There is a saying around the world. When the going gets tough the tough get going. I’m not quite sure if that is applicable in this current climate or situation. We talk and talk and talk all offseason about the additions that teams have made. How the BoSox additions of slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and speedy outfielder Carl Crawford would essentially clinch the division if not the championship for our beloved BoSox. But who would have thought that that would all be thrown out the window the moment Cliff Lee signs with the Philadelphia Philles, as ESPN announced that night the Phillies are 2011 World Champions.
As a Red Sox fan tuning into ESPN that night I took large amounts of offense to that statement. Why the hell are they saying the Phillies are going to be world champs. They signed another pitcher, yeah they had a great staff going into the season without Lee but they lost a key bat in Jayson Werth. Their lineup is old and lacking anything remotely similar to their 2008 championship team. Yet here we are, world champs in 2011 according to ESPN in December.
And then it happened. Out of nowhere. Spring training begins. No one takes these games seriously. But Boston, man they weren’t all that hot. They weren’t god awful but they weren’t hot. Our old ace Josh Beckett seemed to have put on some pounds but also seemed to lack confidence. But the question is wouldn’t you after you go 6-6 with an embarrassing ERA? Sure Big John Lackey trimmed down but his stuff didn’t seem like it did back in the old days with the Angels. And the deadly combination of Jon Lester and Clay Bucholz seemed to be well I’m not quite sure. Adding Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to the pen really helped out our rough situation of bullpen garbage last season.
The tables were set. Everyone and their dog was picking Boston as the heavy favorites not only to win the AL but the World Series. Who would they be playing the Fall Classic? Most analysts had my home town Phillies playing against them. The Phillies, a team with four aces, a so-so lineup, and a mediocre pen versus a team with a good rotation, above average pen and a solid lineup filled with All-Stars. The look on the people’s faces at the office as these predictions were made.
As the lone Red Sox fan in my area and at my place of employment, it was my duty to represent the Nation proudly throughout this spring. I proudly donned my fading and falling apart hat. The giant B that is stitched in the cap itself slowly coming undone and fading with the amount of light it takes. My jerseys were prim and proper, ready for another agonizing season ahead of them. I made sure they were ready, just like I made sure I was ready for the season ahead.
Opening day rolls around. Everyone in the office except for two of us, the lone Yankee and Red Sox fans were decked out in Phillies garb. Anxious to start what should be another World Series season for them. I mean Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in the same rotation is indeed nuts. I don’t sit there and mock the Phillies though, but I did point out some serious flaws. They wouldn’t take it. But being the Sox fan that I am, I get all the crap.
Being a Red Sox fan outside of Boston is tough. Yes it comes with the territory. I get that. I am a worthless piece of shit for not cheering on my home town team? I don’t like any of the players that don the Phillies stripes, I never have, something about these guys bothered me. It wasn’t that I felt Curt Schilling looked better with the Sox jersey on as compared to a Phillies jersey (that didn’t matter) it was the fans made the team more unattractive. As I went to work without my fading and dying cap I was called a band wagoner because of the team’s recent newsworthy slump. But before the season, it was okay. I have received threats from Phillies fans regarding my love for the Sox. But never once has a Yankee fan said anything derogatory towards me or my team in any fashion other than as a passing joke.
When I heard that my man Jon Lester was to start the season in Texas on the Opener I was ecstatic. I was pleased. Lester has been my favorite pitcher since the 2008 campaign. When I heard his story I was more in love with him as a player. How many players can honestly say they beat cancer and came back and played better than before. Granted Jon was still a young player but to win an average of 15 games each season striking out 200+ since is a huge huge sign of what’s to come. Of course I put on my Lester jersey and took the R2 into the great city of Brotherly Love.
Our Yankee fan had on his Yankee shirt while all the Philllies fans across the office either had 2008 World Champs shirts on or some varying form of annoying Phillies shirt. Not a single person wore a jersey. I was disheartened. You call yourself a fan of the team but you don’t have a jersey? One of our most loyal Philly fans came over to me. Told me to take off the jersey. It was an eyesore and needed to be burned. How rude is it that someone tells someone else to remove an article of clothing because they are offended only to say it needs to be burned. As disgusted as I was I refused and simply removed my hat. He proceeded to take it and told me, that as a lowly intern I should not be allowed to don such non Philly stuff. There was more to it than this but going further into it would enlongate the story.
As the day went on so too did the games. The Phillies ended up barely winning against a joke of a team called the Astros. Sure the fans didn’t give up hope, which surely they had to as they won in the 9th inning. But I had so much faith in my boys that I didn’t get a chance to pay much attention to the opener. I had to work my part time job that night and so I couldn’t follow the game. I received updates and the last one was brutal. Lester and the Sox fell. Our addition of Crawford seemed to be for naught as he struggled to do anything that game.
