Dueby Larry Mahnken
November 02, 2005
White Sox and Astros fans had been waiting for this series for decades. The 1959 World Series between the ChiSox and Dodgers was the first ever to be played in California—or even west of the Rocky Mountains. This year, the World Series came to Texas for the first time, and the White Sox were in this one too, their first time back in 47 seasons.
Astros fans had come close before, only to ultimately fall short. For two excruciating days it seemed like that might happen again before Roy Oswalt finally slammed the door on the Cardinals. After 44 seasons, the Astros were finally in the World Series.
For all the books and HBO specials, the Boston Red Sox had nothing on these guys. Astros and ChiSox fans would kill to have suffered the kind of misery Red Sox fans did for 86 years. White Sox fans waited longer, had fewer opportunities, and unlike the Red Sox, their team actually lost one on purpose. That’s far worse than any ball rolling between a guy’s legs.
As for the Astros, they haven’t even had the opportunities the ChiSox have had. Sure, Chicago waited longer, but at least they had some sort of history to look back on. The White Sox won the first AL Pennant, they knocked off the 1906 Cubs, who had the best record in MLB history, and they won two of the first 15 World Series. It’s something. The Astros have nothing.
Certainly these two teams were the most “due” of any two who have met in the World Series, the closest comparison being perhaps the 1980 World Series between the Phillies and Royals. The Phillies had last won a pennant in 1950, and 1980 was only their third NL crown overall—and would be their first title ever. The Royals had only come into the league in 1969, but 1980 was their first pennant.
On the other hand, what exactly is “due”? When a guy is in an 0-15 slump, we say he’s “due” for a hit, but if he goes 1-5, do we say he’s not due anymore? Is 1-20 okay?
I posit that in fact a player is due until he is hitting at the rate he should be and is due for a slump when he's hitting better than he should be. The same holds for a team. In MLB as it is currently organized, AL teams should win a pennant every 14 years, NL teams every 16 years, and a team should win the World Series once every 30 years.
Of course, nobody really wants that, which is why the pursuit of parity is a foolish one. People don’t want their team to win two or three titles in their lifetime (one of them probably when they’re too young or old to appreciate it fully); they’d prefer that as a bare minimum actually. But that’s the upper limit for a truly balanced league, and when a team wins more than its fair share, that means somebody’s team is going to get screwed out of pennants and championships.
Which is pretty much what happened to the Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, Cubs, Phillies, etc. Sure, bad management played a role, but the Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals and Giants have been hogging up the pennants over the years, giving the rest of the league fewer opportunities for glory.
But I digress. If we assume that a team should have as equal a shot at the pennant as every other team in the league every year, the White Sox should have won about 11 pennants since 1901. They’ve won five. The Astros should have won three or more pennants by now, instead of the zero they’ve won. Therefore, by this method, both teams were clearly overdue—the White Sox since 1940, when their 40 years of existence was one full league cycle (eight years) over the number of years it should have taken to win their four pennants (if that makes any sense). The Astros have been overdue since 1972.
Who’s the most overdue? The Phillies, of course, who’ve won one fewer pennant that the White Sox but have been around 18 years longer. While the ChiSox are 5.2 pennants behind the pace, Philadelphia is a whopping 8 pennants past due. The Phillies are also the most due for a World Championship too, four rings behind where they should be.
The Indians are 3.3 titles behind their expected rate, tied for second with the Cubs.
But while the Cubs haven’t won titles, they’re actually ahead of where they should be for doing what they’re famous for not doing—winning pennants. Through the 2005 season, the Cubs are actually two pennants ahead of where they should be—though that’s a much a function of their dominating the Hayes and Cleveland administrations as it is their seven post-Merkle pennants between 1908 and 1945.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, because of their early dominance, were never overdue for a World Championship—they wouldn’t have reached that status until 2026, and now they can’t until 2056.
Of course, I’m sure there were very few Red Sox fans who cared (or care) about what the team did in 1912, or Cubs fans who care about being great in the 19th century. The Cardinals won their ninth World Series just 23 years ago, and have three pennants since then, but there’s already some buzz about a “Curse of Keith Hernandez,” and the Yankees won their 26th World Championship just five years ago, and some idiot started talking about a “Curse of Clay Bellinger” already.
So all this is just a bunch of interesting numbers. Telling someone that his team has already won their fair share of World Series is a non-starter with any fan, unless it’s the Yankees, whose historical dominance of the sport is almost comical—the A’s are the only other AL team to have won more than their fair share of pennants.
The following is a list of how many pennants and titles over or under their “fair share” each team is:
Pennants Titles Pennants Titles Yankees +27.8 +20.7 Braves +3.0 -2.3 Red Sox -.2 +.7 Phillies -8.0 -4.3 Blue Jays +-0 +1.0 Mets +.5 +.3 Orioles -4.2 -2.3 Nationals -2.8 -1.4 Devil Rays -.6 -.3 Marlins +1.2 +1.6 White Sox -5.2 -3.3 Cardinals +4.1 +3.7 Indians -6.2 -3.3 Cubs +2.0 -3.3 Twins -5.2 -2.3 Pirates -3.5 -.3 Tigers -2.2 -1.3 Reds -3.2 -.3 Royals -.7 -.4 Astros -2.5 -1.7 Brewers -1.6 -1.4 A's +3.8 +3.7 Angels -2.7 -.8 Dodgers +8.8 +.7 Rangers -3.7 -1.8 Giants +7.0 -.3 Mariners -2.0 -1.0 Padres -.8 -1.3 Rockies -.8 -.4 Diamondbacks +.5 +.7
And for teams over their fair share of titles, how many years they would have to go without a World Championship to have fewer than their “fair share” (and how many in a row that would be starting from their last title):
Mets 39 (58)
Red Sox 51 (52)
Diamondbacks 52 (56)
Dodgers 52 (17)
Blue Jays 60 (72)
Marlins 78 (80)
A’s 141 (157)
Cardinals 141 (164)
Yankees 651 (656)
So look for the Yankees to break “The Curse” sometime in the 27th century. I know I won’t be there. At least I hope I won’t be there.
Larry Mahnken is a staff writer for The Hardball Times, and co-editor of the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog. You can contact him with your comments, questions, romantic propositions and incoherent rantings at DLMahnken@hardballtimes.com.