Odds point to prolonged painWritten by Norm Wamer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Wait till next year!” A familiar phrase uttered by disappointed sports fans after their team has come up short in a regular season race or a playoff situation. It’s a phrase we heard a lot this week after the Cleveland Indians blew a three games to one lead in the American League Championship Series to the Boston Red Sox. But what makes Tribe fans think their team is even going to get back to the playoffs next year, much less the 2008 ALCS?
History is against the Cleveland Indians and it’s not the “Curse of Colavito,” although you could make a case for that as well. In 1995, coming off the strike season of 1994, baseball went to three divisions in each league and created the biggest accomplishment of Bud Selig’s controversial tenure as commissioner, the Wild Card. Since 1995, it has been a 50/50 chance that a team who made it to the playoffs would return to the post-season the following year. In the American League, 27 of the 48 teams that made the playoffs went back the next year. In the National League, 21 of the 48 teams returned to the post-season. Sometimes though, statistics are misleading.
It’s really much less than a 50/50 shot if you are not the New York Yankees. When discussing this topic, the Yankees don’t count.
You may not be able to buy a World Series championship, but the Bronx Bombers have proved that if you spend enough money, you can buy a ticket to the post-season party. Take out the Yankees 12 straight repeat appearances and the odds of returning to the playoffs drops to 42 percent in the American League. If you are not the New York Yankees or the Atlanta Braves, the odds get longer.
The Atlanta Braves returned to the playoffs 10 straight years after winning their division in 1995, a feat that may never be repeated by a team not on a coast. Take out the Braves, and your odds of repeating a post-season appearance in baseball drops to just 36 percent.
Raise the bar to the League Championship Series and teams have a 33 percent chance of getting back to that level the following year. Take out the Yankees and the Braves again and your chance becomes 24 percent. If you are curious, the chance of making repeat trips to the World Series is 17 percent, or four out of 24. The last team to make back-to-back World Series trips is the 2001 Yankees. Before that, it was the 1996 Atlanta Braves. No other team has made back-to-back World Series trips since 1994.
What could go wrong for the Indians in 2008? Plenty. Just ask the 2007 Detroit Tigers or the 2007 St. Louis Cardinals. Can C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona combine for 38 wins again? History says probably not. The last pair of Cleveland pitchers to combine for 38 wins in a season was the brothers Perry, Gaylord and Jim in 1974. That was when starting pitchers went to the hill every fourth day. Plus, Sabathia’s and Carmona’s workload both increased by more than 50 innings over 2006, making them historically more vulnerable to injury.
Can the Tribe bullpen repeat its 2007 magic? Just ask Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney for the Tigers who both got hurt in 2007, and Todd Jones, who eerily resembles Joe Borowski, got another year older and even scarier.
Does Hafner’s slide continue? Does the injury bug bite hitters that stayed relatively pain free?
The thought of “next year” might make Tribe fans feel better about Cleveland’s ALCS collapse, but history has a way of repeating itself.
Norm Wamer is program director of Sports Radio 1470 “The Ticket” WLQR-AM and co-hosts “The Front Row” weekday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.