Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hang Fifty

Okay, the Red Sox and Rays' series, perhaps to be called the Boston Massacre III by Sunday afternoon, is now underway.  The Rays took the first game, 9-2, to narrow the Red Sox' lead to three in the wild card.

Bottom line:  They deserve it.  They deserve to lose this race.  The four-game sweep followed by elimination by Tampa would be justice for the 2011 Red Sox.  While they are still not as purely dislikable as the 2009 version of whiners and self-congratulators, it's pretty darn close.  You got Lackey talking about how great he is after getting shelled, you got Youkilis whining about competitive disadvantages when the team sends out a B-team effort against the Padres and Pirates, and Ortiz continuing to whine about his contract situation.

What the 2009 version didn't do, however, is coast for the entire first month of the season, the entire last month of the season, and in many different times in between.  There is no personal pride with this team, there is no desire to win, and these guys read too many articles by Eric Ortiz about how they're the best team to ever live.  No games matter until October.  That's disgusting.

How about this?  The Yankees have prioritized games between March 31st and September 28th.  Now, because the Red Sox are melting down into a puddle of mediocrity, apathy, and complacency, their consistent hard play will enable them to rest some players, get their rotation ready, and be ready for the postseason as the regular season comes to a close in thirteen days.

How about this?  The Phillies (a heavily-cited team on the radio today) won behind Cliff Lee today.  Though he blew a ninth-inning lead, he gave up five hits, one run, and struck out twelve in nine innings.  Wait, nine innings in a regular season game...after they already clinched a playoff spot?  That's reckless!  He might end up getting a tight calf, or a sore back (but that kind of stuff typically happens on an airplane like it did to David Ortiz), or a swollen middle finger!  Why win regular season games?

Because winning should be a fun experience for a baseball team.  Even in the NBA, putting together a clearly-superior team is FUN because you can throttle the competition.  Hanging 50 points on an opponent in a four-game series should be something you'd be trying to do.  Winning creates chemistry and a good work environment.  And it also means that you can prepare for the playoffs instead of having the last twelve days devoted to holding off a team who actually gives a crap.

The Red Sox, in contrast, prioritize days off, resting, and treating the regular season like a marathon.  Not the way someone like me treats the race, of course, but one of the people who show up for the finisher's medal.  Not trying to win, just finish.  As Ben Affleck once said in the movie Boiler Room, if you want vacation days, go teach third grade public school.  It is an organization-wide thing, starting with Theo Epstein, moving down to Francona and the players, and finishing with the fans who will sing about an 11-year-old girl on a horse even if the team's down seven.

I am on the verge of openly rooting for a reality check.  A big (and growing) part of me is hoping the Red Sox' bullpen keeps on throwing meatballs, walking and/or hitting guys, and melting down.  This growing part of me is hoping that Beckett gives up eight runs and walks off the field with no limp because his injury is just a built-in excuse for continued suckitude.  There is a part of me that hopes that the Rays hang fifty runs on the Red Sox in this four-game series just to show the Red Sox that decent teams that care can throttle other teams.  Good teams that care can actually fulfill Eric Ortiz's prophecy. 

The entire organization needs a vicious reality check, a vicious punch in the stomach.  I wrote not long ago that the JD Drew attitude was contagious, but it was suggested on the radio today that it's not the Drew attitude.  It's the Theo Epstein and organization-wide attitude that has been embodied by JD Drew.  Can't believe I'm saying it, but I'd prefer Steinbrenner and Billy Martin blowing up and demanding accountability any day of the week over this fat, happy, complacent group of TV show producers. 

The fact that the radio announcers are fabricating excuses for these whiners is laughable.  "If Clay Buchholz got his 17-18 wins this year, imagine what the implications would be in the standings" was said somewhere around 9:10 tonight.  How about if Crawford showed up this year?  How about if Lackey didn't have an ERA of six?  How about if their manager prioritized actually picking up some wins against horrible Pittsburgh or San Diego teams?  Those might have some implications, too.  How about if the team played like the Phillies, seeing HOW MUCH of a lead they could pull off?
The Rays are having fun in the regular season, and they're killing it (despite being not that good of a team - the Orioles games are an indication of that).  They're messing around and wearing varsity jackets while the Red Sox rest slightly-tweaked ankles, sore calves that are healthy enough to hit a home run on, and tweaked backs suffered while sleeping on a plane.  Red Sox are playing for a tomorrow that they think they have the mandate to assume.  The Rays are playing for a tomorrow that must be earned.

Forty-one runs to go in three games.  Given the state of the Red Sox, 13.6 runs per game is not unfathomable.  But it's the nail in the coffin the Red Sox so sorely deserve.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Clay has had one 17 GAME season so far in his major league career.

One.

With this kind of drivel on the airwaves, can I humbly suggest HYDB start putting out a podcast?

TimC

Anonymous said...

