August 29, 2002
Another Curse Unmasked
One Ring to Rule Them All
At this very moment, major league general managers are racing to beat an artificial deadline created by over 30 years of history.
Owners and players have the most at stake, but pressure is mounting from all quarters to remedy the problem before it is too late. Fans want to know why something is not being done. The media reports on the situation around the clock. Municipalities with taxpayer-funded stadiums could even institute legal action to protect their interests.
Meanwhile, GMs of contending teams are contemplating whether to make one last move that will put their clubs over the top. After all, August is nearly over and there are just a few hours left...to beat The Curse of the Ring.
You didn't think I was talking about something else, did you?
Sure, we all know the Curse of the Bambino haunts Red Sox Nation. Every Cubs fan has heard about the Curse of the Goat. Prospectus readers may remember the Curse of the Balboni, which the Diamondbacks exorcised last November. Yet even that hex only affected teams with a 36 home run hitter.
The Curse of the Ring holds dominion over everyone.
Simply put, The Curse states: No team can win the World Series unless they have at least one player on the World Series roster who already has played for a World Series-winning team.
Sound like mere superstition? Baseball has a long, close relationship with superstitious rituals. Pennant hopefuls disregard The Curse at their own peril.
The last team to win the World Series without a player who had already earned a ring was the 1966 Orioles. Perhaps manager Hank Bauer helped Baltimore beat The Curse. As a player, Bauer won seven World Series with the Yankees.
The 1972 Athletics deserve special mention. Oakland defeated Cincinnati in seven games that fall (after the first-ever work stoppage) without using infielder Dal Maxvill against the Reds. Maxvill played for both the 1964 and 1967 Cardinals. Obviously his Veteran Clubhouse Presence alone carried the Athletics to the title.
Every championship team since 1966 has featured at least one previous ring-winning player on its World Series roster. In fact, only four participants since the 1972 Athletics have reached the Fall Classic without such a player:
Team Players used in WS 1975 Red Sox 23 1980 Royals 21 1982 Brewers 21 1986 Red Sox 21
None of these clubs used every man in the World Series. I contacted each franchise hoping to learn which reserves did not play and, therefore, whether each team had truly defied The Curse.
Kansas City's front office identified the missing members of its 1980 squad. None of them had played for a prior champion. The Curse claimed at least one victim.
Milwaukee did not know who rounded out its roster in 1982. They did confirm that Rollie Fingers missed the entire post-season with a torn forearm muscle. Career Brewer Mark Brouhard played in the ALCS against the Angels, but not in the Series against the Cardinals. I suspect Brouhard was on the World Series roster, but that only accounts for 22 roster spots. Maybe Commissioner Bud Selig recalls the heroes of his only pennant winner. He seems to be in the habit of telephoning baseball writers recently.
Boston failed to reply. I could not find any notable part-time players on the 1975 team, but previous ring-winners Tom Seaver and Sammy Stewart pitched for the Red Sox in 1986. If neither made the World Series roster, Boston was doomed long before the 10th inning of Game Six.
Three of these four teams may not have been victims of The Curse. But if ring-winning players were sitting idly on the bench during the Fall Classic, their managers tempted fate by not playing those Proven Winners.
Stories about Arizona this season have been fond of citing Craig Counsell as the "real MVP" of the Diamondbacks. Only after we understand The Curse does this statement ring true. Counsell scored the championship-winning run for the 1997 Marlins. Clearly, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling rode Counsell's coattails last fall rather than the reverse.
So what if all objective measurements of performance said Derek Bell was finished before the 2001 season? Neither Barry Bonds nor Alex Rodriguez would have done Pittsburgh any good. Then-Pirates GM Cam Bonifay undoubtedly knew about The Curse of the Ring when he signed Bell to a cost-efficient $9 million contract. Bell was a member of the 1992 Blue Jays and would have been enough to placate the baseball gods had the Pirates only reached the World Series. The Curse demonstrates the folly of relying merely on empirical analysis.
It is apparent that any club without a ring-winning player is virtually eliminated. The first thing I do each October is peruse each team's roster. Which of this year's contenders are teetering on the brink of "competitive imbalance" by defying The Curse?
Only the Angels and Twins have no previous champions on their current 25-man rosters. Anaheim has Dennis Cook on the DL and Clay Bellinger at AAA. Bill Stoneman should consider promoting the former Yankee utilityman. Skipper Mike Scioscia won a pair of rings as a player, but why risk a rare shot at glory?
That just leaves Minnesota to face the wrath of The Curse. Now would be a good time for Terry Ryan to slip Tom Prince through waivers and trade him for Rod Barajas. There are still a couple of days before the deadline to set postseason rosters. After all, Twins fans need to have "hope and faith" in their chances to compete.
Could the Twins possibly complete a storybook season by ending The Curse? We will all know the answer soon enough. August 31 is almost here. The clock is ticking, gentlemen.
Shane Demmitt works for Tempe Diablo Stadium, spring training home of the Angels. He recently passed the California bar exam. He can be reached at email@example.com.