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A Curse, on Steroids
2004-10-18 12:43
by Mike Carminati

Some Yankee fans, mostly friends of mine, took exception to the way I characterized the Yankees in game four as lacking "killer instincts". It may be a bit strong. They did come back the next half inning after the Red Sox took just the second lead in the series. However, the Yankees did not take advantage of a number of opportunities. Maybe they were a bit tired (scoring a googleplex of runs in the previous game will do that). Maybe it's human nature (witness James' Law of Competitive Balance) to take a breath when you go up 3-0 in such a dramatic fashion. Or maybe the, as the baseball proverbs go, you just have to tip your cap toe the Sox. Whatever the reason, it's understandable.
That said, I think the Yankees, the good corporate team that they are, will put the Red Sox away tonight. So put your Yankee hackles down. It has been an odd series though and the Yanks had better put them away as quickly as possible. Schilling going in game 6 is either a colossal blunder or the sub-plot for a movie of the week--it reminds me of that freaky gymnast a few Olympics ago who competed with a broken leg (Chris Katan did a hilarious send-up of on SNL). They don't need the melodrama.
Everyone made a big deal out of no team coming back from 3-0, but that doesn't mean it's impossible (in fact it's happened in basketball and hockey where there are far more best-of-7 seriesóI know the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup after being down 3-0 in the finals). A team going up 3 games to zip in a seven-game series has only happened 25 times. 20 times, it became a sweep, and 3 times it went six games. There have been 132 best-of-seven series in baseball history. So there have been 20 in 132 series or 15.15% that have been sweeps. All things being equal the odds of winning four straight would be (1/2)^4 or .0625. So the actual is about 2.5 times more than expected. There are probably various reasons for this: disparity in team quality, the 0-3 team being demoralized, home field advantages, a hot pitcher, etc.
I think most would agree that there is not a large disparity in the quality of talent on the Yanks and Red Sox. The Yanks caught a break with the Schilling injury and have played better in general, so they earned the 3-0 advantage. However, I see no reason why the Red Sox couldn't be the first team to come back from such a deficit. It's still unlikely and I don't have the numbers for those coming back from 3-1 deficits, but if all things are equal, the odds improved from 1 in 16 to 1 in 8. Given that home teams won 53.50% of all regular season games, let's adjust the odds. For the Red Sox to win the series, they would have to win once at home and then twice in the Bronx or .535 * (1-.535)^2 = 11.57%, slightly worse than 1 in 8 (12.5%). Should the Red Sox win tonight it goes to 21.62% (less than 1 in 4).

The Yanks need to nip this in the Bud.

Actually, I just realized that the numbers don't matter. It's that the Yankees are cursed. They were three outs from the World Series and lost. That's it, cursed. Donnie Moore, the Billy Goat, Babe Ruth and 1918--they're all tinker toys in the world of jinxes. The Yankees are cursed by the spirit of recently expired Ken Caminiti whose Padres got beaten by the Yankees in the 1998 World Series. Who lost the final game? Kevin Brown--who may, I mean will, pitch the seventh-game loss to the Red Sox. Who got the save in the final game of the 98 Series? Rivera, who blew the lead yesterday. It's really quite eerie.
I am copyrighting the curse so officially it's Mike Carminati's Ken Caminiti Curse (TM). I will own all the rights when everyone is using it to explain the 2054 Yankees have not won a Series in over 50 years. It's pure gold, baby!

Then again, I was all set to go to bed. I had actually typed the signoff in my log of the game, and then Ramirez singled to start the game-winning rally in the twelfth. So, itís mine, my curse. And I wonít share the residuals with anyone. Iím a happy miser.

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