple should the Yankees finish less than 3 games behind the Sox. The Yankees will take the close "win" - but, in all likelihood, the team and its fans would be more relieved than overjoyed. Winning a close race, at this junction, all things considered, would be a "dodged a bullet" happy thing for the Bronx Bombers and their faithful as opposed to a "you've just won the Lotto and, P.S., both Halle Berry and the Olsen Twins want your phone number" sort of happy thing.
If the Yankees pull away from the Red Sox, many Yankee fans will tease their Red Sox fan friends with boasts along the lines of "What is this, now seven times in a row that you guys have finished second to us? Don't you ever get tired of that?" Yankee fan chest beating would be at an all time high and members of "Red Sox Nation" would not be feeling all that well - so far, then so close, and then, oh, so far again. (Dr. Smith must be a Sox fan - Oh, the pain, the pain of it all!) The griping about the "Evil Empire" and the Yankees revenue/payroll will rise again from the secret drawer that these bellyaches have mysteriously disappeared into these past six weeks.
In summary, four things can happen over the remainder of the race for the 2004 A.L. East crown, and three of the four are pretty good things for the Red Sox. Only the Yankees pulling away from Bosox would be bad for Boston, in the grand scheme of things. So, perhaps, in many ways, considering all the possible outcomes, it is correct to say that there is a 75% probability that Boston has already "won" the fight with the "Evil Empire" for this season.
Of course, this will all be moot when New York's John Olerud homers off of Boston's Bronson Arroyo in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS to win the pennant for the Yankees. <wink> O.K., just kidding (and Yankee fan wishful thinking) on that one. In any event, enjoy the next four weeks of Yankees-Red Sox baseball. A race this close, between these two teams, really is something that only happens once in a great while. Do not let this opportunity to witness some baseball history pass you by!
1 The "Curse" is subject to reinstatement pending any grounders skipping through the legs of any Sox players during games of the 2004 post-season.
Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com. Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season. Steve can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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