Personally, I have nothing against the Red Sox. It is true that, as a Mets fan, I did get my biggest baseball thrill from watching the Mets beat the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Yet I’ve never felt any animosity towards the proud Red Sox franchise. In fact, I always root for the Red Sox to defeat the Yankees.
Still, a fact is a fact, and there is no denying that the 2012 version of the Red Sox are the least enjoyable, not to mention the least successful, Red Sox team I have witnessed in many years.
Not being a regular viewer of Red Sox games (though when I lived up in Maine for 20+ years, I often listened to WEEI, Red Sox radio), I haven’t paid close attention to the BoSox relative failure this year, aside from occasionally looking at the A.L. standings.
So I decided to examine a bit more closely why the Red Sox, despite their prodigious payroll, fanatical fan-base, and the bewildering wizardry of stat guru, Bill James, this team stinks.
Here are eight items I came up with:
1) Red Sox pitchers are giving up too many bases on balls. As of this writing, Red Sox pitchers have surrendered 370 walks this year. Only four A.L. pitching staffs have walked more batters. The Yankees pitching staff, by way of contrast, have walked the fewest. They can’t score if you don’t put them on.
2) The Red Sox pitching staff is starting to show its age. They are now the third oldest group of pitchers in the A.L. Obviously, some pitchers age faster than others. The Yankees staff is actually a bit older. But Red Sox pitchers appear to be exhibiting a bit more wear and tear thus far than their New York counterparts.
Josh Beckett, for example, is 32 going on 36. And Clay Buccholz, whom some Red Sox fans still maintain is a rising star, recently turned 28-years old.
In fact, the Red Sox currently have just one pitcher on their staff, the combustible Felix Doubront (4.70 ERA) under the age of 25.
3) The Curse of the Piano. What, you thought that just because the Red Sox won two World Series in the past eight years, that they’d no longer be cursed? Well, no one told the Babe, a moulderin’ in his grave. Perhaps you’ve never hear of the curse of the piano? Well, unless someone drags the Babe’s old piano out of the pond up in Sudbury, this “other” curse might just linger for another century.
4) Bobby Valentine is entirely miscast as a Major League manager. In fact, he would be miscast as a manager at any level. A manager, like a teacher, is a father figure (assuming the male gender, of course.) Bobby V. is not a father figure. He is the odd uncle who comes over on Christmas afternoon with his latest exotic girlfriend, this one from Saigon, the last one from the Philippines.
Always too quick to put little brother up on his shoulders (narrowly missing the overhead fan by mere inches), he always has an odd anecdote to tell about a business deal that narrowly went sour. When he finally leaves around 7:45 p.m., he’s had one too many, and his hugs are awkward, and strangely tearful. His girlfriend will do the driving, and you know as you wave to them as they back out of your dad’s icy driveway, you won’t see or hear from him again until next Christmas.
5) Wally the Green Monster, the Red Sox’ mascot, has been having some problems of his own. After a torrid, three-year affair with Bernie Brewer, followed by a brief, drunken fling with the Milwaukee Sausages, Wally the Green Monster had just about settled down with the Swinging Friar (San Diego.)
But it turns out that the Swinging Friar had a few secrets of his own. Apparently, he’s been seen leaving some local San Diego hot spots with the always unpredictable Stomper (Oakland), himself recently recovering from an addiction to powdered, fried dough.
Word is that Wally has been so depressed lately that he’s usually hung over and asleep inside the Green Monster until the 8th inning, when misty-eyed and reckless, he starts to undress for the fans in the center field bleachers during the bizarre routine of the disembodied voice of Neil Diamond singing “Sweet Caroline.”
6) Their socks. They’ve been the Red Sox now for over a hundred years. Perhaps it’s time to change those socks?
When either of my sons goes a couple of days without changing theirs, the stench is unbearable. Why should it be any different for Major League baseball players who sweat in theirs all day long?
So, in keeping with the Sox recent advances into the 21st century (a Facebook page!), here’s a look (see pic) at what the BoSox are considering for their players next season. David Ortiz is already on record endorsing the new look saying, “My toes get cold in April and in October. Those little toes on the socks look toasty and warm. I hate New England weather.”
7) Their Offense: Despite the fact that the Red Sox are among the league-leaders in runs scored, there are some problems here as well. For starters, Carl Crawford, a huge disappointment since he joined the Sox (his on-base percentage in his last 160 games played is .293), is about to undergo Tommy John surgery Tuesday. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury, who enjoyed an MVP-caliber season last year, currently sports a .309 on-base percentage to go along with his one home run and six stolen bases. Last year, he had over 30 steals and 30 homers.
The injury bug, then, has seriously affected the Red Sox ability to add to their already very respectable run totals.
8) Their Enthusiasm: It hasn’t been this boring to watch the Red Sox play (and I don’t very often) since the heady days of Phil Plantier, Bob Zupcic, Jody Reed, and Luis Rivera. The Red Sox have finished below .500 just three times since 1992. This year could be their fourth finish below .500 in 20 years.
Worse, it is hard to say that any of the players on the field look like they’re enjoying themselves. Sure, losing sucks, but you’re not likely to play any better if your approach is the same as the man who gets to go to work in the West Virginia coal mines, earning a tiny fraction of what the players make. Gone are team leaders like Varitek, Wakefield, Millar and Damon, guys that could both lighten up the clubhouse and/or lead by example.
For the sake of the Red Sox and their fans, some of the veterans on this team (and it can’t be just Dustin Pedroia) have to step up and lead by example, while demonstrating to the kids that playing baseball can still be fun, even if you are expected to take home obscene amounts of cash.