Sunday, August 20, 2006


It has certainly been a season full of peaks and valleys for the Red Sox, but who knew the depths could reach such a low level? Over the past two days, the retooled and humming-on-all-cylinders Yankee lineup has inflicted some serious damage at Fenway - to the tune of 39 runs and 71 hits. Even worse, Johnny Traitor has been on fire - he's 9 for 18 in the three games, with eight RBI, and he's been in the middle of everything.

The Sox this morning are 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees and 4 behind the White Sox for the wild card. The flag flying above Red Sox Nation is tattered and frayed today, and it's just too perfect that John Henry chose last night to do some celebrating with his young GM on his luxury yacht (that's not it, pictured above). The sinking ship analogies will be out in full force.

I'm irritated, disappointed, stunned, and angry and I'm not quite sure where exactly to direct those feelings. If talk radio is a measure, most of the venom is being directed toward Theo and management, who took the "don't just do something, stand there" approach to improving this squad. The injuries to Varitek and Wakefield have hurt, and Josh Beckett deserves a heaping slice of blame pie.

Let us count the problems:

The pitching, or serious lack thereof: the holes in the starting rotation and the bullpen (no lefty reliever!) have been seriously exposed by the Bombers. On the starter side, things are so bad that the guy who started the first game of this big AL East battle for the Sox was immediately designated for assignment after another sorry outing. In the interest of full disclosure, the same fate befell Sir Sidney Ponson after his own sorry outing in Game 2. (Wonder if they shared a cab out of town?)

Of course, the Sox' pitching problems extend well beyond Mr. Johnson's travails. We have a No. 2 guy, a 26-year old flamethrowing former World Series MVP who has remained healthy all season -- sucking the bit. Beckett has been positively dreadful over the last month, and if he doesn't turn it around quickly he will be a major reason why this team doesn't play a meaningful game in October. We then have a No. 3 guy in young lefty Jon Lester, who is essentially learning how to get major league hitters out in the middle of a pennant race. Lester has shown glimpses of his well-documented talent, but lately he's been very average and unable to get through the 5th inning. And for a tough lefty, it's disturbing that he's been so ineffective against lefty hitters. Of course, Lester has been pressed into service as a No. 3 because of the injury to Tim Wakefield, which in my humble opinion, has been just as important a loss as losing the captain. Wake eats up the innings. I suppose we should feel fortunate that the two starters who have done okay recently - Schilling and Wells - are going the next two days.

As for the bullpen, see the references to Mr. Lester above. The young "untouchables" (Delcarmen and Hansen) have struggled while learning on the job; the normally reliable Mike Timlin is cooked; and we went into this crucial series against the New York Friggin' Yankees with Rudy Seanez, Kyle Snyder, Jermaine Van Buren, and Julian Tavarez in the 'pen. I mean, seriously - if that doesn't say it all nothing does. The pen is in such disarray that the Sox decided to designate Seanez (what took you so long?!?) and called up lefty reliever Javier Lopez from Pawtucket to see if he can somehow get fucking Damon, Robinson Cano and Giambi out. Hey, we may not be good right now but we've got more Javier Lopez' on our team than you do.

It's August 20 and we don't know who our leadoff hitter is: For some inexplicable reason, Terry Francona decided to start Gabe Kapler over Coco Crisp yesterday, meaning Kevin Youkilis was your leadoff man yesterday. Kapler is in a 1 for 27 slump, and Coco has been starting to come around. I personally think Youk should hit leadoff every night, but it's now late August and it's telling that we don't know who we're gonna see from night to night.

Our outfield defense blows: Not the reason why we're 4 1/2 games back, but when you see other teams play outfield D, it amplifies just how bad our guys are. Did you see that pea that Melky Cabrera threw home yesterday? He didn't get the guy, but he made the play a lot closer than it should have been. We haven't had an arm like that since Dewey was patrolling right field. Right now, it's a nightly adventure in both corner spots - with Manny in left and Wily Mo in right - and we have a centerfielder in Crisp who may have (gasp!) a worse arm than Johnny Damon. Not exactly shades of Rice, Lynn and Evans.

The Yankees are simply better: YES, it's the best team money can buy but you can't deny the offensive force that this team is. Like the great Soviet Union hockey teams (an apt comparison, eh?), they keep coming at you in waves. The bottom line is that New York improved itself with Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, and Craig Wilson, and the Red Sox did squat. Just telling it like it is.

We have to wait all day to see if the carnage continues, and perhaps worse, we have to listen to Joe Morgan "analyze" the game tonight. Curt Schilling goes against Mike Mussina on ESPN. Let's not subject a national TV audience to another rout. Something tells me Schill will have his game face on.

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