Over the last decade, the fall has usually been the Boston Red Sox’s favorite time of year. This is the time when they begin their annual push toward another championship, playing meaningful games in front of a passionate, supportive fanbase.
On pace for 89 losses this season, the Sox will only be playing for pride this September. Fortunately for them, nobody seems to notice or care just how horrible things are anymore.
They can thank Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for that.
The beginning of the NFL season could not have come at a better time for the struggling Sox. Just as they limped to the finish of a season that can, at best, be described as nightmarish, the Patriots came roaring in, smacked around the Tennessee Titans and took full control of Boston sports fans’ attention.
A perfect example of just how huge a help the Patriots have been occurred this past weekend in the buildup to the their game against the Arizona Cardinals. While most of New England continued to discuss Wes Welker’s lack of playing time, the rookies’ contributions on defense and the emergence of Stevan Ridley, Bobby Valentine told ESPN Boston’s Ian Harrison that the Sox have “the weakest roster we’ve ever had in September in the history of baseball.”
That Bobby V once again has put his foot in his mouth is no shock; he apologized to Harrison Sunday and said it “wasn’t meant to be a criticism of any players or anything in the organization” (via ESPN). The apology was completely unnecessary, though.
Nobody was listening.
That’s the beauty of playing meaningless September baseball in Boston.
The Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders. Understandably, fans instantly become attached to the team that is fun to watch and actually wins. At some point, the drama surrounding the Sox gets a bit old, and the simplicity of the Patriot Way rules the hearts and minds of New Englanders.
Never has that been more apparent than this year.
The Patriots have been a godsend for the moribund Sox. With the on-field product continuing to more closely resemble a Pawtucket Red Sox game, the Sox’s front office can quietly focus on their plan for the offseason.
They can map out their next moves without the constant scrutiny of fans and media, who will all have their eyes turned toward Foxboro.
In a normal year, this would be a hotly debated offseason for the Sox. They have incredible payroll flexibility for the first time in years and a bevy of enticing free agents on which to spend their money, if they so choose.
Instead, though, they’ll be able to go into November and December without any of the usual fanfare. They can simply bide their time as they look at the free-agent market, and with fan expectations so low, the only kind of attention they’ll receive will be positive.
A big signing would certainly recapture fans’ interest. Resigning popular players like Cody Ross and David Ortiz would generate the same positive publicity as well. Until these things happen, though, the Sox can do something they haven’t been able to for years: wait quietly while someone else owns the spotlight.