The Red Sox Predicament: Stop The Eighth Inning Meltdowns Or Else

A few observations on the current late-season woes of the Red Sox. I'm no Bill Simmons, and the fanboys over at Sons of Sam Horn are dissecting this from every angle. But if I don't comment, it will look like I'm avoiding the issue. I've just been in a lot of pain this week and it is only Wednesday.

Some random thoughts:

  • The past month has been an absolute roller coaster for the Sox and their fans. On August 27th, the Sox completed a sweep of the dismal White Sox in Chicago, and it looked as if they had wrapped-up the AL East. All they had to do was play .550 baseball and they should squeak by. But since then, they have gone 10-11, with 5 of those losses coming at the hands of the Yankees.

  • Even more alarming: At least four of those 11 losses were the result of 8th inning meltdowns by the Boston bullpen. It happened Sunday happened again Tuesday night. We Sox fans have been going to bed with headaches and heartburn. And yes, it sucks.

  • As of this morning, the Red Sox literally have a 99% chance of making the playoffs. But if they fail to win the division, and fall-back as a Wild Card entry, it will be a source of shame and embarrassment for the Sox and their fans for years. Do the Yankees seem phased that they suffered the biggest postseason collapse in history? They seem to have gotten over it. But if the Red Sox fail to win the AL East this season, it will take a while to get over.

  • Part of the reason it will take a long time to get over is the Red Sox fans themselves. We want the AL East title desperately. Several times before they won the 2004 WC, I said winning the division title was all I really wanted - to show that we could produce a better season record than the MFYs. This current crisis is being exacerbated by the New York media and the Red Sox fans, who are both using the AL East title as the biggest litmus test for the Red Sox in a generation. Win the title, and all is well. Lose the title, and it is 1978 all over again...the Red Sox can hang their heads in shame and contemplate the failure for years. I think the New York sports media wants the Red Sox fans to suffer a complete depression, so it makes sense that they are fanning the flames. Amazingly, I hear no such doomsday comments coming from NESN, and that says a lot. Oh sure, we hear the NESN folks talk about how the Sox should have sealed the AL East title last week. We also hear them speculate about how Terry Francona is trying to keep the Sox rested and healthy for the playoffs, without going into a morale-sucking slump. But we don't hear NESN talking about how the Red Sox are losers if they enter the playoffs as the Wild Card.

  • Sox fans need to stop worrying about who they will face in the playoffs. If they cannot beat Cleveland, Anaheim, or New York, then they have no business playing next month. Counting on the Angels to eliminate the Yankees is not a good way to enjoy the playoffs. The Yankees pitching staff will be so shot by October, that anyone will be able to beat them in the first round. And if not, then hope the Sox make it to the ALCS to take care of matters themselves. Worry about your own team, and stop worrying about who the Yankees are going to play the first week of October.