No Yankees or Red Sox? No problem
So no Yankees or Red Sox? Here are 10 reasons why the World Series will be even better, writes Jayson Stark.
There will be a distinct absence of bloody socks in this World Series.
Derek Jeter won't be able to make any blindfolded, backhanded, left-handed, underwater relay throws in this World Series, either.
|Game 1 Lineups|
The starting lineups for the Astros and White Sox in the opening game of the World Series:
Can we all survive? Are we strong enough? Are we resilient enough? Can we make it, as a country, through a World Series without the Yankees and Red Sox around to jack the ratings higher than, say, "CSI: Des Moines"?
Heck, you bet we can. In fact, we're here to reassure you that a White Sox-Astros World Series isn't just a good thing. It's a great thing.
This, friends, is a must-see television extravaganza that is guaranteed to provide more rewarding viewing than Martha Stewart, Charlie Sheen, Homer Simpson, Poppy Montgomery and yes, even Eva Longoria. We guarantee it.
So here they come -- 10 Reasons The World Series Will Be A Better Place With No Yankees Or Red Sox:
If there's one thing that's infinitely more intriguing than having the Yankees in the World Series, it's having a bunch of former Yankees in the World Series.
So you just can't beat the spectacle of having a World Series in which some ex-Yankee will be pitching just about every darned night.
Remember when the Yankees thought Jose Contreras was too wimpy to pitch in New York? And Andy Pettitte was too likely to have his elbow explode? And Roger Clemens was too convincing when he gave that retirement speech? And El Duque was too disinterested in all months not known by that technical term, "October"?
Well, it sure is entertaining to see all those guys twirling in the World Series -- after a season in which they combined to go 54-33 (at the same time the Yankees were paying Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright $30.4 million to go 13-18).
So will the Yankees' pain be the World Series' gain? It's a lock. Just proves the Yankees' pitching staff was ready for October. Just not their current pitching staff.
We're not sure who elected Boston to be our official Most Accursed City in America for all those years. But we demand a recount. Sheez, Chicago makes Boston look like The City of Winners.
• Since the last time either Chicago team played in a World Series game (1959), that team from Boston has played in 28 of them.
• Since the last time either Chicago team won a World Series game (1959), that team from Boston has won 13 of them.
• In those 85 seasons (1918 through 2002) in which neither Chicago team won a single stinking postseason series, that team from Boston won three of them.
• In the 87 seasons (1918 through 2004) in which the White Sox were winning zero postseason series, that team from Boston won seven of them.
• In the 45 seasons (1960 through 2004) in which the White Sox managed to avoid winning one postseason home game, that team from Boston won 21 of them.
Now don't get us wrong. As Ben Affleck, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Curt Schilling would all agree, the Red Sox winning that World Series last year was one tremendous story. The odds, as calculated by the Elias Sports Bureau's Peter Hirdt, of that team going 85 straight seasons without winning a Series were 84-to-1.
But that looks like a three-game losing streak compared to the odds of two teams from the same city going 87 consecutive years without either of them winning a World Series. The odds against that, Hirdt calculates, were 11,300-to-1. You'd have a better chance of hitting the Powerball -- twice.
Best we can tell, the one comforting part of having the Yankees or Red Sox in the World Series is that it's a perfect excuse to haul out the mandatory black-and-white footage of good old Babe Ruth doing his thing.
Well, the Babe never played for the White Sox. And he disavowed all knowledge of anything known as an Astro. But to make you feel better, it is possible to connect him to these two teams. So here goes -- Six Degrees of Separation linking the Bambino to the faces of this year's two World Series franchises:
The Astros connection: Jeff Bagwell once played with Denny Walling, who once played with Jim Perry, who once played with Early Wynn, who once played with Lefty Gomez, who once played with The Babe.
The White Sox connection: Paul Konerko once played with Harold Baines, who once played (for a day) with Minnie Minoso, who once played with Bert Haas, who once played with Waite Hoyt, who once played with George H. Ruth.
There. Feel better now?
Speaking of connections, only one player in this World Series can say he has worn the uniform of both the White Sox and Astros, and was once employed by both the Red Sox and Yankees.
That would be (who else?) the lovely and talented Carl Everett.
Everett was originally drafted by the Yankees. He also spent two years with the Astros (1998-99). He then was traded to the Red Sox. And he has spent most of the last three seasons with the White Sox.
The funny thing is that he was regarded as some combination of a weirdo and a troublemaker in his days with the Yankees and Red Sox -- but he's been mostly a model citizen in his time with the Astros and White Sox.
So why is that, anyway? As we mull the cosmic significance of playing a World Series with no Yankees or Red Sox on the premises, that's a question that might tell us something about what we're missing and what we're watching.
And even if it doesn't, you can bet Everett is still a New York Post and Boston Herald headline just waiting to happen. Or possibly 78 headlines.
Much as we all enjoy the sight of Derek Jeter, Joe Torre and Mariano Rivera this time of year, we think the concept that should best embody our feelings about this World Series was embodied by that old Dan Hicks tune:
How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?
The Yankees need to skip a World Series now and then, simply so they can appreciate what it means to get there -- just as America needs for them to not show up every few Octobers in order to be properly invigorated when they do.
So if that's our concept and we're sticking to it, then think how massively invigorated we ought to be at the prospect of this World Series.
Not one World Series in the '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s or '00s has included either of the Astros or the White Sox. And never in World Series history have we had a matchup like that -- between two franchises that both had avoided the Series for more than four decades.
