I’m no scientist, but I know enough to know that baseball jinxes aren’t real. An announcer saying the phrase “no-hitter” does not mysteriously impart added skills to the struggling hitters. No player ever got worse because he was on the cover of a magazine or Jonah Keri wrote about him. Trading your best player for a goat or whatever doesn’t cause a World Series drought. And no matter how much we, as baseball fans, like to think that we matter, no team has ever won or lost a game because a specific fan was sitting in the stands (don’t you dare say “Bartman,” snarky reader).
I know these things. I know. And yet…
The Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the Washington Nationals on June 5 and June 6. I was in the stadium for both games. I am a proud Dodgers season-ticket holder, but I don’t get to many games due to my house being 661 miles from Dodger Stadium. But I went down for the games in early June to celebrate my 40th birthday, and it was an utterly perfect trip, other than the fact that the Dodgers lost both games. That gave them a three-game losing streak, their longest of the season, and it left them 2.0 games out of first place with a 35-25 record. I didn’t think at the time that I had caused the Dodgers to lose those games; if anyone, I blamed Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez.
Then the Dodgers went on a hot streak, winning six in a row and 16 of 17, and suddenly they were in first place. By the time I got back down to California to spend some quality time with my team, they had won 31 out of 35 and had an 11-game lead in the division. They hadn’t lost back-to-back games since the last two I had been to, and they seemed unstoppable.
I went to the games on July 20-21, and the Dodgers lost both games to the Atlanta Braves.
By the fifth inning of the July 21 game, every time the Braves scored a run — which was often, as they won 12-3 — I felt like everyone around me was looking at me and blaming me. In actuality, it was just my brother and my cousin looking at me and blaming me, but it felt like everyone. I actually did something that I almost never do: I left the game early. Not because the Dodgers were getting blown out, but in the hopes that if I got out of the stadium, the Dodgers might stage a comeback. They did score two quick runs before I had even gotten out of the parking lot, but it was too little, too late.
Here’s a little tidbit that will seem unrelated at first: Earlier this year, my wife and I talked about taking a trip to Atlanta with our friends (who are Braves fans) to take in a game at the Braves’ new stadium. (And apparently to go see where they filmed The Vampire Diaries, but the last thing I need when I’m feeling this vulnerable is to talk about my wife’s feelings for Ian Somerhalder.) When we looked at the calendar, we decided to go when the Dodgers went to Atlanta in early August. We marked down August 2 as the day we would see the Dodgers and Braves at SunTrust Park. We ultimately decided not to make the trip, but it was planned for a while.
So anyway, after the Dodgers lost back-to-back games to the Braves in L.A. and put me on a personal four-game losing streak, they proceeded to win nine more games in a row. Until … August 2. The game my wife and I almost went to. The Braves beat the Dodgers again. At the time, I thought, “Wow, I’m glad we weren’t there, because that would not have been good for my emotional health.” The Dodgers beat the Braves in the series finale the next day, and then they went up north and swept the New York Mets.
Last week, during that Mets series, I found myself in California visiting my parents, but the Dodgers were still on their road trip. Then I had a crazy idea: Why don’t I take a detour on my drive home and catch the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Tuesday? The answer ended up being, “Because I miss my wife and kids, and it’s 111 degrees in Phoenix,” but not until I had spent a couple days planning to go to the series opener against the DBacks.
Look, you have access to Baseball Reference just as well as I do, so you already know what happened. The Dodgers lost the first game of the series in Arizona, then won the last two games. Has my jinx become so strong that I can make the team lose even when I ultimately decide not to go to the game?!?
That brings us to today. The Dodgers are 81-33 and have a 16-game lead in the National League West. Starting from the moment I stepped into Dodger Stadium on June 5, they are 0-6 in games I either attended or planned on attending, and 46-4 in all other games.
I don’t believe in jinxes. My brain knows that I am not the reason the Dodgers lose. And yet…
What if it’s me? How do I find out? Obviously, I need to attend a game or two between now and the end of the season, because I can’t go into the postseason not knowing whether I cause the Dodgers to lose. Thankfully, the Dodgers have huge leads in the division and in the race for home-field advantage throughout the postseason (they are 12.5 games ahead of the Nationals for best record in the National League and 10.0 games ahead of the Houston Astros for best record in baseball). So we can afford to experiment a little bit. Step 1 will be to go to one game. If the Dodgers can pick up a win, woohoo! Then maybe I’ll have to go to back-to-back games, because that has obviously caused problems before. As long as they don’t lose both of those games, I’m officially not the jinx!
But what if I do those things and they lose all three games? The Dodgers are primed for hopefully a deep run in October, and I have season tickets. Am I really going to sit at home and watch those games on television instead of being there in person? Well, duh, of course that’s what I’m going to do if it’s what the Dodgers need me to do. The joy of watching the Dodgers win the World Series from my couch would be much better than the agony of watching them lose in person and knowing it was all my fault.
So there’s a lot for me to figure out between now and October 6. Like I said, I believe in science, and I’m going to undertake the fifth-grade science project to end all fifth-grade science projects. Hypothesis: A bunch of professional athletes who don’t know who I am are incapable of winning games when I’m around. I’m holding out hope that the conclusion will be, “Of course not, stupid! This is a textbook case of coincidence!” But if science proves that I’m the problem, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make things right.
Oooh, maybe if I buy an Astros hat and pretend to root for them…