Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A SEASON LOST

If you're still reeling from the Yankees epic five-game sweep of the Red Sox, you shouldn't be. The writing has been on the wall since the All Star break.

Even before this devastating meltdown against the Bombers, the Red Sox were 16-17 following the Mid-Summer Classic. Yes, the team that so many in Red Sox Nation had such high hopes for were already a game under .500 since July 13 -- and then they proceeded to drop five sraight over the weekend to their arch foes. In fact, the Red Sox were 6-9 in the month of August before the Fenway debacle. This historic shellacking only made a bad situation worse.

The Red Sox suffered their first five-game sweep at Fenway park since September 1943. With that sweep, the Yankees emphatically drove a stake through the heart of the Red Sox and may have put the last nails in the Sox coffin for the 2006 season.

The Sox, who entered the series just 1.5 games behind the Yanks, now find themselves trailing by 6.5 games. People still talk about the first Boston Massacre at the hands of the Yankees back in August of 1978. That ugly event was 28 years ago and it's still etched in the minds of Sox fans everywhere. It's become part of our collective conscience. Think we'll still be talking about this horrific weekend in 2034? Unless the fortunes of these two organizations radically change between now and then, you can bet on it.

The truth is that the Sox playoff hopes were dashed even before the Evil Empire came to town. Since the end of inter-league play on July 2, the Red Sox were 19-21. If the limitations of the 2006 Red Sox weren't evident to even the most optimistic of fans by last Thursday, the events of the last four days should make them abundantly clear.

You cannot realistically expect a team that is 7 games under .500 during July and most of August to be a genuine post-season threat. That's simply unrealistic. Yes, it's nice to dream but then there's always reality, and the Red Sox -- and their fans -- have just been punched in the teeth by it. Welcome back from dreamland. It was nice while it lasted.

Were the Red Sox ever really that good to begin with? Probably not. They were suspect from the beginning just by going into the season with four pitchers who were, or would soon be, 40-somethings. Players that age are ripe for injury, and when they do succumb, they take longer to heal than younger players. Couple that with Matt Clement, who'd undergone a horrible decline in the second half of 2005 and a disastrous playoff appearance, and no one should've been that confident.

The rotation and the bullpen need to be completely overhauled to compete in the American League next year. Let's hope the money saved on Johnny and Pedro will be put to good use. Hello, is Jason Schmidt there?

Will Jon Lester, Craig Hansen, or Many Delcarmen ever become stars? At this point, it's anybody's guess. Red Sox history is replete with "can't miss" kids who never realized all their potential, or all the hype. Aaron Sele was supposed to be a star, as were Scott Cooper and Tim Naehring. None of them will be joining the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

What the future holds for the current crop of "can't miss" kids remains to be seen, but you know that veteran players like Schilling, Wakefield, Timlin, Nixon and Loretta have to be the most disappointed. This could have been the last great hurrah for them. Some won't be back next year, and for the others, 2007 will surely be their last season in Boston. A sad ending indeed.

If this sounds like an obituary, it is -- of sorts. No, the Sox aren't mathematically eliminated yet, and they won't be for some time. But for all intents and purposes, this season was over even before this embarrassing weekend dismantling at the hands of the Pinstripes. Some of us were just maintaining hope in the face of hopelessness. For more than a month-and-a-half, during a critical playoff hunt, this squad has proven that it is not a playoff team. It simply never had the pitching depth. I know, once a team is in the playoffs, anything can happen. But this team won't be there come October. Against .500 plus AL competition, the Sox proved themselves to be entirely mortal, and against their strongest division rivals they were humbled.

So once again in Red Sox Nation, we're left to proclaim, "Wait until next year!"

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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