By Jason Keidel
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Yankees fans take little solace in second place, unless the Red Sox are in third. Or fourth. Or fifth.

Pundits and frothing fans are moonwalking from their now-toxic assertions that their beloved Boston Red Sox were better than the 1998 Yankees.

ESPN, the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” and thinly veiled vanguard of Red Sox Nation, must be beside itself. As are Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, who are so blatantly biased against the Yankees it’s a wonder the suits at Fox let them call Bombers baseball. Bucks are always on Buck’s mind, as he can’t go an inning without spouting the Yankees’ payroll, ignoring the $142 million Boston dropped on Carl Crawford, or the $200 million Philadelphia sprinkled on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Inequity and iniquity only reside in the South Bronx.

Boston is 0-5. Read it and weep or leap from your local bridge. (Your metaphorical bridge, of course. We don’t condone violence.)

As a native New Yorker, I’m prone to the knee-jerk impulses of my five-borough brethren Soriano is the worst pitcher on Earth after blowing one game to the Twins; CC should have pitched a full nine the other night; and Brett Gardner is a bum because he struck out thrice.

So I must temper my premature emasculations. Boston may very well win 100 games and the A.L. East. But they won’t win the World Series. The stats say so.

When Boston went 0-4, I scoured the Internet, looking for baseball’s Grim Reaper to assure me it meant something. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two out of 128 playoff teams since 1995 have reached the postseason after an 0-4 start – the 1999 Diamondbacks and 1995 Reds.

Bassam Oshana, a very kind soul with STATS LLC, told me that only one such team in history has reached the World Series – the 1985 Cardinals, who lost to the Royals.

When you plunge one loss deeper the Reaper is sharpening his scythe in your basement. Oshana told me that no team has even made the World Series after starting 0-5, much less win it. Only two teams in MLB history have made the playoffs after such a start (1974 Pirates and 1995 Reds).

The Pollyanna from Peabody will remind me that no team ever recovered from 0-3 in the playoffs until Boston did it to the Yankees in 2004. Fair enough. But these once-in-a-century anomalies are hardly comfort food for a franchise renowned for falling far below expectations. Folks actually compared the 2011 Red Sox to the ’27 and ’98 Yankees.

Men love lists – top ten lists from all-time teams to players to rivalries. I’m not from the Heartland, so I only have a peripheral sense of Ohio State – Michigan. Dodgers – Giants circa 1951? I wasn’t around. Ali – Frazier? Surely, but they were just two men who fought three times. N. Carolina – Duke is fierce, but for my few quid I take Yankees – Red Sox, from Bill White’s “Deep to Left!” call on Bucky Dent to Aaron “Bleeping” Boone to the aforementioned gag in ’04.

You can easily assert that the Yanks imbued Boston with unprecedented mojo after the titanic choke in the 2004 ALCS. There is no World Series in Beantown that year or in 2007 had the Yanks done what they always did: beat Boston. The epic aftershocks from that series were felt for years.

I’ve sardonically said I’d root for the Taliban over the Red Sox, which is bound to get me in trouble. (Disclaimer: I say it entirely for entertainment purposes. As a former member of the military I’d never trivialize war or our gallant men and women fighting for our freedom.)

I say it merely to italicize New York’s fear and loathing over Fenway and its inhabitants, and Larry Lucchino’s hypocrisy to brand one empire evil while his may spend 9-figures with impunity.

And who laughs hardest? A former caller into WFAN: Buck from Baltimore, who knows something about the AL East, about building a Yankee dynasty, and morphing moribund squads into winners. To paraphrase Rick James, irony is a helluva drug. It would be typically and deliciously sporting for the forlorn Orioles to quietly win the division in the midst of a financial arms race.

After 27 rings, it’s not so much about winning No. 28 as it is gathering the shards of a shattered curse. The Bambino carried us for 86 years. May the Babe rest in peace, and his Red Sox suffer restless legs throughout the interminable 2011 season.

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