If you know me, you know I’m a Sox fan. There’s many other things of which I’m a fan, but when it comes to baseball, I’m a Sox fan. Exclusively. I don’t watch the Rangers. I don’t root for the AL in the All-Star Game. I don’t even really root for the game. I don’t care if it’s good for “the game.” I care if it’s good for the Sox. Everything is in context of the Sox. Which is why I found playing fantasy baseball as a particularly frustrating past time because, all of the sudden, I’m having to give a crap about other players in the league. The only time I care about someone else in the league is when either I went to high school with them, the Sox are playing them or the Sox are thinking about trading for them. Other than that, I don’t really care.
So, in case you happen to be one of the five people in the free world that didn’t see that the Sox set a new low for late-season failure, let me quickly rundown what happened. Sox were picked by every writer in America and across the globe to, with very little challenge, win the World Championship because they went out during the offseason and picked up Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez…two acquisitions that apparently automatically made them the best team baseball has ever seen. One writer wrote that they could likely win 110 games. Another asked if this was “the best team baseball had ever seen.” The superlatives were nauseating. Most of the hype was generated out of the outspoken Boston press and sarcastic NYC press outfits. But they should’ve just handed them the World Championship right then and there because, even though they hadn’t played a single game together, it was clear they were the best team anyone had ever seen. Baseball had never seen such an assembly of talent in one locker room. On paper, they were unstoppable.
They start the season atrociously because no one knows each other. The pitching was off the mark. No one could stop the bleeding early. Then, they turned the ship in the right direction and played some beautiful baseball. They went on an absolute tear in June and July. Then, there was a little slide in August. And then September came. When September dawned on the Sox, they were knocked out of first by the rival Yankees, but still had a comfortable 9-game lead on the wild card, a position that the Sox are quite familiar with. Let’s put this thing in cruise control and win the wild card, right.
Well, Sox would have an insanely disastrous September. The likes that no one could comprehend. They’d only win seven of their last 27 games. The lead in the wild card disappeared and, on the last night of the of season (game #162), they’d relinquish their playoff spot to the Tampa Bay Rays who, once again, everyone was rooting for because they spend no money on talent and still win and the Sox spend tons of money on talent and don’t. Everyone hates the Sox. Everyone loves the Rays. But no one shows up to their games. And no one can name anyone on their team except Evan Longoria. Okay, it’s really that everyone hates the Sox. Watching them lose brings great satisfaction and harmony to the world. That’s right, we’re the new Yankees. The Yankees are just, uh, the old Yankees. And everyone seems to forget that the Phillies stockpile as much as the Sox and Yanks do, but they’re in the NL and no one in Texas cares about the NL. In fact, most Texans forget that the Astros even exist anymore.
There was no editorial content in that last paragraph. It was all fact.
I knew it was coming. In fact, I was hoping it was coming. You want your team to do well, sure, but this team wasn’t championship ready. They had no leaders on the field. They had leaders in the locker room. They had leaders in the bullpen. But there was no leader on the field of play during the game. Everyone was an individual star. There was no glue that held this team together. It was all dumb money. Built for speed. Built for endurance. But no cohesion. The second it started to go south in September, there was no stopping it. Only a Sox fan would tell you with a 9-game lead on the wild card in September that “this is gonna be tough.” I stopped watching for the better part of the month. Bigger things to tend to. Like Ellison. My lovely wife.
I went into “wake me up when October arrives” mode. Passively watching. Avoiding sports radio. Dan Patrick. Conversations with friends about baseball.
