Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ignominy or victory

That's the fork in the road the Yanks have reached tonight and, potentially, tomorrow. Either they'll win the World Series or fall into the same abyss of ignominy as the 1979 Orioles -- a 102-57 team that dominated the American League, ran 8 games ahead of the field and 13.5 games ahead of the three-time defending AL champion Yankees, waltzed through the ALCS and batted their way to a 3-1 lead over the Pirates in the World Series. The Bucs won game 5 in Pittsburgh and allowed only one run in Baltimore in games 6 and 7 in storming back for the World Series victory. [One day someone will examine the failed dynasty of the Orioles, who were the best overall team in baseball from 1969-1974, ran up three-straight 100+ win seasons from 1969-71 but lost two World Series to underdogs and two ALCS to the A's before falling into perennial not-good-enough status from '75-'78.]

Since 1979, six teams have come home with a 3-2 lead in the World Series and all six have won, with only one of those Series going to game 7 (1997). Nine other teams have returned home trailing 3-2 and seven of the nine have won the Series (exceptions: '92 Braves, '03 Yankees who both lost game 6). Sounds good, right? That's 15 Series, and the team coming home in game 6, whether up 3-2 or down 3-2, is 12-3.

Then again, since the ALCS and NLCS has expanded to seven games, four teams came home with 3-2 series leads and lost: '85 Jays, '91 Pirates, '03 Cubs, and '04 Yankees. Twelve others came home with 3-2 leads and won (including the '98, '00, '03 and '09 Yanks) but four of those went to a game 7 and two of the winners ('92 Braves, '03 Yanks) needed unlikely rallies to win (remember: if the '92 Pirates had a decent closer, they would have won the NL). The key fact in those four series where the leader lost -- only the '03 Cubs ever led at any point in game 6 or 7 (the Royals never trailed the Jays, the Braves blanked the Pirates twice, the Blosax never trailed the '04 Skanks). Total tally: 16 LCS where the team leading 3-2 came home for game 6 and (possibly) 7, home teams are just 8-8 in game 6, 4-4 in game 7. Crapshoot.

Hoo boy.

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