A Season Best Forgotten

Aug 28, 2012 by

 

Sometime last Saturday evening, between episodes of Breaking Bad, I checked my phone for the Red Sox score.  They had a weekend series against the less-than-mediocre Kansas City Royals.  The Sox boasted a 9-2 lead entering the sixth inning.  I aimed my attention back to Netflix, as Walter and Jesse get into a distribution deal with lunatic Tuco. The credits began to roll; I checked back to see if the Sox got the “W”.

As I navigated my way through the ESPN mobile site to check the score, what I discovered was not too surprising, being that it was 2012 and the team I was checking on was the Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox and Royals had now completed nine innings.  The Royals posted a six run seventh inning to tie the game at nine apiece.  I felt nothing.

I then clicked on the box score and saw this:

Podsednick LF
Pedroia 2B
Ellsbury CF
Ross RF
Gomez 1B
Saltalamacchia C
Lavarnway DH
Aviles SS
Ciriaco 3B

Listed above was the Boston Red Sox starting lineup and batting order for that game.  I stared at the names floating on my phone before me for a few minutes before eventually putting my phone back down.  I pointed the remote at the television and began watching another 48 minutes of a high school chemistry teacher cooking up crystal meth in an RV.  “Who had it easier at this moment?” I thought to myself, Walter White dealing with Mexican drug lords or Bobby Valentine dealing with the Boston media and nonsensical Sox fans.  It is too tough a call, especially with Red Sox fans as part of the equation.  Trust me on this, Sox fans will storm the Red Sox offices and will walk out with blood on their hands if a similar line up begins the 2013 campaign.

For me though, the lineup laid out before me on the tiny screen of my phone conjured up neither anger nor disappointment.  If anything, I brushed it off and went on with my night like a nonpartisan fan.  I gave up on the season sometime in early July after a  dismal West Coast trip visiting the Mariners and A’s.  The Sox headed home after playing seven uninspired contests, splitting four games with the Mariners followed by a sweep at the hands of the A’s.  The last series before the All-star break against the Yankees fared no better, dropping 3 of 4 at Fenway.  With the first half the season over, the Red Sox were 43-43 and nine and half games out of first place.

Baseball is a long season and with games played each and every day, a team can turn around an abysmal first half and get themselves back in position for a playoff run.  This happens all the time in the sport.  However, this particular Red Sox team isn’t going to string together ten or so consecutive wins bolting them back in position for a playoff spot.  Fans slowly came around to the unsettling notion of a lost season as each day passed in July and reality set in.  I knew it, we all knew it.  It was one of those gut feelings you can’t ignore.  The 2012 Red Sox are just not very good.

Red Sox fans, including myself, by nature are a cynical bunch.  But, even when we are at our most pessimistic, very deep down somewhere hiding in our soul is a glimpse of hope.  This minuscule feeling kept most of the fan base psychologically stable in 1978, 1986 and 2003 respectively.  If we did not possess this, census reports would demonstrate a sharp decline in New England’s population from 1978-2003.  The leading factors of the decline would point squarely to the growing amount of suicides and rage filled random acts of murder.  Plus no one would be joyfully fucking thus resulting in fewer births.

The writing was on the wall by mid July.  Beckett and Lester posted exactly zero wins for the entire month of June.  Ellsbury and Crawford were spending the majority of the summer in Florida and/or Maine.  Kevin Youkilis was sent packing to the Chicago White Sox to shore up more playing time for infielder, Will Middlebrooks, which in turn was then followed by DL stints for the rookie third basemen foiling that plan of action.  Alfredo Aceves had blown four saves and sported a bloated ERA of 4.33 by the break.  Dustin Pedrioa seemed lost without his Cribbage partner and former manager Terry Francona, who was now employed at ESPN.  Only David Ortiz seemed to display any true consistency, belting 22 home runs and posting 1.013 OPS, reminiscent of the Big Papi numbers of the mid-2000’s.  However, Ortiz’s nice first half could not save him from overly critical fans around New England calling into sports talk radio.  Ortiz had said he felt disrespected last winter during contract negotiations, which resulted in a one year $16 million dollar extension.  Middle-aged blue collar Sox fans, Tony from Dorchester and Joe from Worcester, called in to rant about Ortiz being a bitch on the Dennis & Callahan radio show.  Tony and Joe’s sound advice to Ortiz – Shut up and be happy with your 16 million.  Which I believe David Ortiz took as shut up, and not play.  He has not recorded an AB since July 16th.  It was best that I distance myself from this team.  See you in the spring became my motto.