The previous longest mutual drought was just over a quarter-century, when the 1948 Series matched the Indians (first since 1920) versus the Braves (first since 1914).
Granted, TV ratings for that 1948 Series were kind of low, due to massive nationwide cable outages. But our attitude about the forthcoming "Series Ratings Lowest Since War of 1812" headlines we're no doubt about to see is this:
Fresh faces are good. That's our motto. So it's about time Americans got a chance to recognize stuff like this:
• That people like Konerko and Lance Berkman are great players.
• That Brad Lidge's career won't (and shouldn't) be defined by an Albert Pujols home-run ball.
• That it's about time Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio got to play in a World Series.
• And that Bobby Jenks (all 270 pounds of him) is, well, massive. (In fact, he's about to break Frank Howard's all-time record for heaviest man ever to appear in a World Series.)
Seems to us those are more compelling stories than: "That was Bernie Williams' 503rd career postseason at-bat." And if the Nielsen families don't agree, hey, it's their loss.
Another refreshing result of having the Yankees not go to the World Series every single year is that it provides the opportunity for baseball to brag about stuff like this:
Over the last four World Series, eight different teams have shown up (Astros, White Sox, Red Sox, Cardinals, Marlins, Yankees, Angels, Giants).
So how long has it been since that paragon of competitive balance -- the NFL -- managed to put eight different teams into four consecutive Super Bowls?
How about 1985-88? (Please rush some smelling salts to Paul Tagliabue's office.)
Since then (starting with '88), only nine different franchises have won a Super Bowl. But we're guaranteed that, once this World Series is over, 11 different franchises will have won a World Series in the same time frame.
So which sport has the competitive-balance problem again?
If we're going to have a World Series whose selling point is that it's not more of the same-old same-old, could we possibly have two better managers for the job than Ozzie Guillen and Phil Garner -- two men who will never be confused with Joe Torre?
Who knows what The Oz might say with all those microphones aimed at him -- that he's taking a post-Series sabbatical to join the new lunar-astronaut mission? Who knows which long-lost Astro the freewheeling Garner might start some night -- Raul Chavez? Dickie Thon?
What's the over-under for squeeze bunts they might order -- 11? Is there any chance Guillen will remember he even has a bench?
These are two guys who think that term "orthodox" is just some kind of religious concept. They think "the book" is just something you buy at Borders. Have there been two more unpredictable managers in any World Series than these two? Not a chance.
So how many White Sox hitters could the average guy in Texas name? How many Astros hitters could the average guy in Illinois identify? Not all of them. That's for sure. (We're offering big bucks to any Houstonian who would recognize Aaron Rowand if he sat next to them at lunch.)
But everybody has heard of the starting pitchers for these two teams. The eight of them have a combined ERA this postseason of 3.33. Which means that, unlike your standard Red Sox or Yankees postseason productions, several of these games might even end before 2 a.m.
It also means this has a chance to be the lowest-scoring World Series since -- uh, when? -- about 1906?
Well, no. But it does have a chance to be the first World Series since 1983 in which neither team scores more than five runs in any game. (Sure it could. These two staffs have combined to allow more than five once in 18 postseason games so far.)
The record for fewest runs allowed in a World Series, if you're interested, is 15, by the Orioles and Dodgers in the four-game 1966 classic. That one is probably out of the question. But it's sure not as out of the question as the odds of seeing a 15-14 game.
Did the World Series seem a lot more romantic back in the days when Koufax used to duel Palmer, or Bob Gibson battled Denny McLain, or Catfish Hunter outtwirled Tom Seaver? If it did, then this is a World Series poets everywhere should love.
The one lesson we've learned from the first two rounds of this postseason is this:
Do not, for one second, take your eyes off A.J. Pierzynski.
Whatever this guy does -- strike out, run to first base, lace his shin guards, toss in a load of laundry -- complete mayhem seems to bust out with absolutely no warning.
So nobody is ever going to confuse the effervescent White Sox catcher with the stoic Jason Varitek or the laid-back Jorge Posada. That's for sure. So we can't wait to see what havoc our man A.J. wreaks in his first World Series.
Will he send regards to Roger Clemens from Mike Piazza?
Will he break his bat in nine pieces -- every one of which will, miraculously, conk a different Astro between the eyeballs?
Will he hit a pop-up that gets caught in Hurricane Wilma -- and comes down in Orlando?
Will he subpoenaed by the special prosecutor to testify against Karl Rove?
Clearly, anything is possible. So don't touch that dial for another week and a half.
When last we saw the White Sox, they were getting more use from the clubhouse sunflower-seed supply than they were from their bullpen.
Is that good?
We're about to find out. Never in postseason history has there been a team whose entire bullpen threw a total of seven pitches in two weeks -- and then was actually allowed to rejoin the rest of the team and pitch in a real, live World Series.
But that's where the White Sox bullpen stands heading into this Series. The only one of their relievers who has appeared in a box score since Oct. 7 is Neal Cotts. Who threw all seven of the pitches delivered by White Sox relievers in the ALCS.
So is all that rest helpful or hurtful? Who the heck knows? But it puts this team in a slightly different situation than last year's AL representatives in the World Series were in. We know that.
Pitching changes by the White Sox in the 2005 ALCS: One. Pitching changes by the Red Sox in the 2004 World Series: 30.
So we can sum up the point of this item, and this whole column, with these four words: IT'LL BE DIFFERENT, ANYHOW. And never stop reminding yourselves that's a beautiful thing. Whether Boss Steinbrenner or David Wells agree or not.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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