When I returned to my unseasonably hot apartment last night, the Red Sox were locked into an extra-inning affair with the New York Yankees, the second half of a doubleheader courtesy of Friday’s rain. With a loss, they would be tied with the Tampa Bay Rays in the race for the American League wild card, unthinkable just three weeks ago, when the Sox, along with the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, were the titans of baseball.
Obviously, Red Sox fans are not pleased. As a group, they’re looking for answers. But too many are just looking for someone to blame. Is it starting pitching? Does Theo Epstein need to be fired? What about Terry Francona?
Others are casting blanket statements around, calling this entire team unlikeable and flawed from the start. Certain Boston columnists (who won’t get the benefit of a link in this space) are saying that, should the Red Sox manage to advance to the playoffs, they won’t deserve their slot.
It’s a lot of passion mixed with hot air, arrogance and entitlement. And it really demonstrates how losing can bring out the worst in a fan base.
Negativity in Boston and its teams have long been an insufferable pair. Without fail, every dedicated fan has had frustrations with his or her favorite team or athlete in a given sport, and that’s part of the package when it comes to being a fan.
But the tide of shouts, wails and whining that has come from New England this month is stomach turning. The seemingly desperate need for a scapegoat doesn’t make anyone look good, either.
The team is poorly built? Was that before or after injuries that knocked out or severely limited Clay Buccholz, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Bobby Jenks?
Poorly managed? Terry Francona’s winning percentage in Boston is .575. It’s unlikely that he forgot how to fill out names and handle a bullpen.
Unlikeable? Dustin Pedroia is one of the more exciting players to watch day-in and day-out. Adrian Gonzalez is the consummate professional, workmanlike in the field and in the box, and he produces. Jon Lester might be struggling, but he’s a workhorse on the mound, and is only able to stand on that mound after beating cancer in 2007.
And, of course, there’s Jacoby Ellsbury, who has followed up his lost 2010 with a season for the ages. He’s Boston’s first ever 30-30 man, and his month of September has been huge, hitting .358 with a 1.014 OPS entering yesterday’s doubleheader. On a team full of potential MVP candidates, Ellsbury has made his own case, a leadoff hitter with the ability to knock one out or disrupt an entire game on the basepaths.
Need a reason to watch these last three games? Watch Ellsbury. He might just push them into the playoffs alone. But he might not be enough.
No one who likes and follows the Red Sox is supposed to be happy with the way this team has played. Complaints and questions are normal and healthy. But the level of vitriol that has spewed, and the way it has appeared so quickly, is really disgusting.
Losing doesn’t feel good, but that’s baseball. If nothing else, try to pull some dignity from this whole affair.
PS: They won. Ellsbury went deep in the 14th inning.