Then it all went south and the inevitable happened. In all defense of the Sox, September was like murderers row all month long. An astounding 24 of their 27 games within the month were divisional matchups. If you lose just ten of those games, it’s gonna be tough to hold a lead. The Sox lost 19 of those games. The AL East, again, proves to be the premier division in all of baseball. The Yankees held the best record in the AL and then two teams underneath the Yankees are the only real contenders for the wild card (unless you want to count the Angels). So 90% of our remaining games are against the AL East. Of the top five teams in the AL in home runs, four of them are from the AL East: New York, Boston, Toronto and Baltimore. The fifth? The Texas Rangers. Who were are three non-divisional games against in September? Damn right, the Texas Rangers. There was no breathing room all month long. How I longed for a series versus, hell, the Oakland A’s. The Minnesota Twins. The Cleveland Indians. Anyone other than the Yankees, the Blue Jays, the Rays or the Orioles. And we went into Youk-less, with a battered piecemeal pitching staff and, in result to the frankenstein pitching staff, an exhausted bullpen. It was the perfect storm. We’d throw Wakefield out there and he’d pitch up five innings of BP to some of the best long-ball hitting teams in the league. Beckett was beatable and complaining about something else again. Think it was his ankle this time. Jon “Birthing Hips” Lester couldn’t beat a junior varsity squad. Busses were burning up the Boston-Pawtucket highway with call-ups to help stop the bleeding. It just got worse and worse.
I said that losing over an entire month was like watching your dog die of parvo. It gets sicker and sicker and then you’re thinking, “Geez, just take her peacefully, God. Have mercy on the poor pup.” She dies and you find consolation in the fact that the suffering is over. Thank God. That’s not anywhere near as scarring as the 2003 ALCS where Aaron Boone would walkoff versus Tim Wakefield against a team that seemed like the best team the Sox had ever formed. That was the Sox’s year to win it all. Then Grady Little left Pedro in too long. It all unraveled and the Sox lost in truly “epic” fashion. That was like watching your dog get shot in the head. Seriously. It took two championships to help rid me of that horrible night and it still haunts me. Worst. Night. Ever.
I went to work that next day crawling. It was back then that, as a Sox fan, people actually felt sorry for you. Then you start winning championships and it turns to absolutely unrelenting bloodlust. I get it. People hate winners. You can win one, but win two and you’re hated. I remember in 2004, it seemed like everyone in the world was rooting for the Sox to beat the Yankees. You’d be watching the game wondering where did all of these Sox fans come from? Well, seven years removed from that championship and a historic collapse to boot, I think we’ve officially shook the bandwagon. Good. Back to being a lonely Sox fan in Texas.
Of course, it feels like that. I know that’s not true. I’ll be back to wearing my Sox hat this weekend. I was frustrated in my team yesterday, but I’m glad they didn’t make it to the playoffs because then they would’ve gotten swept by the Rangers and I would’ve had to hear it from “act like you been there before” Ranger fans for weeks afterwards. Yeah, no thanks. They get to worry about the Rays now.
“Epic collapses” are offset by “historic comebacks” like the 2004 ALCS against the hated Yankees. Of course, like then, it was more about the Yankees shriveling up and dying more than the Red Sox and their incredible comeback. It’s about the Sox and their collapse and not the Rays and their comeback against seemingly insurmountable gap in the standings. I’d agree, it was a collapse. One headline read a week ago: “Sox try not to lose three games in Baltimore.” Not “Sox try to win three in Baltimore.” It was not lose. Yeah, that about says it all.
I’ll probably watch a bit of the playoffs, but with little interest. I got Ellison now (my mother was probably wondering where in the hell I was gonna tie this into Ellison). Before, I would obsess about baseball. Everyday was a ritualistic preparation for game time. Ellison keeps me busy enough these days. Games are taped and watched in fast forward between the hour of 8:00 and 9:00pm. Everything is secondary to Ellison and my lovely wife at this point and I like it that way. Boston gets knocked out of the playoffs? Who cares. Less to worry about. Sure, I love watching the Sox win. Everyone loves watching their team win, but it’s no skin off my back if they don’t succeed. Except that I still have to endure the jeers and snide comments from the fan of every other team in the league. “Daddy, why does everyone hate you?”
Because daddy roots for the second most hated team in baseball. They don’t hate me, they hate my flag. It’s just one of those facts of life. They hate you when you’re ahead and stomp you when you’re down. Man, how’s that for uplifting life lessons? Okay, mom and Grandma, here’s your picture. I’m sorry I’ve neglected you.