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Friday, November 1, 2013

New Day New Age

Another season of Major League Baseball is in the record books. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series by beating the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6, 6-1, giving the Red Sox a four games to two series victory. This is the third Red Sox World Series championship in the last ten years (2004, 2007), a mini-dynasty. In the last 18 years, only nine different teams have won the World Series. Six of those nine teams have won more than once in that span, with no new members in the club since 2010. Only the New York Yankees have won more World Series since 1996, with four championships (1996, 1998-2000).


Major League Baseball is the only sport with well known legends, traditions, and tales that pre-date all of our grandparents (probably most of our grandparents' grandparents). Until 2004, there were two "curses" that had been indoctrinated into the minds of baseball fans. One is the Curse of the Billy Goat, in which a Chicago bar owner was asked to leave Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series because his pet goat's odor was offensive to other fans. The man, offended, proclaimed that the Cubs would never win another World Series. They haven't even been back to the World Series since. Their last World Series title came in 1908.

The other "curse" is the Curse of the Bambino. Hall of Fame outfield and pitcher Babe Ruth's contract was sold to the New York Yankees by the Boston Red Sox following the 1919 season. The rest is history. Ruth led the ushering in of the Live Ball Era in baseball and generations of Yankee dominance. The Red Sox would not win another World Series until 2004, in spite of  the Red Sox playing in four World Series Game 7's since then.

While the Sox broke the curse in '04, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals and would go on to win another title in 2007 by sweeping the Colorado Rockies. Still, the Red Sox celebrated their close-out wins on the road. This was the first time in 95 years that the celebration for Red Sox fans would take place in Boston at Fenway Park. While I personally think this story is as much manufactured by sports media as it is of interest to baseball fans, it does extinguish any last vestige of one of baseball's oldest ongoing legends.

This chapter of baseball is finally closed for good (thank goodness)! 1


The was an element of "out with the old and in with the new" that accompanied this baseball season. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced, definitively, that he will step down following next season. One can hope that he keeps his word. MLB also unveiled a modern-day instant replay challenge system to go into effect next year, ending the last of baseball's Dinosaur Age of instant replay in which even the most obvious mistakes could not be corrected by video.

The season brought us some new stars. The most sensational among them was probable Rookie of the Year Yasiel Puig (.319, 19 HR, 42 RBI, 104 GP), the Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder, A.K.A. "The Wild Horse". I have not seen an athletic, electrifying rookie like Puig since Bo Jackson of the Kansas City Royals in 1987.

We were also introduced to Cardinals rookie pitcher Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.64 ERA, 33 Ks, 30.2 IP in the playoffs) in October. In Wacha's four first postseason starts, he earned four wins and only surrendered three earned runs in 27 innings pitched. One of the starts was with the Cardinals facing elimination. Another was a close-out game in the National League Championship Series. Like in many years past, a star was born in October.

We also said goodbye to some great careers. Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland retired follwing the Tigers' elimination from the American League Championship Series, ending a decades-long career at age 68. Also, New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte (256-153, 3.85 ERA, 2448 Ks, career) hung up his cleats for the final time after 17 years in the majors and a Hall-of-Fame worthy stat sheet.

And, of course, no season is complete without an Alex Rodriguez controversy. Rodriguez was suspended for an unprecedented 211 games for violation of the MLB Drug Policy. A-Rod is appealing the suspension and has yet to serve a single game. He actually provided a spark to the struggling Yankees lineup after returning from a hip injury in August. His case will be arbitrated this offseason. His douche-baggery is the gift that keeps on giving to writers.

Players like Puig don't grow on trees. 3

There will be the usual bevy of transactions and power brokering in the offseason. The Yankees are faced with the daunting task of trying to resign All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano to what will likely be a hefty nine-figure long term contract. Other important role players, like longtime Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury (.298, 9 HR, 53 RBI), one of five members remaining from the 2007 roster, will find themselves in new surroundings because of age and a free agency market that tends to overbid for veteran players with solid numbers and championship experience.

The 2013 season delivered a good chapter in the never ending story of Major League Baseball. The next season is set up for as good or better tales of summer. Until next year, we will have to wait and see how the pieces fall into place and what drama the offseason will offer us.

We haven't heard the last of A-Rod. 4
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