This is not an article I’m looking forward to writing. In fact, the last 24 hours or so I’ve been harshly debating whether or not to write it all. And yet here I stand on a precipice, staring down at the dank dark pit that is the portion of my soul given over to cheering on the Red Sox and preparing to dive headfirst into it…. Good gravy. This is gonna hurt.
So the story all starts way way way back in the happy spring days that we call April. I was excited for the start of baseball season (granted though, I always am). This year the Sox had gone out and gotten two big name players (Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford) to help the team out, and really we had only just missed the playoffs last season despite some horrible injuries (Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkillis all missed significant time just when we needed them) and the fact that one of our top two pitchers (Josh Beckett) pitched about as well and effectively as a waffle.
The Sox rewarded my faith and excitement by promptly losing their first 6 games… Frabjous day. But hey, that’s okay it’s a long season right? I was actually fairly calm about the whole thing. I mean we were way too good a team to really be that bad all year right? Right??
And hey wouldn’t ya know I was right! The sox actually picked themselves up pretty well after an extremely slow start. And for the next four months my baseball living was good!! We were widely renowned as the best team in baseball! Josh Beckett re-claimed his title as one of the most horrifyingly good pitchers around, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia weren’t just healthy they were playing the best baseball of their lives, and newcomer Adrian Gonzalez was absolutely awesome! Life. Was. Good!
Two things bothered me though. Thing 1: Carl Crawford was horrible. Not just “horrible for a guy getting paid more for one season then I will make in my entire life” but “horrible for anyone with an actual pulse.” Thing 2: John Lackey was somehow worse then horrible. If you lined up horrible on a stone floor and buried a pig fifty feet underneath that, John Lackey would be the dirt under that pig. Just to give you an idea what I’m talking about here, Lackey was the worst pitcher in all of baseball. The worst. He also has a five-year, $82.5 million dollar contract!!
See here’s the difference between Thing 1 and Thing 2. I like Carl Crawford. He seems to be a genuinely good guy who worked as hard as he could this season and just never managed to get used to Boston. I think the reason for this is that Carl Crawford played for Tampa before he came here. The average attendance for baseball games in Tampa Bay is: 4. Two parents of players. A seventy-nine year old man who thinks he’s at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. And a Praying Mantis. The average attendance to a Red Sox game is about 7 million. All of whom have intricate knowledge of the players’ lives, batting averages, and the average fat contained in their breakfast snacks. I hope (and think) Crawford will get things turned around for next season.
John Lackey on the other hand seems to be largely (and I’m putting this as delicately as possible) a complete jerk. Now, allow me to qualify that by saying Lackey has had a lot of off the field issues this season (and last season). And if he was really giving the impression that he was trying to get through those issues and not let them affect his pitching I would probably feel for him. But he really doesn’t seem to be doing so. Every bad game he goes off whining about how no one loves him or his man-beard and every good game (both of the ones he had this season) he goes off on how “no one believes in me but me” and stuff.
Anyway that’s enough beating around the bush. It’s time to talk about Wednesday night…
Wednesday night and the sad drippy mass that my Red Sox heart has become.
After being the best team in baseball for four months the Sox collapsed EPICALLY in September. Our pitchers couldn’t pitch, our hitters couldn’t hit and our fielders moved with all the grace and skill of a swan hopped up on Nyquil. All of which came to a stunning conclusion this Wednesday. Let me explain what was going on.
We were tied for the last playoff position with the Tampa Bay Rays. Four things could have happened.
1. The Red Sox Win; the Rays lose. We go to the playoffs.
2. The Red Sox Win; the Rays Win. We play one, winner take all game with the Rays the winner of which goes to the playoffs.
3. The Red Sox Lose; the Rays Win. The Rays go to the playoffs.
4. The Red Sox Lose; the Rays Lose. We play one, winner take all game with the Rays the winner of which goes to the playoffs.
And here we go:
I had rehearsal Wednesday night right as the game was starting. Armed with my trusty smart phone though I was able to check the score between times on stage. We were tied 0-0 through the first three innings. I was on stage for most of those.
The Red Sox went up 1-0 in the third inning! Big happiness as me and my good friend (and fellow Sox fan) Dave silently cheered our boys on back stage.