DV

This team is painful to watch right now. There were times this year when even if the Sox were down 5-1 early in the game I expected them to win. Now, even when they get an early lead I'm still expecting them to lose it. Not a fun time to be a Sox fan.

I understand that being healthy for the playoffs is important. That shouldn't be understated. But at the same time, you also need to make the playoffs first. And momentum and continuity are also pretty important. If every time a guy is sore you give him a day off, the line-up doesn't get that chance to gel like it did earlier in the year. Because the truth is, at this point in the season, everyone is going to be banged up.

Lastly, on your point about being on a team that wants to go out and kick the hell out of everyone they play--when I was in high school I played on an AAU basketball team and that was exactly what we wanted to do every single game. We'd play 30-40 games in two or three months and the goal was to win by as many points as possible and try to score 100 points. We weren't getting paid and there were no consequences if we got hurt trying to win every game by 40 points. Obviously, it's very different than the outlook a professional team has. But the truth is that on our team, we had four or five guys (including myself) whose school teams were average or worse. Winning, and winning big meant something to us. It appealed to our sense of pride and competitiveness. You can blame Bud Selig all you want for watering down the competition, but at some point you have to look at the players and figure out where their motivation is.

--the Gunn

the eric ortiz article said...

When Red Sox starters have to hand the ball to the bullpen this season, Boston fans won’t have to have to cover their eyes and pray. The weak link in 2010 could be one of the best relief corps in the business.

Okajima is the only known left-handed quantity. But youngster Felix Doubront has talent and should see some action. Rich Hill, Lenny DiNardo and Andrew Miller also could contribute.

The right-handers in the mix all bring experience and different styles to the fire. Need long relief? Call on Wakefield to disrupt hitters’ timing. Need a middle-inning specialist to get key outs? Wheeler knows how to do the job, and Atchison proved serviceable last season. Albers could be a diamond in the rough. Want heat? Jenks and Bard throw seeds. Want to turn out the lights? Papelbon is pitching for a contract, so trust he will be ready to show he’s far from washed up.

Reliability and consistency -- foreign concepts to Boston’s bullpen last season -- will be common words associated with this group.

the gm at work said...

Tim C,

If there happens to be some kind of void in my life after HYD - and I get my hands on some audio equipment and a more soothing, less-nervous voice - maybe there will be a podcast.

Gunn,

Agree whole-heartedly. I feel like most people with a competitive spirit in the first place want to throttle opponents. While there's something to be said about taking the first half of a race easy before laying the hammer down, there's absolutely some sort of pleasure I derive from running up the score and putting a lap on the field. It may not have been the most exciting race of my life, but one of the most memorable was the day I put 90 seconds on the entire Bowdoin cross-country team. Perhaps it wasn't the most efficient way to win, but it was the most fun.

Did the Patriots have fun hanging seven touchdowns on bad teams in 2007? I bet they did. It wasn't their fault that their competition sucked. Same with the Phillies. The Pirates and Padres sucking were an excuse for the Phillies to throttle them. They were an excuse for the Red Sox to not show up.

Bottom line is that this group of spoiled millionaires who are not permitted to play in any state of discomfort are just plain not competitive. You'd think they would be, especially someone like Gonzalez. Some of them are, but only sporadically. In the words of Theo Epstein, this group really is "aloof, uncaring, a dog."

As far as your competitive AAU team with something to prove goes, if you're done putting video game numbers up on another team, don't you rest the starters and play the scrubs in the fourth quarter? Do the scrubs play hard? Thought so.

the gm at work said...

Even Gilbert Arenas is competitive because he wanted to drop 84 or 85 on Duke.

Anonymous said...

A great coach once said, 'Against this team, we should have TWICE as many! Because its not worth winning if you CAN'T WIN BIG!' Ever wonder how Gordon Bombay scored 192 goals in a single PeeWee hockey season?

My more serious point is that a team should coast if there is nothing to prove. What, exactly, has this group done? Basketball keeps coming up (because basketball is the leading sport for coasting, I think, since it tends not be as skill based as baseball while also lacking the physical consequences in hockey, football- new meaning to coast to coast, perhaps) and I think the Celtics of late are a team that should find a bit of coast justified.

On the flip side, I did just read 'Unfinished Business' a book about the 90-91 Celtics, which was fascinating in how hard they did play early, a 23-5 start or something, that blew up in their faces when Bird and McHale started hobbling/limping. Maybe Tito just read this, too.

TimC

Anonymous said...

DV

It's always great when we agree. And deep down I know you're hoping that the Sox win at least one this weekend. I know I do.

TimC

Unfinished Business is a great book for a lot of reasons, but especially because you get a chance to learn about how awesome Kevin McHale is as a person. Also, that team started 29-5 before Bird's back gave out on him. When you get a chance, take a look at some of those box scores from that season. Even when Larry came back from his injuries Chris Ford was still playing him 45 minutes a night. Unbelievable.

--the Gunn