I’m not a fan of Major League Baseball’s All Star game. My disdain for this mid-season classic has nothing to do with the game itself, though. It’s all about timing.
The All Star game traditionally marks the middle of the baseball season, although technically speaking, it’s played a little beyond the true 81-game mid-point. In fact, the Boston Red Sox had played 97 games prior to the All Star break, leaving just 65 left in the second "half" of the season.
The four-day break in the regular schedule comes at a time that interrupts any momentum a team may have built up going into the break. As a result, this so-called “second season” often takes on a very different dynamic than the first half.
This dynamic is particularly troublesome for my beloved Red Sox. They are frequently in first place in the AL East going into the All Star break.
Yet the Red Sox typically suffer a significant collapse after the All Star game, oftentimes dropping from the top of the division to second or even third place by season's end.
This year, for example, the Sox possessed the best win/loss record in the American League before the All Star game. Given the abysmal season they had last year, what they accomplished in the first half of this season was remarkable and quite an unexpected surprise for those of us who reside in Red Sox Nation.
And then along comes the All Star game.As you can see from my meticulously crafted table above, the Red Sox have been in first place at the All Star break in seven of the past ten seasons. But a month after the All Star break, they remained in first place in only three of those seasons. And by the by the end of the year, finished in sole possession of first place only once...in 2007, when they went on to win the World Series.
Let's recap. Over the past ten years, the Sox have been atop the AL East 70% of the time when the All Star game is played. A month later, they are in first place only 30% of the time. And by year’s end, they’ve held on to first place just 10% of the time. That’s downright depressing. And to make matters worse, the Sox, who lost their final two games before the All Star break, come out of the break with ten consecutive games against their primary AL East rivals, all of which are in hot pursuit of the division crown.
They start tonight with three games facing the Yankees, followed by four with the Rays, and then three versus the Orioles. Will the Sox still be in first place once the dust settles after these ten games?
The All Star break and the second season have not been good to Red Sox fans over the past decade. But the Sox have staged a truly amazing turnaround from last year’s disastrous season, going from worst to first (so far). Maybe, just maybe, this year will be different and the momentum will continue in the second half.
Perchance to dream, right?