I can’t speak for you, but I’m feeling exhausted. Disheartened. Drained.
Nah. It has nothing to do with this country’s crazy politics, nor global warming, terrorism or falling home prices.
This month, the Red Sox have wrecked my life. Left me cowering behind pillows. Given me a bad case of “remote twitch,” during which I turn the TV on and off and on again — anything to keep me from another moment of witnessing the great unraveling. I’ve yelled at the TV, muttered to myself, scowled at the poor dog, who just wants a perpetual hug.
And now. Nothing.
But let’s get real. Baseball is just a game. We’ll all recover, probably quickly.
For the Boston baseball fan, though, this September has been nothing short of surreal, a blurry slideshow of dropped balls, errant throws, picked off base runners, Little League clutch hitting and, above all, ugly pitching.
Back on the eve of opening day, when hope springs eternal, The Boston Herald suggested this year’s Red Sox could be the Best Team Ever. So much for the value of prediction. (As you read on, be forewarned.)
Today, I can’t look at this team and say, “wait until next year.” I think The Red Sox will keep “ungluing” for a few years to come before the team gets back on track. The old guard — Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, probably David Ortiz — are gone. The farm system seems thin. With the exception of the remarkable Alfredo Aceves, the pitching staff is in shambles. And the owners’ dollars are so deeply invested in sub-prime mortgages — make that sub-prime players — that it’s hard to figure how they can afford to fill all the holes. Is this team really going to bank on the likes of John Lackey, Carl Crawford and Bobby Jenks for the big comeback next year? And if not, where will it find the money to replace a Big Papi, find a reliable closer, add depth to its shredded pitching staff?
Even the one Big Bucks acquisition who earned his keep, Adrian Gonzalez, seemed strangely serene and unreliable down the stretch. His season numbers are impressive. His leadership in the closing weeks next to nil.
I’m not a believer in the world of ghosts. But it’s almost as if the Curse of the Bambino has returned. When the Red Sox rain delay began last night — I think it was sometime around 10 p.m. — the Yankees, on ESPN, led Tampa Bay 7-0 and the Red Sox, on NESN, led Baltimore 3-2 after six and a half. I had begun to convince myself that maybe the Red Sox would rebound, right themselves, make a playoff run.
In other words, I was delusional. Then Marco Scutaro got thrown out at home in the 8th. Ortiz hit the ball about 10 feet down the third base line with runners on first and third and no one out in the 9th. The Red Sox failed to score. Meanwhile, in Tampa, with two strikes and two outs in the 9th, Dan Johnson, a pinch hitter who had lost his starting job months ago, launched a home run to tie that remarkable game. And then with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 9th, the Orioles tied and then beat the Red Sox.
I went to bed without confirming the obvious. Tampa Bay would win its game. The season was over.
I won’t spend a lot of time following the Playoffs and Series this year. But the right team got there. I hope the Rays, with a payroll a quarter the size of the Red Sox, win the whole thing. They deserve it.
As for the Red Sox. Wait til …. whenever. Perhaps it’s time for the brass to pay a little less heed to money ball and keep players like Victor Martinez, who have passion for the game and know how to lead. Perhaps it’s time to stop crunching numbers and look for a little emotion. The brass might start by re-signing Scutaro, one of the few Sox who played hard and played well right until this season’s bitter end. By making sure the team keeps Aceves and Jacoby Ellsbury, who, along with Dustin Pedroia, were the only other Red Sox who day-in and day-out earned their keep (and in Aceves case, then some).
A little more passion in the manager’s office would help. A little less ego in the general manager’s office, too. But this year will go down as the year of the Big Choke, and perhaps one in which the Red Sox learned what the Yankees have demonstrated fairly often in the George Steinbrenner years.
Money may talk. But it doesn’t always buy champions. That takes chemistry and will.