by by Will Guzzardi

illustration by by Mateo Mancia

Game Five of this year's American League Championship Series, between the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, was the kind of game that made me remember why I watch baseball. So often the sport has a feeling of inevitability--when you get down to the late innings, out come the relievers, the specialists and it's rare that an opponent can mount much of a comeback. And there were the Sox, seven outs away from elimination, behind 7-0.

But then the rally started. And it kept coming. A two-out hit from Dustin Pedroia, a three-run homer from David Ortiz. A perfect eighth inning on defense. A two-run shot from postseason hero J.D. Drew. A tying RBI from Coco Crisp. Justin Masterson's pitching preserving the 7-7 tie through the top of the ninth. And then Drew one more time, with the game-winning double.
As we all heard the next morning, this was the biggest postseason rally since 1929. And Boston went on to win Game Six, of course, only to drop the deciding seventh game, falling prey to an excellent Tampa Bay pitching staff. The Rays just lost to the Phillies in World Series.
The funny thing about it is, Red Sox fans seem genuinely disappointed. Not just a 'too-bad-we-lost' kind of thing. Almost as if they deserved more. General Manager Terry Francona said, "We didn't get as far as we wanted. We came out to win and go to the World Series and we didn't accomplish that."
Sure, your manager should probably always say that you planned on the title. But let's be honest, when you're kicking yourself for barely losing the pennant, you're not the Sox you used to be, the 'cursed' Sox, the team that went 84 years with no championship. No, this is a new team. In the last six seasons, Boston's gone to the playoffs five times, played for four pennants and won two World Series. They bought themselves the league's best infield in 2006, and like a greedy 12-year-old, they paid a huge amount of money in 2007 to be the only kid on the block with the cool new thing from Japan, Daisuke Matsuzaka.
If these Red Sox are cursed, their curse is to be the new Yankees: the big, perennial powerhouse nobody likes.