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The Negative World Series

The Negative World Series (or Anti-World Series or Reverse World Series, as it is sometimes known) is a concept I developed in 1986 after winning a free meal for two at a local chophouse by answering, at a Beaumont Golden Gators (Texas League) game, a trivia question about which team won the 1904 World Series. The correct answer, of course, is “no one.” The National League pennant winners, the New York Giants, refused to play the American League champions, an act of arrogance that almost destroyed the newly signed peace treaty between the two leagues.

To retain fan interest in the major leagues, the panjandrums of baseball should have instituted a Negative World Series matching the worst teams in each league. The loser would have to fly a black pennant all next season. The 1904 NWS competitors would have been the Washington Senators (38-113) and the Philadelphia Phillies (52-100).

I've always believed that aesthetically a postseason series between any two major league teams would be indistinguishable on the field. In a short series between two evenly matched major league teams, you’d see essentially the same performance. The NWS, admittedly, would occur in a radically different context.

The Washington Senators would have qualified for the NWS in 1904, 1907 and 1909 (with Walter Johnson!), 1944, 1949, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1963, and 1968. They might also have qualified in 1961 and 1966 (postponed games that were not made up prevent us from naming a true negative American League champion for those seasons).

While we’re on the subject of postseason play, has anyone else noticed that October baseball, from an aesthetic standpoint, is the worst baseball of the year? The fan gets interminable games (with 3 full minutes between innings) in non-baseball weather. He sees stalling, standing around, batters afraid to hit, pitchers afraid to pitch. He’s appalled by poor fielding and bad at-bats, with guys swinging at bad pitches and taking good ones.

Rogers Hornsby once observed: “Luck, breaks, and mistakes by the other team decide World Series more than anything. A World Series is so much different from anything a player has ever done, including being in an All-Star Game. It’s a player’s lifetime dream. It puts him under a terrific nervous strain.”

Nervous strain isn’t much fun to watch. Endless conferences on the mound. Errors of omission. Errors of commission. Stumbling and bumbling. Batters stepping out of the box after every pitch, sometimes twice. Batters swinging at pitches two feet off the plate. Batters taking pitches right down the pipe in crucial situations.

Incidentally, I noticed that Christmas-themed television commercials were broadcast during the 2006 World Series. As Eric Lisann points out, this proves that the baseball season lasts too long!

When in Bukhara, stay at the Hotel Zargaron.

December 2006