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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Can the Red Sox repeat? They haven't since Babe Ruth left.

Babe Ruth pitching with Boston Red Sox
Cominsky Park, 1914
Just when Red Sox fans have almost forgotten the Curse of the Bambino, that the team had not won the championship since 1918 when Babe Ruth played for them, another fact emerges.  The Red Sox have repeated, i.e., won consecutive championships only once: 1915 and 1916.  Yup, you guessed it.  Not since they had one George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

The Boston Braves won in 1914, three in a row for the city.  New York won every season from 1949 through 1956, which is the city record.

In the 1915 World Series (WS) Ruth's only appearance was one time at bat; he did not pitch.

Ruth played in only one game in the 1916 World Series against the Brooklyn Robins; the Babe was the starting pitcher in game two.

Game two, Monday, October 9, 1916, Braves Field, not Fenway Park
Attendance: 47,373, Time of Game: 2:32

With two out in the first Brooklyn center fielder Hi Myers hit an inside the park home run to right center.  Ruth then shut out Brooklyn through inning 14 and won 2-1.

That was the start of his record 29.66 consecutive scoreless WS innings; completed in 1918.  That record stood until 1961 when Yankee lefthander Whitey Ford reached 32 consecutive scoreless WS innings.  Boston won the 1916 WS 4-1.  Brooklyn won its only WS in 1955, then played there only two more years.

The most recent team to repeat: the New York Yankees 1998, 1999, 2000.  A three-peat. That term was trademarked for commercial use by retired basketball coach Pat Riley from his time with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Yankees are the only team to win consecutive championships since the formation of three divisions in each conference in 1994 (no tournament that season).  Three divisions and four teams qualifying for the tournament essentially made the odds of winning a championship about twice as hard as that under the system from 1903 through 1960 when one of eight finished first and then played in the WS.  In 1961 modern expansion started and in 1969 each of the two major leagues were split into two six team divisions with a five or, starting in 1985, seven game series determining which team reached the championship series.

The Toronto Blue Jays came into existence in 1977.  Before the Yankees, Toronto is the next most recent repeat team: 1992 and 1993, just before the creation of the third division.  So Toronto only had to win one, not two, series to reach the finals.

Boston has dominated the last ten seasons, winning in 2004, 2007, 2013.  That's about as spread out as three wins in ten years can be.  Winning again in 2014 will be difficult.  Especially relying on 38 year David Ortiz and not the Babe.  Ortiz can't even pitch.

A future post will examine all the teams to win consecutive championships since 1903.

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