Tuesday, August 29, 2006

We're on the Road to Nowhere...

I think that was a Talking Heads song, if memory serves correctly.

Well, the wheels have come off, the engine is cooked, and it looks like this jalopy is heading straight to the junkyard. Our beloved baseball team - plagued by injuries and underperformance all year long - has gone 8-19 in the month of August, including being swept by the pathetic Royals and Mariners. As we wrote eight days ago, it's over -- the rest of the hangers-on have finally admitted as much.

Let's rewind for a moment. We were in a hazy state of denial on the eve of the big Yankees series. We knew we had warts (instead of blisters) and we knew we had some older guys who would more than likely slow down in the second half. We knew deep down that our chief rivals got the better CF in the off-season (do you really believe Johnny Damon won't be productive in the 4th year of his contract? Honestly? I'm predicting he hits 15 HR, knocks in 80 runs, scores 90-100, and steals 15-20 bags.) And we knew that our pitching rotation was a mess. Let's just say Kyle Snyder, Jason Johnson, David Pauley, and Kason Gabbard have all had multiple starts. Oh yeah - we also knew that our cog, Jason Varitek - and the underappreciated Tim Wakefield - would be very hard to replace.

At the same time, we also allowed ourselves to wonder what if? Despite the injuries and the numerous Josh Beckett meltdowns, we were still breathing down the Bombers' necks. Hey, if we got 'Tek back and he settled the pitching staff down, and Wake came back and pitched in between Schilling and Beckett, we might...

To me, that illusion was stopped dead in its tracks two Sundays ago. The Schilling-Mussina matchup Sunday night was the one I thought we had. Schilling's been our money man all year long, but of course the bullpen frittered it away and we lost 8-5.

At that point, though, there was still enough talent taking the field to continue the battle. Maybe the Wild Card. Now, though, the injuries and ailments have simply overwhelmed this team and obliterated any chance of playing when the leaves turn. Manny's hammy. Youk had the flu. Dougie rolled his ankle. Loretta's banged up. Wily Mo's wrist said hello to a high inside fastball. Alex Gonzalez hurt his oblique, whatever that is, the same problem as Trot Nixon. And for the cherry on top, Big Papi had to go to Mass General last weekend to have an irregular heartbeat checked out. He's supposedly fine, but is out of the lineup tonight.

All of which has led to the jury-rigged lineup we see on the field tonight in Oakland. Feast your eyes on this: Crisp CF; Cora SS; Loretta DH; Youkilis LF; Hinske RF; Lowell 3B; (Carlos) Pena 1B; Lopez C; Pedroia 2B -- and Kason Gabbard on the hill. On the radio telecast tonight, Jerry "The Clown" Trupiano informs us that Gabbard's name spelled backward is 'drab bag.' Funny Troop, your name spelled forward is 'douche bag.' Wonder if you two are related.

At this moment, the Sox are losing 5-0 in Oakland in the 4th inning and Drab Bag has been relieved by Nayrb Yeroc, who also goes by Bryan Corey. This is about as pleasant as a paper cut. Oh well - the key going forward is to be good fans and care, but dial back the emotional investment. Don't watch every minute of the soap opera with bated breath, but keep it on in the background and check in every now and then. Kind of like (sadly) our winter sports teams for the last 10 years. Instead, turn your attention fully to the fall/winter sports team, the dynastic New England Patriots. In Belichick we trust.

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