The universe has righted itself.
There was a short time—from Oct. 20, 2004 to Oct. 19, 2008—that the Red Sox were the best team in baseball. Those are the dates when Boston finished off the Yankees after being down 3-0 and the Game 7 ALCS loss to Tampa Bay with two titles in between.
Any child of the '70s, '80s and '90s knows that something is wrong here. Bucky Dent, Billy Buckner and Aaron Boone proved that the Red Sox are the red-headed stepchild of baseball.
They are not the favored team. They are not the bully.
In the words of Dennis Green: “They are who we thought they were.”
They are the heartbreakers. The habitual underdog.
Since overcoming the 3-0 ALCS deficit to the Yankees in 2004 the team—and more precisely, its fans—had taken on an attitude and a self-importance that made people despise them more than Yankees fans.
It had truly become Sox fans, then Yankees fans, then your rival teams’ fans—in that order—of who you loved to hate. You wanted them to be suicidal after a five-game losing streak in July. You were happy that Carl Crawford and John Lackey (total: $224.5 million) were huge busts.
You hated the fact that all of a sudden the Red Sox went from the nerdy senior in high school who couldn’t get a date, to the suave, good-looking, successful and wealthy stud at the 10-year reunion who could have anyone he wanted. (Think Ryan Reynolds in the barely watchable Just Friends.)
Well, friends, the curtain has been pulled back. The Earth has rotated back onto its axis.
Two straight seasons with no playoffs has people wanting to jump off the Prudential building. Or, at least, in true Boston fashion, drink their livers into oblivion at The Cask and Flagon or Daisy Buchanan’s.
Every caller on WEEI on Thursday will want blood shed. They will want Terry Francona fired for his team losing 20 games in September and blowing a nine-game lead (which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Sox are now the first team to hold a nine-game lead in September and not make the playoffs).
Or they will want to run Theo Epstein out of town for putting this team together. Trade Lackey. Trade Crawford. Trade Papelbon. All of that, and more, is going through a Red Sox fan’s head.
This is not the Boston sports fan we know. The same one we empathized with eight years ago when Aaron Boone crushed a city.
Tom Brady and David Ortiz made Boston full of faux bravado. They turned the Boston fan base into Vincent Chase—riding the wave of success so hard that he became a drug addict, dated a porn star and ended up in rehab, while forgetting his roots.
Oh sure, it’s crushing to see your team make history in the way that Boston did on Wednesday night. An out from victory—hell, a strike from victory—only to see everything collapse in less than five minutes.
From Robert Andino’s base hit in Baltimore to Evan Longoria’s walk-off in St. Petersburg was three minutes. Most of the Red Sox team wasn’t even in their visiting clubhouse at Camden Yards to see the Rays go to the playoffs.
But, isn’t that the Red Sox way?
Sox fans should be upset. Yet, tomorrow with a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, they should revel in their new-found place in history.
First team to blow a nine-game lead in September? Yeah! That’s the Red Sox!
Opening Day newspapers wondering if they were the best team ever, only to be shut out of the playoffs? Hell yeah! Sox, baby!
Sure, Sox fans, you can use the injuries to Clay Buchholz and Kevin Youkilis as excuses.
But, really, you got a little too cocky over the years. You turned from the girl next door into the prom queen overnight and left your friends behind. You forgot your roots. You were Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls. And Major League Baseball smacked you back into place.
Jonathan Papelbon, meet Bill Buckner and Calvin Schiraldi. Spend some quality time with Grady Little. Read a bit on Babe Ruth. Take your place in Red Sox history. One day you will be forgiven. Just not anytime soon.
Shouldn’t it just be fitting that the last two times the Red Sox were in the playoffs they lost a Game 7 and then were swept? Doesn’t that seem appropriate? Isn’t that the way it should be?
That’s how the movie Fever Pitch was intended to be made. That’s how history has been written.
Carlton Fisk’s epic home run in the 1975 World Series just won Game 6. The Sox lost Game 7. Dave Henderson’s homer in the ALCS to help overcome the Angels only led to the ball going through Buckner’s legs later that autumn.
So, isn’t it fitting that with a playoff berth seemingly wrapped up three weeks ago the only franchise that could blow it would be the Red Sox?
That just seems right.
Thank you, Papelbon. Thank you, Andino. Thank you, Longoria. Thank you, baseball.
All seems right as we head into October.
Matt Hurst runs the sports blog, Throwback Attack. Read more at throwbackattack.wordpress.com.