Sunday, August 19, 2007

Red Sox Nation Paranoia

There’s a problem with Red Sox Nation (alright, some of you, calm down, and stop yelling “JUST ONE???). Some of us appear to have absolutely zero sense of baseball perspective and rationality in the heat of battle. Back at the beginning of June, when the Yankees were 382 ½ games out of first place, a bunch of brain-dead Boston columnists (no, Dan Shaughnessy, Eric Wilbur and Tony Maserotti, I can’t possibly be talking about you) were crowing to the hilltops that the race was over, you could start printing playoff tickets (or World Series, if you like), the Yankees were dead and buried, and gee, spring training 2008 was just around the corner, wasn’t it? Heh heh heh.

Only one problem; it was fucking JUNE, and the regular season extends (gasp) all the way to the end of SEPTEMBER. And they still have to play those games, even if morons writing for the Boston papers insist it isn’t necessary. And guess what, kids, the Yankees had a dreadful start, but they were still the freakin’ Yankees. And ya know, the guys wearing Red Sox uniforms are actually made of flesh and blood, and are capable of putting up less than Hall of Fame numbers for stretches at a time. 162 games makes for a LONG season, and nobody has ever clinched a playoff spot in May or June. It’s true. Never been done.

Then, you know what happened? The Yankees started playing really well. And the Red Sox played .500 ball for week after week after week, stretching past the All Star break. And the 382 ½ game lead dwindled to 4. Then you know what happened? Red Sox Nation started climbing out on ledges, threatening to jump off because “Oh my God, it’s 1978 all over again, we can’t handle this!”. Don’t jump. Or better yet, please do. If it takes that little to turn you into a quivering, neurotic puddle of protoplasm, perhaps you should jump. Or start following professional wrestling. But put your pink Red Sox hat away with your “I love Johnny Damon / Trot Nixon / Gabe Kapler cuz he’s so damn babealicious” t-shirt along with your home jersey that has the name stitched on the back (God, I HATE those) and go root for Tom Brady or some other machine. Leave the rest of us alone.

So now, we’re in what’s shaping up to be a real pennant race. I still like our chances. We still have better starting pitching. Beckett, Dice-K, Schilling, Wake and Lester are doing just fine, and New Yorkers are learning that Clemens was as much of a slam dunk as the weapons of mass destruction. We still have a deeper bullpen. That was Mariano Rivera that gave up 3 runs to the Orioles in the 10th inning at Yankee Stadium and kicked away a game New York should have won. And please to be shutting the fuck up about Eric Gagne. Did you know he won a Cy Young Award? News flash: He’s a pretty good pitcher. Fear not: he’ll help us out a lot more times than he’ll give games away. I know, I know, he’s lost three games all by himself. True that. But I have to believe he’s going to be worth it. The guy I trust the most here is Terry Francona. If he thinks Gagne can still do it, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

We have two, and some would posit three, legitimate Rookie of the Year candidates in Dustin Pedroia (who should be handling the duties at 2B for the next 10 years or so), Hideki (Okie Dokie) Okajima, and of course Daisuke Matsuzaka. It’s entirely possible that Clay Bucholtz could be *next year’s* leading Rookie of the Year candidate.

But David Ortiz isn’t hitting 59 homers this year! Correct. He’s hurt. Has been for most of the season. And amazingly, he’s still hitting over .300. I’ll take David Ortiz at 60% over most DH’s in the league at 100% any day. Manny still bothers the shit out of me, but he’s Manny. I just wince a lot, and remember how much I love Cami and Harry. They’re the best, most adorable dogs in the world, but their farts (especially Harry’s) can still clear a room.

We’re better defensively. Even with Julio Lugo at short, we probably have one of the best defensive infields in the league. Have you noticed that? If Coco Crisp does NOT win the Gold Glove for his work in CF this year, perhaps an NBA ref made sure the fix was in ahead of time.

Eric Hinske, Alex Cora and Doug Mirabelli are perfectly adequate off the bench. Remember, Wily Mo Pena is gone! So relax. The Red Sox are a better team, they’re probably going to win the AL East, and have time enough to situate the rotation as Francona will need for the playoffs. And it will feel great. Sit down. Have a drink. Here, watch some Beckett, Papelbon, Okajima, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell highlights. It’s going to be ok.

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