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October 25, 2005

Analyze This

WWLLWW

by Jim Baker

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On being down 2-0
For those still floating on the artificial high of Scott Podsednik's game-winning home run on Sunday night, here is some sobering news: on 20 different occasions in World Series history have teams coughed up leads of two games to none. In other words, it's a fairly common occurrence. On more than half of those occasions, losing the lead was fatal. The other nine times, the team managed to snap out of it and win anyway.

Four teams coughed up the lead and got back to winning right away, not even needing a seventh game to decide the Series. They were the 1917 White Sox, 1930 A's, 1953 Yankees and 1980 Phillies. In notation, these Series all had the WWLLWW pattern.

Three teams took the quick exit after building a 2-0 lead and all in fairly recent times. The Dodgers lost four straight to the Yankees in 1978 and the Yankees turned around and returned the favor three years later. The '96 Braves lost in a similar fashion to the Yankees, infamously coughing up a 6-0 lead in Game Four.

Here's something to give hope to Astros fans: of those 20 teams who coughed up 2-0 leads, only three of them managed to win Game Four after dropping Game Three! (This doesn't include the teams up 2-0 who lost Game Three but never relinquished their game lead.) Let's put that in as positive a light as possible for Astros fans counting on a win tonight: teams down 2-0 who win Game Three are 17-3 in Game Fours. Of the three teams that managed to win Game Four after losing Three, only one--the 1972 Oakland A's--went on to win the Series. The 1958 Milwaukee Braves lost three in a row, including the last two at home to lose to the Yankees. The third team is the 1985 Cardinals.

Of course, I'm making it sound like Game Three is a must-win for the Astros. Is it really anymore? Now that the Red Sox came back from being down 3-0 in last year's ALCS, is the Game Three loss the death sentence it used to be for the team down 2-0? Yes, it still is. If the White Sox win tonight, it's over.

Style points to Podsednik
Long before Podsednik hit his homer, I was gushing to anyone who would listen about something he did in Game One. No, I'm not talking about his booming triple, either. What I'm talking about is far more mundane and infinitely more obscure. It is my lot in life to notice such things, I'm afraid. In the bottom of the second he struck out swinging with two outs and Juan Uribe on second. He then proceeded to perpetrate the coolest bat toss I have ever seen. He, with just the slightest hint of arm movement, whipped the bat toward the dugout. It streaked away into the night like a low-flying cruise missile.

Paul Konerko: free agent
There's been a lot of talk during the playoffs about how rich Paul Konerko is going to get this offseason. There's an old proverb that goes something like this: Beware the free agent coming off the best season of his career. It's not that Konerko won't be a productive addition to some team, it's just that they're bound to pay him far beyond the value of that production. This isn't really news, though. Teams made a habit of overpaying last offseason and I see no reason to believe we're going to enter an Age of Reason once the World Series is over.

Konerko has the look of a White Sox lifer, though. I think what will happen--especially if Chicago wins it all--is that they will lock him down through his mid-thirties and be done with it. That might just be the grand slam talking, though.

Limitations
There was a time when it was strongly frowned upon by the powers that be in baseball that deals be announced during the World Series and playoffs. One of the reasons for this is that the sport doesn't want anything distracting from the main attraction. It works conversely as well, however. The main attraction can divert attention from the deal.

Take the Leo Mazzone situation. I think his being a signatory to an Orioles contract would have attracted a lot more attention than it did had they waited until next Monday to make the announcement. It's not every day that the most storied coach in baseball history switches teams.

Going back to my claim for a moment, is Mazzone the coach with the greatest reputation ever? How many coaches even have a reputation? Here are a few that might be challengers: Charlie Lau, Roger Craig and Johnny Sain (the man Mazzone calls his mentor). Lau's reputation pretty much boils down to George Brett these days. Does anybody still follow the Lau method to the letter?

I would argue that this is a bigger deal than any of the managerial signings so far this offseason. Let's hope for his and their own sake that the Orioles give him free rein to do his thing.

Jenks
Chances are you knew a Bobby Jenks at some point in your life. The difference between the Bobby Jenks in your life and the Bobby Jenks of the White Sox is that this one can throw a ball faster than most production automobiles can drive. Because of that, he was given the chance to work out his problems and, perhaps, someday become a millionaire. Your Bobby Jenks had to work things out for himself and, more than likely, never did. Is Jenks a modern Steve Dalkowski with a slightly slower fastball and more-controllable urges and higher IQ? Sort of. At least nowadays we understand these things a bit better. Teams will at least throw resources at these situations that were available then but usually never associated with sports. If you can't chuck or rake, though, you're on your own.

 

Related Content:  Paul Konerko,  The Who

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