"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Post Script with Bill James

Bronx Banter celebrates a Boitday, Albeit Belatedly

A few weeks ago I posed a series of questions about the end of the 2004 Yankee-Red Sox season to a group of writers. Bill James was one of the guys I had contacted to participate. The first post I ever wrote here at Bronx Banter was about James. I just looked back on it and noticed that I celebrated my second birthday of hosting Bronx Banter last week and didn’t even notice it. I knew it was sometime in November dangit. (It was Em’s birthday yesterday and you can bet your sweet bibbie that I remembered that one!) Anyhow, James didn’t respond, until yesterday that is. So I threw a few more bp fastballs his way and here is what he had to say for himself.

Bronx Banter: Did you attend any of the playoff games?
Bill James: Three games of the series against the Yankees, all four in the World Series.
BB: How tense were you watching the ALCS, especially games 5 and 6?

BJ: One click short of a heart attack.

BB: When the series returned to New York did you feel as if the Sox were going to win?

BJ: Inevitably? No. I thought they had a chance.

BB: Is it fair to say that the Yankees suddenly lost their character in the final four games of the ALCS?
BJ: Of course not. Sports test character in the way that making a business successful tests character, or the way that making a marriage work tests character. It is a test that you pass or fail over the course of years, not over a bad week.
BB: Was it a lack of character that lost this series for New York or did the team’s flaws just finally rear its ugly head?
BJ: Neither, because either explanation assumes that the result was inevitable. It wasn’t inevitable. It just happened.
BB: Were the Red Sox simply the better team all along?
BJ: All along what? All the season? No. All the series? No. The Red Sox got the job done at the end, which may or may not prove that they were a better team at the very end. Over the long haul, the teams were as closely matched as one can imagine.

BB: What was more surprising to you, the fact that the Yankees had a 3-0 lead to begin with or the fact that the Sox won the last four?
BJ: The latter is among the most amazing events in baseball history, therefore has to be the most amazing thing of the series. But I was astonished to find the Sox down 3-0. I found that difficult to believe. But if the resolution was even more amazing.

BB: What do you think was the biggest cause in the Yankees losing four straight games to Boston?

BJ: Fantastic veteran leadership among the Red Sox players.

BB: Is it fair to lay the brunt of criticism on stars like Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield (although I haven’t heard Sheffield ripped directly) when Yankee veterans Jorge Posada (.259–7-27–with 1 double, no homer and 2 RBI) and Derek Jeter (.200–6-30–with 1 double, no homers and 5 RBI) played poorly as well? Bernie Williams had a good series and I realize why Posada and Jeter get a pass–they’ve already won so much–but is it fair?

BJ: No, it isn’t. But you have to win, or get criticized. I think we all accept that.

BB: The Alex Rodriguez-Arroyo slap play has been singled out by fans and sportswriters as a defining moment in the ALCS. Did it effect the way you perceive Rodriguez?
BJ: Well, nobody died there. It was just a play on a baseball field, a split-second decision that didn’t work out, and didn’t look very good.

BB: In spite of the way it ended, the Yankees had another successful season. It only comes up short in the minds of some Yankee fans and of course, the owner. Do you think the team will bounce back and be a force again in 2005 or will they start to fall off?

BJ: I think they’ll win 100 games.

BB: Now that the Red Sox have won the World Serious, how will it change the culture of Red Sox Nation?

BJ: Well, we used to talk about that before the fact, how will it change what we have here if we win it all? My answer was always “Let’s just win it all and find out.” So I guess we’ll find out.

BB: Also, how does the Sox beating the Yanks the way they did figure into the rivalry?
BJ: I don’t know. Hopefully the rivalry won’t be quite so laid-back in the future. We need some real emotion in the games.

BB: How do you think Curt Schilling‘s playoff performance ranks, historically-speaking?
BJ: It’s too soon to answer, I think.

BB: Finally, Theo Epstein doesn’t strike me as one to rest of his laurels. What moves do you think the Sox will make to remain on top next year?

BJ: Given our free agent situation, resting on our laurels wouldn’t really be an option, even if Theo was the type to do that.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver