Water is clean and pure and capable of washing away man’s sin. Last week, raindrops fell from the sky and struck my window sill with the cadence of a revolutionary enlisted regiment. I awoke in a foggy glaze of the night prior. The events transpiring in a dreamlike flash that could only be harbored in my narrowest subconsciousness. The better part of me forgetting what caused such a restless night’s sleep, I immediately snapped into an intense clarity from the slamming of metal whose rusted pistons signified refuse had been cleared from the street. Suddenly, water, with its solely unique volatility to sustain life and create decay, became toxic when mixed with the human waste removed from the slick pavement. The Red Sox season ended earlier that morning. Moon light casted a midnight shadow over a vacant Fenway Park whose grass would go dormant and die before stitched rawhide rolled along it again.
Often, the feats of an athlete or team are romanticized in such a way to make Thoreau or Emerson himself wish they had crafted the words. I tried it for the previous paragraph, and found that aside from sounding like a douche, the 2011 Red Sox deserve no such pleasantries. The garbage removal description is a fitting coincidence to this Red Sox season. It’s a week later, and I feel no different than the minute after Evan Longoria did his best Dr. Kevorkian and used a walk-off home run to euthanize this Red Sox season. Sick, pitiful, and causing more pain with each passing day, it was the merciful thing to do.
Somewhere over the past seven years, the Red Sox shifted from an emotion-filled baseball team of self-proclaimed idiots and cowboys, to a faceless corporation of high paid suits working a 9-5. Maybe that’s what happens when you win the World Series for the first time in 86 years. Then do it again three years later. Gradually, the losses hurt less, the wins provided less joy, and I found myself rooting for a team with about two likeable players. The Green Monster is littered with advertisements, center field tells me where to grocery shop, NESN is forcing Bill James “Temperature Gauge” down my throat like a Nathan’s Hot Dog contest, and Fenway Park is a summer social scene rivaling the swanky bars on the wharf. In 2003, I cried myself to sleep after Aaron (Uffin’) Boone ended the Red Sox World Series hopes with a left field walk off homer. In 2011, I was numb to Longoria doing the same thing. If the guys on the field didn’t care, I couldn’t either. Quite frankly, I needed this loss. The Red Sox as an organization needed this loss.
Now, after the biggest collapse in regular season history, heads are starting to roll. Francona, the most successful manager in Red Sox history is the first to go. Citing a mutual decision, in which reports say Tito simply lost control of a clubhouse full of prima donnas. While many fans might wish it weren’t true, Tito became such a player’s manager, and kept things so “in house” that there was a mutiny. Unfortunately, captain’s go down with their ship.
The fact that fans and the media are so outraged by pitchers drinking beer in the clubhouse shouldn’t be such a “holy shit” moment. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s, guys were borderline stoned and cracked out on the field. Baseball and beer are practically synonymous. David Wells pitched his perfect game hungover on no sleep from the night before, and if you read any accounts from old-time baseball, most players were notorious drunks (Ruth, Foxx, Cobb, Mantle to name a few Hall of Famers). Blame this season on some Bud Light smoothies all you want, but it required much more for a collapse of this magnitude. True pros don’t let things like beer get in the way of their craft. I may or may not be shnockered right now, but it wouldn’t get in the way of amazing blogging.
Bud Light Girls. Because there haven't been any girls in this blog. I'm too focused.
More realistically, this season went to hell in a handbasket when the starting pitchers all dropped faster than acid in front of Jimi Hendrix. After Dice K’s elbow finally exploded from all those imaginary gyroballs he could throw, Clay Buchholz’ literal broken back was the straw that broke the idiomatic camel’s back. Suddenly, we were left with a rotation of:
Jon Lester: Mediocre all season, with a few gems mixed in, until an embarrasing September in which he resembled a left-handed John Lackey.
Josh Beckett: Had a fine season, and I hate to come down hard on a guy with a sub-3 ERA, but this dude was straight up obese by the end of the year. In his final start, he was resting his glove on his pot belly while holding runners on like Homer Simpson rests a Duff on his gut.
Erik Bedard: What do you say about a guy who doesn’t just live on the DL, he buys up other property and becomes the landlord? Thanks for those 5 inning, 3 run efforts you served up.
Tim Wakefield: The quest for 200 wins took longer than Ulysses” god-forsaken Iliad and Odyssey combined. Night in and night out were were treated to Timmy lobbing watermelons up to the dish praying one night we’d score 12 and not give up 13.
John Lackey: Shellackey, Mouth Breather, Big Hoss, pick your name for him, but this guy just put up the worst statistical pitching season in Red Sox history. If you missed it, don’t worry, there’s 3 years at 17 million per remaining on his contract. The only thing that could make Lackey more unlikeable is if I told you he is in the process of divorcing his cancer-stricken wife. Wait. Crap.
Basically, we were taking the field every night with a disadvantage in pitching matchups come September. On top of all that, the lineup somehow stopped producing.
Adrian Gonzalez – turned into a singles hitter, as reports came up that his surgically repaired shoulder limited his power. Not sure how everybody forgot he even had a surgically repaired shoulder when he decided to use his SURGICALLY REPAIRED SHOULDER in the Home Run Derby. There were times during the season Gonzalez looked like me roping opposite field home runs during wiffle ball. There were other times he put up consistently horrendous at bats against the Yankees and Rays in every big September game.
Kevin Youkilis– You can’t be that out of shape and constantly banged up for so long without it taking its toll. I can’t picture Youkilis making any movement without a grimace and wince. Dude probably rips a hemi just trying to wipe. Now let’s see what a full year flopping around at third base got him: a hip flexor and sports hernia that landed him on the bench during the most important month. Perfect.
Varitekalamacchia– The catching platoon that actually produced some of the best power totals from that position was nonexistant in the final month. ‘Tek simply is too old to be squatting when the September chill hits his bones. Salty hits breaking pitches worse than Bobbi Brown hit Whitney, and the league figured that out.
Carl Crawford– somehow, went from being the best statistical player in the game last year, to an anemic liability this year. He actually had a few walk-off hits early in the season that everyone assumed would snap him out of his slump. But for whatever reason, once he signed a contract for triple the Rays payroll this year, he apparently thought he had to bat .700 with 113 home runs and 346 rbis. What I still can’t figure out is how he wasn’t even stealing bases. I know you need to get on base to steal, but he was a total non-factor in every aspect of the game. Fittingly, the Red Sox lost the final game on a ball that Crawford failed to make the play on. It summed up his entire suck season in Boston.
In the end, the real Red Sox fans have their team back: chokers who invented new ways to lose. It just took a few seasons of looking in the mirror and lying to ourselves to finally recognize how much has changed. We see all of these problems and finally realize we need help. Theo has been living off World Series titles that have masked his inability to add any productive piece to the team via free agency. When you’re a big market ballclub, Moneyball is fun, but it’s the actual money that puts you over the top.