Our Father's Red Sox, Jr., turns 1 today.
The most calamitous 366-day period in modern Red Sox history began one year ago Sept. 1 as Adrian "Eventually Known As Fan Cave" Gonzalez watched helplessly as a called third strike from Marino Rivera whistled past him. That strikeout - with the bases loaded - gave the Yankees a 4-2 victory at Fenway Park on Sept. 1, 2011. Instead of the Boston holding a 2 1/2-game lead over New York and a 10-game lead over the Rays, the Red Sox instead commenced the greatest collapse in baseball history - one that continued in mind-boggling form Friday night.
As if 7-20 from last September wasn't bad enough, the Red Sox kept it up going 9-20 in August. The month began with the Red Sox 3 1/2 games out of the "Grand Illustion" of the second wildcard. Now, they're 12 games back - but just two games behind Seattle for the seventh wildcard. The Red Sox have gone from border-line evil to just plain bad. Last week's organ transplant re-set everything on Yawkey Way. Perhaps this inglorious anniversary will finally zero things out with Friday night's historic 20-2 drubbing in Oakland - Boston's worst loss in 12 years (a 22-1 loss to the Yankees on June 19, 2000.) Brandon Moss homered, George Kottaras hit two home runs and Josh Reddick belted a grand slam. (How come the Red Sox can't get players like that?) This was also the Red Sox most lopsided loss to the A's since that franchise called Philadelphia home, played under Connie Mack and beat Boston 24-6 on May 1, 1929 at Fenway Park as Jimmie Foxx went 5-for-7 and hit two home runs.
Finally, it can not get any worse. Rock, meet bottom. (Note: At least until the fourth inning of Saturday's game.)
The past 12 months have been wicked bad in Red Sox Nation. The numbers alone are numbing: 69-91 in the past 366 days, 36-48 at Fenway Park, 3-10 in extra-inning games, and as you read this (as of Saturday) - the Red Sox are 62-71, nine games below .500 and would lose lose 86 games at their current pace. The last time your Boston Red Sox were nine games below .500 was on July 25 - 1997. Boston's shortstop Friday, Jose Iglesias, was 7 at the time.
So much has been lost in the past year besides all those games. There was the playoff berth that was supposed to propel the Greatest Team Ever to another World Series. There was the arrogance that Red Sox players and fans carried on the heels of the city's amazing Decade of Dominance. Terry Francona's baseball record and personal reputation was smeared. Jonathan Papelbon riverdanced off a Philadelphia. Josh Beckett was fully exposed as a Texas-sized fraud while his double-fisted partner John Lackey continues to steal from every Red Sox fan who has bought a ticket. Kevin Youkilis was indeed the problem. Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez became the source of the next great bar argument: "Who was the biggest
free-agent bust in Red Sox history?"
The Red Sox lost that innocence and invincibility they had so forcefully claimed in 2004 and re-iterated in 2007. Even the painful winless playoff drought that followed 2008 was masked by big-money free-agency, feel-good marketing and endless choruses of "Sweet Caroline." These Red Sox were winners - even if they hadn't won a playoff game since the same night the real Sarah Palin showed up on "Saturday Night Live."
Fans were continuously assaulted and insulted with excuses and propaganda as they watched a naked collapse. What they were seeing they really weren't seeing - at least that's what they were told. "Remain calm. All is well," was Chip Diller's mantra as the citizens of Faber rioted during the 1962 homecoming parade and shared by the powers that be on Yawkey Way for 51 of the past 52 weeks. All is not well. But no one is afraid to admit it.
During these past 366 days, the bill came due following five years of reckless spending and myopic leadership - the blame for this catastrophe is shared by both Theo Epstein, John Henry, Tom Werner, and the guy who "runs the Red Sox" himself - Larry Lucchino - despite what Henry's penboys in Forbes Magazine want us to believe.
Last weekend's quarter-billion dollar salary enema was the best thing to happen to the Red Sox since Papelbon struck out Seth Smith in Game 4 against the Rockies. The Red Sox have gotten a second chance no one thought was possible. Even as the new and not-so-improved Red Sox continue to wallow in mediocrity in the standings - there is now an opening in the casket.
As if any further proof was needed that the Dodgers got the wrong end of this deal Manager Don Mattingly called a team meeting for his slumping Dodgers after Thursday's 2-0 loss to the Diamonbacks. "It was a good meeting," Gonzalez told the Los Angeles Times. "What makes a great team meeting is how you respond to it." Maybe the response depends on who sends the text message. That would make the Red Sox player-meeting/attempted mutiny of July 25 the most un-great team meeting since Rod Rust gathered his Patriots before the 1990 season. The Dodgers initial response to that meeting was a 4-3 loss in 11 innings Friday night.
Forget that new statue of Larry Bird at Indiana State - how about one in honor of Magic Johnson outside Fenway Park?
The Red Sox we knew a year ago today were winners at their core with a championship pedigree in their recent past and sky-high expectations. A month later, things were back to normal on Yawkey Way - a normal that generations of Red Sox fans were used to - if not comfortable with. Underachievement, choke jobs and crybaby, overpaid ballplayers were again the norm. The Bud Light and Popeye's was just a bonus.
Thankfully, this memorable Year to Forget is finally over.
But our Father's Red Sox look like they're here to stay.
Note: OBF will be taking over the Red Sox Sunday on Boston.Com and offering our take on what we'd do if we ran the team. Don't miss it. As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @realOBF. Thanks for reading. Pass the clicker.
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