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October 29, 2004

Sox Blox

One-Sided Series, Errors and Other Factoids

by Jim Baker

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Let The Honeymoon Begin

The Red Sox' role as proxy for the world's Yankee haters has now been completed. What will follow next should prove interesting. Once the smoke clears and the 2005 season gets underway, the Red Sox will find they have lost their cuteness factor. The Darlings of the Long Drought will discover that they are now in the sights of the rest of baseball as the Junior Evil Empire--the team with the second-highest payroll in baseball. When they storm into secondary cities with their ever-increasing fan base in the van, the locals are going to have a hard time discerning the difference between them and the Yankees. This will become especially true if they can cook up a mini-dynasty, something they have the financial and intellectual resources to accomplish.

Most One-Sided Series?

Something I always like discussing is which World Series produced the most profound victory. I've always favored the 1966 humbling of the Dodgers by Baltimore because Los Angeles failed to score any runs past the third inning of Game One, but, in light of what just transpired in Boston and St. Louis and a few other Series, I'm open to be persuaded otherwise. This is the 16th sweep in World Series history. No team has ever truly annihilated their opponent in four games. By that I mean, the teams that have scored the most runs in sweeps also tended to let more than a few runs trickle across the plate. There have been smotherings (1963, 1966) and bludgeonings (1932, 1989) but never a route so complete that the winning team had a run total in say, the mid-30s, while the losing team was in single figures. (In other words, we have yet to see a sweep with scores like 8-1, 9-2, 5-0, 11-0.)

The 1932 Yankees scored the most runs in a sweep with 37, but they also let 19 Cubs score, which is the highest total ever for a team that got swept and is also more than teams that did the sweeping scored on three occasions. In addition to the '32 Yankees, the '28 Yankees, '89 A's, '76 and '90 Reds won their games by an average of 3.5 runs or more. The smallest sweep margin ever was registered by the '50 Yankees (six total runs) over the Whiz Kids of Philadelphia.

In all of those Series save one, though, the loser had at least one lead. If we are to find the most one-sided Series to date, it's probably best to start with those in which the losing team never even got into the black. There have been four, including the one just concluded.

Let's examine how:

1963 Dodgers (outscored Yankees 12-4)

Game One: Tied 0-0 after one, up 4-0 after two: hold lead (up 8, tied 1)
Game Two: Up 2-0 after one: hold it (up 9, tied 0)
Game Three: Up 1-0 after one: hold it (up 9, tied 0)
Game Four: Grab 1-0 lead in 5th, tied in top of 7th, ahead in bottom, hold (up 4, tied 5)

Total: Led 30 of 36 innings
Latest tie: end of top of 7th, Game Four

1966 Orioles (outscored Dodgers 13-2)

Game One: Up 3-0 after one, hold (up 9, tied 0)
Game Two: Grab 3-0 lead in 5th, hold (up 5, tied 4)
Game Three: Grab 1-0 lead in 5th, hold (up 5, tied 4)
Game Four: Grab 1-0 lead in 4th, hold (up 6, tied 3)

Total: Led 25 of 36 innings
Latest tie: end of top of 5th, Game Three

1989 A's (outscored Giants 32-14)

Game One: Grab 3-0 lead in 2nd, hold (up 8, tied 1)
Game Two: Up 1-0 after one, tied in 3rd, regain lead in 4th, hold (up 8, tied 1)
Game Three: Grab 2-0 lead in 1st, hold (up 9, tied 0)
Game Four: Up 1-0 after one, 4-0 after two, hold (up 9, tied 0)

Total: Led 34 of 36 innings
Latest tie: end of top of the 4th, Game Two

2004 Red Sox (outscored Cardinals 24-12)

Game One: Up 3-0 after one, tied in 6th, up in 7th, tied in 8th, up in 8th, hold (up 7, tied 2)
Game Two: Up 2-0 after one, hold (up 9, tied 0)
Game Three: Up 1-0 after one, hold (up 9, tied 0)
Game Four: Up 1-0 after one, hold (up 9, tied 0)

Total: Led 34 of 36 innings
Latest tie: end of top of 8th, Game One

So, which of these is the most complete victory? They all have something to recommend themselves. The '04 Red Sox and '89 A's led in the highest number of innings while the '63 Dodgers and '66 Orioles minimized their opponents' scoring like no other teams in history except perhaps for the 1905 Giants, and they lost a game in the process. The Red Sox allowed a tie at the latest point in any one of these 16 games. It can be argued, though, that they got it out of the way in the first game and cruised from there on out. One could also argue in favor of the '63 Dodgers by saying there is a difference between a 1-1 tie and a 9-9 tie in that the latter implies the gloves are off and there could be more scoring to come. That's a fairly esoteric argument, however.

Taking into account the eras and the ballparks involved can also shift emphasis away from the '63 and '66 entries. One keeps going back to the '89 A's for three reasons:

  1. Second-most ever runs scored in a sweep (counter-argument: allowed second-most as well)

  2. Led for all but the end of two innings

  3. Giants were not tied in any game past the fourth inning

The 2004 Red Sox have a pretty good claim, though. In any case, even if the Series just passed is not the most complete Series victory ever, it's certainly in the 95th percentile.

The Errors

Errors have never meant much. In the old days, they had no meaning because there were so many of them. Nowadays, they mean little because there are so few of them.

In spite of that, much was made of the Red Sox fielding foibles in the first two games. They still came away with those first two wins--and the eventual sweep--in spite of totaling eight errors. This ties the record for the most E's by a sweeping club. The first to do it was the 1932 Yankees. There's an asterisk at play here, though, if you want to count it. The 1907 Cubs committed 10 miscues in their sweep of the Tigers, except that five of them came in the first game, which ended in a 3-3 tie. In the four games they played to a conclusion, they only made five more errors. The 1937 Yankees were the first team to get through a World Series without being charged with an error.

The 1918 Red Sox have to be given some kind of credit though, as they were the first team to commit only one error in a World Series. Prior to that, the average Series participant could be counted on for 10 errors. In 1917, the White Sox committed 12 errors in their six-game triumph over New York. In 1919, the White Sox threw up another dozen in their intentionally-blown Series against Cincinnati--this time in eight games, though. One sometimes hears it said that the 1918 Cubs weren't trying their hardest against Boston, although they only booted five. At the time, that was the third-lowest total for a Series loser. If they were up to dirty work, they were being far more subtle than the devious Swede Risberg was the following year, when he kicked four.

Watching Manny Ramirez do his fabulous knee-jamming flop in Game One makes one consider this: it is just about impossible to look graceful when one dresses oneself as Mr. Ramirez does. The bloused shirt over the beltline and pant legs worn below shoe sole level do not suggest an aerodynamic creature is contained therein. Add to it the Harpo Marxian coif and the look of eternal bemusement and Ramirez--before shagging a single fly ball--has already created the perception that he is the baseball equivalent of a rodeo clown. He very much lived up to that perception in Game One. This isn't to say he is incapable of competent defense, as he showed with his assist in Game Three, it's just to say that so much of our perception of defense still comes via observation--that creating a picture of incompetence is to beg incompetence as a tag.

Related Content:  Game 1,  Sweep,  Tie Game,  Tie

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