I’d like to thank the person that made the deal back in 2004. Selling your soul so the Boston Red Sox could come back from 0-3 down against the New York Yankees to win the ALCS, sweep the World Series, and make a second run to the championship in 2007 was truly noble.
Unfortunately all good things come to an end. The contract is up and the Red Sox are returning to being the Red Sux. It’s the only way to explain how the best team in the American League on September 3 blew a nine game lead and finished out of the playoffs in just 26 days.
The Red Sox didn’t just lose 4-3 to Baltimore Wednesday. They lost in the most excruciating way possible, raising hopes and dodging close calls all night long until the catastrophic collapse in the bottom of the ninth.
It was like suffering eight consecutive Mortal Kombat-like fatalities. The final one was delivered by Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria just minutes after the Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold crossed the plate. The walk-off homerun was the uppercut off the bridge, falling hundreds of feet to the death, impaled on rusty, jagged spikes.
The signs were ignored all season long. Outfielder Carl Crawford wears No. 13. Injuries took a toll on the team. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, incandescent in the first half, lost his power stroke in the second half, hitting just 10 homers after the All-Star break.
In Game 1 of a double header against Baltimore on September 19, a David Ortiz hit that would had cut a two-run hole down to one and extend a rally was taken away from Ortiz. He later flied out and Boston ultimately lost the game by one run.
A lights out pitching staff pitched as if the lights were out. They just couldn’t find the plate. And one of the league’s best lineups from top to bottom chocked the bat down the stretch. It all played a part in the worst collapse in Red Sox history.
With the season crumbling around them, the Red Sox completed the catastrophe in unparalleled ignominious fashion. They lost in a way that caused the most pain possible:
- Reliever Alfredo Aceves took the mound after the rain delay. He hit two batters before recovering to put away the side without surrendering a run.
- With a chance to add an insurance run, shortstop Marco Scutaro stopped to look while between second and third base instead of trusting third base coach Tim Bogar signaling Scutaro to head home. Scutaro was tagged out at the plate.
- With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway swung at the first pitch he saw, grounding into a double-play.
- Closer Jonathan Papelbon blew a one run lead, giving up two doubles to tie the game and the game-winning single. It was his second blown save in four days.
- Crawford, with a chance to keep the Red Sox on life support, failed to catch the game-winning hit. Instead of diving head first to make a play on the ball, Crawford slid in a seated position and came up short. It gave the impression that Crawford didn’t give full effort on the play.
Every anxiety-filled moment plunged the rusty knife deeper and deeper into the heart of Red Sox Nation, twisting along for added effect. It’s an unimaginable torture that first pained author and dedicated Red Sox fan Steven King, made him jealous that he didn’t think of it before, and inspires him for his next novel.
This wasn’t the stars aligning. This crash and burn was devious. More like the pentagrams aligned. His work is unmistakable.
How long has he been manipulating Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein? The wonderkid behind the two World Series lost his touch at finding the right players to fit the team. He abandoned the moneyball approach for the throw money method.
Two failures remain fresh in the mind as these mistakes are still on the team. Pitcher John Lackey was 12-12 with an unacceptable 6.42 earned run average for a player making almost $16 million in 2011.
The latest disappointment is Crawford. He was unable to perform under the intense pressure in Boston after signing a seven-year $122 million contract. His biggest contribution this year is the adjective "Crawful," the superlative of awful.
Change is anticipated in the Red Sox’s future but how much? Will Epstein and manager Terry Francona be back? Will they be able to bring back Ortiz and Papelbon? Boston could remain a competitive team with the potential to return the playoffs.
Or the decline will continue, sending the Red Sox back to baseball purgatory: Talented enough to be in the conversation annually, but always finding new and creative ways to tear the heart out of Red Sox Nation.
There is a simple solution to prevent the second scenario. All it will cost is a soul. Applications are always welcome.
Randolph Charlotin writes a sports blog at www.randolphc.com. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.