I’m not bipolar. I swear. I’ve just got a problem balancing the Red Sox homerism that grows within me like one of the creatures from Alien with what is actually happening on the field. That’s why one week I’ll write a glowing Red Sox column, and the next week it will seem like I wouldn’t mind if the franchise folded.
As much as I try to not let my biases get too far in the way when I’m writing, I know they do sometimes. And that’s okay – I’m not writing for a newspaper or something along those lines where my No.1 job is to be impartial. My No. 1 job is to be entertaining and informative, and to do that, a lot of my personal beliefs get thrown into the mix. For instance, if you read this column regularly, you know that I’m a Red Sox fan. I’m not somebody from the outside brought in to evaluate how the Sox are doing. I watch every game as somebody rooting for them to win.
And the more I look at it, the only reason that I’ve written anything optimistic at all about the Red Sox is because I’m hoping that the words I put on the page will come true. I want to give myself a reason to get excited every night at 7 p.m. I want to check the standings in the morning hurriedly, because I’ll find out that the Sox are gaining in the race for a playoff spot.
That hasn’t happened much this year. There has been no excitement over checking the standings, because the Sox have been firmly in last place in the AL East since day one of the season. In fact, their best placing within the division came on day one, when they were tied for first at 0-0 with everybody else. But everyone was also tied for last, and it didn’t take the other four teams very long to break out of that tie and leave the Sox wandering around at the bottom of the division like a blind guy who’s seeing eye dog ran away. It’s as if they don’t even know which direction is up, because they can’t see it. They might not even know what it’s like to not be in last place.
For the first third of the season, I assumed the team would go on a run and get itself right back into the thick of things. It just seemed like they had to. Yet, here we stand on May 15, and the Red Sox are 31-32, and they had to use a two-game winning streak just to get themselves to that mark. They’re 6.5 out in the division and four out in the Wild Card.
I don’t know when exactly it was – sometime between getting swept by the Nationals at home and watching Adrian Gonzalez ground out to second every single at-bat over the past week – that I realized that it isn’t happening. If the law of averages haven’t started to give way to a better result than this, then it never will. We’re 65 games into the season – not exactly a small sample size – and the Boston Red Sox haven’t spent a single day out of last place in the American League East.
They’re not suddenly going to skyrocket to the top of the division. Not now, not with the way the Yankees, Rays and Orioles are playing. In reality, they never were. It’s not like they’ve had a ton of bad breaks besides a few injuries, namely Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. But Crawford we knew about before the year, and we knew long term injury was a possibility for Ellsbury. Everything else has been self-inflicted – hiring Bobby Valentine, the down years for Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia, the lack of a single quality starter outside of Felix Doubront and the general malaise that has surrounded the organization since last September.
The team is stuck in mud, and we’re just spinning our wheels thinking that at some point they’re going to magically catch fire and rise up to their rightful throne next to the Yankees. Sorry folks, but that throne is already occupied by the Rays, or the Orioles, or the Rangers, or the Angels, or the Tigers. There isn’t room for everybody in the royal court, and the Red Sox are the odd-man out. They’re the jester. While everyone else serves a meaningful role, the Sox best use right now is to make them laugh.
No manager is circling a series with the Red Sox on the schedule and telling his team that it better be ready, because big bad Boston is coming to town. No, they’re doing the opposite. They’re excited to play the Red Sox.
Take the Nationals, for example. On June 8, Washington came into Fenway Park and won the game 7-4. The difference between the two teams was on full display, as the Nationals’ youth movement wowed everybody while the Sox looked old and outdated. Stephen Strasburg dazzled, striking out 13 in six innings, and Bryce Harper hit a monster line drive home run over the 420-foot sign near the triangle in centerfield.
On the other side, a semi-broken down Daisuke Matsuzaka labored through five innings in his first start since Tommy John surgery, and the four Nationals’ pitchers who threw that day barely even broke a sweat against the patchwork lineup of the once feared Sox.
The Red Sox haven’t swept a three-game series since it beat Cleveland three times in a row from May 11-13. That’s over a month. They’re still under .500, and it’s the middle of June.
The team hasn’t been this bad in a decade, where it’s conceivable that it’ll be out of the race by the middle of the summer. Usually, that’s when things start heating up. I think that’s what makes it so hard for people to give in to the fact that the team isn’t going anywhere – they always go somewhere. Even if they do’n make the playoffs, they’re always in contention all the way into September. Fans aren’t used to watching meaningless baseball after the All-Star break, but that’s the direction this whole thing is headed in.
In way, maybe it’s good to figure this all out now, in June, rather then in August after two more months of hanging around .500 and getting beat handily by above-average teams on a regular basis. At least I’ll have more time to go to the beach.
In essence, I guess, this is a eulogy of sorts. I’m declaring the Red Sox dead, and we’re not even halfway through the season. That might seem bold, but really, its not. That reality has been right in front of my face the entire year, I just chose to ignore it because I didn’t want it to be true. It is true, though, barring a miracle that we have no reason to believe is coming.
2012 is going to be a lost year in Boston. I’m slowly coming to grips with it. For a while, I couldn’t handle the truth.
Now I can. It’s going to be a long summer.