Woe is Red Sox Nation.
There it was in black in white: RAYS 8, RED SOX 2. The Rays completed a rare four-game sweep at Fenway Park on Monday and all of Beantown is abuzz with the same question: What is wrong with our Sawx?
Well, I think I have an answer or two or three. Having watch the Red Sox grow from nothing but a slight annoyance to Yankee fans to Curse-killing “idiots” in 2004 to legitimate foes through 2007, I know just a bit about this team I love to hate.
For one thing they built a team on a pair of fearsome hitters. ManRam and Papi were a pretty fearsome duo but now one is gone and one is showing signs that he can’t do it without steroids anymore.
They also built their team on pitchers like Pedro and Schilling. Those guys are long gone and the new generation may have the credentials to be good. But are they good?
There was a big lineup once there. Now there is not. They can defend perhaps a bit better. But what difference does it make when your center fielder makes a fabulous diving grab when you losing by six runs?
Such is the state of Red Sox Nation.
Radio talk shows are buzzing, the sports writers are speculating and the fans are ready for Theo, David Ortiz, Terry Francona, J.D. Drew and Mr. Henry himself to walk a plank into the Charles River.
Jerry Remy said it today. He said that player-for-player the Tampa Bay Rays are better at every facet of the game than the Red Sox. Blasphemy? Nope, just a does of reality.
The seeds of the demise of the Red Sox were sown when Manny went off the deep end and forced the team to dump him. Jason Bay was a nicer fellow. He made a nice Band-Aid to patch the wound. But his departure this winter was the clarion call that this team was not going to overpay to keep him.
It is a nice stand to take but, at the same time, the Red Sox were signing free agents like crazy: John Lackey costs $80 million, Marco Scutaro, Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre. The payroll leaped to $160 million but they could not afford Bay. Huh?
Once you decide to pay a player a princely sum it is hard to tell another you won’t. That is a little like being a “little” pregnant.
Then there was the Mike Lowell debacle. Lowell was a loyal foot soldier for the Red Sox and worked his bones to dust, literally, helping this team win. But the Red Sox wanted Kevin Youkilis at third and San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez at first. It was no secret.
But Lowell’s deal to Texas went sour because of a thumb ligament and now the Red Sox are stuck with him and his bloated contract on the bench. Theo Epstein is probably cursing the Texas Rangers’ physician for gumming up his master plan. Now Theo is likely sucking his thumb and trying to think where he put that darn gorilla suit.
Then there is that ridiculous mistake of paying a Japanese pitcher way too much money for way to little in return on the mound. Dice-K? It should be DL-K because he has spent so much time on it and collecting hefty checks that Carl Pavano is impressed.
Finally we come to David Ortiz, the 800-pound gorilla in the park. He struggled mightily for two months last season and then sort of got better in June. So the Red Sox front office chose to ignore the signs their star slugger was losing it (like his .249 average) and stuck with him this off-season.
Now Ortiz is hitting .158 with two RBIs batting fifth and it is obvious that the fastballs he used to crush into the Boston night sky are ending up in the gloves of opposition catchers. They are also being thrown by some rather pedestrian pitchers. They are the kind of pitchers that Manny and Papi used to eat for breakfast.
Now these same pitchers are stealing Papi’s lunch money and he is walking back to the dugout like he wants his mother to intercede to get it back.
Nope, this Red Sox team appears to missing a lot. Jacoby Ellsbury is hurt, Cameron has a kidney stone, V-Mart is hitting .212, Drew is hitting .146, Lackey’s ERA is 5.63 and Lester is 0-3 with a 8.44 ERA.
It is only April and there is a chance things will improve for the Red Sox. I mean, the Yankees got off to slow starts in the past and they always came back to wrestle the division away for the Red Sox when it counted.
But the problem is not just the Yankees. It is the Rays. They have proven they can throw their weight around in this division and the Red Sox know very well that if the Yankees and the Rays take a big lead on them that it will be much harder to come back.
Kirk Minihane probably put it best this morning: “But something doesn’t quite feel right about the 2010 Red Sox, does it? I’m having trouble putting a finger on exactly what it is.”
I am not sure even Francona and Epstein know what it is yet. I do know that if they do not find out real soon and fix it, the Red Sox will be playing for 2011. For a Yankee fan like me that just feels great.
Life in third place is just the humbling the Red Sox and their insufferable Nation need.