RIP 2010 Zombie Red Sox, you lived long, and died hard. (SawxBlog Illustration)
It's been awhile. It was the final weekend of August that I made my last post on SawxBlog. 48 long days ago. Heading into that pivotal series with the Rays, I knew it would either make or break the Red Sox 2010 season. That Friday night Jon Lester pitched seven strong innings for the Sox, helping win what seemed like a momentum changing game. I remember tweeting throughout the entire evening, something I rarely do, and was ecstatic when they won. The Sox needed a sweep, and winning that first game, they had a legit shot at keeping the Wild Card race interesting. So that Friday night, hazed with the aid of a Narragansett or three too many, I wallowed in fantasies of a miracle Sox run bleeding into October, with a cast of unknown, unsung, and under appreciated ballplayers leading the way. Simply put, I basked in baseball, stared at standings, and started to again get the itch of faith.
That was the last time I truly had hope for the 2010 Zombie Red Sox.
The next night the Sox had their collective hearts broken, ripped out, and stomped to a bloody mess on the artificial turf in St. Petersburg. The final punch was thrown by none other then Dan Johnson, as his walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th made every Sox player & fan bow their head in recognition. The loss dropped the Sox to 5.5 games back in the Wild Card race, and for all intents and purposes, ended their season. The next day, still reeling from the night before, the Sox were leading 3-1 heading into the bottom of the 6th, but they let that lead slip away too, as the Rays bounced back with four unanswered runs, winning the game, series, and eventually, a playoff spot. That was August 29th, 2010, and it was only six days later that I married the girl I love.
The timing seemed right for me to give up on the Sawx.
I was busy as hell, and the bad taste of that weekend in Tampa, along with the anticipation of planning a wedding, had me waving the white flag earlier than I ever have with the Red Sox. The moving parts of the wedding were overwhelming us, and I was heads down helping secure the final details that complex the day. There were obviously more important things at hand other than baseball for me.
The past season, more than any I can remember, felt like a long distance run gone awry for the Red Sox and their fans. Setting out for the run the weather looked great, new shoes were on our feet, and we felt ready for a nice, long, and evened paced jog. Shortly after venturing out of the house though - the skies began to turn an awful black, and they eventually opened into a loud and wrathful storm. We were too far from home to turn back around, and the storm was something we just had to ride out. Things didn't get any easier though. We twisted our ankle on an unseen root, were getting frequent cramps in places we didn't know existed, and with each new turn the temptation of quitting became more and more alluring. The jog had became a battle for us much earlier than September or October, and was an endurance test we knew we'd eventually have to succumb to.
The perpetual and consistent injuries sustained by the Red Sox throughout 2010 are obviously what ended up making Theo Epstein's "bridge year" statements fact. It's been written and talked about so much throughout New England that people are actually starting to call it an excuse. Trust me here, that is not an excuse. The Red Sox ended up finishing the year with an 89-73 record, six games behind the Yankees for a playoff spot. Do you really think that the loss of Pedroia and Youkilis didn't cost the Sox at least six games? We're not even talking about the other players we lost during the season, whom were plentiful and important.
Our opening day roster was in tact for a total of eight games. Digest that for a second, it's ridiculous. Every team has injuries for sure, but not at the rate the Sox were going down, that's why they morphed into the Zombie Red Sox, because despite all of this, they were never truly out of it. The way guys like McDonald, Nava, Hall, Kalish, and others stepped in and up made every Sox fan proud. And despite me giving up on the Sox in late August, the Sox were true to their Zombie form, and were technically in it until basically the last weekend. That second to last series against the Yankees suddenly had some Yankee fans getting the fear, and Red Sox fans, despite their better judgement, started to believe again.
That's what I'll take out of this season. It's like we were sitting at the coldest of poker tables, getting dealt shitty hand after shitty hand - but we played what we were dealt as best we could, and still almost made the final table. Yes, there were a lot of things that could have helped us make up those final six games. First and foremost on my list is our bullpen, and really, aside from the rising star that is Daniel Bard, the whole lot of them sucked. Papelbon, who's championed himself as the next great closer, whenever Mariano Rivera decides to get off of HGH that is - was AWFUL this year. He blew eight total games and had an ERA (3.90) almost double what he had last year. No true Red Sox fan thinks that it's lights out when he hits the mound anymore. And remember that Dan Johnson homer that crushed the Sox chances? Hit off of Scott Atchison. Need I say more? The Red Sox bullpen was flawed from day one. Talk about a bridge year, we had NO bridge to get to the back of our bullpen.
The only other thing I can really blame is Red Sox management. I believe we got very lucky with Beltre, and doubt he'll ever have a year like he did this year. If he's with the Sox next year (he won't) then I hope I'm wrong, but either way, no one thought he'd do what he did, not even Theo. Cameron was an idiotic move, and Scutaro was the best that was available, but not a solution. Don't forget, this was the most expensive and rich Red Sox Team in club history, and they failed to even make the playoffs. Don't forget that.
Lackey's looking to be a HUGE bust, and the Red Sox really did nothing to make the team better during the year. No big trades, no big free agent signings, nothing. They tried to appear interested in making the team better with things like the Damon fiasco, but in reality, they sat on their hands, extended rainouts, and counted their sellouts and money gathering. I'm saving this for another post, as I'm already well past 1,000 words, but I'm realistically pondering giving up on the Sox well before August in 2011 - the ownership doesn't care about "Red Sox Nation" - they care about profit, and in the process of giving us championships they may have killed the true culture that made the Red Sox so great. I'm sure these words are that of a jaded lover, and come spring I'll fall back into line, but there's truth there, trust me on that. But like I said, I'll save that topic for another day.
What I'll take from the 2010 season is the effort the ballplayers with a 'B' on their hat gave. Those kids played their asses off, and made a lot of us proud. There's no reason we should have been as in it as much as we were. But they never gave up, and that's a quality I strive to have more, and is one I wish the Red Sox management subscribed to as well. It was a tough run, but we gutted it out as best we could.
There's always next year I guess, but with a payroll like we had, it should have been this year - again.