Harvey Araton of the New York Times, reporting from Baltimore, sets the new/old standard for witless hackery today:
Dan Skiba of Stoughton, Mass., had driven down with four friends, fellow Patriots ticket-holders and Red Sox loyalists, a one-day getaway planned long before the ghost of the Bambino—thought to be permanently busted—began reacquainting itself with Fenway Park.
Yes, it is 2011, and the Boston Red Sox have won two out of the past seven World Series, and a sports columnist for the New York Times is humping the dusty, unpliable, flattened remains of Dan Shaughnessy's long-deflated blow-up hump doll. The Curse of the Bambino! The curse of the unkillable cliche.
Oh, look, here's more lazy idiocy, at AOL dot Sporting News:
The pivotal subject is history, as in Boston blowing a nine-game lead in September. Didn't the Sox get rid of the Curse of the Bambino in 2004?
In fact, just shut up about the Historic Red Sox Collapse. Even you, Nate Silver:
After beating the Texas Rangers on Sept. 3, the Boston Red Sox were 84-54. Although half a game behind the Yankees in the American League East, the Red Sox had a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card and roughly a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Although half a game behind the Yankees. That's a mighty big "although," there. The true epic collapses in baseball history, to which everyone is so eager to compare the Red Sox's performance, happened when teams that were on top of their division (or their league) fell back to the pack. The wild-card race, by definition, is the pack. Third-Place Team May Pass Second-Place Team! Mildly Disappointing Team Becomes Markedly More Disappointing!
Yes, Boston is playing awful baseball right now. Because Nate Silver is not a lazy moron, he goes on to do some work to show how historically unusual the Red Sox's recent failures are, relative to the team's earlier success—Boston's drop from good to lousy in its final 25 games, Silver notes, could end up worse than the 3-22 plunge of the 2002 Orioles, a lousy team that turned nightmarishly bad in September.
But why the final 25 games, rather than the final 15 or the final 40? Silver's choice of a cutoff isn't the most flagrant cherry-picking possible—that would be if he'd drawn the line at 24 games. But that scrupulous extra victory he gives the Red Sox doesn't change the fact that the whole project is designed around Boston's specific circumstances. Here's a different nice, round number: Since each team played its 145th game of the season, the Red Sox have gone 4-11, and the Atlanta Braves have gone 5-10. Boston has blown a 4 1/2 game lead over the Rays in that time, while the Braves have blown 5 1/2 games of their 6 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals.
"One of the two biggest collapses this season" isn't quite as catchy as "worst collapse in history," is it? But we're not dealing with history; we're dealing with a prospective storyline. That's the other trouble with Boston's collapse: It still hasn't quite happened. Tampa has only tied the Sox in the wild-card standings. Boston has two games left against a bad Orioles team. The Rays have two games left against the Yankees. (But won't those games be against the Yankees' September Triple-A promotees? Sure, and the Orioles have call-up Matt Angle and his .293 on-base percentage leading off against Boston.)
Till Wednesday night's games are over, this is all speculation. One or two losses by Tampa Bay, and a Red Sox team that was supposed to make the playoffs will make the playoffs. The ESPN-ized narrative, the ghost-of-the-ghost-of-Babe Ruth tale, is: There's a chance we could be seeing something that's never happened before. What you're definitely seeing—that is, what you're being hyped up to watch—is some mediocre baseball.