If you’ve seen the movie, you know how that one ends. For the unfortunate among you that haven’t, it’s not a happy ending. Just trust me on this.
Unfortunately, I invoke said phrase in the aftermath of what will almost certainly come to be referred to as the Boston Massacre II. To explain as briefly as possible, so as to spare myself and any other fellow Red Sox fans any further pain, the Sox/Yankees series that was going to play a significant role in determining how each of our respective seasons ends is 4/5ths complete, and we have yet to win a game.
Worse, the games have been excruciating to listen to or watch. In the opening game of the series on Friday afternoon, we were blown out 12-4. Friday night, we were in the ball game, things looked good, and then our pen collapsed and coughed up 7 runs in the 7th as the Yankees put it away 14-11. Saturday, one of our “aces,” Josh Beckett – obtained at great cost from the Marlins this past offseason – proceeded to walk 9 batters and give up 9 runs, leading us ably on to a 13-5 loss (as a side note, I am no longer allowed to attend Sox/Yankees games in person in which Randy Johnson starts for them – I’m 0-2 in such situations).
Last night, if anything, was worse. Schilling guts out 7 innings coughing up 3 runs, leaving after the 7th with a 4-3 lead. We tack on an insurance run, making it 5-3. In the eigth, however, our bullpen walks the bases loaded with no one out, which causes Francona to summon our closer Papelbon from the bullpen. In a great display of pitching, he wriggles out of the jam allowing only one run. Then comes the 9th. Long story short, a bloop single from Jeter scores Cabrera. Tie ballgame, blown save Papelbon. Then we load the bases in the bottom of the ninth against Rivera, only to see him blow away Hinske and Mirabelli. What happened after that was as inevitable as it was depressing; two Yankee homers, Yanks win 8-5. For those scoring at home, that’s two blowouts, one sound beating, and an a gut punch loss. Can’t wait for the conclusion of the series today.
Basically, we got our teeth kicked in. Most of New England is in a foul mood, so if you can avoid dealing with folks from the area for a couple of days I’d recommend it. Personally, I’m not feeling too bad. In part it’s because Friday’s games featured a stark reminder of just how unimportant baseball actually is. The annual Jimmy Fund telethon features young cancer patients talking about their doctors, their treatments, and their favorite players and can be heartbreaking. How upset can I be, really, when I’ve just heard a four year old discuss the half dozen medications he’s taking for his leukemia? Answer: not very, and further I can hop on the good old interweb and donate to the Jimmy Fund.
But it’s also because this outcome, while not precisely expected, is not terribly surprising. It’s been evident for some time that our GM Theo Epstein’s plan included at least a year of rebuilding, and this was obviously the year. There’s some evidence, in fact, that this was one of the major issues behind his bizarre resignation and return to the Sox this past offseason.
So if you’re a Sox fan, you can feel one of two ways about this. You can contend, as many are right now, that the Sox should never have to rebuild and should trade whomever they need to to get whatever they feel they need. Given that this strategy has yielded such gems as the Freddy Sanchez (lead the NL in hitting for long stretches to the first half) and others for Jeff Suppan (did not pitch well for Boston) and friends, I’m not a huge fan of this approach.
The alternative is to look critically at the ballclub, and honestly admit that we’re not one or even two players away from being a championship team, but more like three or four. And to acknowledge that by not trading away the kids; kids who are not proven players, and who could well flame out, but whom also are probably more important to our future than a half season’s rental of, say, Cory Lidle. The alternative, in other words, is to rebuild.
The difficulty is that it’s my bet that Epstein and co were banking heavily on their assumption that the kids would get better, and that Timlin would right himself. This would allow them to rebuild without that fact being obvious. Neither has happened. In fact, it’s been just the opposite. What does that mean? Well, from where I’m sitting it means that this year, this “rebuilding” year to use a term that the PR conscious Sox would probably consider anathema, could get worse before it gets better.
Does any of this mean that the season is definitively over? Not really. It’s possible that the Sox could get on a hot streak, reel off a couple of wins and challenge either the Twins or White Sox for the wild card (possible in the way that I might somehow end up with Julia Roberts). But even if we got there, as currently constituted we’re not liable to make a lot of noise in the playoffs.
Am I excited about the implicit “wait till next year” tone to the above? Hardly. But neither am I going to conclude, as many around here have, that the sky is falling and that we’re doomed for years. I’d much rather be in a position to make the playoffs the next few years, than mortgage a big part of it for a shot in a year in which we really don’t have what it takes anyway.