Saturday, October 08, 2005

This Year's Baseball Fashion: White Sox, Not Red

The 2005 Chicago White Sox, unlike the 2004 New York Yankees, figured out a way to put the Boston Red Sox away after cobbling together a 3-0 series lead: do it in a best-of-five series.

The White Sox, who were less than impressive as the season wound down, losing almost all of a double-digit lead in the AL Central, beat the Red Sox into submission, finishing the three-game sweep with a 5-3 win at Fenway Park. It may have been one of the feeblest defenses of a world championship ever. Leave it to the Red Sox.

But does this series win mean the passing of the "curse ended" torch from Beantown to the Windy City? Could it be that we might see, in successive years, nearly 200 years worth of curses abolished?

The White Sox gave Boston their "A" game for three straight, playing like the June/July/August club south side fans grew to love, instead of the September impostors who were starting to make the ’78 Red Sox and ’69 Cubs and ’64 Phillies look like amateurs in the blown lead department. It’s funny how teams in sports can do an about face in the postseason and reverse their direction, both for the good and for the bad.

Our 1995 Lions, for example, ended the season with a seven-game winning streak. They were 10-6 and marched into a Wild Card game in Philadelphia as arguably the hottest team in pro football. Tackle Lomas Brown predicted -- guaranteed, actually -- a Lions victory. Then the Lions promptly got creamed, 58-37 in a game in which they once trailed, 51-7. In the playoffs. On national television.

So it’s not how you finish the regular season. It’s how you start in the playoffs. For this sweep of the Red Sox should give a boost to a team that nearly frittered away a huge divisional lead last month. They gave an entire city (except for Cubs fans) a sinking feeling, trust me. Now they are in the ALCS, but that hasn’t meant squat, either. Since 1983, the Chisox have made an appearance every ten years or so (‘83, ’93 and ‘05) and so far, they’ve come up empty. They haven’t been to the World Series since 1959. Before that? Don’t ask. We’re not talking pennant-rich franchise, here. This ALDS victory is the first playoff series win for the White Sox in nearly a century.

As for the Red Sox, some would say they are now fit to crawl back into their spider hole of ignonimy after a year of freedom. But that would be unfair. These short best-of-five series can catch some teams off guard, and it can be over so quickly. The Red Sox ran into a buzzsaw, and there you have it: Wait til next year. No matter; as long as the Bosox have the Yankees in their division, they’ll be fighting the Yanks neck and neck.
It was strange watching footage of the White Sox -- the freaking White Sox -- showering each other with champagne in their lockerroom. But all they’ve done in my book is qualify for the real deal: the ALCS. They don’t just hand out World Series berths, you know.

You gots to earn it. And the White Sox are out of practice in that area.

1 comment:

Ian C. said...

"So it’s not how you finish the regular season. It’s how you start in the playoffs."

I'm so glad you pointed this out. This has to be one of the biggest myths perpetuated by sportswriters and broadcasters, who try to sound smart. "Oh, they're on a roll going into the playoffs! Watch out!"

I go back and forth on my feelings toward the best-of-five format in baseball's divisional playoffs. Mostly because I'm not sure the best team always wins (though you'd have a hard time winning a "the Red Sox are better than the White Sox" argument). I understand why it's in place. With a longer postseason format, you don't want the World Series played in November.

But it does force teams to be on their game right away and makes for some exciting upsets.

By the way, if the White Sox end up winning the World Series, I think Mike Ilitch should petition baseball to change the Tigers' name to the Orange Sox or something like that. Tradition be damned.