I'm a big fan of old people. They provide hours of entertainment, they don't give a shit and they get away with murder (sometimes literally). In fact, I can't wait to become one so I wake up and golf at 6am, wear what I want, say what I want and go to sleep after Jeopardy. It is socially acceptable for them to act like assholes, and that's great. But there is one thing about them that I'm not so keen on. And that's there old balls sayings. For some reason these old sayings get thrown out year after year and are touted as if they are relevant or factual just because they've been kicking around for awhile. Well I'm here to put a stop to it.... well, not all of it. Just to one of those sayings.
Every time the baseball season starts and one team gets hot or another team that was supposed to be good shits the bed, baseball pundits are contractually obligated to note that "you can't win the pennant in May, but you can sure lose it in May." The first thing you'll notice about the saying is that as a matter of logic, it doesn't work. I mean, if you are ten games up or ten games out in May, you both have the same amount of games left and you both have the same opportunity to lose or win the pennant (though the team ten games out would need some help from the team leading the division). If the team ten games out wins 11 more games than the team ten games up on them, they win the division. But because the phrase is supposed to instead act as saying / expression / idiom (idiom isn't the right word, but you know what I mean) and not a statement of fact, there's no reason to break it down in that matter. It's the overall meaning of the phrase that doesn't work.
You see, back in May--in case you haven't heard--the Red Sox were up 14.5 games on the Yankees. The Yankees, for their part, were in last place. Going into tonight's games, the Yanks are two out with six to play. Certainly well within reach. But if they do end up losing the pennant this year, it is has everything to do with their awful start. They really would have "lost the pennant in May" and thus the phrase would hold up in that circumstance. But with the Red Sox, it falls flat on its ass.
On May 29th, the Red Sox were 36-15. They were playing .706 ball. Only a handful of teams have ever put up close to that pace up over the course of a season, and most of those teams were pre-WWII. Since that time they are 56-49, or .533 winning percentage. Now clearly had the Sox played .533 ball over the course of the entire season they wouldn't be near the playoffs (they'd be in third place and probably would have been eliminated from the playoffs over the weekend). So really, the ONLY reason the Sox have ANY shot at the pennant is because of their start. They coasted into the playoffs after that and may just coast to an AL East crown. I don't know how more plainly I can put it: If the Red Sox win the AL pennant, it is because of how they played in April and May. The saying is flat out wrong.
Now I know it could be argued that the reason the Sox have a shot at the pennant is because the Yankees "lost it" in May & April but that's horseshit. If the Sox played .533 ball in April & May like they did the rest of the year, the Yanks--even considering how poorly they were playing--in May would only have been about 7 games out. It was the Sox .700+ ball through the first 50 games that gives them the shot to win. It has nothing to do with the Yanks.
So the next year when some old dude sidles up to you at the end of May and tells you that "a team can't win it in May, but they can lose it," punch him right in the throat and yell "That saying is wrong and everyone knows it so go to sleep old man!" Or just nod, agree and laugh at him when he walks away. He is old, afterall...
UPDATE: Sox up 3 with 5 to go.