It was pretty sad to hear Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington admit the other day that his team is “hard to watch” right now. Ya think? Listening closely to the boss, the Sox promptly went out and lost their eighth game in their last nine tries to prove it. They had Thursday off, which was probably a blessing.
Oh boy, it hasn’t been this ugly in Boston in a long time. Not even last September’s el foldo to blow a playoff spot was as horrible to watch as this year’s stretch. It didn’t seem possible a couple of weeks ago, but the Red Sox might catch the Toronto Blue Jays for last place in the American League East Division after all. And that’s the Blue Jays without slugger Jose Bautista.
In the sports world what Cherington said is not viewed as a vote of confidence. It is more often associated with a phrase like, “Off with his head,” about the manager or head coach.
Speaking of which, Sox manager Bobby Valentine chimed in on Thursday by summing up the 2012 campaign as being “miserable.” I didn’t hear anyone contradict him.
The Red Sox are what is commonly known as a big market franchise, as much for how they behave, trade and spend, as the size of their home city. Big market teams are supposed to be impervious to market forces and are not supposed to collapse. But the Red Sox have. Red Sox fans are as passionate as any in the game. They have filled every seat in Fenway Park for what seems like forever. They became practically suicidal last fall when the Red Sox somehow botched their claim on a playoff spot in the last game of the regular season on the last pitch.
I thought the Red Sox were hasty in kicking Terry Francona out the door. I felt he earned some political capital for leading the Red Sox to World Series triumphs in 2004 and 2007. So did he. Management did not. Did that mean any of us saw this disaster looming on the horizon? Nope. It may not be Valentine’s fault, even if players disdain his heavy-handed style compared to Francona, because the sheer number of injuries has been like one of those epidemic movies with a virus that spreads so fast not even Dustin Hoffman can contain it.
Without making a list and checking it twice like Santa Claus I’ll just leave it that almost every single player on the Red Sox has been injured at one time or another this season, some going on the disabled list twice, setting a team record. If you’re going to be assaulting the record book better it should be for most team home runs or something, not most guys on the disabled list.
At this point in the season, I kind of picture the average Red Sox fan reacting to news of another injury or another loss with the visage of the famous Scream painting. You know the horrified look in the eyes with the mouth wide open? Who knew you could buy a poster of that image for as little as $8.99? But really, I don’t think I want that emblem of fright on my wall. The Red Sox as an organization may have stock-piled their own political capital with those two World Series champi0nships, leaving Sox fans a little bit spoiled, but it won’t last much longer.
Red Sox fans to do not want to return to the demoralizing days of yesteryear when the team was either so bad it couldn’t imagine being a contender, or was just good enough to lose in the playoffs and Series, breaking the hearts of everyone across New England.
If Ben Cherington thinks Red Sox games are hard to watch, at least he has the power to do something about it besides take antacid pills. Obviously, Bobby Valentine does not have the power to do anything about this downhill slide. He may be miserable, but that’s what being part of Red Sox Nation was traditionally about–sharing the misery with the like-minded.
There will be trades. There will be changes. The Red Sox of 2013 will have plenty of new faces. One of them will almost surely belong to the manager.