Let me start by saying I’ve never met you and I highly doubt we’ll ever cross paths. Like most fans, I don’t know you. I only know what I read from the media, what I see and hear on the 4-letter network, and, most importantly, what I’ve observed watching you pitch for the Red Sox the past six and a half seasons. So, here are the conclusions I’ve drawn.
You don’t get it. And you don’t care. Above all, you couldn’t care less that you don’t get it.
The Red Sox brought you here to take the baton from the likes of Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. Two guys who were fearless on the mound. They relished the pressure of being a pitching staff’s ace and expected greatness from themselves every time they took the ball.
When their teams had lost a few games in a row, they couldn’t wait to toe the rubber. They’d halt the losing streak.
In 2007, that seemed to be what you were made of. That was five years ago and some erosion of skills is only natural. But Sox fans remember how dominant you were, especially when it mattered most. The 2007 ALCS against Cleveland. Let me refresh your memory.
Boston was down, three games to one, facing elimination on the road. If the Sox wanted to extend their season, all they had to do was hang a loss on C.C. Sabathia. A tall order, to be sure.
Cleveland fans were certain the Tribe would clinch a World Series birth that night.
Boston’s last line of defense, you answered the bell that fall evening. You didn’t have any choice. Your team needed you and you delivered. Over eight innings, you scattered five hits, gave up one earned run, and whiffed eleven with only one walk.
You pitched like that the entire season.
Not only was Schilling on the back nine, he was walking up the 18th fairway. Lester hadn’t become Lester yet. And Matsuzaka spent the season adjusting to life in MLB. Boston won the World Series that year. The icing on the cake after the epic 2004 season.
Speaking of ’04, I’m sure you saw what went down that post season. You were one Fall Classic removed from knocking off the New York Yankees in the ’03 Series. Boston fans loved you before you even threw a pitch for the Sox simply because of your dominance against the Yanks.
After your heroics in 2007, Red Sox nation was hooked. A mediocre 2006 season was chalked up to adjusting to the American League.
Somewhere along the way though, you stopped caring.
Fried chicken and beer became your main staple (and it showed). Your body looked like the only thing you lifted was a 40 ounce to your pie hole. You and John Lackey (Captain Double-Fister himself) sang about drinking beer. You corrupted Lester and Buchholz. You quit on your teammates and you helped ensure your manager, Terry Francona, wouldn’t return.
As Red Sox ownership plunged the knife into Francona’s back while unceremoniously booting his backside to the curb (and taking the time to smear him in the media for good measure), did you own up to the role the pitching staff, of which you were the supposed leader, played in last September’s meltdown?
Nope. Not you. Couldn’t be bothered to show an ounce of humility. To borrow a phrase from Michael Felger, a Boston sports talk radio host, you were the Texas Tough Guy. No need to apologize or take responsibility for anything.
Despite an off-season filled with enough stink to contaminate Boston Harbor, you still couldn’t muster up any pride by reporting to Spring Training in great shape. Too much to ask.
Your main concern was finding out which teammate had the nerve to rat you out to the media, as if you didn’t earn that fate.
Your pitching performance this year? How very Matsuzaka-esque.
You alternated between being combative and indifferent with the media no matter who such behavior alienated. Even teed it up on an off-day after missing a start because of injury.
Newsflash, Josh: When us regular working stiffs in the real world call in sick and then get busted by our bosses for being anything but, we usually get fired. Not the Texas Tough Guy. After all, your days off are your days off. And you only get 18 of them a year. Pardon me while I tune my violin.
When ownership couldn’t stomach anymore of your petulant act, they placed you on waivers. Amazingly enough, the Dodgers claimed you. More proof that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
So it was off to Los Angeles for the proverbial “fresh start” and a big slap on the back from Magic Johnson.
Here’s what you failed to comprehend. None of this had to happen.
All anyone in Boston ever wanted you to do was simply what you were being paid to do. Stay in shape and pitch well. Set an example for the younger pitchers about what it took to be a major leaguer.
Your time with the Red Sox is (mercifully) behind you (and us) now. I’m sure you put it in your rearview mirror as soon as you boarded the plane out of here. A whole lot more of the fans put you in their rearview mirrors when you quit on your team and your manager after last September’s gutless collapse.
Enjoy Los Angeles. I’m sure In-N-Out Burger will make a great post game meal. Hopefully they serve beer too.