(2007)(162) + 1978/14.5 – Pi = Baseball Karma
Part of what I love about baseball is the way that it mirrors life. Oh, the way it mirrors life. I think that’s what ultimately lead me to love it so…
See, it’s not about the instant gratification of cheap thrills. Baseball, like life, is all about individual confrontations and situations, but is ultimately a team game. The season is loooong, and that makes streaks more likely to be exposed as flukes than realities. You can’t dive right in to the warm tempting water of a nice 10 game streak. You have 162 games in baseball…I mean, that’s more than a full NBA and the NFL season combined. The long haul means that you can’t freak out over short term statistics and start making calls…if you do that it means you aren’t looking long term enough and you’re sure to get burned. But you also can’t completely ignore streaks, because occasionally they turn in to trends and hard core realities. Sometimes that crappy first baseman gets hot. Sometimes he gets better. There’s a difference, so you have to strike a balance.
Heady stuff, this baseball.
There are ways you have to look to actually see. It’s borderline voodoo to really, truly get what’s happening and what’s going to happen next. Baseball’s superstitians become de facto realities all the time, and sometimes having no residual karma is better than having a life time of it…don’t think so? Ask the Cubs and Red Sox. Then ask the Diamondbacks and Marlins.
In baseball’s history you can see all kinds of events, trends, and streaks that because they have happened before, they will happen again. It’s like graphing Pi…it’s spirals out further and further, but the point is that it spirals…it’s cyclical…it doesn’t go in a straight line and constantly reinvent itself.
Baseball embraces its history because it knows that it will play a role in its future, because it’s always connected directly to it. Shouldn’t we all learn from that? (And by god if you’re getting that from the NBA you’ll have to show me how)
To that end, I give you the Boston Massacre of 1978 and why I’ve said all year that it ain’t over for the Yankees…cuz this has alllll happened before, and in all too similar ways.
In July of ’78, the New York Yankees trailed the Boston Red Sox by 14.5 games. Everything that could go wrong for the Bronx Bombers that year did go wrong. I mean, to be behind by that many games? You pretty much had to be either (1) a bad team or (2) playing like crap with every break going against you…
But, if baseball teaches us anything about life it’s this; if it ain’t talent or effort that is the problem, things will start to even out. Anomalies don’t hold up over a season. And that’s exactly what happened in ’78. Suddenly, the Bombers started winning, and the Sox? Well, they started losing.
So it was that on a beautiful weekend in September with three weeks to go in the season the Yankees came to Boston for a 4 game series trailing the Sox by…wait for it…4 games. In those four games the Yankees absolutely crushed the Sox and that series became known as the Boston Massacre.
After 3 more weeks of back and forth baseball, the Yankees, who had played so poorly for so much of the season up until September 7th-10th and the Red Sox who had played so well, finished the season…
Tied for first.
This meant they had to have a 1 game playoff in Boston to decide who went to the post season. In that game, much like the season, the Red Sox jumped out to an early lead and, to hear Sox fans tell it today, the game was over. I mean, they were up 2 in the 7th inning!
Had they learned nothing?
Didn’t the season itself teach them?
Of course, then Sox fans will say to you the words that live in infamy in the Rivalry to this day.
Bucky. Fucking. Dent.
Bucky Dent, a light hitting shortstop for the Yankees hit a 3 run, go ahead dinger for the Bombers. Wanna know how much that hurt? Just say the name to a Sox fan and see. Of course, what people forget is that Reggie Jackson’s home run later on actually won the game…
From there, by the way, the Yankees went on to win the World Series, beating the Dodgers for a second year in a row.
So this year, when the Yankees were down 14.5 games to the Red Sox, I didn’t hit the panic button. Ask anyone. I said all year long that it’s far from over, and that calling it a season at the mid way point was just foolish. In fact, I said to Southie (a member of the nation) “Gee, why don’t we just mail the WS trophy to Fenway now, I mean, after all, it is June“. He didn’t want to hear it.
“It’s over. You can’t catch up! You’re not even going to get the wild card! Call me when you get to 7 games back”.
Fools. Every one of them. Baseball, by design, is a marathon. Sprinting out to a big lead means exactly nothing. This isn’t football, where you can blow your whole season with a bad start. It’s baseball, and bad starts have nothing on strong finishes.
So, when the Yankees started this year by losing the top of their pitching rotation (just like in ’78) to injuries and several key position players as well, I didn’t freak out. Ok, that’s a lie. I was livid. But I didn’t say it’s over. Hell, I never even conceded the AL East! I knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but I also knew it had been done before, and more importantly it had been done before by these same two teams.
With this same 14.5 game lead.
They say that to ignore history dooms you to repeat. This should be printed on the seams of every baseball, because nothing could be more accurate with regards to the game. To that end, last night the Yankees narrowed the once “insurmountable” lead of 14.5 games to 1.5. I don’t know why I even had to tell you so in the first place, to be honest…no one should be that shocked. It’s “shocking” when things occur that haven’t ever happened before…that no precedent or previously established Karma exists to cover. Like the 3-0 Comeback of 2004. That was shocking not just because of the numbers, but because of the history. I’d actually argue that for that very reason, it was far, far more shocking. Really, if say the Dodgers did it to the Braves? It wouldn’t have been as jaw dropping.
Don’t get me wrong…I woke up today grinning from ear to ear and smiling at my framed Maris and Mantle pic. I am ELATED. Then again, I know my history, and I’ve been waiting all season for this. Even if the Yankees don’t take the AL East, I love the look of fear that has suddenly, and deservedly, crept on to the faces of the once overly confident Sox fans. I say “deservedly” because in baseball and in life, you don’t ever, ever concede and you damn sure don’t take anything for granted. Even when you’re out of it and playing a team that is still in a race, you fight for that win because that’s how it’s done.
Come to think of it, maybe “doomed” to repeat it isn’t quite the way to say it.
Maybe “cursed” is more apropos.