Growing up in New York City in the 1990's, I became quite familiar with a rite of June. Whenever the Knicks would be bounced from the NBA Playoffs, Patrick Ewing would meet reporters in the locker room and assure them that they were the better team and the victim of things beyond their control. It became something of a joke, a joke that John Lackey of the Angels apparently never got.
"We lost to a team that's not better than us. We are a better team than they are. The last two days, we shouldn't have given up anything. Sunday night they scored three runs on a pop fly that was called a hit, which was a joke. Monday night they scored on a broken-bat ground ball and a fly ball that anywhere else in America is an out, and he's fist-pumping on second base like he did something great."
Torii Hunter also wasn't willing to concede the point.
"I'm [ticked], I'm upset, this one's going to be with me for a while. It doesn't feel good, because we're a better team than they are. But they're moving on."
I didn't realize that the world's smallest violin provided musical accompaniment to the Angels locker room. The Angels won more games than the Red Sox over the first 162 but the last four provided little compelling evidence of their superiority.
There's not even much evidence that they were better over the first 162. The Sox scored 151 more runs than they allowed in 2008, playing in a division that was far better than the one the Angels called home. A glance at Baseball Prospectus's adjusted standings (which takes strength of schedule into account) finds them with 102 third order wins, which is both two more than the Angels actual wins and 18 more than their total by this metric. Stats aren't perfect, but they are illustrative.
The Angels made boneheaded errors in the field and in the dugout, they couldn't solve Jon Lester over 14 innings and K-Rod failed in a huge spot. The Angels, who only had a differential of 68 runs, had a razor thin margin for error and the miscues and poor execution proved too much. The Sox had three key players ailing, didn't have home field advantage and still won the series. And you know what? It's because they're the better team.