The unraveling of the Sox
The Red Sox are in the midst of an epic collapse. They could still make the playoffs, but does anyone seriously think this is a World Series team? Something’s wrong with them.
What’s interesting is my relative detachment from the curious plight of the Sox. They are not lovable losers, nor are they underdogs. Instead, they are an overpaid bunch of superstars, with a handful of players I love, and a surprisingly large number of players I find exasperating or feel like I barely know. I mean, who are these guys, really? Last week I was informed that someone named Kyle Weiland was pitching. “Who?” I said.
Or take Carl Crawford. Like many of Theo Epstein’s free agent gaffes, Crawford has been a miserable disappointment from the very first game. And because he’s a fairly new acquisition, I don’t possess a reservoir of goodwill for him the way I do for, say, Tim Wakefield. I just want him to play better, or disappear. Unfortunately, his contract is insane, and so the Sox are probably stuck with him.
One of the more frustrating things about this Sox team is how once reliable pieces appear to be unraveling. Jon Lester is a top-tier pitcher, but his last couple of starts have been lousy. Daniel Bard is regarded as a terrific reliever, but he keeps blowing leads. Jonathan Papelbon, who hadn’t allowed a run in two months, was tagged with the loss on Tuesday night.
And then there are the chronic headaches, such as John Lackey. The one piece of good news is that the perpetually disappointing Dice-K has been sidelined by an injury, and is unlikely to ever return.
The current incarnation of the Red Sox is exactly the sort of team I don’t like, and if I weren’t a loyal fan, I’d be rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox seem petulant and befuddled, rather than determined. In the Globe, Tony Massarotti describes them as “a rather front-running lot” and “downright rudderless.” Massarotti offers some criticism of manager Terry Francona, and he makes valid points, but I’m blaming the players. These are grown men. Do they really need a manager to motivate them and push them to succeed?
For some sports fans, the collapse of the Red Sox is no doubt reminiscent of the spectacular implosions the Mets have become known for; as my landlord put it, the team has developed a remarkable ability to defy math. Whether the Red Sox will also defy math and miss the playoffs is an open question — the odds are still on their side, even if the team is doing everything it can to shoot itself in the foot — but there’s certainly no joy to be found in watching them sloppily back their way into the playoffs. But as trainwrecks go, it is pretty interesting.
Of course, if they make the playoffs and start winning, all will be forgiven.
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