A-Rod Beanball Signals Start of Sox Slide
Back in September of 2011, I wrote From the Curse of the Bambino to the Curse of the Beanball (reprinted below for your convenience). The piece recounted a simple tale:
My wife and I were watching the game on TV when Red Sox pitcher John Lackey hit Francisco Cervelli with a beanball in retribution for Cervelli’s (supposedly) excessively exuberant display at home plate following a home run. At that moment, looking at the repellent John Lackey’s glowering face, I made a prediction: That was the moment that the Red Sox will begin their late-season slide. And I was right. It was a bold prediction, for at that moment, the Red Sox were on top of the world. And yet sure enough, they soon began what was, even for them, an epic late-season tumble.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t write the article at that time. I am not a sports writer by trade, so it did not occur to me to go live with the prediction when it occurred to me. I wrote it only after the Red Sox had proved my heat-of-the-moment prediction correct—essentially saying, “Hey, look at what’s happening to the Red Sox—I told my wife that this would happen . . . I swear!”
Enter last night’s beaning of Alex Rodriguez by Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster. For those who missed it, here’s a video recap:
To get a sense of just how execrable—and just how obviously, painfully intentional—the pitch was, listen to Yankees Manager Joe Girardi’s righteous anger on the subject:
Of course Dempster meant to hit Rodriguez. And of course the Fenway rabble were happy about it.
Obviously this sort of behavior is not unknown to the Red Sox, and they certainly were in rare form last night. In addition to plunking A-Rod, they also beaned three other Yankees, the most Bombers who have been hit by pitches in a game since 2000.
Girardi was right—Rodriguez’s alleged drug use does not justify such behavior. The letter and spirit of our justice system is that the accused are considered innocent until proved otherwise. Accusers and the accused will both have their chance to make their cases during the off-season, and we shall see what we shall see. (As an aside, I have been critical of A-Rod in the past, but I must say, he took the beaning with great aplomb.)
All of that, however, is just preamble. Last night’s beaning of A-Rod has put me in a far more challenging position than I was in 2011. Then, I was a political writer who wanted to take a momentary diversion to point out a private prediction that happened to come true. Now, however, having been down this road before, I can hardly justify waiting until I am proved right to make the prediction. I have to go out on a limb now.
And so I shall:
The unsportsmanlike act of intentionally hitting a batter with a 92 mile-per-hour fastball (not to mention the three others they beaned) is the symbolic start of what will be another late-season choke by the Red Sox. Mercifully, America won’t have to look at the Red Sox players’ scruffy, unshaved faces in the post season.
Now, whether we’ll see the clean-shaven, injury-plaugued Yankees there is another question. That, I shan’t predict. I’m just glad that the Sox won’t be there.
And if I am wrong about all this—hey, who cares? After all, I’m a political writer by trade.
Originally posted September 30th, 2011:
From the Curse of the Bambino to the Curse of the Beanball
Call it whatever you want, the Red Sox are still cursed.
As a political writer, I don’t often write about sports. But that does not mean I have no interest. Indeed, as you will find out shortly, not only am I interested, I can make wild predictions on sporting matters that end up coming true.
Full disclosure, right off the bat—I am a lifelong Yankees fan. In the early 70s, we lived in Orange County, NY, and for part of that time, my father worked on the Sports Monday section at the New York Times. In 1976, he went to one of the games of the Yankees-Reds World Series. My mother turned on the game and told me that he was there.
“Who do we want to win?” I asked.
“Well, we live in New York, so we want the Yankees to win,” came her prompt response.
And a Yankees fan was born. Adding to the fun was that for a year or so, Lou Piniella lived right down the road from us, and I played with his son a couple of times. And ever since then, whether I lived in Arizona, California, Montana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, or even Scotland, I was always a fan, though I paid more attention at some times than others.
Recently, my wife (who also lived in NY as a child) and I have both begun enjoying watching televised games with our son. And we happened to tune in to the game where this happened:
We were both pretty angry. We thought the announcers made too much of a deal out of Francisco Cervelli’s hand-clap at home plate, and not nearly enough of a big deal out of John Lackey’s far more unsportsmanlike act of throwing a beanball.
When Cervelli did the hand-clap after his homer, you could see Lackey glowering at him, his angry eyes following him all the way to the Yankees’ dugout. Granted, a glower from John Lackey might not always mean something. After all, the man—not exactly a paragon of decency and virtue—always looks angry. But in this case, the fact that he hit Cervelli in the back with a pitch the first chance he got has got to tell you something. The only people who believe it was an accident are those who have drunk a bit too much Red Sox Nation™-brand kool aid.
In the aftermath of all of this, I had a vision. No, I am not “a prophet or the son of a prophet,” and no, it wasn’t an actual vision that I could see. More like a predictive realization. I said to my wife,
“That was it. That beanball was the moment that the Red Sox begin their slide. They just finished themselves. They’re toast.”
I probably also directed emphatic phrases like “see ya,” “buh bye,” and “Cowboy DOWN” at the television screen, though I would never admit that to you.
That was a bold prediction at the time. The Red Sox had one of the best winning percentages in baseball, and some great—even MVP-worthy—players. They had dominated all year, and they’d certainly dominated the Yankees up to that point. But I saw it, right then and there. That beanball would finish their year.
Now, for the majority of the 20th century, saying that the Red Sox would do well and then choke in September was not a stretch. That’s what they were known for, and it even had a name: The Curse of the Bambino. But in 2004, after 86 long, painful years for Sox fans, that curse was supposedly broken.
Making it all even more improbable was the basic mathematics of the situation. Nate Silver at the New York Times has some calculations on the subject, and, well, let’s just say the odds of making it to the playoffs were tremendously in the Red Sox’ favor . . . not only throughout the season, but going all the way to the last strike of the last out of the last inning. Seriously, read Silver’s numbers—the odds against this collapse were stunning. And yet it happened.
So what is a curse?
Did Babe Ruth take time out from his carousing and swatting towering home runs to put a hex on the Red Sox? No.
Has Francisco Cervelli been sticking a bunch of pins in a voodoo doll of John Lackey? Probably not.
Maybe a curse is just a string of really bad luck that goes on for too long. And in spite of the intense rivalry between the Red Sox and the Yankees, the truth is I feel kind of sorry for the Sox, especially with luck as odds-defyingly bad as this.
But hey, they’ll get another chance to break the cycle—if not next year, then perhaps one fine, balmy summer . . . in the year 2104.