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Kill the (State Your Name)!
2004-07-06 01:09
by Mike Carminati

The unruly mob that is the Boston media and fanbase is again whittling torches in anticipation of the yearly public lynching following the Yankees' sweep of the Crimson Hosed ones. They now sit a full eight games behind the Yankees and are closer to third-place Tampa Bay. Is it the Curse of David Ortiz's Glove, the Curse of Nomar Garciaparra's Splinter-Laden Keister, or the Curse of the Sabermetrician (i.e. Bill James)?

While the Fenway faithless are getting so riled up, did they notice that the wild card is within their grasp? Sure, it's disappointing that the Yankees swept the series and are pulling away in the division, but weren't the Yankees about to implode in April when the Sox took 5 of 6 from them and they were a sub-.500 team? It's July. There's a lot of season left. Why panic? Texas is a good bet to fade (though Anaheim could replace them) and the wild card is unlikely to come out of the Central. The Red Sox are a good bet to win the wild card, and that almost got them to the Series last year. Does anyone in Boston know how the '02 Angels and '03 Marlins got to the Series? Could it be...Satan? Well, possibly, but it was certainly the wild card.

No, they waste time on whether David Ortiz's mitt broke in the second game. The replays show that it didn't and besides, who cares? It's water under the bridge. By the way, the Sox mouthpiece in print, the New York Times didn't let the facts get in the way but instead erroneously promulgated the misinformation that the glove broke. I guess that plays better in Poughkeepsie. Besides, how can newly anointed savior David Ortiz have misplayed a ball? Never mind that his best defensive position is DH.

Potential free agent Nomar Garciaparra is also drawing fire for being the only Red Sox position player not to appear in game three as if by the stroke of his hand he could have assured victory. I guess juxtaposing Jeter's great diving catch with Nomah's no-show is what gets their curse-laden juices flowing. But does anyone remember how Jeter's horrific offense from the leadoff spot in the first two months was encumbering the Yankee offense? And oh yeah, Garciaparra helped the Yankees score the winning runs in game 2 with a costly error. It happens. Does it outweigh nine great seasons in a Red Sox uniform? I rephrase the question: Should it?

Next on the hot seat is Bill James who is being blamed for burdening Boston with inferior defensive players who can't run a lick on the bases. Instant antithesis was awaiting James when his alleged plan to bring a bullpen by committee to Boston failed. Never mind that James never recommended a bullpen by committee and that his real recommendations were shelved quickly by Grady Little once the bullpen faltered. James did recommend that the closer be used in non-save situations and Keith Foulke has been brilliant in those situations this year. James in reprioritizing defense in no way said to put DHs in the field when the Sox have a lead. Did anyone notice that the Yankees were caught stealing twice in game 2? One was in the first trailing 1-0: Kenny Lofton tried to steal third with two outs. Third with two outs? There might be a slight advantage of being at third with two outs with a knuckleballer on the mound but he had better steal that base if he goes.

Manager Terry Francona is getting some heat as well. Yeah, he should have taken Ortiz out. And he is being blamed for not using Garciaparra in the final game of the series even though Nomar felt some pain in his previously injured heal. Should the manager possibly sacrifice his All-Star shortstop for one game against the Yankees?

But forget logic. The mob is forming. The need someone to blame. So here's their list for this year's Grady Little Red Sox Nation Bile Reception award?:

A) Terry Francona
B) Bill James
C) Theo Epstein
D) Pedro Martinez
E) Manny Ramirez
F) Nomah
G) Grady Little
H) Cory Lidle
I) Bill Clinton (sorry, that's the Republican's list)
It sure won't be the beloved David Ortiz.
I felt that the Yankees could start to falter allowing the Sox back in the race even before the sweep at the hands of the Mets. The Yankees are way ahead of their expected win-loss percentage. They are currently 51-29 for a .638 winning percentage. Given their run differential, one would expect them to have a .560 winning percentage using the Pythagorean formula. That's 78 points better than expected.

But surely, you say, that's just a guide, not meant to be taken literally, you statheaded freak. To which I reply, A) "Your mama" and B) that's true but 78 points is a bit excessive, donít you think?

That would be 25th all time and the largest differential since the '93 Mets if the Yankees can keep it up all season. Here are the top 24:

YrLgTeamPCTExp PctDiff
1871NARockford Forest Citys.160.402.242
1872NAWashington Nationals.000.170.170
1875NAKeokuk Westerns.077.227.150
1876NLPhiladelphia Athletics.233.347.114
1871NAFort Wayne Kekiongas.368.259.109
1871NAPhiladelphia Athletics.750.653.097
1872NAMiddletown Mansfields.208.302.093
1874NAHartford Dark Blues.302.393.091
1993NLNew York Mets.364.454.089
1878NLBoston Red Caps.683.596.087
1981NLCincinnati Reds.611.524.087
1905ALDetroit Tigers.513.426.087
1905NLChicago Cubs.594.680.086
1907NLCincinnati Reds.423.506.083
1891AAMilwaukee Brewers.583.665.082
1875NAPhiladelphia Centennials.143.224.081
1911NLPittsburgh Pirates.548.629.081
1883AACincinnati Red Stockings.622.703.081
1890AABaltimore Orioles.395.476.081
1875NAHartford Dark Blues.628.708.080
1986NLPittsburgh Pirates.395.475.080
1935NLBoston Braves.248.327.079
1882AALouisville Eclipse.525.604.079
1880NLWorcester Ruby Legs.471.549.078

Keep in mind that the Reds also exceed their expected winning percentage by 86 points. They own a 44-38 (.537) record but by their run differential one would expect them to have won only 45.1% of their games. So surely the difference is caused by the smaller sample of games. Over a full season things will even out, but will the run differential change to fit the record or will the record change to more closely fit the run differential? How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? The world may never know.

That said, teams like the Yankees, Reds, Twins, Giants, etc. who have been outdistancing run-differential expectations may get their comeuppance in the second half. The Red Sox may not be available to take advantage of it, however, since they will be embroiled in the next scandal that suits the fan's fancy. Maybe the only curse on the Sox is in the adage that those who donít live from history and destined to repeat it.

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