This article was written by Cecilia Tan
This article was published in Fall 2023 Baseball Research Journal
By the time you read this, SABR members, the 2023 season will be over and some team will have been left standing triumphant on the field after the last out of the World Series. But as I write this in advance of the Baseball Research Journal being printed, manufactured, and shipped, I don’t yet know which team it will be.
I do know—without using any sabermetrics at all—that the winning team will not be the Boston Red Sox, nor the New York Yankees. No, at the moment the only question is whether either (or both) might manage to stay above .500 this season. As of today, FanGraphs projects them both to limp to 81–81 finishes and tie for last place in the AL East. Which raises the question, what’s less precedented, the combination of New York and Boston losing 162 games, or a division with not a single losing record?
From the perspective of Yankees and Red Sox fans, the 2023 season has been a disaster. Every night pundits come up with new measures of how long its been since the Yankees (or Sox) “tanked” this hard. Truly it’s a measure of just how spoiled rotten we are along the Northeast Corridor that a .500 season is considered disastrous, but out of curiosity I decided to look up how often it happens that Boston and New York combine for more than 162 losses.
Turns out, it doesn’t happen very often, only 14 times over the 121 seasons these two teams have faced each other. While some in Red Sox Nation and the Evil Empire might say that only proves how bad this season is, I suppose I am more of a win-column-half-full type of person than a win-column-half-empty type.
And maybe 2023 never had a chance to be a memorable season for me. Living up to 2022’s Aaron-Judge-fueled pursuit of history was always going to be difficult. Then there’s the fact that this is the year I lost my Dad, and I got COVID-19. The last baseball game Dad and I watched together was the finale of the World Baseball Classic. Despite his dementia, Dad still knew about Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and he still loved watching sports. He’d lost the ability to remember the score shortly after the game was over, but during the games, whether it was baseball, or tennis, or one of his other favorites (golf, figure skating, Olympic anything) he lived totally in the moment. In those moments he experienced so much joy, and wonder, and excitement. And if there was the disappointment of a loss, he quickly forgot it.
I decided to try that out as a philosophy, to care less about who won or lost, and to just enjoy the moments, however fleeting. This works fine while I’m at the ballpark, especially when the weather is nice and the company is good. But ultimately I can’t live entirely in the moment. When the future looks bleak—or like .500—I take my solace in the past. There are plenty of memorable seasons and performances to be found in baseball history.
Hence, this Journal.
Congratulations to whomever won. Bask in the afterglow! To the rest, enjoy your offseason reading.
— Cecilia M. Tan
SABR Publications Director