Jonathan Papelbon's 9th Inning on Sunday was like a bad dream. (AP Photo)
Sunday happened like all good accidents do, out of nowhere. After Papelbon’s infamous ninth inning collapse I sat on the couch like a shell shocked soldier. I was literally too stunned to complain, sitting & staring through the television set and into the past. The instant gut punch of the Sox being eliminated quickly gave way to the slow realization of enduring another stubbornly cold winter without America’s game. It’s like listening to The Tempos “See You In September” in reverse, and that’s what hurts most -- there is no more baseball, there is no more joy in Mudville.
What stings with 2009 is that the Red Sox have absolutely no excuses this time around. The Sox pitching was lined-up and rested, and their bats were healthy and deep. The 2009 ALDS was just plain disappointing, and from my perspective it was downright infuriating to watch. I basically gave up on the Series after their lackluster effort out West. But then back in Fenway Park everything seemed to be aligning again. Buchholz did his job remarkably well, the bats, after being given smelling salts from the Fenway Faithful - were finally alive, and our bullpen was holding the line like they had all season long. Visions of another improbable Red Sox Postseason comeback formed like a good dream. Once again I believed. Game 4 would be in Friendly Fenway with Jon Lester on the mound. And now that the Sox dormant bats had awoken from their sleepy eyed slumber anything seemed possible. Looking then to Game 5 we’d not only have momentum firmly seated on our side, but also the best post-season pitcher of our generation in Josh Beckett on the hill. The Red Sox were going to win the ALDS, I was certain of it, then came the ninth inning - and like a bad case of the night terrors, I screamed.
I have no firm recollection of the ninth inning except for fuzzy memories of me pacing up and down a dim lit hall, with a Narragansett Beer clutched in my hand, and worry encircled in my mind. At this point I was on auto-pilot, and unfortunately saw the finish before the final blow was even delivered. During these dark moments my mind began to race towards the beginning of the season, and more specifically, to the very first post I made in this cursed year of 2009.
Since then I’ve gone back and revisited that post, and re-reading it now I should have seen the writing on the wall. The New York Yankees are destined to win the 2009 World Series. A great majority of the post was speaking about the Yanks and their gross overspending amid the wake of the Great Depression 2.0. From my biased point of view I was chastising them for their excess, much like people were with the greed heads at banks across America. But look at what’s happening now with AIG – they get bailed out of their failure and then they proceed to hand out BILLIONS of dollars in bonuses for their ineptitude. No repercussions for their irresponsibility. Banks may cry that they were only playing within the rules which sounds very Yankee-like. While the Yanks overspending isn't nearly as evil as the likes of AIG, it certainly shows the point of ridiculousness our sport has reached. With YES and their new Stadium the money gap is going to grow at faster rates than ever now. The Yankees are an extremely well run business who invests back into their product, which is very admirable. Are the Red Sox still playing if they signed Mark Texeria? Hard to tell. They may have won the AL East though, which appears to be more important than most will admit.
I’ve been stating over and over again that 2009 is the year of the weird and nothing has happened this season to sway me from this thought. It all started with the A-Rod steroid revelations in Spring Training, followed closely by Manny and his 50 game ban, to finally be trailed by the 2003 Ortiz PED “leak”. Now these two admitted steroid users will be gushed over in the World Series and cheered as heroes instead of villains. The same would have been done with Papi for sure, and that's the problem. As fans all we care about is winning, which makes us just as guilty as them. The Yankees were awful to start the year as the Red Sox beat them like a limp fish, and then they became hot as a pistol, ending the year by smiting the Sox like annoying gnat at every opportunity presented. The Sox were the most uninteresting 95 game winner in team history, and while their chemistry wasn’t bad, it certainly didn’t seem good - and at best it was bland. 2004 never seemed so far away.
I’m rooting hard for the Angels now, not only because they’re playing the Yankees, but also because I feel like they deserve it most this year. They’ve overcome all sorts of demons and adversity and could create a storybook ending that any baseball fan would appreciate. A Philly vs. Angels World Series would be ideal, but who the hell am I kidding. We all know it’ll be the Yankees vs.Dodgers, and in the ultimate twist of the weird - I'll find myself rooting for that loathsome Manny Ramirez once again, after vowing never to do so again. Sigh - such is baseball in the wretched year of 2009 I guess.
My steam for this post is lost as it is for baseball in general right now. Any epic proportions and metaphors I hoped it to bear have vanished off into the October chill. I just don't have it in me right now, and I'm not even sure if I'll be watching any of these remaining games. I'm sure I will, and "there's always next year" for sure, I just had high hopes for this year. The disappointment is all part of being a fan I guess, it just sucks when it feels to come too soon.
Long live the Red Sox. The Red Sox are dead.
100 anni il mio amico.