And the Red Sox lose. Again.
It almost doesn't seem fair to whine. I'm a Red Sox fan. On top of that, I'm a Boston sports fan. ESPN Magazine just devoted a whole issue to how much Boston kicks ass at sports.
Thanks, Bristol, ya idiots.
The curse is long dead and buried. Heck, the Sox have won two World Series titles in my lifetime! Generations of fans came and went before my time without seeing their beloved ballclub win even a single championship.
That said, this September has sucked. It's really sucked.
The "suck" that the Red Sox are exhibiting at the present is of a wholly different species and order than say, the kind of "suck" that the Pirates and Royals have been perfecting the past couple of decades.
In this dog-eat-dog world of professional sports in Western civilization, the Boston Red Sox have faired quite well.
John and Tom supply the dough. Larry runs the biz. Theo and his sweatshop of sabermetric-toothed tigers build and field a team. Tito rocks on his butt, chews, spits, plays Pedey in cribbage and cusses out Schill. The players, God bless 'em, trot out there, day in and day out and do their player things.
By and large, the 21st century Boston Red Sox win baseball games. Hey!
This isn't what goes on in Pittsburgh or in Kansas City. Boston is a machine. It's well-oiled, media-saturated, awash in money and has lines going out the door. No, the Red Sox's current brand of suck is very different, but, I argue, just as painful.
Let me tick off a list of grievances. This is like my version of Martin Luther's 95 Theses except I have four issues, not 95, and I'm not risking excommunication from the Catholic Church. But, other than that, ole Martin and I have our similarities.
I'll save you the addition: $54.9 million. That's what those four guys have made this season, with absolutely zero net positive value to the team. Crawford was the most productive out of that quartet. That's how bad they are.
Or, is this really how bad Theo is? Many praise "The Boy Genius" for having a deft touch when it comes to player development and pulling the trigger on shrewd trades. And rightly so.
But what Epstein has shown is a repeated weakness for falling for the big-name, high-priced free-agent du jour. These terrible signings often don't sink Boston's bloated financial battleship, but watching guys like Lackey (never mind Dice-K and JD) have an historically awful season at such a price tag is plain painful.
As for JD, he is, mercifully, playing out his final days in a Boston uniform. He's doing so in the only way he knows how—injured. Dice-K, on the other hand, has one more year on his contract, that is unless another team wants to bite on a trade for an underachieving, overweight, overpaid, recently Tommy-John'd, meatball-serving joke of a starting pitcher.
But the beat goes on with Crawford and Big John. I refuse to offer original prose regarding John Derran Lackey. So I'll let Curt Schilling, the big blowhard himself, do the talking. He called in to WEEI's "Dennis & Callahan" Tuesday morning and had this to say about Big John:
"I don’t think John Lackey is this bad by any stretch, but I’m not sure the normal Lackey is much different than you’ve seen,” Schilling said on WEEI. “If you look back at his career numbers in Anaheim, he was a guy who gave up a lot of hits. He was a guy who didn’t have great command. He walked guys and gave up hits. Fortunately for him, he played in a division that wasn’t devastatingly offensive like the AL East ...I don’t think he was an $18 million pitcher to begin with; I don’t think anyone did. I thought the market drove the price to the place it was, just like it did for Carl."
Ah, Carl. Mr. Crawford. I have far more faith that he can turn things around than I do with Lackey. Crawford's mediocrity this year has been very disappointing, but he hasn't been terrible and he has upside. And that's something that John Lackey, for lack of a better word, lacks.
So the Red Sox's brand of "suck" right now, is, I grant, quite different than the veritable "Epoch of Suck" that the baseball unfortunates in the Pittsburghs and Kansas Cities most endure.
But it still hurts. A lot.
It hurts my wallet, when I have to drop $100 on a game. That's getting there, getting in, a dog, a beer and a bag of peanuts. Baseball fans don't ask for much.
It hurts my expectations. When you have the highest ticket prices in the game, and your hotshot owners and Blue-Steel-cool GM break the bank to field a legitimate World Series contender—you naturally set the bar high. Because they set the bar high. Falling short blows.
It hurts my pride. I don't own a pink hat, I don't drop my R's and to hell with The Nation. I, and many other Sox fans, are just regular Americans who like their baseball and like holding onto their money. Am I allowed to complain about my baseball team?
But I'm not an idiot. I know the writing has been on the wall. I can read good.
You don't win many ballgames when Clay Buchholz hasn't pitched since June and your best option after Beckett and Lester is—Lord we all love ya, Tim—a 45-year-old knuckleballer.
You win even fewer ball games when both of your corner outfielders and your third baseman have missed significant chunks of time.
You win yet even fewer ball games when Bard and Papelbon, your only two reliable short guys in your bullpen, start to crack down the stretch.
But it sucks. And it's an expensive suck.
When your team invests so much in itself, when it makes you invest so much in it and when it all goes wrong in September after going right all June, July and most of August?
Yeah. I think I've said "hurts" and "sucks" enough. You get the idea.
All I know is that Joe Maddon's Rays are a damn good ballclub.