As I went home from work I told myself it was only one game. That we would take game two with Big John pitching. But unfortunately as I arrived home from work that night I was left a message saying the Pittsburgh Pirates were better than the Sox as they had dropped another humiliating loss to the defending AL Champs. This was getting mad. People were worrying. Panicking. I was on the other hand getting skeptical. We lost two straight, as the best team in baseball (as proclaimed by several sources) but here we dropped two straight to the Texas Rangers. Sure the Rangers were defending AL Champs but they weren’t as improved as we were. They lost Lee and took our leftovers by signing MVP runner up Adrian Beltre.
It was then the finale. Sunday afternoon. As I prepared for work Clay Bucholz, the runner up for Cy Young Award last year, took the hill. We lost yet again. As I left work once more with the news of yet another loss I began to cuss and scream. The sources say no 0-3 team can win a World Series. This is the best worst team in baseball. Crawford and the majority of the line up was in a stinking mess with only A-Gonz and David Ortiz hitting above .200. The pitching was horrendous. This was becoming a living nightmare.
The Cleveland Indians were next. This should be easy I thought. Get us back to .500 with a sweep, head home this will all be over. Boom. Josh Beckett blows the fourth game of the season and we tack on yet another loss. Offense is still not clicking. 0-4. More news about how bad we are spreads. It’s the only thing on ESPN. Meanwhile the Phillies are 3-1. I’m getting shit on at work. I’m sure though if the Phillies were the other way around something would be different. Oh but it’s not like that. The next game goes off badly too. Dice-K is overrated, he really sucks, blows the game and we can’t come back. I demand Tim Wakefield be put in the rotation. Maybe then we’ll win some games on his glorious knuckleball. The finale of the series. We can’t go 0-6 and expect to show our heads in Fenway like this. We fall 1-0. Jon Lester pitches admirably but not enough as the offense flails like Helen Keller did in The Miracle Worker.
The Sox go home for a weekend series with the Yankees sitting in dead last with the winless Rays. In order to start to turn things around the Sox need to take at least 2 from the Yanks if not all 3. With Lackey, Bucholz and Beckett pitching this shouldn’t be as much of a problem. The Yankees rotation is just as spotty after their number 1 guy as ours is after number well after Lester and Bucholz.
So what is the Sox problem? Is it pitching? The answer is uncertain. Pitchers take longer to warm up for the season than hitters, when you go once every five games as a starter it takes 2 or 3 starts to get into it. Lester looked good today surrendering 3 hits and striking out 9, but he walked 3. The big thing was 0 runs allowed. Okay. So if Big John goes maybe 6 innings, maybe gives up a run or two it won’t be a bad day. But like the big problem if you can see it is this, the punchless offense.
Imagine you are watching that classic episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes a boxer. He just takes punches but doesn’t give them. Homer in that episode is what the Red Sox are right now. Eventually he throws a punch or two, granted it misses or backfires but that isn’t part of the analogy. No, eventually the venom will strike. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is not a proven catcher, I expect Theo to fix that situation come July if Salty doesn’t produce. I don’t feel confident in Tek starting that often but at the same time Salty isn’t hitting. A-Gonz is the only player I can say other than Lester (after today) who has done a slightly decent job. As the only player hitting above .300 A-Gonz is sadly, looking like the team’s early MVP. Meanwhile the voice Dustin Pedrioa needs to start backing up his talk and Marco Scutaro needs to reach base.
The worst of the worst is neither JD Drew or Jacoby Ellsbury (who aren’t performing well at all) but it’s two of our stars. Kevin Youkilis shouldn’t be hitting a meager .100 clip with only 2 hits at this point. On top of that he hasn’t been the defensive stalwart he was in the day when he was at third. The biggest disappointment is Carl Crawford. CC is hitting below .150 and hasn’t done anything worthy of his huge contract.
The panic button is getting ready to be struck. Another losing series could doom the Sox analysts say. But this is my plea to you Red Sox Nation after almost 2000 words. Don’t lose hope. This is a team that may be struggling right now, yes the stats are against you right now, but don’t you remember 2004. No team ever was down 0-3 in the LCS and made it to the Series. What did we do? We won 8 straight games. Baseball records are to be broken, and that’s what these guys are here to do. So tomorrow and all weekend be out there at Fenway donning your favorite player’s jersey. Cheer the loudest for those that are struggling. Every time Crawford steps up give him a standing ovation as if he was Ted Williams himself. Treat your Sox as if they are actually in First Place, if not in the standings then in your heart. I know I will.