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The Oakland A's and the Curse of Todd Van Poppel: A Fan's Take

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The Oakland A's have not won a World Series title since 1989 and have not appeared in the Fall Classic since 1990. Why has it been so long since the A's have won a title? In the superstitious world of baseball, a lengthy World Series drought is typically the result of a curse.

The Curse of the Bambino

The Boston Red Sox sold a young player named Babe Ruth to their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, after the 1919 season. At the time the Yankees had not won a World Series title in their history; they have won 27 since then. The Red Sox on the other hand would have to wait until 2004 to finally win another title and break the "Curse of the Bambino."

The Curse of the Billy Goat

The Chicago Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908 and fans can blame their bad luck on the "Curse of the Billy Goat." According to legend, the Chicago Cubs were leading 2 games to 1 in the 1945 World Series when the Cubs did not allow William Sianis to bring his goat into the stadium because of it's stench. On his way out Sianis yelled, "The Cubs ain't gonna win no more!" Sianis turned out to be correct, and many loyal Cubs fans have tried to break the curse in unique ways. (Cracking the Curse of the Billy Goat)

The Curse of Todd Van Poppel

The only way to explain the Oakland A's current World Series dry spell is a curse. So, who or what can we blame the A's lack of success on? On the surface, the A's don't have an obvious choice like the Bambino or the Billy Goat, but a little digging reveals a pivotal moment involving Todd Van Poppel.

Van Poppel was a hard throwing high school pitcher from the state of Texas. Heading into the 1990 amateur draft, Van Poppel was seen by many as the best player on the board and even elicited some comparisons to Nolan Ryan. The Atlanta Braves had the first pick in the draft and coveted Van Poppel and his golden arm, but they were scared off by his strong commitment to the University of Texas and big money demands by his agent, Scott Boras.

The Braves passed on Van Poppel as did the next 12 teams. The Oakland A's were one of the best teams in baseball at the time and were sitting on the 14th pick in the draft as compensation for the Brewers signing Dave Parker. Oakland drafted Van Poppel and lured him away from his college scholarship with a $1.2 million major league contract and a $500,000 signing bonus.

When the A's drafted Van Poppel they were the coming off back-to-back World Series appearances including a victory in the '89 Series. They would go on to make the World Series in 1990 but were easily beaten by the Cincinnati Reds in a four game sweep. The curse of Todd Van Poppel was in full effect.

Evidence of the Curse of Todd Van Poppel

If you ask any Red Sox fan about evidence for the "Curse of the Bambino" and they will mention names like Bill Buckner, Bucky Dent, and Aaron Boone. To prove that the curse of Todd Van Poppel is real let me provide you with some evidence. First, the A's lost the World Series the year Van Poppel was drafted and have not made it back since.

Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS against the Yankees provides some very compelling evidence. The A's were leading the Yankees 2-0 in the best of 5 series. In Game 3 the A's were trailing 1-0 in the 7th inning with Jeremy Giambi on first and Terence Long at the plate. Long hit a shot down the right field line and Giambi came chugging around the bases towards home. The throw in from the outfield missed the cut off man and was slowly trickling to the plate when Derek Jeter swooped in, barehanded the ball, and flipped the ball to Jorge Posada. Giambi didn't slide for some reason and was tagged out. The A's would lose Game 3 and the series.

When the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees their bad luck became the Yankees' good fortune. Similarly, the curse of Todd Van Poppel that has plagued the A's turned out to be great for the first team that passed on him in the draft, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves had not been to a World Series in 32 years prior to the 1990 draft and had only made the postseason twice in that span. After passing on Van Poppel, the Braves made 14 consecutive postseasons, 5 World Series, and won the title in 1995.

The player the Braves chose instead of Van Poppel was future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones. Van Poppel had a 40-52 career record with an ERA of 5.58. Jones on the other hand has a lifetime batting average of .303 and hit 468 career home runs. Passing on Todd Van Poppel may have been the best move the Atlanta Braves have ever made.

So, it's clear that the "Curse of Todd Van Poppel" is the cause of the A's World Series drought. The only question remaining is, how can Oakland break the curse?

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*Daniel became an Oakland A's fan during the Bash Brothers era of the late 1980s. He has followed the A's and Major League Baseball for over 20 years. Daniel is currently a Featured Contributor on the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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