The Rays were losing big time to the Yankees 7-0. I felt pretty good about life on the whole.
I was on stage for a while at this point, but when I checked back again the Sox were winning 3-2. The Rays were still down 7-0. Dancing and happiness occurred.
Rehearsal ended and I ran back to my room, pulled up my computer and tried to watch the game!… And my computer wouldn’t do it. So I moved on and called up the Radio broadcast of the game. Yay radio. I listened to the next four innings and life cruised along pretty well. A couple near scrapes but our pitcher Jon Lester (our best pitcher and an absolute warrior) was fighting his way through it all and coming out on top. The Rays were still losing big. We were still up 3-2. Things were going well. Which is when the game got rain delayed.
During the delay (or right before it for total accuracy) Dave asked if I wanted to come to his place and play some baseball on his Xbox. It seemed only a fitting tribute to the game and a great way to kill time during what turned out to be a very long delay.
Me and Dave have a long running X-box rivalry going on and the score is currently tied 9-9 in overall wins. Generally our games are close, tense affairs punctuated by me singing horribly and Dave calling me names. This was not my night. Dave shellacked me to the tune of 9-0. It wasn’t even as close as that either. I managed to get four hits off of Dave over the course of the entire game. Whereas Dave got four hits and scored two runs in the FIRST INNING. I was humbled and forsaken in a dark pit of X-box grief. But that’s okay… the real Red Sox were still winning after all right?
The actual Red Sox game picked back up again a little bit after Dave was finished punching me in the stomach… I mean beating me at baseball. And I was there dutifully listening to every pitch. As I listened I glanced at the Yankees-Rays score hoping to see that familiar 7-0 nothing score that had been such a bastion to my soul in the past few hours.
It was 7-7. Tied. Oh. My. Goodness.
But that’s okay. The Sox were still winning! In fact the Sox were in the ninth inning! Three outs away from at least guaranteeing a one game playoff! And we had Jonathon Papelbon (an absolute pitching machine) on the mound! Papelbon struck out the first two batters easily! No problem, one more out and we’re in! Who cares if we have to play the Rays to make it into the playoffs? We’ve beat the Rays before!
And then Papelbon gave up a double. Man on second. Two outs. That’s okay… Umm… I mean just one more out right? And Papelbon gave up another double. And a run scored. Tie game… 3-3. Ummmmmmm…. okay. Hey we’ve won tie games before. We’re the Red Sox after all, we’re the best team in baseball (in months that aren’t September) We’ll be fine!! We’ll be okay! We’ll be… OH MY WORD!!! Papelbon gives up another hit… Red Sox lose. End of game. Holy… how the…. if I….. But there…. These were my exact thoughts. If someone recorded the noise a trash can lid makes when it smacks into a ripe watermelon that’s been baked inside a blob of jello, that would be an exact replica of the noise I made when that run scored… If someone then took that trash can lid, stepped on it and threw it into a trash compactor it would come out in the exact shape of my poor battered soul.
But… but… but that’s okay. I mean the Rays could still lose right? Yeah… yeah if the Rays lose then we still have a chance! Okay… So I flipped my computer over to the Rays vs. Yankee game. My computer even pulled up the video for me! That’s gotta be a good sign right? The Rays were batting. Their best hitter (Evan Longoria) was standing in the batters box ready to swing. He took a pitch. The next pitch, he swung at. And hit. Over the wall. Home run. Rays win. Sox lose. Season ends. But I… If you… How the…
Member that trash can lid from earlier? Take that lid and stuff it in a toaster oven and set that toaster oven to the same relative heat as the fires of Hades. Then feed the melted remnants to a full grown Bengal tiger. Oh my poor soul.
Its two days later now and I’m still not really finished processing it. Every time I see a news headline that has anything to do with baseball I get very briefly excited before I remember “Oh yeah… we lost.” It was a sad heartbreaking affair and a perfect reminder of what sports does to us. For every miracle win there is a miracle loss.
The Sox season started bad, ended worse, and was great in the middle which (in retrospect) makes absolutely no difference at all. So if you see a Red Sox fan in the next few days be nice to them. Smile, tell them every little thing, is gonna be all right. Tell them there’s always next year. Cause that’s what they’ll be telling themselves.
If you need me I’ll be over in the corner.