It has been a tough week. After an off-season filled with visions of October glory dancing in our heads, the season began and the mighty Sox burst out of the gate to a 1-7 record, being swept by
The most commonly cited statistic concerning the Sox' terrible start has been this jewel: no team to start a season 0-6 has ever gone to the World Series. This little tidbit has been solemnly recited as the death knell for
In truth, it is shockingly common for teams to lose six straight games in a season. Last year’s World Champion Giants lost seven straight games from June 26, to July 7. Of the past ten World Series winners, six have had at least six game losing streaks at some point during the season. Even some of the greatest teams in history have lost six in a row at some point. The 1939 Yankees had a six game losing streak on their way to a record of 106-45 and a sweep of the World Series. Even the mighty Big Red Machine lost six in a row at one point in 1975. Even among very good teams, six game losing streaks are not uncommon. If this streak did not come at the start of the year, it would be relatively uninteresting.
Still, these were the first six games and that makes it feel so much worse. Most of the teams throughout history which lost their first six games were lousy teams. However, there is, one exception. The 1974 Pittsburgh Pirates dropped the first six games of season, one of two six games losing streaks the team would endure on their way to a solid 88-74 record and a first place finish in their division (they lost in the NL championship to the LA Dodgers). A quick look at the ’74 Pirates reveals a shockingly similar situation to our 2011 Red Sox.
Not only did the Pirates lose their first six games, but they went 1-7 in their first eight games. They had an imposing lineup featuring Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, star center fielder Al Oliver, veteran first baseman Bob Robertson and third basemen Richie Hebner. Their pitching staff was a combination of promising youngsters like Jerry Ruess and declining veterans just a few years removed from greatness (Dock Ellis). They had won a World Series two years earlier and were expected to be in the race again in 1974.
The Pirates lost four of their first six games to a very good Cardinals team and the other two to a weak
By the end of the season,
The similarities between the 2011 Red Sox and the greatest team ever to go 0-6 to start the season are both a reason for optimism and a cause for concern. The ’74 Pirates were very talented and in the end that talent won out. Their slow start was not reflective of the team they would be by the beginning of October. However, that slow start did hurt them. They did not just drop a few games before settling in to a strong season, they labored for months to climb out of the substantial hole they dug in April. In the end, their record was not as good as it could have been and they made the playoff by the hairs on the chinny-chin chins.
If the 2011 Red Sox are going to replace the 1974 Pirates as the greatest team ever to start the season 0-6, they will need to start winning games earlier than those Pirates did. Their division will not as forgiving as the NL East was back then and their fans and management will be far less tolerant of a losing record at the trade deadline. This poor start is not a death sentence, but it should be a warning. These games count gentlemen; they count just as much as games in September.
Now repeat after me: let’s go