Curses!

Chin up, Oakland A’s. Yeah, you might be considered world-class chokers today — having lost the fifth and deciding game of the Divisional Series for the fourth straight year — but you’ll snap out of it. Eventually. Probably before you become a reliable baseball punchline, like the Boston Red Sox for the past 85 years or the Chicago Cubs for the past 95.

I’m guessing you’ll lose a couple more heartbreakers over the next few years, and then, just when everybody has written you off completely, you’ll shock the world and actually win three games out of five in the postseason. The Curse of the Bill Beane-o (as it will surely be known) shall be lifted!

Your ineptitude is hardly unheard of. It’s more painful but less embarrassing than the recent legacy of my Red Sox.

From 1986 through 1998, the Red Sox lost five straight postseason series, including a stretch when the team dropped 13 straight playoff games. That streak stretched from the infamous sixth game of the 1986 World Series through the final game of Cleveland’s sweep of Boston in the 1995 Divisional Series. The A’s swept the Red Sox in both 1988 and 1990.

Call it the Bill Buckner hangover or whatever you please, but it’s hard to deny that this dark playoff period represented an institutional funk. Of course, by 1998, none of the players from the 1986 team was still with the Red Sox, so what other explanation could there be? Five straight series losses. Thirteen straight games.

Slowly, though, the Red Sox emerged. In 1998, the team snapped its 13-game losing streak by winning the first Divisional Series game against Cleveland. It lost the series, but one monkey had been removed.

In 1999, the Red Sox dropped the first two games to Cleveland in the Divisional round and rallied to win the next three games and the series. Boston then lost to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, but another drought had stopped.

And this year, in its next visit to the playoffs, the BoSox lost a pair of games to the A’s and rallied to win the next three games and the series. If the pattern holds, the Red Sox will beat the Yankees in the American League Championship Series (which starts on Wednesday) and then lose in the World Series.

I’m not betting on the pattern [Postscript: Good thing.], because I don’t have confidence the Red Sox will beat the Yankees, and if they do, I certainly don’t want to jinx them in the World Series. I’m simply suggesting that baseball teams, perhaps more than franchises in any other sport, have memories, and behave in relatively predictable ways decade after decade.

The tremendous regular-season success of the Atlanta Braves over the past dozen years and the team’s incongruous postseason failures support this theory. The Oakland A’s current misery — including nine games when they had a chance to win a Divisional Series — is further evidence. And of course, the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are world-famous for their nearly century-long consistency in suffering heartbreaking losses and general shittiness, respectively.

These are not curses, just institutions with ever-changing personnel showing the personality and foibles of a human being.

Leave a comment

Close