The Boston Red Sox would benefit from not making the playoffs.
That’s right. They need to crash and burn. They need to finish the 2011 season with a historic collapse. The Red Sox have already failed drastically by watching as their season hopes dwindle away to the gritty Tampa Bay Rays.
Led by manager Joe Maddon, the Rays have dug their way back from the grave and hope to propel themselves into the postseason. The Red Sox had a nine game lead in the wild card over the Rays on September 3. As of Wednesday, their lead has shrunk to merely two games.
Tuesday night’s debacle against the Baltimore Orioles in which Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon blew the save, ultimately losing 7-5, was one of the more painful losses they have suffered this season and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
It’s tough to pin their losing ways on any one area. The talent is clearly there. Aside from Clay Buchholz and Kevin Youkilis, they have been relatively healthy. So what’s the true issue?
They’re soft. Rather than grinding through the pain, they take advantage of manager Terry Francona’s lenient attitude with his players to take a day or two off. The scratching of Carl Crawford from the lineup with a stiff neck on Monday is the latest example of this.
That bellowing laughter you just heard came from the Bruins locker room.
With some exceptions aside, this team simply isn’t tough enough. Ranging from sore backs because of airplane seats, to a slightly twisted ankle, to a stiff next, these injuries are beyond unacceptable.
Regardless if the Red Sox make the playoffs, a change may need to be made to this organization. Should Francona be made responsible for this collapse? Any manager, no matter his successful past, should never let his team win only five games in September with the playoffs around the corner. It’s simply inexcusable.
Let’s make this clear: Francona wouldn’t stand a chance in this town had we still been in a championship drought since 1918. This collapse would be one of the biggest stories in Red Sox history if that had been the case. You thought Grady Little had it bad?
That being said, Francona isn’t the biggest problem. When it’s all said and done, the players must be held responsible. Instead, they are making excuses for themselves. They have no character, heart, and for lack of a better term, “balls”.
The one positive to pull from Tuesday night’s disaster was that Papelbon owned up to his mistake. It’s refreshing to see someone on this actually caring about their performance.
“I’ve got to go out there and execute. I didn’t do that,” said Papelbon. “I let my team down. I’ll shoulder that and take full responsibility, and I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. It’s plain and simple.”
Without a doubt, championship teams must have a vast amount of talent to win it all. But every single championship team must also have heart. Many members of this ball club, like John Lackey and Carl Crawford, play baseball to make a living.
Players like Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis live to play the game.
Until those changes occur, this team cannot win. Losing in historic fashion is truly the only way these baseball players can wake up and form into a team and compete in 2012.