Blunder in Beantown
The Red Sox have folded faster than a house of cards with David Wells sitting on it.A once-promising season has faded into oblivion. I can now say, after enduring the past two months, I know how it feels to be a Royals fan. It was fitting the Yankees clinched their ninth consecutive division title Wednesday because of a Boston loss. On a night when David Ortiz rewrote record books with his club-tying 50th home run and Curt Schilling pitched five strong innings in his first start in almost two weeks, Boston still found a way to lose. It’s the story of the second half. Fenway Park can start lining up those corporate functions a little early this fall.Just a few short months ago the Nation was riding high. The Sox led the Bombers by a comfortable margin in the East. They had the game’s best 1-2 punch in the middle of the order and in the starting rotation. Jonathan Papelbon was becoming the story of the year. Things sure have changed. Where did it go wrong?Perhaps it was Boston’s inability to make a meaningful deadline deal to improve the ballclub for the stretch run. While the Yankees acquired key cogs Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu from the Phillies, the Red Sox traded for Bryan Corey. I wouldn’t know Corey if he walked up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Bryan Corey.”The biggest splash came when the Sox acquired veteran catcher Javy Lopez from the Orioles on Aug. 4, to replace injured captain Jason Varitek. All Lopez did in his 18-game stint before his release was bat .190 and perform like a sieve in the field. I’m convinced Boston would’ve been better off on defense if it propped up a piece of plywood behind home plate. Lopez makes Mike Piazza look like Johnny Bench.Walk it off, Theo.Perhaps it was the timing of a contract extension for Josh Beckett. On July 19, moments after he notched his 14th win with seven innings of shutout ball against the lowly Royals, Beckett inked a three-year, $30 million extension. He has won just four times since and entered Thursday’s start with an ERA hovering near 5. Beckett, Boston’s crown jewel of the offseason market, has surrendered three or more home runs in a start six times this season and allowed five or more earned runs nine times. And what about the prospects Boston used to land the 2003 World Series MVP? All infielder Hanley Ramirez has done is bat .285 and steal 50 bases for the Marlins. Anibal Sanchez is 8-3 with a 2.90 ERA – and threw a no-hitter. While Boston and its $120 million payroll are watching the birds circle overhead, Florida’s $15 million-dollar kids are making a wild card push. Sometimes you don’t get what you pay for. Walk it off, Theo. You can’t overlook the injuries. Matt Clement, Trot Nixon, Curt Schilling, Jason Varitek, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz and – I need a breath – John Lester all logged considerable time on the bench. Times are so desperate that Julian Tavarez was recently inserted into the rotation. That’s Tavarez, the reliever who broke his left hand after punching a wall during the 2003 World Series. Maybe that’s the reason he’s allowing nearly five runs per nine innings.Can injuries really be the culprit? The Yankees have done just fine without Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield.Whatever the reason, everything unraveled in August, when Boston was a league-worst 9-21. It started with a three-game sweep by Kansas City. In Game 3, Andrew Sisco shut down the Sox; the win was Sisco’s first this year. Boston’s shortcomings were further exposed during the 2006 edition of the Boston Massacre. The Sox entered Aug. 18’s doubleheader with New York trailing by 212 games in the East; four humiliating days and five losses later, the Sox were all but dismissed from postseason discussion.”It ended the way it was supposed to end,” Schilling told The Associated Press recently. “I don’t think we opened the door for them as much as they kicked it in.”Fenway Park opened the same week the Titanic met its demise in 1912. August 2006 will forever be known as the month the Red Sox sank.Boston waved the white flag when it traded Wells to “contender” San Diego on Aug. 31. In an interesting twist, the fat man – not the fat lady – signaled the end.We are now left delaying the inevitable. October won’t be the same. In two weeks, the baseball world will leave Boston behind. Jon Maletz, aka “The Hammer,” a disgrunted and displaced Sox fan, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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