That is life for me as a Red Sox fan these days.  I no longer feel the sense of urgency.  I went through all the disappointments with this organization during the first thirty years of my life.  As a Sox fan I have been through the worst of the worst.  Now, along with two World Series titles, I am content.  I still want them to do well but it doesn’t feel like life or death.  I no longer add to my already too expensive cable bill by purchasing the MLB Extra innings to follow every pitch of the season.  When I visit my parents in Massachusetts, I don’t feel the urge to call into WEEI and bitch about Bobby Valentine not arguing certain on field calls by the umpires.  Even my Yankee fan friends can no longer rattle me.  When things tend go bad on the field for the Red Sox these days, especially when playing the Yankees, I just close my eyes and think about October of 2004 and visualize the Sox celebrating on New York Yankee turf.    The thought is my bullet proof vest against shots fired verbally from shit talking Yankee fans, and no matter what happens in the future I will always have that.

Sometime on Friday is when I first heard of the blockbuster trade between the Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers that found the Red Sox parting ways with three established all-star caliber players.  The trade sent Adrian Gonzales, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford to the Dodgers in return for a top prospect, a few players I cared to look up and the always comical player to be named later.  Who knows what will come from all this for both teams involved in the mega trade.  All I know is this-The Dodgers should be well positioned for a potential playoff run and the Red Sox can set their sights on what to do now that half a billion in salaries are off the books.  All eyes will be focused on GM Ben Cherington this winter.  Can you really blame Theo for leaving?

After the colossal season ending collapse last September, I set the bar of expectation lower than the norm accordingly for 2012.  It had been years since I had similarly negative (or realistic) thoughts coming into a Red Sox season.  Come to think of it, the last time I thought this way was when a young jheri curled Pedro Martinez was still striking fear in the National League while winning a Cy Young for a franchise that is no longer.

Baseball is a funny game.  Unlike the NBA and NFL, talent guarantees nothing in the big leagues, regardless if that talent looks particular good on paper compared to just about every other team in MLB.  More has to happen for regular and post season success, as well as a little luck must drop your teams’ way.  It was evitable that the Red Sox would experience a season like they are having.  All baseball organizations do, whether they possess deep pockets or not.

You can point to a host of things that eventually led this team to a below .500 mark and 13 ½ games behind the Yankees.  The lingering hangover of last season’s collapse, Theo darting off to run the Cubs, or maybe the unfulfilled giant expectations from both Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.  Maybe there is a chemistry problem in the clubhouse, maybe the team lacks maturity and leadership after the retirements of Wake and Varitek, or maybe Bobby V was not the best choice to manage a team in a brutal media market.  I assume we can’t point to anything specific; my guess would be a combination of those issues and a host of others is what led to a season best forgotten.

I watched Roger Clemens toss a few innings in some shitty Texas Independent league game over the weekend.  I thought to myself, “fuck it, sign him for the last few weeks of the season, maybe fans will have a reason to come to the ballpark”.   Replace one Texan pitcher for another.   What’s the difference between Beckett and Clemens anyhow?  If Clemens trots out to the Fenway mound, gives up a few runs, lasts about five innings and does not factor in the decision,  how would that be any different than what Beckett did for the last year and half?

I’m willing to have Roger Clemens come back to the Red Sox.  That might be all you need to know about the 2012 Sox.

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. jan ankerson

    I enjoyed your perspective on the 2012 season and see that you are a sad Red Sox fan…I chuckled at your last two paragraphs and then came to the realization it’s not a bad idea. I admire your loyality…

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