BOS-TB: A History Lesson
The defending World Series champions are set to face the team with the worst record in the majors last season to see which team will represent the American League in the 2008 World Series. There has never been anything close to such a matchup since the advent of the wild card.
Another story line is that Boston and Tampa Bay will be the tenth pairing of a wild card team and a first-place club from the same division. Let's check out how intra-division League Championship Series have played out in the past:
1996 ALCS: New York Yankees (92-70) over Baltimore Orioles* (88-74) 4-1
1997 NLCS: Florida Marlins* (92-70) over Atlanta Braves (101-61) 4-2
1999 ALCS: New York Yankees (98-64) over Boston Red Sox* (94-68) 4-1
1999 NLCS: Atlanta Braves (103-59) over New York Mets* (97-66) 4-2
2003 ALCS: New York Yankees (101-61) over Boston Red Sox* (95-67) 4-3
2004 ALCS: Boston Red Sox* (98-64) over New York Yankees (101-61) 4-3
2004 NLCS: St. Louis Cardinals (105-57) over Houston Astros* (92-70) 4-3
2005 NLCS: Houston Astros* (89-73) over St. Louis Cardinals (100-62) 4-2
2007 NLCS: Colorado Rockies* (90-73) over Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72) 4-0
* denotes wild card team
As shown, the wild card entrant has won four of nine, equal to a success rate of 44.4%. Looked at it in reverse, the division champ has defeated the second-place club 55.6% of the time.
Boston won the World Series as the wild card in 2004. The Red Sox swept the Angels in the ALDS that year, came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in the ALCS, and won four straight from the Cardinals in the World Series.
The Sox are 31-16 in the postseason with two World Series championships during the Theo Epstein era. That is nothing less than a remarkable record.
History is history. It doesn't necessarily tell us anything about today. But history has a way of repeating itself and those who ignore it do so at their own peril.